GBN expat secrets - Spain: 'How Spanish coast provides paradise for retirees UK just can't compete with'

GBN expat secrets - Spain: 'How Spanish coast provides paradise for retirees UK just can't compete with'

Spain boasts nearly 8,000km of beautiful coastline

Anna Barry

By Anna Barry

Published: 04/03/2024

- 16:30

Updated: 09/03/2024

- 17:38

GB News is launching a new travel series talking to British expats across Europe and the world who have spoken exclusively to reveal the best places to live, the tips and tricks when moving abroad and the potential pitfalls to avoid

Would older Britons be happier in sunny Spain once they hit retirement? One long-term expat believes so.

Gerard Taylor, 78, has lived in Spain with his wife Anne for the past 20 years.

The pair reside in the beautiful resort town of Estepona. Gerard told GB News that he couldn’t recommend it enough and shared some of his secrets.

This included how he found the people, the language and his experiences living in Spain as someone who had retired.

Gerard suggested that Spain provides an idyllic lifestyle the UK simply does not offer.

The people were much more welcoming to foreigners than is often suggested and he found it to be the perfect place to retire. However, he said those who want things done quickly may be in for a shock.

Nestled in the highly desirable Costa del Sol, Estepona provides a haven for Gerard and he could not be happier in his new home - it’s a far cry from where he used to live in Solihull and from his home of County Mayo in Ireland.

He told GB News: “We’re very happy to be here because we have the beach and the town beside us. So we’ve got the best of both worlds.”

Gerard and Anne Taylor / Estepona, Spain

An expat in Spain told Britons to move there 'tomorrow'

Gerard and Anne Taylor / GETTY IMAGES

According to the expat, Estepona is the perfect place for nature lovers. Gerard said: “They call it the ‘Garden of Costa del Sol’ because there are lots of flowers and trees and all sorts of things - it’s a green, flowery place.”

It was the ideal choice for Gerard and Anne’s retirement because “everything is geared towards the elderly” - something many people may not realise.

The expat said that although they are far from their children and grandchildren, they feel very well looked after by their community. Gerard said: “They go out of their way to make things easy for us.”

The health of the elderly is prioritised in Estepona too. The couple live near a clinic, where they can have their blood pressure taken, their weight checked and any concerns they may have examined.

Gerard added: “They’ve just built a walkway from the coast in front of our house that goes for miles and miles. The idea is to keep people healthy so they don’t get ill - it’s very innovative.”

The unique initiative - known as the Senda Litoral - connects Manilva and Nerja by means of a “magnificent walkway” over 160km long. Those who live along the path can enjoy a stroll or a bike ride along the stunning coastline.

While relocating to an entirely new country could potentially be rather lonely, Gerard and his wife have found themselves booked and busy. The pair play Petanque (which falls into the category of boules sports), so have made plenty of friends with fellow players.

The expat said: “We’ve met a lot of British expats here in Estepona as well as other nationalities. We’ve integrated with the Spanish as well.”

Despite a conception of locals being unfriendly to expats in many countries, Gerard revealed that the Spaniards have been nothing but friendly towards him and his wife. He said: “I’ve never heard a cross word in the 20 years I’ve been here.”

Having travelled all around Spain, he can confirm that it’s not just Estepona that welcomes expats. "I’ve never come across any part of Spain that felt anti-British,” he reassured those who are considering relocating.

Despite making friends with the Spaniards, the expat found that speaking Spanish isn’t a necessity - although, of course, it makes your experience in Spain better if you do.

As English is one of the most spoken languages in the world, Britons who move abroad are often very lucky.

Gerard and Anne found their experience of relocating very smooth sailing, their only tip for other British expats being that they should invest in a good Spanish lawyer to handle the bureaucracy of moving to Spain.

Aside from this, they settled into life in Spain pretty seamlessly. However, Gerard and Anne did have to learn to adjust to one lifestyle difference that some Britons may find challenging and he shared his advice.

He said: “There is no such thing as a deadline here. Everything takes longer, so the first thing you need is tolerance. You need that in abundance because if you’re expecting something to be done today or tomorrow, you might as well forget it. They’ll do it when they’re ready to do it.”

But if you can get past this, and forgo your need to have tasks completed there and then, Spain’s laidback attitude towards the clock can be refreshing.

According to the Spain super fan, the relaxed outlook isn’t an annoying aspect of living there - “as long as you don’t let it get to you”.

But he did warn a particular kind of Briton: “If you are someone who is pedantic and wants things done on the spot, you will suffer from frustration.”

Gerard loves the leisurely pace, however, and told GB News he would certainly not swap his life there for his former life back home.

It’s important for expats who are looking to retire to think about what kind of post-work life their chosen destination will provide them.


Beach in Estepona

Expect sun, sea and sand in enchanting Estepona


And as for how Gerard would fare as a retiree in the UK, he can’t think of anything worse.

He said: “For me, there’s no comparison. Life in England would be so, so poor. The ethos here is very social. They look after individuals, they look after families.

”They don’t have this mania that they have in England for money - they work a bit and then they have leisure.

”They like their fiestas here. There’s a reason for a fiesta almost every week. Last week it was Andalucía Day.”

Gerard suggested that day-to-day life in Spain is much more enjoyable than in the UK. Speaking about the Spanish custom that is the siesta, the expat said: “The English can’t understand why, in the middle of the day, the Spanish have three hours for a siesta." Between 2pm and 5pm, they “religiously” take that.

While Gerard and Anne have been retired for the duration of their 20 years in Spain, they revealed that the work culture is totally different from what they were used to at home. Britons under retiring age who want to move to Spain can expect longer but more languid days.

The expat explained: “They work a bit in the morning and then when it gets hot they close from 2pm-5pm. They have lunch, go home, have a sleep, and then come back and work until around 8pm.”

Britons in Spain can therefore expect later nights. With the working day typically ending at 8pm, it is not uncommon for dinner to not start until 10pm.

Speaking of dinner, the Mediterranean diet - which is associated with both maintaining a healthy weight and longevity - is the main diet followed in Spain.

The expat said: “I love the food here - it’s great. Estepona is probably the best place in Spain for fish. Also pork, the Spanish love pork. And of course, you’ve got all the vegetables you could possibly grow. They say that the Mediterranean diet is the best in the world.”

Gerard concluded: ”If I were recommending a part of Spain, I would say the Costa del Sol - it’s the best and it’s more geared towards dealing with English people and other foreign people.

”Barcelona and Madrid are fine if you are working professionally, but if you’re a retired person, it’s best to come to Costa del Sol."

Answering the all-important question of whether he would recommend moving to Spain, Gerard advised: “Do it tomorrow.”

Moving to Spain

What you need to know

Many Britons will be excited about potentially starting a new life in Spain. However, there are some things they must be aware of, such as their options for accommodation and driving. They should also know the best - and easiest - ways to learn how to speak Spanish.

Britons who want to purchase a property in Spain will require a NIE (Número de Identificación del extranjero). This number is unique to the individual and is essential to carry out any transaction in Spain. It is not difficult to get your NIE - it just takes a while so plan ahead.

While it's not necessary, having a bank account in Spain also makes things easier when it comes to buying.

You should also be aware that once you are the owner of a property in Spain, you must appoint a tax representative if you are not a resident there.

While many Britons will want to buy their own property, opting into a timeshare means they can also enjoy the perks of Spain without forgoing their life in the UK. A timeshare allows you to buy the use of a holiday home for the same week or weeks every year. It costs a fraction of the price of buying a property, and means you don't have to worry about year-round maintenance.

Short and long-term lets are also available and are popular options for expats. For those looking to buy in Spain, renting for a few months beforehand is advised. This will help you decide if you love the place and can see yourself there.

As for driving in Spain, importing a car from the UK is relatively straightforward. Britons who want to bring their car will have to pay an import tax on their specific vehicle. The vehicle must also follow EU driving regulations and pass a roadworthiness test (ITV).

Those relocating to Spain will need to register their vehicle at their local traffic department within 30 days of arriving, regardless of residency status.

Britons staying for six months or longer will need to swap the number plates for Spanish licence plates.

For those who want to buy a car abroad, your rights when buying a car abroad vary depending on whether the car is new or used, you are buying it from a professional car dealer or a private individual, the seller is based in an EU country or elsewhere.

Individuals are advised to ensure the seller gives you the documents you need to register the car in Spain, as well as the car's original documents.

Finally, while English is widely spoken in Spain, Britons will likely have a better experience with the locals if they learn the language. There are plenty of language classes available for non-speakers all over the Spain, at different levels and intensity.

For those who want to get ahead of the game before they relocate, a Spanish language course would be a good place to start. Language-learning apps can also help with everyday vocabulary, as can watching TV in Spanish with English subtitles turned on.

Best places for retirees

  • Marbella
  • Alicante
  • Mijas
  • Malaga City
  • Costa Brava
Why Britons choose to live in Spain
  • Spain enjoys over 320 days of sunshine per year providing lots of enjoyment for British expats - think sun, sea, sand and sangria
  • Diverse locations - there's something for everyone
  • Laidback lifestyle and slower pace of life
  • Spaniards are friendly and welcome Britons with open arms
  • Lower cost of living than in the UK
Possible pitfalls
  • Far away from loved ones
  • Unrealistic expectations: While Spain is an idyllic destination, no place is perfect
  • Language barrier
  • Bureaucracy can be laborious
  • It can get cold: If you're expecting scorching temperatures every day you may be shocked - Spain often reaches freezing temperatures during winter
  • Noisy nightlife can be disruptive to locals
  • Siesta culture means companies and stores are closed for several hours in the middle of the day

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