Relocation story

Ann & Alan’s sudden move with no regrets

Published on 11 Jan 2024

Ann and Alan’s move to Malaga was earlier than planned due to Brexit and a more difficult one due to the pandemic. Now, a few years later, they have no regrets and miss very little other than good Indian and Chinese takeaways. Want to hear their advice? Keep on reading…

Where are you from and why did you decide to move to Spain?

We are from the UK and had a long held wish to spend our winters in Spain while retaining our home in the UK after we retired. However, we realised that Brexit would mean that we could not stay for more than 90 days in Spain in any 180 day period which would severely restrict us. We therefore had to choose where we would live; Britain or Spain.  There were many reasons for choosing Spain. We love the food, the culture and the people who are in general very kind. On a practical level we wanted to live in a country with EU Food and other safety standards as well as good state healthcare.

When did you move & where in Spain did you settle? Did you move on your own or as a family?

We moved as a couple in the autumn of 2020 to an urbanisation in the hills behind Malaga. Our family still lives in the UK. 

Did you use professional help for the immigration procedures (visas, permits, any admin paperwork) and/or any relocation services (property search, schools, etc)? 

There were several professionals we needed, all of whom we found via personal recommendations. We needed a lawyer for our house purchase and an accountant, initially to transfer our internet business to Spain, and then on an ongoing basis to handle our taxes in both countries. The tax system is very different and things that are not taxable in the UK are often taxable in Spain. However, the most important person who helped us was our Gestor, Irina, who facilitated the entire immigration process and getting us the tax numbers we needed to complete our house purchase on time after we had been let down by someone else and faced a month’s delay. She also helped with our driving licences, getting us registered with the Spanish healthcare system and more recently when applying for a mortgage. We have had no problems with our paperwork even though there has been a lot of it, which is typical of Spain. We have heard some horror stories from people who have not had competent help. We would advise anyone coming to Spain to find a Gestor who is recommended and specialises in what you need.

How difficult was it to find your first home and do you still live in the same place? If you moved – tell us why

We moved in the first year of the pandemic which made things interesting!  We found our house through extensive online property searches. After looking at properties during previous visits we knew what we wanted and were able to narrow things down, with only about 10 properties out of thousands being suitable. One was on the development where our friends lived. This meant that they could view the property for us when travel was difficult. We decided to buy it without visiting ourselves, after commissioning a full survey, and have never regretted it. However, if you are going to buy consider the purchase very carefully as there are significant upfront costs and deposits needed as part of the process and it is expensive to move. The place where we live is beautiful and although it was a bit of a shock moving to the countryside having been city dwellers all our lives. However, we have adjusted surprisingly well and enjoy living in the “campo”.

What is your occupation in Spain – tell us a few words. Has it changed compared to what you did in your home country?

In one sense things have changed because we retired form busy jobs as psychologists in Britain’s National Health Service. However, my husband had provided professional staff supervision and training for many years to a private health organisation and continues to do so. The pandemic forced this to go on line. This has meant that from the clients’ point of view the business has transferred seamlessly from one country to another. We also gained other clients because some of the people who were previously supervised by my husband did not wish to stop seeing him. In addition he wrote a book. I provide admin support, although there is more to do now we are in Spain than there used to be.

How integrated do you feel into the local community and lifestyle?

Language is a real barrier and it has been very difficult to find time to learn. This means we tend to socialise more with English speakers than Spanish speakers. This is made more difficult by local dialects and while people will usually understand your “formal” Spanish you may not understand what is said back to you. In addition Spanish is a rapidly spoken language but if you try to speak it and ask, people will generally slow down and help you. That said we love the food and the pace of Spanish life.

Do you have any regrets about your move to Spain and/or miss anything from your home country? If yes – tell us what

We have absolutely no regrets about moving to Spain. We miss very little other than good Indian and Chinese takeaways.

What was the main advantage and the main challenge you experienced with moving to Spain?

One of the main advantages of moving to Spain was having the opportunity to own a property with a swimming pool and a view of the sea, something we could have never afforded in the UK. My husband would probably add decent coffee. The main challenge apart from the language barrier; was having to move before we could apply and be accepted for residency, having sold everything in the UK and relocated beforehand. The situation now is different as most British citizens will need a visa before they arrive, but that was very scary for us.

Any advice you would like to give to those considering or in the process of moving to Spain

Prepare by learning the language as much as you can before moving. Unfortunately our move was relatively sudden because of Brexit and we could not prepare as well as we would have liked. Do not expect things to be done in the same way as they are in your home country. Every system has advantages and disadvantages and you need to be willing to adapt. Research things very thoroughly and get expert help. Translation apps are your friend but can be misleading too so backward translate everything before using it!

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