Having moved to this beautiful, sunny and sand-fringed part of Europe known as the Costa del Sol, friends and family from home and tourists that one runs in to, are full of curiosity – sometimes mixed with envy. “What do you do all day?” “I couldn’t stand not having the seasons.” “Is it really cheap?” “How much would a house cost?” “Aren’t there lots of criminals?” “What do you miss?” “I wouldn’t get on with that heat!” “DON’T YOU GET FED UP WITH ALL THAT SUN?”
Lounge or labour
So what DO we do? Sometimes people imagine that we spend all day sitting drinking by the pool. That IS an option! But people who come to the Costa del Sol to retire say they are busier and more active than they ever have been in a northern climate. More and more young people are coming as singles, couples and with families. There is plenty to do for all ages. There are international and Spanish schools which cater for foreign children and most people are able to find some sort of work if they so desire or need. There are many jobs for the picking, especially if you have languages. These days it is possible for some business people to work from home via the internet and to fly back regularly if necessary from the nearby international Malaga airport. With the advent of charter bargain flights this is a viable option. Until recently the internet was not an option if you lived in the rural and mountain areas of the region as it was impossible to have a quick ADSL line or sometimes even an ordinary landline installed. As of 2002 all that changed with the choice of having an IVS (internet via satellite) system installed – this system also provides a means of cheap phone calls. IVS is set to rapidly become as popular as satellite TV which is also available here. You don’t HAVE to miss a single episode of Eastenders!
Outdoor activities abound with golf, tennis, hiking and riding (to name but a few) all year round. Adventure and extreme sports are also growing in popularity. In winter the Sierra Nevada ski resort is less than a couple of hours away. There are amateur dramatics, clubs and associations of all sorts. Details of all these can be found in the thriving local English-language media.
You could indeed spend all day by the pool browsing through any number of glossy, free magazines and a clutch of weekly newspapers, all produced on the Costa, while listening to English-language local radio. The local media also keep you informed about live entertainment from music hall, jazz, rock and opera. There are many fund-raising events which bring you into contact with other people and help you make friends. As with anywhere, life here is what you make it.
Miss the seasons? In fact, although the rhythm of the seasons is different than at home, they never-the-less exist. The summers are hot and the winters are mild. Springtime is short and starts early with an abundance of flowers thrusting their way upwards and outwards, lasting well into the summer when other blooms and flowering trees take over to colour the landscape. The autumn is lengthier and provides a mild second growing season. One can delight in the changing seasons without suffering frost and cold and the despair of not having a proper summer. The pleasure of waking up knowing that there will be a blue and sunny sky outside is one usually only experienced on holiday.
How do we spend our euros?
The costa living? The average weekly shopping will indeed cost less, as with eating out, cigarettes, petrol and alcohol. If you’re selling your property at home and buying outright the Costa offers wonderful opportunities. It is also possible to obtain a mortage.
Seen Ronnie lately?
Crime? There are many misapprehensions about the Costa del Sol. First the criminal haven that stuck some thirty years ago. The Costa is no longer the criminal haven it was deemed to be in the sixties and seventies. There are criminals everywhere but you don’t have to mingle with them any more than you would in your own crime-riddled country. Most residents say that they feel safer here than they do back home. Petty crime exists but it can be minimised with sensible precautions.
Home is where the heart is
Is it an aching heart? Most people do miss their friends and family from ‘home’ – at least at first. Personally, I also missed my work from which I used to gain a great deal of satisfaction. Families grow up and often want to join you in the adventure. Parents too, after a couple of holidays, often decide it is the life for them.
One of the saddest accounts I remember hearing, when still living in the UK, was from a retired couple who had lived in Spain for several years until their grandchildren were born. The wife decided they had to move back to England to be ‘close’ to them. On returning, the couple were extremely bored, missing the varied life they had experienced in Spain, and saw their grandchildren even less than when they had visited for holidays.
Keeping in touch is easy if you have a computer for email. Of course there are many internet cafes around for those who do not, as well as courses of instruction. Phone calls are cheap from competing town booths or using IVS. Text messaging, now with photos and video clips, has become a popular means of communication via mobile phones.
Moving to a new country, especially one so vibrant, is a chance to get to know yourself again and those you have come here with. But friends and family visit often (not always expecting to partake of your own hospitality, as it is easy to find reasonably-priced nearby accommodation!). And with the cheap flights now available it is easy to fly back and see people. Foreigners abroad find much in common and new friends are easily made. The Spanish are a very friendly race, with a similar sense of humour and the absurd as the British.
Learning the language will give you a passport to discovering a culture and way of life with its own distinct personality and flavour, particularly away from the coast. The locals will welcome you with warmth and generosity as soon as you can put a few halting words together.
And no, NO-ONE SAYS THEY GET FED UP WITH THE SUNSHINE!