6. Getting to grips with the language.
You may feel it's completely unnecessary to master any Spanish
if you're buying a property in one of the popular ex-pat areas
such as Benidorm, Torremolinos or Torrevieja.
You could just join the many thousands of foreign residents
who get by with little more than "una copa mas de vino
tinto por favor" - and that's after they've lived here
for 30 years!
Well, it's true - you can manage to live in Spain without
speaking a word of the language. But my advice to you is to
at least learn the basics because you'll find the whole experience
of living in Spain so much more rewarding - also, some mastery
of the language could save you a lot of time, money and frustration.
You don't have to be fluent - even if your language skills
are more of the effluent variety, you'll still find a little
goes a long way. In my experience, the Spanish are endlessly
patient with foreigners who are prepared to have a bash at
communicating in the local language (even if the results are
We English, of course, are notoriously bad about making any
effort to speak any language other than our own. But nothing
is guaranteed to make you more unpopular with the locals than
speaking very loudly in English to some poor Spaniard who can't
understand a word you're saying. I've never understood why
we Brits assume sheer volume will act as an aid to comprehension!
The Dutch, Germans and Scandinavians put us to shame and generally
converse quite competently in Spanish and several other languages.
So don't let the side down - take some lessons, carry your
phrase book around with you and be seen to be at least trying
to communicate in the language of the country which you've
decided to make home. The Spanish really will appreciate your
efforts and will generally bend over backwards to be helpful
On a purely practical note, if you can deal directly with
Spanish workmen, the town hall and the Spanish phone company
Telefonica you'll be able to get things done more quickly and
cost-effectively than if you have to use an interpreter.
Remember that in many areas of Spain the main Castellano language
is not the first language at all. Catalan is the first language
of the Costa Brava and the wider province of Catalunya and
a very similar variation, Valenciano, is spoken throughout
the Valencian community which incorporates the Costa Blanca.
In Andalucia, they speak quite a different dialect which can
be hard to understand for students of pure Spanish (as they
have a habit of dropping the last letter off the end of every
Few foreigners manage to master these local languages but
if you can speak a little Castellano, it will make a big difference
even in those areas where it's not the first language.
Of course the older you are, generally speaking, the more
difficult it is to learn a new skill. But I've witnessed many
elderly pensioners getting on famously with their Spanish neighbours,
relying on just a few Spanish words and much gesticulating
I'll be talking more on the topic of retiring in Spain next.
7. Retiring in Spain.
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