I sat there for almost 3 hours, head in hand, with thoughts racing through my mind. I sat there in that big comfy chair and wondered how I had let it happen again. All the red flags and warning bells were there – I had friends warning me prior but I refused to listen. All the answers to my concerns were right in front of me – he was almost 60 without a dime to his name. No nest egg in sight, only big hopes and dreams. An all too common tale on the Costa del Sol.
This was me a few weeks ago, facing another failed partnership on the Costa del Sol. Of course, as it always is you find out about someone AFTER the fact because no one wants to get involved before or during – fair enough I suppose. I went on and on for about a week wallowing in self-pity cursing to the heavens and universe. Finally it hit me – everything happens for a reason, and each detour in life is a learning experience. This last business relationship was one I thought was going to work, and it would have, if I had only told the truth and not worried about hurt feelings. But today, I have to stop looking backwards, and fight on going forward.
The very least I can do now is help my fellow chica’s on Costa Women, and all expats on the Costa del Sol.
I decided to write a helpful list in the hopes that it would help someone else avoid possible financial and personal disaster. There are hardships no matter where we live, even back home in Canada, I had lost my job thanks to a merger. But like I said, everything happens for a reason. I thought, if you really want an honest look at the Costa del Sol, then its time someone told it how it really is.
My personalised list to help you live the good life on the Costa del Sol
So you’ve decided to move to Spain, and in particular the South of Spain? First let me say, welcome, you’re in for a treat! Here we’ve got plenty of sunshine, beautiful blue flag beaches, gorgeous mountainous terrain, and the Spanish people are incredibly generous.
We are all lucky to be living on the Costa del Sol. I was fortunate enough to marry a Spaniard and that’s one of the main reasons we decided to come; however, I am going to list some warnings here for you that might help you avoid the big pitfalls.
#1 – Laid back is an understatement
Okay, you’ve likely heard about the laxed attitude from the Spanish people right? We’ve got siestas and so many ferias it’s honest to God hard to keep track. But, this is the real beauty of Spain. The Spanish have one of the longest life expectancies in the world and with good reason. They live for life, and don’t wrap themselves up in the drama, otherwise known as “working for a living”. They live for their family, and make no mistake – their family is everything.
You can expect long queues, you must prepare for the closures at 2pm, and most of all, you need the same #zerof**ks attitude the Spaniards have. Being inpatient or rude in anyway will get you nowhere fast. Do I wish customer service was taken more seriously here? Do I wish for shorter lines at almost every bank or government run location? Well, I did, quite a bit actually my first year here. I quickly realised however, the colossal waste of time it was to be so concerned or caught up in the daily grind of life.
Final thought – If you honestly want to enjoy it here, then you’re going to have to learn how to chill the hell out! Take the no stress attitude the Spanish have, and you must believe that if you can’t get it done today, you can do it mañana!
#2 – It’s not the Spanish you have to worry about on the Costa del Sol
I’m going to apologise right up front (not really) about this one and my advice on the matter. It’s not the Spanish people you have to worry about here, it’s actually your fellow expats. It’s horrible to say I know, but all the troubles we’ve faced while living here involved expats. Unfortunately, over 300 days of sunshine a year doesn’t only attract tourists or retirees, it also attracts the fly by nights and con artists.
I can’t tell you how many fast talkers I’ve met on this coast, and equally I can’t begin to explain how many people want something for nothing! Finally, I can’t tell you how many offers of partnerships came our way. It’s actually quite an eye opener here if you are planning on self-employment. Everyone has an idea…make that a GREAT idea, an idea so wonderful it will make all involved filthy rich! Yes, I’ve heard it over and over again for 6 years, and I’ve met every manner of man on this coast.
Let me tell you right now, just when you think you’ve met honest to goodness people, just please pay attention to warning signs. Look for those red flags I ignored, and if you have to, ask questions about the individual. The best thing you can do is look to his or her past – how many failed businesses are back there? Factor in age – someone close to retirement with any good business sense will indeed have some money put aside. It’s common sense really, and you can avoid these types of people if you’re willing to pay attention and play it smart.
Whatever you’ve got planned, just know you can do it on your own!
Final thought – The first thing you need to know is unemployment here is very high; don’t get me wrong, the economy is slowly turning around, and the property market is even making a comeback. But, any sort of “get rich” scheme or too good to ignore investment opportunities that come your way – you must take a step back and really think. Keep your money where it belongs, in YOUR bank account.
#3 – Find your soul sister(s)!
The one thing we all need here on the Costa del Sol is good friends. I am fortunate enough to have met some decent people. People like me just trying to get by and make a decent living, all the while enjoying that sunshine and a bit of the beach life. I count my blessings when it comes to my very best friends here on the Costa del Sol.
You will find someone like that, you can be sure of it. You can start by attending networking groups or join a Spanish class – just get yourself out there right away and start meeting people. You need these friends to lean on when things get a bit tough, and they will. Moving to a different country is life-altering, and can be a challenge.
Final thought – I love my Welsh friends, and I am so lucky to have met them. They’ve been my friends the entire time I’ve lived here. Lately I appreciate them even more, and know for certain, they value me as a friend as well. We all need these types of people in our lives including the ones who will smack you upside the head and tell you to snap out of it!
#4 – Respect the culture and respect the people
I remember moving here and knowing a bit of Spanish. I had started learning 6 months prior to moving to Spain, and I was doing quite well. But, when we landed and started exploring, we quickly realised the amount of English expats on this coast was astonishing. I quickly forgot my Spanish, and soon enough I was starting to feel embarrassed for doing so.
I have met so many people here who have lived here for more than 10 years (some 25 plus!) and know absolutely NO SPANISH. These are the same people who have the audacity to bash immigrants landing on their homeland’s shores, the same people who get upset when immigrants don’t know the language or refuse to integrate and so on. First of all, you all sound silly and like hypocrites, secondly, if its respect you demand then you better be willing to dish some out.
You are a guest in a foreign land at the end of the day, and to show a bit of respect, knowing some Spanish is the right thing to do. Besides, learning a second language is incredibly helpful on so many levels – it looks good on your CV, and it helps your brain stay healthy! One more reason is the Spanish actually really appreciate the effort, and in most cases they will help you!
Final thought – When in Rome do as the Roman’s do. It can’t get any simpler than that.
#5 – Honesty & Integrity – keep these traits no matter what!
As women there are so many things that connect us, one being is how some men treat us. We easily fall into despair, and believe some of the insults thrown at us. I can go over the psychology all day, and wonder why it is we take so much to heart, but I’ll likely be writing until the cows come home!
Here’s the thing – ego’s here are different. Equally so, desperation here is different. It’s the desperate people you have to look out for on the Costa del Sol. I’m not saying don’t help anybody when they need a helping hand, quite the contrary!
My job is marketing online, everything SEO, and I’ve done free seminars that help small business owners compete online. I love my job and I am passionate about helping and training. Okay, maybe I am guilty when it comes to being too nice…I often give mate rates or don’t charge anything at all. But, my passion, honesty and integrity paid off, and it’s never been more relevant than just recently.
My clients today have stayed loyal, and have shown nothing but support. Again, I count my blessings and I am thankful.
Believe me when I tell you there was times I didn’t care, and frustrations were so high. There was times we didn’t eat for a few days because of no money, and I honestly contemplated illegal activity. But, I needed to stay true to myself, and even though I’ve met a few people with zero integrity, I can honestly say I have no regrets. I am happy I stayed honest, no matter what certain people said to me while trying to persuade me onto a dishonest path just to make a few bucks.
Final thought – Money isn’t everything. The Spanish are going through economic turmoil, a down tick like no other before it…maybe we can compare it to WWII; but one thing is for sure, nothing stifles their happiness or attitudes! Even those with less than me are happy, and we see it all over. We see all those cars on a Sunday at the neighbour’s house as the whole family comes together to eat. We see it at the beach, when entire Spanish families come together under a large tent, kids laughing, and adults playing in the water. So much togetherness, you can’t help but stare and smile.
Maybe I have no right to give my advice, but I figured with all I’ve learned in as little as a few weeks, I felt inclined to share. One final lesson I had the pleasure of learning….
If the Spanish can be happy, and not stress over money, then damn it, so can I!
6 thoughts on “It’s time for a wakeup call – If you want to enjoy the Costa de Sol”
Hi Sonia I was just reading your Letter and I fully agree with you. I live here now for nine Years and I still love it, I could have more Work or would love to sell more of my Handmade Jewellery but I am happy even if I dont have much Money and you are right Money is not everything.
So thank you for writing down your Opinion it was very interesting. Have a nice Day Ilona
Sonia, thank you!
I have lived in Spain for something like 30 years, married to a Spaniard and living the Spanish way of life, and for all those years I have cringed at the sight and sound of so many ex-pats being rude or just plain ignorant, especially in restaurants and bars. As you say - when in Rome . . . As for attitudes to immigrants - don't get me started. I'm still a 'foreign wife' and all ex-pats living here are immigrants!
Excellent article Sonia! You are so right...after over 30 years here i relate to all you have written. Good luck!
I agree totally, I do also think number 2 and number 4 also go together in some aspects. A lot of your fellow expats that are here to scam as many people to make money, prey on the people that don´t speak Spanish saying we can help with this and that, then charge you for it and in the end may not even get you what you wanted in the first place.
So Spanish is not only good for fitting in better but also it helps so you can find all the good deals that locales get. At the end of the day one of the main things you want when moving abroad is money to last you through the tough times so why waste money buying things from people that speak your language when you can learn Spanish and find out where you can buy your own things for the best prices.
Thanks ladies for the lovely comments. I can certainly see we are all in this together! It's kinda nice to see I'm not the only one. But as they say, what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger.
Sonia, many people have the partnership situation, and its very painful, but then when time passes, we look back and see that maybe where we are now is better, I certainly believe that good comes out of bad situations, eventually, time and patience if required. Keep on rolling along Sonia.
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