Three quarters of child expats integrate into Spanish life ‘without problems’

LAST UPDATED: 21 Jul, 2014 @ 12:15
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Three quarters of child expats integrate into Spanish life ‘without problems’

MORE than three quarters of adolescent expats integrate into Spanish life without any problems, according to a report.

The study, based on 7,000 children aged between 12 and 17, measured signs of failing to adjust such as leaving school or home, unemployment, going to jail or young pregnancies.

A massive 78.4% of the so-called ‘second generation’ immigrants – children of expats – registered no such incidents, while only 4.3% registered two or more.

Rosa Aparicio, the university professor behind the Obra  Social ‘La Caixa’ study, stressed that child expats feel far less discriminated against than their parents, and find it easy to integrate with local children.

“The data shows a positive adaptation process and a psychological and cultural convergence between children of immigrants and children of natives,” she said.

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30 COMMENTS

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  1. I think it is hard for a foreign family to bring up kids here. I speak only from my experiences as a father of 2 young girls and from living on the costa del sol. My wife is Spanish speaking but South American and I am an Englishman that speaks Spanish. I like to think we are very open minded and have made the effort to integrate into life here but often find the culture differences are huge. My kids attend a Spanish school while we live within a Spanish community yet at home we speak 90% English not only for my wife but also to make sure my kids are bilingual.
    The biggest problem we find here is life is very simple and the beach culture in many ways turns people into zombies. We try to teach the children the basic rights / wrongs and how to be well mannered which leads them to question while a lot of their Spanish friends are not the same. I understand it is not customer to say “please and thank you” here but they like me they find that difficult to grasp.
    I love my modern pop culture be it cinema or music and at home my kids are influenced heavily by this especially the music yet find it frustrating their friends don’t show the same interest which is basically just that music plays a big part in UK culture than here.

    My eldest daughter recently joined the Brownies here and when I asked here about the difference between her British friends at brownies and Spanish school friends she said that the Spanish didn’t share, were loud and rude that’s coming from a 6 year old.

    Of course Fuengirola is not the best example of Spanish life and after 12 years my wife and I have very few true Spanish friends although we know a lot of people we find cultural we are different. I have no problems with my children growing up here but really hope they study aboard and see the world, which is not something people do here as they are born here, live here and die here which is what their families want.

    I am not saying it’s a bad way of life but if a young person wants to reach their full potential they need to leave. I draw on 3 cultures available to me bit find the Spanish one the one that influences my children less, in fact sadly, we often use it as an example of how not to live be it : no seat belt, smoking, double parking, no please/thank you etc

  2. I thought this may start a good debate about life here as I personally struggle with it on one side but enjoy it on another. I am concerned about my children growing up here as there is a real sense of lack of ambition and I just can’t, no matter how much I try get used to the mañana lifestyle.

  3. ha ha ha really funny Stefanloco! I must have struck a chord if you’re thinking about me for some reason.

    That’s an interesting post Mark. No please and thankyou is certainly a cultural difference. We personally don’t say please but definitely end up over saying thankyous.

  4. A most excellent post from Mark and I’m sure many people here will emphasise with him. Spain, and especially rural Spain, is a very limiting experience for young people, and for adults alike. Even though foreign children integrate much better then their adult counterparts, the integration still cannot really properly develop without adult (parent) integration. The “Beach – Tapas – Beach – Evening meal” syndrome is pretty much the mainstay of most Spaniards in the Summer months. It is very, very monotonous. When I asked some friends to go and see a new art exhibition, the beach was always preferred lol.

    One of the big things people don’t quite understand about moving to Spain is that the vast majority of Spanish people are not looking for new friends. Expats actively try and make new Spanish friends, but mostly end up with people from their own country and culture. It’s such a difficult process. Hats off to us for all trying though, but full integration is such a rare beast. I know people who have been here 20-30+ years, and some who have even married into Spanish families, and they still do not feel integrated. To date, I have not met a single expatriate family who are not already planning for their children to leave and study/work abroad. That is surely one of the most depressing aspects of Spain. A country with no future for its youth.

  5. As Fred says it is a difficult process trying to integrate here and many have tried but failed but I would imagine this to be the same in many countries around the world. I find myself popular amongst my Spanish staff, customers, fellow parents and neighbors yet not one would I call a friend.

    It would be a very ignorant thing to say it’s the fault of the Spanish In fact I honestly believe we are just differently wired and have a different way at looking at the world. However saying that I don’t find them very objective especially when it comes to football or politics and generally find them uniformed on matters in general which I would think is down to education and poor press coverage.

  6. Great post Mark, and we’re in the same boat… with a 6 and 9 year old.
    Just grateful that we can afford to get away and travel and open their eyes and broaden their horizons a few times a year.
    I agree about integration and realise that the main reason we have only a few good Spanish friends is that most people in Andalucia are not middle class graduates like my wife and I so have less in common.
    That said we have over the last year or so met some amazingly cultured and hard working locals who do understand culture.
    The main link; they have travelled extensively and in all cases have spent time in London. Most run businesses and suffer like the rest of us all.
    In terms of schooling the kids are v different but have integrated fast and are bilingual. We are happy at this stage w local state schools. They know they are different and are sometimes treated that way… But they get on with it. Damn certain though they’ll have to end up working abroad or at least up north, which in some ways is sad.
    For me, there is nothing like a trip to Madrid, Bilbao or say Pamplona to see how different/organized/cultured can be other parts of Spain.
    But you’ll never beat the Andalucian joy of life, beauty (mostly) and of course weather!
    Jon

  7. My experience with two kids in school for one year in Spain was not a good one. If you think back to the 70’s and 80’s in UK schools with the violence then that is what Spain is from my experience. I was looking from outside of the fence at one of my kids being attacked by another and all I could do was to tell him to hit the other one to stop the attack. Having given him a few boxing lessons the other one was down on the floor within a few seconds. The teachers all congregated in a corner for a chat together out of site and the kids were knocking the hell out of each other all around the place. Another gipsy kid got caught taking a knife to school, two of them ganged up on one of my sons.. The education (state school) was no good. So, while I have seen other English grow up over the years and survive I have not seen any flourish in the area I am talking about, one who is now 17 just come back and left his parents out there, same with another I know of. Both of my Kids are now in grammar school, one wants to be a Doctor. I know they would not have achieved anything over there, half of it because I could not really help them that much. In the UK I am spending £4k a year on additional private tutors, just to get them to the A’s and A*’s and in Spain I would not have been able to afford that. Much happier in the uk with Derek, thanks Stuart for letting me know that.

  8. Mark & Reap,
    good posts that state the reality of school and life in Spain.In Guadix we knew an English couple with 2 daughters aged 6 & 9, neither the parents or their children spoke any Spanish when they arrived.

    Within 6 months both were top of their respective classes. This is not surprising when they said that the Spanish kids paid little attention to the teacher, spent most of the time looking at their mobiles and eating sweets. Eventually the family returned to the UK, sad to say that neither of the adults had learned any Spanish at all, I think they were embarrassed when we only spoke Spanish with the girls.

    I have a Russian emigre friend in Bilbao who married an Euskadi nurse. He was a highly qualified aero-space engineer, he had one daughter aged 10 who was fluent in Euskadi,castillano, English and Russian, every summer she went to live with her Russian grandmother.

    I well remember Igor telling me that his daughter would never go to a Spanish university she would learn nothing because “they are all lazy, students and tutors, she will go to university in Russia where you have to work damn hard”

    Can’t agree with Jon Clarke that just sounds like English snobbery. Our Spanish friends included sheep herders, firemen, Guardia, graduates, in fact a general mix. The sheep herders, perhaps because of their solitary occupation spending all day out in the ‘big country’ were profound philosophers, what a shame they would never find employment in a university – too much reality and not enough b/s.

    As he does’nt live in Spain we can ignore any comments from the troll.

  9. I think Jon has it about right. We Brits tend to think of Fuengirola, Mojácar and Torrevieja as cultural capitals when, in Spanish terms, they are just small towns served with poor standard teachers. Indeed, why send better teachers to one town of 10,000 inhabitants than to another? Because there are some foreigners living there?
    Spain’s elite are found in the cities. Send your kids there for decent, European-standard education or accept that they will receive a crap education.
    As far as ‘integration’, check to see which is the child’s preferred language (which one, for example, does he count in). If it’s Spanish, he’ll do fine.

  10. Mark’s posts are so accurate and real life. When you move to an area in Spain, maybe in the South like other posters have said, maybe the chances of finding a good school in Spain is harder. Integrating is one thing, doing well is another. I have some fairly wealthy friends in the UK, but you have to be in a busy area to earn good money, and it also helps if the people in that area have money to spend. I remember last year in Spain, in the Countryside, a new bar near me provided some expensive entertainment, Mini Hollywood with all of their horses turned up. I would say 400 Spanish people turned up to see the entertainment outside of the bar, when it finished I would say 380 of them left and had never spent a euro in the bar throughout the 1 hour show.

  11. I have been invited to two Spanish weddings, have lots of Spanish friends made both through business and at language exchange meet-ups in Malaga and the like, but it still doesn’t feel like “full integration”. When a Spanish neighbour called me last year to help him to try and put out a fire (we failed) I felt the most integrated at that point. It is when Spanish people rely upon you, and need you, that integration is achieved I feel, but that’s just my opinion.

  12. There have been so many good posts in this piece and it is refreshing to know i am not alone.

    “full integration” as Fred puts it is near impossible as we are different and here are few examples of things i have encontered just over the last month:

    1. my kids are in a Spanish summer school and yesterday was my daughters birthday so she wanted Chinese food. Anyway we are sitting around the family table talking about foods from different countries when my 7 year old says none of her friends have had Chinese food. She then said she mentioned it at school everyone started doing the Chinese eyes. Of course i explain that this was wrong and no doubt it was a few when 5 year old said “no daddy it was nearly everyone and they wouldnt stop”

    2. Talking to a customer the other day i mistaking said he was from Fuengirola, only for him to correct me saying he was from Los Boliches ( a small area of Fuengirola). He then went onto to inform he was Andaluz and Spanish but not from Fuengirola with a fair bit of gusto. Of course i then ask him who he supported as a football team which was Barcalona so mocking him i said “free Catalunya” where he went on rant about they will never be independent. Of course i said why are you so passionate about where you come from yet support a club which is against your country. He said that was different. HYPOCRITE. This kind of thing drives me mad

    3. just last week a group of spanish waiters from a local restaurant were in my bar complainig about the Guiris not tipping that day but doing in a bit of nasty way. I was like “hello” i am here i to am a guiri, of course they then went on saying how i was different not like the tourist. thne had a 30 euro bill and didnt tip, HYPOCRITES

    4. On my bar facebook page a customer makes a joke where the punchline was “gibraltar is spanish” well i know this guy quite well so when i see him a week later i ask him about gibraltar. I said i had seen his joke and wondered what his opinion was on the situation as it was an intersting topic. he responded with “no Mark you dont understand gibraltar is spanish” i ask him why he thought this and his only argument was: “”no Mark you dont understand gibraltar is spanish” on hearing this for the forth time i gave up trying to have a health debate.

    5. I was talking about spanish royal family with my staff and the new king. I said it was terrible the goverment were changing the law to help the ex king be protected against law suits for children he had out of wedlock. They looked at me like i was mad saying that was rubbish as the King had been married to Sofia. i then mentioned corinna zu sayn wittgenstein his girlfriend for years yet none them knew of this or believed or knew the PP were trying change law. Of course when i then googled a few pictures they were shocked.

    5. The one i get a lot is when asked about which football team i support which they normally say Chelsea or Man United? when i tell them i support Oxford United it is normally meet with a “why would you support them they are rubbish No?” i tell them its my home town and where i was born and raised so they are my team. This they just dont get as they cant understand why anyone would support a team that isnt winning. the concept of following your local team and comminity is completly lost here, unless like Malaga last year get to Champions league then they are all Malaga fans until they are rubbish again

    i could go on and on as this is my day to day life here trying to integrate and it doesnt matter what class people are here or if they went to university as in general they are different. Everywhere i go i come across ignorance and arrogance. I have Spanish friends but they are people i meet in London who are still there and dont have a good word to say about the folks back home.

    my children will Integrate to a certain degree but i will be glad the day they leave to go aboard, there is no life here if you want to better yourself, yes you can join the sheep who go to the beach everyday and have a simple life but personally i dont want that. I crave decent converstation and wanting to better myself yet the only time i seem to get that is when i am the company of friends from overseas.

    An intersting observation i made during the world Cup was nearly all foreigners (spanish speakers) wanted Spain to lose where as those who dont speak Spanish wanted them to win.
    The biggest disapointment for me here was the day my Spanish got good enough to understand day to day conversations and the romance of the country was lost.

    Rant Over

  13. Mark, you’ll definitely be more than WELCOME now on this website with Stuart (who lives in France), Stefanjo and Reap (who live in the uk) and Fred who derides Spain at every opportunity 24/7 (but STILL lives here).

    UUUUUUURRRRRRGH!!! The lot of you!

  14. Strange how there is so much more hate (towards Spain) from English speakers on this type of web, but very rare in the other direction for example Spaniards.es/foros Of course you get people with nasty attitudes everywhere eg the English football fans who sing “I’d rather be a P*** than a T***” or the individual who’ll chuck a banana at a football ground in Spain. Even on this site you get the war carried out by Stuart (who lives in France!!!) against another poster who he claims doesn’t live in Spain, because he owns a holiday home! Can’t say I agree either that Spanish people aren’t ambitious. Seem to win enough Champions League, or even shops on UK high streets (Zara, Mango, Santander etc). Of course, if you go to a resort town, whether Margate or Fuengirola, it’s hardly going to be the centre of the universe. Which is why many people like to go there, surely?

  15. I thought Mark’s ‘rant’ was the best ever post on this blog. OP should give him a column as he knows more that most of the journalists on here (sorry journos).

  16. My Wife often states that speaking Spanish is not always good as you have to listen to a few things you would rather not. Mark’s post was so funny. Much of the UK is made up of foreigners now (including my Wife) and there are so many different cultures that do not mix and it is not down to language barriers. My Wife is from South America and spent half her life here but she is as English as me and when you talk to her about South America, Spain et al, she states they are corrupt macho Countries where the mentality is so much worse than the UK, women not anywhere near on an equal platform, wife beating is common. The Mayors of these tin pot towns think they are so important, people go around knocking houses down to flex their male ego, you can see it everywhere you go. Without the EU pumping in billions over the years is could well be the same as Iraq.

  17. I totally agree with Mark. Ignorance, stupidity, and the lack of an inner voice are all the hallmarks of the large majority of Spaniards in Andalucia, sadly.

  18. Ok so Fuengirola is more like Margate than say London but it is still a big place with a winter population of over 50,000 and is a very multi cultural place with many different nationalities living here with countless visitors who should bring some influence to locals. I am a very tolerant and well traveled person who has at least 20 friends from different countries. I believe I look at things in a very objective way and pride myself at always trying to look at both sides of any argument.

    My opinions on Spain are based on the 12 years I have lived here which is includes : some travel around the country I now call home, opening/running a business here that caters/employs locals, buying a house, living in a Spanish community, experiences of children attending a Spanish school, learning the language and my day to day experiences of spending my money by using local workers/shops so forgive me if I feel qualified to give an opinion.

    Of course not all Spanish are not lazy, arrogant and ignorant etc etc it’s a stereotype which is untrue however from my experiences here in he South they appear to have a very backward way of looking at things which makes a working life very difficult here. I have never had a problem making friends and will chat to anyone about anything no matter from where they come from and yes every nationalities has it’s idiots but find the art of decent conversation here a difficult one. I love my sport and follow both national/local/international politics but rarely have a decent conversation with a local about anything apart from the weather.

    I forgot one story: I was playing tennis with a local during the World Cup and we were talking about Diego Costa playing for Spain, I was saying he shouldn’t be allowed as he from Brazil and had already played for that country. He then turned to me and said that then no black players should be allowed to play for England in that case. Of course I was shocked by this and explain they were in some cases 2nd or 3 rd generation etc. I then used my children as an example as being although born here but were not Spanish as they are half Chilean half English and if they remained here IMO their children should be considered Spanish but them not, he disagreed saying he considered my kids as Spanish as they were born here. I then ask him if a Chinese family have a baby here is their baby Spanish of course he said “no” they were Chinese. Now this guy is university educated, well travelled, has a French wife and is a high level banker but is not better than the guy who referred to Lewis Hamilton as a monkey last weekend when I took a coffee in my local cafeteria

  19. @Derek
    I am just telling it as I see it and yes there are wonderful things about living here: national parks, wonderful restaurants , great outdoor life, great winter weather etc.
    Unfortunately the last time I was at the río chillar it was full of rubbish mainly empty bottles of cruzcampo, I took my brother out for a meal last tonight that was ruined by the smokers on the table next to us and the screaming kids, I guess the locals couldn’t mess up the weather at least but a week ago I was on the beach where I couldn’t get a minutes peace as sellers bothered me every 5 mins and the sea was full of crap.
    But hey it’s sunny

    @englishdampsquid
    Of course Spain has it’s fair share of ambitions people but where I live the only ones that are successful are the ones with the large families that own the land and have endless “enchufe” the new rich or Pijos Cateto “oye, tío”. Unfortunately where I live it’s all about who you know not what you know and if half the Spanish business that were family owned were forced to pay rent or correct taxes they would go out of business

  20. @EnglishDampSquid, you, like so many others, are confusing hate with justified criticisms and frustrations. Your comparison of forums was also totally meaningless btw.

    @Derek, are you saying one can live in a country but not criticise aspects of it? I like many aspects of Spain and have mentioned dozens of examples that you choose not to mention. Why are you so worried about other peoples opinions?

  21. It is funny reading different peoples opinions on this site as they vary so much. I think you can separate them into different groups:

    1. Non spanish speaking ex pats who have retried here I.E live a fantasitc life in a fantastic climate while never really intergrating or know anything about real life here, so say how great it is as they sip a pint of John Smiths while playing Bingo in the “Rovers return”

    2. workers and buisness owners, I.E mainly bitter as they face the day to day struggle of trying the stay ahead of the game while the system makes life very hard and generally see how hard and tough life is here

    3. The regular visitor or holiday let owner, I.E: fly back and forth 4 or 5 times a year, play regular golf and eat out 4-5 times a week, so obiviously think life here is great but live inside a false bubble

  22. Mark,
    I wish the troll would stay inside his bubble then we would’nt be exposed to his abusive tantrums about a country he has never lived in.

    damp squid – what an apt handle to have – pobrito.

  23. Mark does raise a point about different kinds of expat. Always felt that those who head for the coast are generally looking for a Britain by the sea experience, and are less likely to learn the language, still less engage with local people. Not saying there is too much wrong with that, and of course there are exceptions. But, same as in the uk, if you want culture, better job opportunities, and a more metropolitan population, then don’t live on the Cornish coast or in a Costa resort town, head for the cities.

  24. Do you want my address or something Stuart? Strange ‘spat out of Spain’ man.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that most ex-pats who have so much against the Spanish & Spain round our area ARE the problem themselves. They want to remain British. Hang out with British people. And if anything unsettles their British way of life here in Spain, all get together in groups and loudly berate the country they live in. Hence they always get a deservedly bad attitude back.

    Find a local blog about croissants, onions and riding bicycles Stuart!

  25. The thing is..

    The pain in Spain comes from the British plane
    Berating all about Spain, hating fiestas it’s insane
    They moan and groan, chips and greasy eggs please
    Chips on their shoulders with ketchup and British peas

    Please leave this country, over-sensitive ex-pat fools
    There’s nothing for you here, splashing around in your pools
    Try talking to locals, say ¡Hola! at least (or even ¿Cómo estás?)
    I’d love to help you back to the uk, with a boot up your..

    WHINGING!!

    BRITISH!!

    ASS!!

  26. @Derek, the people on the British planes have been keeping Spain alive for decades, and continue to do so. Anyway haven’t you heard of a Croissant Mixta? It’s eaten in huge quantities by the Spanish. Oh dear, zero Spanish knowledge again. Which brings me on to my next point. I understand from other posters that you actually don’t even live in Spain, Derek? Seems that must be true if you don’t even know basic facts about Spanish snacks. Bike-riding is massive in Spain too – just read this months OP; whole section devoted to it. How did you get so dense?

  27. @Derek
    what a strange opinion you have and talk about stereotypes. Yes, there is a large ammount of “trailer trash” or “chav” tourism here mainly on the Costa Del Sol and yes there is a large community of ex pats who would fit your stereotype. However there are also a lot of decent people who came here and have made the effort with understanding the culture, learning the lingo and intergrating.

    Although my time here has taught me many things i do wish i had choosen a different place to live as in general my experiences here have been a disapointment

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