BRITISH expats who moved to Spain for a happier life are returning in droves, with nearly 90,000 abandoning their new Spanish life last year according to national statistics.

The number of Brits registered with town halls dropped a steep 23% in 2013, plummeting from 385,179 on Jan 1 to 297,229 at the end of December.

Research has also revealed that those who choose to move to sunnier climes end up less happy than those who stay in Britain.

Dr David Bartram, from Leicester University, has discovered that 329 migrants registered an average happiness rating of 7.3/10, compared with an average of 7.5/10 for the 56,000 people surveyed still in their homes countries.

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He surveyed people who had moved from northern European countries to Spain, Portugal, Greece or Cyprus.

Possible reasons for this decline in happiness are an inability to fit in with a new culture, language and society, while leaving family, friends and homes behind. The economic crisis, shrinking job market and unemployment rates have undoubtedly played a part too.

Other European expats are also giving up on Spain, with the registered German and French populations falling by 23.6% and 12.7% respectively.

This mass exodus of immigrants saw the total population of Spain fall for the second year running, this time from 47,129,783 to 46,725,164.


  1. Megan, thanks for your comments and my kids went through the bullying but they only had to suffer it for one year. The teachers would stand around and chat whilst the kids were beating each other up around the corner. The teachers were not bothered at all, shame but true.

  2. I was 7 days from referral for MRI to operating table for a brain tumour here in Spain. I know of people in UK waiting weeks for results of MRI’s. Admittedly, to start with, I was on private care but subsequently was admitted into the state system and there was no problem transferring care to Carlos Haya. I haven’t experienced any ant-foreigner issues at CH. The Spanish wait just as long in the waiting room to see the consultant.

  3. Megan, thanks for sharing your experiences on here, I hope it will help others who are thinking of relocating to Spain with children. Apart from being a newspaper, this website is an invaluable source of information for people who are thinking of moving to Spain and want to try and avoid the many pitfalls – obviously it is far better to learn by other people’s mistakes than your own. It is good that people like yourself are prepared to come forward and be honest about their experiences of life in Spain, both good and bad.

    I am very sorry to hear about the terrible bullying that you experienced at school in Spain but, sadly, you are not alone, I have heard others reciting similar stories. I hope that you will eventually be able to put it behind you and I wish you the very best of luck for the future.

  4. I live with my Spanish wife in Acoruna,and the way of life is very good.We are not bothered by costings,eg,council taxes.which in the Uk can be frightening.We live well and happy,and find the local people friendly and very helpful.
    Our weather is similar to the uk except we are 5 degrees warmer.
    We have a patio and our plants are free from infernal frost which kills everything.
    So,we look forward to the coming months with pleasure.

  5. This idea that expats are returning is not new , I have lived and worked in the French Alpes for over 30 years , and have seen many many UK nationals come and go , unable to adapt , or not finding the life they thought they could have . Another major issue is integration into a new country and many people do not make enough effort and are either sick of the expat communities or feel left out in French communities as they cannot communicate .
    Now I live in central Portugal as a retiree and its the same observation , many UK expats stay 6-10 years then go home .
    In Europe many things have been done to facilitate commerce and free movement , but in other areas there has been absolutely no co-ordination and its a mess , to add to the problem the EU just vomits new legislation all the time and thinks one size fits all , which has been proved wrong time and time again , and people are now fed up with lack of democracy .
    I wonder if there will be a rush back to the UK if it leaves the EU ?

  6. pg’s comment that the EU ‘vomits new legislation all the time’ hits the nail on the head and reveals the crux of the problems created by the mountains of Spanish paperwork.
    Every official action in Spain has to be in accordance with a Law and invariably quotes it, lock stock and barrel.
    There is no flexibility or room for manoeuvre. British law is so often based on precedent rather than upon the writings of Government Departments.
    It must take a long time for local Spanish lawyers/solicitors to go through all that legal jargon to establish whether or not their intended actions will be legal or not. Some will do nothing rather than risk making a mistake, whilst expats wait for years only to find that the villa that they bought is declared illegal and must be demolished. (Worry drives many home!)
    The faults lie not with the people currently running the system but with the original creators of it many years ago. They thought that they were doing a grand job which would leave no loop-holes for errors.
    The Spanish are a very proud people who take great pains to do a good job, (usually!). Sadly, the very system that has slowed them down so much has spawned an underworld of corruption because those involved have known that it will be many years before their crimes will become known.
    So much has changed over the past ten years that it is now quite common for town mayors and members of their staffs to be jailed, but because there is no written law to the contrary, they come out of prison and return to their former ways as pillars of the community.
    I lived in Spain for only eleven years so my take on the situation will necessarily be isolated and different from thousands of others. May I apologise in advance and perhaps save you from having to spend time ranting at me!

    • Trevor did you mix with the Spanish, live amongst them and learn Spanish. I’m a single retired woman and because my family live in Norway and I live in the UK (I’m British) I won’t be missing out on a UK family. Therefore I want to live somewhere in the Alacante region. I’ll definitely live within the Spanish community and learn Spanish if I dare to move alone. Do you think I can manage to move alone. You see I love my home here in the UK, but it’s only bricks and mortar after all and I’ve wanted to live in a warmer climate for years now, but I will have to sell my home to afford a place in Spain. Jill

      • Jill, I don’t know obviously how big your house is in the UK or the value of it but you could consider downsizing in the UK and using the surplus to buy a small cheap property in Spain, thereby having a foot in both camps should you find the move not to your liking. There are still plenty of cheap properties around despite the so called recovery in the Spanish property market. Don’t fixate on an area it will limit your choices.

      • Hi Gill,
        Don’t be afraid of doing the move as you could store your stuff after you sold up and just come over and find a place to rent very cheaply. An appartment in Malaga area woud do, then a Little car as it is needed. Don’t fix on the idea buying a property as it’s much easier and cheaper to rent. Just do it. I am retired and alone too and my Family is in Denmark, I lived there for forty years and more. You’re right about the lingo, 2 thirds of brits don’t/can’t speak spanish, I am in my third month and can a lot already. Will! I know no-one here as I livein mountan area.
        Go for it!

  7. No offense, but what i see among those comments are pure trolling disconnected from reality. I live in Spain now & i lived in Spain 10 years ago.
    Since the crisis, it is not the same country. Food is less good, the VAT increased (21%), there are empty commercial properties everywhere. People are less motivated. Incomes went down the pipes. More importantly, i don’t see any recovery with real estate. But i have witnessed the rise of real estate scams. When i see british people in Spain, i wonder how they live & where they get their money from because there is no local mid sized companies for the population. I am french & i did the math, i spend as much as i spent in France in terms of Food. Spain is not a cheap country. Electricity is one of the most expensive in Europe.
    Most of the houses are not well insulated.
    More importantly, the regional elections of Andalucia announced that for the next election of the spanish assembly, the political majority will be left + far left (podemos). The elections will be hold in November and i forecast they will kill once again the spanish economy in 2016.

  8. I live inland on an urbanisation, it’s perfectly legal. A Notary won’t sign off an illegal property, things have been cleaned up here a lot. I don’t particularly like the coastal way of life, but intend to buy a boat to stay on during August. I love living in Spain, stay away from the nasty living from car boot sale to mouth ex-pats and you’ll be fine.

    • “A Notary won’t sign off an illegal property”

      Sadly wrong, as the members of AUAN and SOHA will quickly tell you. Those people (expats and Spanish amongst them) purchased using the supposedly proper legal procedures and found, retrospectively, that their properties were illegal or irregular in some way.

      And how does a car boot sale make an expat nasty? lol

  9. Sasha, how do you mean live on a boat in august? 1 month? Mine is for sale, 38 footer, yacht…welcome one and all. Actually I did think of buying a little boat when mine is sold and a berth in a harbour somewhere..they can be bought for 3-5000english pounds, (acc. to length), and are legal to live in, I checked, (the harbour berth).

  10. The worst thing for me about my time in Spain is meeting and befriending and then subsequently having to avoid the type of British people who live here. I have never met such an uneducated, ignorant, ill-mannered, small minded, racist bunch of drunken morons in my life. They are almost always the runaways, losers, scammers and minor criminals from the UK (remember the English managed to get a whole area of Spain renamed as the ‘Costa del Crime’). They moan about foreigners in Britain whilst hardly learning a word of Spanish or attempting to integrate into Spain’s culture. Oh the irony… I hate the British in Spain. They are dregs of British society and it makes me feel like apologising to every Spanish person I meet for all the other British people here. I love my hometown of London but being here makes me feel embarrassed to be English.

  11. Since neither anna nor peter came back with comments I must re-iterate that, unless you stay indoors all day with a/c blasting away the inland continental climate is intolerable and the heat does’nt dissipate until 4AM. Then the temperature drops for about 2 hours then ramps back up again very quickly. In winter the climate is crisp and cold but wonderful for those who are’nt slobs and enjoy the outdoor life, shame that without insulation you will have to wear thermal gear to keep warm or pay eye watering sums for gas c/h that never stops firing up as the pipes buried in the concrete slab never get really hot.

    So for those thinking of living in inland Andalucia the only time to visit is in June,July,August or September, preferably July or August. If you can take the torrid heat go for it BUT do not buy, rent and don’t sell back in the UK, rent it out.

    Indeed why tie up your capital at all just rent. Rents behind the Sierras are at least 30% cheaper than on the blighted coast. We paid €245 p.m for a 3 bedroom,two bathroom apartment with storage and access to lots washing lines on the roof terrace, shame about the lack of insulation or quality in the construction but our Spanish working class neighbours were brilliant. I could’nt imagine living on a self imposed Brit ghetto.

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