Observations of a long term expat in Spain

Observations of a long term expat in Spain

After living in Spain for over 14 years there are several observations that I have made between my home town in Nottingham and Andalusia where I now live and work. The idea is not to big up or criticize either place but just pencil down a few random observations of a long term expat.


In Spain There is a current trend for councils to add roundabouts to any problematic junction. The problem is that the drivers here don´t really get it. They chop and change lanes on the roundabout and exit from the centre. You need to keep you wits about you. Spanish drivers often have medium sized or small runabout style cars. They are not too concerned about parking on the street or the odd scratch here and there. Nudging the bumper of the car behind to park in tight spaces is often witnessed in busy cities. The roads are noticeably more busy Friday & Sundays afternoons.

In UK I really think that people generally are more patient and polite at the wheel. Drivers take pride in their cars and often have lovely big saloon cars or expensive 4×4´s. Lorry drivers are generally given more space to manoeuvre than the other vehicles on the road. Seatbelts and drink driving haven ´t been socially acceptable for many years now. You are more likely to encounter Traffic jams and delays than in Spain.

Health and safety

In Spain Fireworks is an important part of any celebration. Whether it be the local festival, winning the football match or even a wedding party. Children here love bangers, sparklers and bonfires and participate actively in the fun. In Spain there are health and safety laws although sometimes when you are going along your daily life in Spain it can feel that they are non-existent.

In UK Health & Safety is everywhere. A few years back I was going to a local bonfire night in a Pub beer garden and my Dad told me that the bonfire was going to be a hologram image of a bonfire projected onto a large screen as they didn’t get the correct license or insurance to have the real bonfire. That´s a shame. Health & safety interfering with the a traditional event. Somewhere in the middle between these two extremes would be good.


In Spain You can find excellent quality food at the markets and in restaurants and bars. Often no preservatives or chemicals are added. You can clearly appreciate the seasonality in the displays of food on sale in the markets and on offer in the restaurants. I find that it is easier here to eat vegetables and fruit when out and about than it was in the UK.

In UK People often choose to dine in restaurants serving microwaved food or prepared frozen meals. Waitresses only bring your food but don´t take your order in some of these chains and you pre pay for your meal. The charm has been lost in dining out and many pubs in the UK have also suffered as diners push out the regular drinkers in the pub spaces. Saying that, I do miss the triangle sandwiches & cake selection in the UK!


In Spain the family is of a huge importance. Elderly people have their place in society and generally looked after by their family.

In UK it is easy to find families that are spread geographically due to work or life choices and the attitude is more independent.


In Spain Christmas seems to last forever. Activities kick off around December 5th. Dec 6th is Bank holiday celebrating the Constitution signed in 1978 and Dec 8th is also a Bank holiday. So these days are busy Christmas shopping days or days off used to prepare for Christmas. From 10th – 20th often Work Christmas parties are held or friends get together before the Christmas break. It is quite usual to travel over Christmas to gather all the family together in one place. On 21st December children finish school and won’t start back until Jan 8th. As in the UK the 24th – 26th of December are important festivities. Also on New year’s Eve & New year’s Day. Then main celebration for many is 5th & 6th Jan for Epiphany. The 3 kings parade through towns and villages across Spain in beautiful street parades on floats, elephants, camels and sometimes even boats.

In UK things are quite different with some shops starting to sell Christmas cards and gifts as soon as Halloween has past. From early December onwards office parties are organized and people often go to see traditional pantomimes at the theatre or local school. The main celebrations are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and in some families Boxing day. (24th – 26th Dec) On 26th December the sales begin early that morning. On the TV we see adverts for massively discounted sofas and kitchens. Summer holiday destinations are in every newspaper with early booking deals. New years eve and New years day pass with the uncorking of a few bottles of bubbly and the odd firework but I think that over recent years it´s lost it´s fizz. On the 2nd Jan it´s straight back to work for most.

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