An Ex-pat Monthly Experience of Moving to Gandia, Spain - Part 24

22nd April 2024
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RETIRE TO SPAIN .....Really?


Is it an age thing? I cannot believe that we are already a third of the way through 2024 ….. when I haven’t yet got used to typing 2024 for Heaven’s sake!

Anyway, I digress from what I was going to start with already. The trouble now being I’ve forgotten how I was going to start because I suddenly had this flash of, “I cannot believe!” Oh yes, so I thought that probably, like my lovely wife and I, you may be considering retiring to this lovely part of the planet, so that’s what I’m going to look at in this issue of the ‘Get yer bum over here and stop procrastinating,’ newsletter!

So, I am in my seventy second year, although my wife is somewhat younger than I. Basically, we each have private pensions accrued during our working lives and I am also receiving my state pension, although my wife has another five years to go before reaching that milestone. For those of a less advanced age, there are of course many ways to move here, but that’s not what this issue is about. Soz!

First of all, pension payments. I have my state pension and my private pension paid directly into our Spanish bank account. Simple and no problem. As my private pension is an Armed Forces pension (therefore classed in Spain as service to the country) it is free of tax in Spain! My wife currently has her private pension paid into a UK account (yes perfectly legal) and transfers funds as required and during good exchange rate times. All very easy to set up and again, as an ex-Head Teacher, her pension classes as service to the country and therefore no tax is paid in Spain. Not the case in the UK of course where they don’t appreciate any service to the country and just want to tax everything!

Banking here can initially be a bit of a trial because Spanish Banks are equally as immoral as anywhere else and will find ways to make you pay as many charges as possible. Here we refer to them as cloak and dagger supermarkets, because they will tie you to a chair in the office while they browbeat you with overpriced offers of everything from an alarm system to a new car! The apparent reward for this is that they will cut your bank charges. How do you get around it? Well, you do have to be a bit hard nosed to be fair, but basically, you take one service (house insurance is a good one) after ‘resisting’ for half an hour. Get the bank charges reduction associated with that service and then walk out. From then on it’s No, no, no! No loquiero! (I don’t want it!) They will give up, honestly.

Similarly, any form of bureaucracy is mind numbingly slow, obstructive and inefficient. Just accept that as a fact of life and concentrate on the real reasons for being here. It’s nothing personal. The Spanish themselves are treated just as slovenly. Talking of real reasons for being here ………

Weather. The obvious reason is the overall better weather throughout the year compared to the UK. Despite global warming and every other scare whether real or imagined, this still currently remains true. Yes, this past winter really passed with little in the way of really chilly and/or wet weather. We didn’t even use five per cent of our log stock compared to the previous year. (Our ‘chimenia’ is our sole source of heating the air in the casa except for reverse cycle air conditioning units in the bedrooms). We did use a warm air blower a few times in the evening, but that was about it here in La Safor. That did mean that the lack of rainfall caused issues in places further south, but here we seemed to weather it fairly well so far. As mentioned before, we are very green here for the med coast, not least due to sitting on top of Europe’s biggest aquifer.

So, in general, we are sunny and warm for most of the year. This means much more than visits to the beach. Trust me, you will soon lose the need to sunbathe as you develop an all-year-round natural tan that just gets darker in the summer. You MUST use sun protection, however again, there is no rush, when you live here, to obtain that healthy glow. It’s more important to protect your skin for the long term because the UV here can be really strong even when it’s not that hot! What this weather means is that folk spend a LOT of time outdoors. That means they are very sociable. Here in the Valencia region, fiestas and similar are almost a full-time job! So you are constantly entertained outdoors. This in turn means that you quickly and easily build a social circle of many nationalities, which really makes day to day life interesting and entertaining. (Right now, my beautiful other half is creating in the kitchen because we are entertaining good friends this evening. One of whom is Dutch and his wife, Swedish. In our little enclave we have English, Dutch, Swedish, Italian, Brazilian and Polish, before we even start on the Spanish locals. It opens up a whole new dimension to your world I can assure you!

So apart from the great social opportunities (including a very active U3a branch), again closely supported by the weather, there are just so many places to visit (many more than once) which would not necessarily be as lovely if we suffered the grey skies and damp of the UK. Mentioning which reminds me that the drier, warmer climate does help aging hips, aching backs and suchlike. As mentioned above, there is hardly a week passes without some form of local celebration, party, observance or just plain general shindig. Many of which will go on into the wee hours of the night. In fact, many don’t START until the late hours. You may wish to take this into account in your choice of property! It can be a little overwhelming if you are looking to spend quiet and relaxed times in your new home. Harry and Clark at will be able to put you on the right path with all of the background info that you need to help your decision making. 

Of course, we all hope that our lives will be drama free, but it can happen to any of us that we need medical attention or treatment for a variety of reasons. The main hospital here in Gandia is state of the art and extremely efficient. When you have your SIP card, you will be kept notified of appointments, inoculations, vaccinations and check-ups. My wife was recently called for her mammogram which was carried out efficiently and easily. Hospitals here are less ‘cozy’ than in the UK. They work on the ‘get ‘em well, get ‘em out’ principal. Sometimes they can appear to be quite cold, but efficient and effective they are! Some local GP surgeries can be a bit awkward to get appointments (quite like the UK) and the receptionists trained in the same school of public facing ineptitude, but it works. Other people have given excellent reports of local surgeries where you can get same day appointments with the village, town or city doctor by booking it yourself online which is very easy to do, or a telephone consultation on line too. You can have your regular medications loaded on to your SIP card so that when you go to the Pharmacist, you just give them your card and the computer will generate the correct meds for you. Very efficient. In fact, the Pharmacies are generally very efficient and pro-active. The prescription cost here is two euros and fifty cents (about £2.30) although you will pay more for non-medicinal necessities like cold remedies and general health tablets (unless they are prescribed by your GP).

Driving in Spain is very easy. In general, the road conditions are much better than in the UK. Roadworks are completed as quickly as possible and with as little disruption to traffic as possible. The standard of road surface is extremely good and makes travel very smooth and relaxed. Signage is easy to understand, and you quickly get used to the less seen local signs. You do need your UK licence in force when you get here because you only have six months to obtain the switch to a Spanish licence. I have taken my full Spanish theory and practical driving test, but it is not the easiest of matters and quite expensive. Unfortunately, I had no choice because the British Consulate mis-informed those of us who were approaching seventy years of age (when your UK licence stops).

Similarly, my advice is to NOT try to bring a car with you. Sell it in the UK and buy one here. New cars are hardly any more expensive than second hand ones and there are large government subsidies if you want to go electric. Spain is still hugely diesel led although they are gradually bringing in emission controls in cities and large towns.

Public transport is good and cheap. The one-hour train journey to Valencia from Gandia costs one euro and twenty cents (about £1.10) and is very efficient. We very recently travelled to Madrid on the bullet train (reaching just over three hundred kilometres per hour several times on the run) at a cost of approximately twelve pounds per person going and thirty pounds per person coming back. That’s almost four hundred miles each way completed in two hours and ten minutes for an all-in cost of around forty pounds per person! See what I mean about getting around?

And in a nutshell, there you have it. Retiring to the Gandia area means generally lovely weather, social people, the ability to meet all nationalities, easy travelling by car, motorbike cycle or public transport, LOADS of interesting places to visit (including Benidorm just forty minutes down the AP-7) (don’t knock it, it’s a really happy, fun place and super friendly). SO much history, you can go into overload. Medical facilities are first class and medications can be much cheaper. In one sentence: we won’t be going back to the poor United Kingdom any time soon!

And one more thing. Just wait until you start picking up the local lingo! Yes, it can be done. There are U3a classes if you wish, although you may be pleasantly surprised how much you will just ‘pick up’ from the, generally, friendly locals. We are now starting proper lessons with a Spanish teacher, locally. We can get by quite well now, but we desperately want to shift up to being able to have proper conversations with the local Spanish folks.

So, retirement in Spain. Can YOU do it? Of course you can! Just ask the ‘’For Sale by Sally in Spain’’ team. If there’s anything that they don’t know ….. they know a man who does!

Until next time compadres.

Nos vemos!

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