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Returning to the UK from Spain after 19 Years in Andalucia [quick trip]

Returning to the UK from Spain after 19 Years in Andalucia [quick trip]

Returning to the UK from Spain. After 19 years in rural Andalucia and having never gone back once we return to the UK to see if we did the right thing all those years ago.

The time in Spain has flown by, it seems like yesterday that we arrived in our small corner of Granada towing our caravan with all of our gear stuffed into it. The years have passed far too quickly and we’ve recently been thinking about making a trip back to evaluate what we’ve done and whether or not it was the right thing to do.

Everyone who we ask says ‘don’t come back, stay where you are’, or ‘you’re way better off over there’. These people, however well intentioned they may be, don’t however have the reality of living in rural Spain with all of it’s quirks, red tape and mentality. Sometimes life in Spain is a challenge… a big one.

returning to the uk from spain
returning to the uk from spain

We know we are priviliged to be here but there is nothing like home. We need to scratch the itch, do we pursue these thoughts of returning to the UK from Spain on a permanent basis or do we just need to get back to Blighty and realise that we made the right move coming to Spain?

Time will tell, a decision is going to be made either way.

Why we’re going back [for a visit]

Our 13 year old son has never been out of Spain and that needs to change so there is reason number 1, it will be good to show him his home country. We need to see family, the usual stuff, visiting friends and catching up etc but the main reason is for us to come to terms with the fact that we made a life in Spain and we have to know if returning ‘home’ will be a good idea.

There are a hundred reasons why the UK is so attractive after so long in Spain, below are just some:

  • Language, no matter how good your Spanish is, it is still not your native language and somethimes it can be tough. Being in the UK from a language point of view would feel like a weight off our shoulders.
  • Running a business in Spain is tremendously expensive, Spain is not tax friendly and social security payments are simply too much [especially with the new system and outlook for pensions]. Self assessment in the UK is a doddle by comparison and we’d welcome the standard earning allowance.
  • In the UK it is 2023, in our part of Spain it is more like 1923, great in some respects but negative in others.
  • Cultural differences are obvious, but it would be good to be ‘home’.
  • The education our son currently gets is not good, the truth may hurt but the standard of education he is receiving is not the best by any stretch of the imagination and even if it was there are zero job opportunities in the region. A move to the UK, while not solving the future prospects issue entirely would certainly offer more.
  • To speak to people in your own lingo, read official letters in your own language, coffee shops, rain, fish n chips, marmite, greenery….

It might seem odd to yearn some crap UK weather but after nearly 20 years the Andalucin dust and raging heat of the summer begin to get very tedious.

We are however not naive nor do we believe everything we watch or read about in the news. Since selling and moving to Spain we have been priced out of the UK housing market and while our property over here may well be just a warehouse it is ours. In the UK we’d have to rent and prices are just daft.

enjoying the forest floor at Kielder

One option that we have seriously considered would be to live on the road, van life if you like, in a motorhome and we’ve also considered canal boats but by comparison it would make life more challenging in certain respects.

UK prices for pretty much everything are through the roof, even daft things like parking which we don’t have in our part of rural Granada cost money and the cost of living crisis in 2023 speaks for itself… fifteen quid a day to heat your home? In Spain we can collect free wood and it costs nothing.

greenery and wet weather in the woods – brilliant!

This just scratches the surface, Spain and the UK are very different countries, each with their pro’s and cons most of which are quite significant.

So we’re returning to the UK from Spain, just for a week, so we can see what’s going on, how the country has changed and hopefully we’ll be better positioned to get our thoughts in the right place having made a decision to stay or go…

Have you considered returning to the UK from Spain? Is this something you are thinking about currently and what are your main concerns? Let us know in the comments section at the end of this article.

What we’re expecting

Having been away for so long we know that there are going to be big changes, we’ll be in for a week of reverse culture shock for sure. The last time we were on UK soil the country had a different monarch, the government was red not blue and the first i phone would not be released for another three years.

  • More traffic: Yeah, we’re expecting more congestion going from what friends and relatives say.
  • High prices: It was expensive when we left, it’s more expensive now and we have a cost of living crisis.
  • Changed people: Friends will be different, you do drift apart and we’ve changed as well.
  • Paying for stuff: Over here we use cash, not much tech happening at the till so that will be interesting.
  • Better food [and selection]: Yes please
  • Service & efficiency: Might be a shock to actually have something happen on time or acheive an answer straight away.
  • Anonymity: Blending in with the Brits and not being stared at like a foreigner will be a welcome relief even if it is just for a few days.

The list goes on, most things will be very subtle but put them altogether and it makes things very, very different indeed. Odd when you actually know pretty much what you’re going back to but at the same time knowing it will not be the same as when you left it behind.

The Visit

Biggest Surprises

Traffic. We knew that there would be more and sure enough the roads were busy although perhaps not as busy as we’d anticipated, even rush hour not as busy as we remembered. There were a lot more traffic lights on roundabouts and the speed camera situation has just become daft, too much Big Brother for my liking when you bring in other cameras like those on the street, in car parks etc.

Something else I noticed almost immediatly was the amount of private number plates – way more than 20 years ago where you would hardly see them at all.

Courtesy. We are not used to courtesy on the roads here in Spain. Yes, Britain has its fair share of bad drivers but it was pleasant to be aknowledged through a wave or flash of the headlights for letting someone in from the sliproad or waiting at a one way street – this is a rarity in Spain and I mean a real rarity.

leaving spain to go back to england
a stroll around Eyemouth habour

We were also surprised at how pleasant people were walking around towns, saying hello, stopping so you could take a photograph and suchlike. Looking at it now as I write having returned to Spain it was the feeling of acceptance I suppose, being a Brit amoung Brits, at home – not the foreigner who with all the will in the world will never really be accepted at least not in our part of rural Andalucia.

Prices. Wow, the UK has become one expensive country! Filling up at the pump was actually about the same but everything else such as food at the supermarket, coffee at the cafe, eating out, a pint, magazines, parking… All of it was a huge surprise. We knew it was going to be expensive for sure but the general cost of living is very high – even trying to do things frugally.

baked beans
good old baked beans!
uk house prices
nothing under half a million quid here
costa coffee
costa coffee

One day we thought we might treat our son and take him to Bamburgh castle – £40 quid to get in, when in Whitby we did the steps and looked into getting into the ruined abbey, £12.50 per person, there comes a point when even if you’re loaded some things are simply not worth it. You can see and photograph the abbey from over the wall, funnily enough there were two people inside who had paid and about forty-two outside who didn’t bother, makes you think who is really losing out.

When in Rome… or on the North East coast you simply have to have fish and chips right? Something Nico had never experienced – £45 quid although that was sitting in but still! The trip was full of moments like these making it expensive yes but it is also the experience you’re paying for especially as this was Nico’s first ever trip to the UK.

Customer service. Better in every respect especially in the hospitality industry, it exists for starters and while of course you can get sub standard service anywhere it is vastly better in the UK compared to Spain, that is simply the reality.

haircut in hexham turkish barbers
haircut in Hexham turkish barbers

Nobody uses cash. I got the impression that cash is going the way of the TDK90 [if you’re too young to know what that is it’s a cassette tape you recorded songs on to give to your girlfriend in the 80’s] Everything is contactless, digital payment, an area that Andalucia has to catch up on.

Roadkill. Lots of it too especially on the dual carraigways, heading south to Newcastle from Edinburgh we saw no less than a dozen badgers that had been hit, a real shame but not really that surprising when you consider the amount of traffic on the road and the close proximity to their natural habitat.

The alien effect. People rarely look at you in England, you have complete anonymity as there are so many people. In the UK you can frequent the same place several times over and never see the same person twice – in a rural Spanish village everyone knows everyone and despite the fact we’ve lived here since 2004 the locals still stare like we’ve just landed in the village square from a planet in the outer rim. Being stared at quite blatantly is something that we expected when we moved here but this fascination after 19 years is becoming tiresome.

Acceptance

This was a big one for me and something that I didn’t notice fully until I came back to Spain. Being accepted as a Brit is something you take for granted when you are there but after so long away I felt that we slipped straight back in to being ‘home’.

In Spain you are always the foreigner – Always. Some are fine with it but unfortunately there remains a mentality where some don’t like it for whatever reason, we tell ourselves it’s their problem, it simply demonstrates a lack of education and indicates how out of touch some people in society are but it never goes away.

Being accepted as a Brit is something you take for granted when you are there but after so long away I felt that we slipped straight back in to being ‘home’.

Being back home was different in a way I can’t really describe, the whole foreigner thing vanished as soon as we left the airport in Edinburgh. Nobody cared who we were, nobody knew who we were, there was no staring like we had two heads and it felt like we had a weight lifted from our shoulders.

On returning to Spain it all came flooding back.

What happened to…

What happened to all the old cars? I noticed this first when looking in the Autotrader for the Shogun in 2019, there are no ‘old cars’ and by old I mean over say, 12 years, even the part ex line up in garages are full of 10 year old vehicles.

classic beetle in eyemouth harbour
not often you see one of these parked up every day

Parked up in Kielder I was thinking that if I’d been in the Shogun it would look like a relic compared to everything else that was in there, in Spain the Shogun is an everyday vehicle, in the UK its almost a classic.

Was it worth it?

Yes, absolutely. Seeing the UK after so long has done us the world of good, it was great to see family and all the usual stuff but this visit also put things into perspective for us. A week is no where near long enough to see what we wanted to see, we would have liked to visit more people but to be honest this was also a trip on a budget so a week was probably long enough!

Returning to the UK from Spain [for good?]

Returning to the UK from Spain has been on our minds for quite some time. The visit was supposed to put our minds at rest, a visit where we could finaly decide on what course of action to take. I for one thought that the trip would be a confirmation that remaining in Spain would be the thing to do – I was wrong.

When we returned and took a couple of days to settle back in we discussed all of the pros and cons of each country [again]. This time was very different as we’d seen the UK from a different angle, the UK was an attractive proposition wth many benefits from both a social and business perspective plus you have your native tongue etc etc.

There is one thing though and it’s a killer factor that ultimately means that we’ll be staying in Spain at least for the next several years and that is price. The UK is very, very expensive.

It’s fair to say that the UK accelerated away the moment the ferry left Dover back in 2004 and it seems that prices did the same thing especially more recently. Several people have all said to us that there is no way that they would be able to afford to live where they do unless they’d moved there a long time ago, some have said they are stuck as they can’t afford to move elsewhere.

english pub atmosphere
English pub atmosphere
the robin hood inn burger wallhouses
loving the delection of good food
matfen village northumberland
greenery and water

We would have to rent as property prices are out of reach, so what happens when you retire and still have to pay rent at today’s prices? In Spain we are property owners so when the mortgage is finished, from a financial standpoint it makes sense to stay put. As strong as the pull home might be there is little point in maneuvering yourself into a position of enhanced financial hardship.

For us, visiting more will be the main aim, incorporating long overland road trips through Spain and France to the UK is an exciting prospect. Spending less time in Spain and more time travelling for us makes sense at this stage, it’s not that we dislike Spain, quite the opposite in fact, we love living here but nearly 20 years in the same place… that’s a long time.

***UPDATE*** Discover why we made the decision to leave Spain and return home.

Are you considering returning to the UK from Spain? Weighing up the pros and cons? Let us know in the comments below.

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K90overland is Mac and Gayle, they lived in Andalucia for 19 years before moving back to the UK. Overlanding since 2019 the pair have built up a 'budget rig' and now enjoy a relaxed approach to discovering Scotland and the north of England.

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