Living in Spain: Why I would never move back to…………..
There are many reasons why we live in Spain and why we wouldn’t move back to Canada.
My original idea for this post was to write solely on the reasons why we would never move back “home”. But after asking for feedback on Facebook (where I asked people why they would never move back to their country of origin),I got such an outpouring of answers that I’ve decided to incorporate them in this post. Many of the answers address issues in other countries as reasons to come to Spain, the “push” factor as people say…but the majority of answers reflected people’s deep love for Spain and their reasons for wanting to be here. Some of the stories were incredibly heartwarming. If you’ve ever questioned the reasons you moved to Spain, you might realize how darn privileged you are reading some of the feedback we received.
*We asked the question on an Anglophone expat page and on a Francophone expat page. In less than 24 hours we received over 100 comments on each from people originating from the UK, France, USA, Canada, Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand and Switzerland.
But first why we live in Spain and why we wouldn’t move back to Canada.
Living in Spain: Why we would never move back to Canada
I’ll start with the “pull” factors.
Weather. I’ll admit we don’t always like the heat of Spain. It gets unbearable at times. One of the reasons we moved from Nerja to inland Spain is variety: it still gets extremely hot but it also gets cold in the winter. We wanted some seasonal variation. But one thing we never tire of is the sun. Everyone is happier when the sun is out and in Spain it’s out most of the time. That’s a big thing.
Culture and history. We live in a city where I see a Moorish fortress when I look out the window. Maybe Europeans are used to having all this history around them…but for us it never gets old and we’re always amazed by it.
People. The people are relaxed and welcoming. We’ve never had a negative comment thrown our way, I think the Spanish (even if they don’t all like foreigners in the midst) are too polite to say anything nasty. On the contrary, we’ve always been treated well in Spain.
Safety. We feel safe in Spain. Even walking around at night we feel safe. There are many places in the first world (including parts of Canada) where that’s no longer the case.
Cost of Living. Again, unlike other places, Spain’s cost of living is reasonable and we don’t feel that prices have spiralled out of control the way they have in other countries (like Canada).
The “push” factors
Canada was a great place to work. Montreal particularly, which had a good quality of life compared to Toronto and Vancouver (where real estate prices were crazy even 20 years ago). I feel like I owe a lot to Canada and all the opportunities we both had to advance ourselves professionally.
But when no longer working, living in Canada becomes a lot less desirable.
Weather. 6 months of winter. Cold, grey and miserable. Given the option, why would anyone want to live through that?
Cost of Living. Canada has always been expensive and it’s gotten even more so over the last few years. Last year food inflation rose 7.4%, rent prices 14% (2023 vs 2022). Property prices have gone up over 30% since pre-Covid levels.
Politics. Having lived 25 years in Montreal, I was used to the usual language politics in Quebec. In the 90’s I actually thought I’d have to move outside the province because of language politics (the company I worked for planned to move their business down to the US when Quebec was holding referendums on separation). Thankfully, things calmed down. But language politics have made a resurgence in recent years. As an Anglophone (I was actually born a Francophone but that’s a long story…) in Quebec I vowed I would never move back to Quebec. It’s why when we came to Spain I had no interest in living in Catalonia or the Basque. I’ve had it with language politics.
There are more factors on both sides of the equation. And there are a few things I miss about Canada. But if I weigh it all, it’s the factors above that stand out for me in choosing Spain over Canada at this point in our lives.
As I mentioned up top, I received tons of comments on Facebook citing the reasons and stories that inspired people to move to Spain. Many were very emotional with their reasons.
Below I’ve included a few of the top comments. I’ve organized it by country. There were so many great comments that I’ve only included a few by category. Note also that I’ve only taken comments from the first 12 hours or so, there were just too many…
(I’ve left out people’s last name for privacy)
My wife and I went to Spain, for the first time, in the late summer of 2019. We never intended on leaving the US, nor were we scouting for retirement oases; our only intention was to explore a country who’s history and culture we both appreciated and wanted to experience first-hand. We were both concerned about the direction of the US (our native country) in the age of Trump, but we (naively) felt that the fabric of the American people would reject such outward displays of sexism, racism, anti-semitism and xenophobia that Trump, and the GOP had made a pillar of their platform. We both fell in love with Spain during our trip. The people, history, culture, music, architecture and food just tapped into our souls. This trip proved to be both a blessing, and a curse, in that shortly after our return to the US, we were confronted with the reality that the problems in the US were not limited to Trump; instead, he was the symptom of a deep, underlying, hatred that permeated throughout much of the country. We quickly decided that for our own mental well-being, we needed to do something that would be considered either foolhardy or brave, and despite the presence of the global pandemic, we opted to leave the US and move to Seville, Spain, in the hopes of seeking the tranquillity that was long gone to us in our homeland. We are now 3 years in our journey. We have zero regrets and have no intentions of ever living again in the US. – Paul
We lived and worked in New York City hospitals during and after the COVID pandemic, which made many people reflect and re-evaluate their lives. NYC is definitely not a place to retire anyway. We are an international couple and feel the U.S. has changed and not necessarily for the better. Being bilingual in Spanish, for us the choice was between Latin America and Spain. For now, Spain is winning with its stability and history even though the cost of living is higher and the climate not as warm as in many parts of Latin America. – Irja
Firstly, I fell madly and hopelessly in love with a Spaniard 3 years ago. We had met in 1994 in college in Puerto Rico then he left and came back to Spain. I found him on FB (after a failed marriage and 3 kids) 27 years later. He went to the USA to see me for a few days right before COVID hit, then through video until Spain’s border was opened a year and a half later. I then traveled to Spain for the first time in my life to see him. And that was it. I came 2 more times to see him. I went back to the states, sold my house and bought a house outright here in Spain. I wanted out of the rat race. In the States, I had been recently diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis and the food in the US was making me sick. I was in constant pain. The food here has literally healed me. I can eat anything. I feel healthy, I feel safe and I am blissfully peaceful. What else can I say about this beautiful country? To me, it is EVERYTHING!!! – Lillian
Moved here 35 years ago. Mainly fed up with UK weather. Spain is a beautiful country away from the Costas. Inland things are so different. Genuine people, family oriented, more old-fashioned, slower pace of life etc. the only downside is the paperwork, but ok if you take it one step at a time. Properties are cheaper inland. – Jenny
Moved here 6 months ago. I go back every 6 weeks to see my family and friends. For me it’s the lifestyle and climate. In the UK we spend 90% indoors. Here is the opposite. Living in Marbella has so many sporty opportunities: padel, Golf, mountain biking, then add the beaches, mountains and skiing is 1 hr 45 mins away. Need I go on…– Stuart
I only came to Spain 11 years ago, but via stays in the Netherlands and France. We left the UK in 1993. There were 3 reasons.
1. It was my childhood dream to live in France. I spent every holiday there as a child and later with my own family. I was 38 when I achieved my objective and I lived and worked there for 15 happy years. We’d still be there today if we hadn’t fallen in love with Fuerteventura.
2. We hated the anti-kids mentality in the UK. When our son was one, we called 12 hotels in the UK before finding one that would accept him. Even then, he was banned from the dining room and we got complaints when we took him into the lounge. That would never happen “on the continent”. BTW, most of those 12 hotels accepted dogs!
3. I don’t know about now, but in England in the ’80s every school had to indoctrinate kids in religion. Every state school did it — there was no exception. The only exemption from actual praying was for the parent to appear in person to look after the kid. We are an atheist family and this forced indoctrination incensed me. Our son was 7 when we eventually found a way to escape. In France, all state education is strictly secular, by law. Parents make private arrangements for religious education if so wished. – Sheila
We only moved permanently to Spain in May last year, we bought a house 2 years ago inland. We left the UK for a number of reasons. We have been able to retire early and could no longer afford the UK. Quality of life, food, sense of community, cleaner and better value for money. Great values, culture, weather, affordable homes. We are able to afford many more hobbies and interests. For the first time in over 10 years it feels like we are really living. It’s bliss, we love the lifestyle & winter here is a breeze, not the early dark nights …..– Debra
We moved to enjoy the sunshine and laid-back lifestyle of Spain and to escape what we could see would be the disaster of Brexit! Would not return!! – Margaret
After Covid and nearly losing our business and working 60-70 hour weeks to get it going again, it really made us rethink our life choices.
We bought a holiday home eventually in late 2022 and spent all last year flying back and forth every school holiday with the two kids. We made a great circle of friends, reconnected with old family and after just two visits we realized it was the lifestyle we wanted.
Unfortunately my husband can’t step back from our business at the moment but I’m in Spain on a NLV with the children. Actually caring for them for the first time in many, many years due to work. We have a huge outdoor space. In UK we were in an apartment. We see daddy every day via FaceTime and every third week he flies out for a visit of 7-10 days or if it falls on school holidays we go to UK.
Weather, friends, healthier food and lots of time to socialize as a family rather than chasing from work to home to do tea, bath, bed. – Deborah
We moved from the south coast of England to Lanzarote in 2019/20.
We’d been visitors for years and had good local friends here.
Pull factors: lovely community, quality of life, weather.
Push issues: British politics (the B word), Covid, weather.
Despite working in the NHS all my life, the Spanish healthcare system is, in my personal experience, infinitely quicker and better.
My Spanish is good but I couldn’t explain the concept of “trolley waits” to the Urgencia staff.
They didn’t get it!
Incidentally the Spanish for trolley is “Camilla”.
Made me laugh! -Kate
I met a Spanish man living in the UK. We moved to his hometown in Spain almost 6 years ago. I had NO idea how wonderful the climate is in Spain. Sunny days 320 days of the year. No harsh winters like the UK. Daylight until almost 6.30pm even in the winter! Great tasting food at good prices. I could NEVER live back in the UK. – Jacqueline
We are Canadians who have done a fair amount of amount of traveling over the past 20 years. 30 countries so far. We always thought that it would be a great idea to live somewhere overseas for a year after retirement. After narrowing it down to Spain or Portugal, Spain won out due to the Spanish being easier to manage than Portuguese, and the visa process was easier to navigate in Spain. With full intentions to stay only a year, we arrived in Malaga two years ago. We fell in love with the culture, lifestyle, food, climate, and best of all the people. While we still have considerable connections to our home in Canada, as time goes on we really can’t see ourselves returning to our old lives in Canada. John
Canadian here. Had been living in California (had a good career there). Originally came to Spain at the end of 2018 because of love.
Never thought of Spain as more than a vacation/ retirement destination. When the relationship didn’t work out, I stayed for a bit. Realized I wasn’t ready to leave but hadn’t made up my mind about where I’d live.
Pandemic didn’t help with the decision process. Then when I tried staying, I had a really hard time finding a good job.
Went back to Canada for a bit. Realized there was no way I could live there again. Loved seeing friends and family; hated everything else. I’ve never missed the US.
So I returned to Spain. Just found a job I love a month ago. Living my best life and never looking back.
Sometimes dreams come true— maybe not how you expect them to—but still for the best.
For me ultimately it was a conscious decision about how I wanted to spend the second half of my life. The quality of life, values around Work-Life-Balance and family, weather, food, proximity to visit places, learning a new language and culture— all of that was a big yes for me.
I feel like much of the world I’ve lived in has lost its way. Canada used to be great even in spite of the weather, but it’s changing dramatically and not in the right direction. The US may have been the land of opportunity in recent history — but only for the young and healthy— and at great cost to other aspects of the quality of your life. Veronica
Ireland became Anglo American and lost its sense of family and society. It became regimented and took every crappy idea from the USA and the UK. So I left and beautiful Spain still work to live and enjoy family time and preserve their culture and their wonderfully social society. All that plus it’s cheaper and the sunshine. Rachel
I’m from NZ. I came to Spain as a student then met a Spaniard. We went to NZ for a few years, I had an amazing salary but sick of the isolation, no culture or gastronomy, getting ripped off for everything. When a kg of tomatoes costs $20 there is a problem. And a million dollars for a freezing timber box, no thanks. My Spanish partner also experienced quite a bit of racism, especially in employment. I miss family but I refuse to spend my whole life paying off a rip-off mortgage and one overseas trip every 2 years. Tyler
The reasons are many! Firstly for me, the climate plays a very important role in my life. In Belgium I’m depressed because of this incessant rain and this often bad weather. Spaniards don’t judge you as often do in our so-called civilized countries… the cost of living is much lower in our country for many things and I feel freer than in Belgium with all these politicians interested only in their wallets! And then there are so many wonders to see (I’m talking here in Andalusia), here I’ve probably still forgotten many reasons but these are my personal feelings. Georges
I left the Parisian region near Cergy because reaching Paris had become an odyssey, to escape the greyness, dirtiness, aggression. No really, I didn’t see myself aging down there. 1 brilliant year in Cadiz and now off to Malaga. Zero regrets. Tina
The main reasons that bring me to Andalusia are: sunshine, winter warmth, good mood and kindness of the Spaniards
I don’t live there in the summer, it’s too hot for me. Aurore
My grandmother was from Murcia
At his death, a desire to go back to Spain (haven’t been back for 30 years). My husband wanted a city that moves and knowing several cities we went to Seville.
The return to our origins was magical and my husband fell in love with Seville.
Speaking Spanish fluently I found the mentality of my grandmother and the culture of my ancestors. Emilie Myslicki
Since 34 years in Spain… I live near Barcelona! I didn’t know this country and my husband was relocated there. Years have passed and we are not planning a return to France. We get our French pension in Spain and pay our taxes here (1/3 more than if we were in France!!!). Spaniards are friendly and happy even if the situation is bad. We get through and move forward…. our generation has known deprivation for a long time. When I go back to France people seem to me sad and they complain a lot. In France, we are in a civilization of excessive hobbies. You should have seen the unbelievable amount of French people in Barcelona for the holidays!!!! Christiane
I fell in love with Seville 30 years ago. For personal reasons I went to live overseas, but with Covid I felt the need to get closer to Europe. It was out of the question that I would return to France, a country I no longer recognize. Andalusia imposed itself: the climate, the kindness of people, the quality of life. Speaking Spanish pretty well, I found myself in a city I had never heard of, Estepona, and I have been living there for the past 3 years for my greatest joy. Joëlle
Came to Erasmus over 20 years ago and met my husband. I’m not going back to France today. I live in Cordoba and love the rhythm of life here. We take the time to live, the days seem longer. In France, I always felt like I was running. I love to go back on vacation, see Normandy, the greenery and the sea, eat good bread and good cheese, but I come back to live here. Emilie
Exactly being Andalusian and French I love these 2 countries that are part of me.
But France I no longer recognize it, the same way it no longer recognizes me. So I am organizing my departure to Grenada where I grew up.
In France everything is insafe, expensive, and to see all these sad people. It is too complicated. Marie
Being Spanish at the start I stayed 25 years in France. a country that welcomed me (I’m not going to spit in the soup). Married to a French woman but frankly… tired of the subway, work, sleep. Great quality of life here in Andalusia. In France nobody on the street at 7pm – here it is the hour where we start to live. Climate; 320 days sun in the year. No comparison. I insist I love France, a country that welcomed me very well. Miguel
Been here for 11 years. Switzerland had become too narrow, too expensive. So seeing that my husband was Ecuadorian, and we both already spoke Spanish, the choice was quickly made! Besides, I’ve known Spain (mainly Catalonia) since my tender childhood (I’m 73). I’m unfortunately widow, without children, so yes, it’s very possible that I’ll “move back” to Switzerland in a few years, given that I still have some in-laws. But well aware that I will never find the quality of life here again…Susanna