The expat dream is alive and well

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Two weeks before Christmas, Andrew and Kelly Owen left their rented flat in Brighton, England, for the last time. Having met family and friends the night before for an early festive celebration, the couple, both aged 33, headed for Gatwick airport: destination Malaga and a new life together.

“When Andrew was made redundant in July, we began thinking about moving to Spain seriously. It had always been a dream to relocate to the Costa del Sol after having spent every holiday in the last eight years at Andrew’s parents’ apartment in Estepona – an area of the coast we’d fallen in love with,” says Kelly.

“As we were now both freelancer graphic designers, we felt we could, in effect, work anywhere, so we took the plunge,” Kelly explains.

The couple’s story is a familiar one. But in recent years, the weak pound, rising living costs, plummeting property prices, and crippling unemployment levels have put off many would-be expatriates from coming to Spain in search of that much-lauded idyllic new life in the sun.

However, despite the depressing economic outlook, it appears that there remains a great number of people, like the Owens, who are still keen to pursue the dream.

Indeed, a recent survey carried out by The Post Office says that more than a third of Britons under 34 years old are considering leaving the UK. Similarly, research published in the Daily Mail says that 75 per cent of Britons have considered moving abroad, with Spain remaining a popular relocation choice.

These findings are supported by figures from Spain’s National Institute of Statistics, which reports that in the first nine months of 2011, a total of 14,506 additional foreign nationals, the vast majority from the EU, arrived in Malaga province. This only reflects those who have registered.

Of course, there are as many reasons for moving overseas as there are people who do it. But when it comes to relocating to Malaga, there seem to be two overriding motivations: quality of life and climate.

“These two factors were certainly key in making our minds up,” says 64 year old Dutch-born Liduine Van de Linden, who retired to Playamar, Torremolinos, with her husband last May.

“Perhaps the two (quality of life and climate) are part of the same thing? Either way, we have found that we are more active here, eating out more, have been exploring lots of new places, meeting lots of other people from different countries, and getting back into old hobbies, such as tennis, and starting new ones such as hiking.”

James Farrow, a financial advisor who lived in Oregon, USA, before moving to England three years ago, is another recent Costa del Sol arrival. He says: “I moved with my wife and young son to Mijas Costa in November as my son will be going to ‘Big School’ next year and we felt that the Coast could give us a better life as a family.

“The economic situation in Spain is not great, but it’s not good anywhere at the moment, so we may as well ride it out somewhere that gives us a higher quality of life, and in the sunshine. To me, it seems that there are lots of opportunities here for people who want to work hard.

“There’s also a great sense of community, both Spanish and expat, the schools and infrastructure are good, and we’re only a short flight away from the UK.”

It appears, for the time being certainly, that even against a backdrop of gloomy economic forecasts and often even gloomier media reports, there are still many thousands of foreigners intent on starting a new life in southern Spain.

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