Why moving to Madrid is better than moving to the Spanish coast
This article explains why moving to Madrid is more appealing to many people than moving to one of the coasts of Spain. Keep reading to learn if you are one of these people and see why the capital is often more appealing.
The appeal of the coasts
Spain has long been a “fun in the sun” destination not just for Brits, but for other Northern Europeans and even Americans. This is for good reason: the weather is spectacular, the water (especially on the Mediterranean coasts) is warm and it can even feel tropical if you venture as far as the Canary Islands. Moreover, prices are relatively cheap and English is widely spoken. In fact, there are a number of English speaking communities (and other languages as well) where you can live comfortably without speaking a word of Spanish.
We spoke with Kim Stollard, the Madrid Host at Costa Women Madrid, about her experience living on the coast of Spain and why she eventually decided to move to Madrid. In her words, “Living on the coast is like being on vacation all the time.”
We were curious what Kim meant by this comment so we asked her to elaborate. She is a great person to speak with about living on the coast, and eventually moving to Madrid, as she has lived in both places. She originally moved to the coast of Spain in 2002. Seven years late she moved to Madrid where she has lived very happily for the past ten years.
Moving2Madrid (M2M): Where on the coast did you move to, and when?
Kim: I moved to a small town La Cala de Mijas on the Costa del Sol, outside of Málaga. My Mum had recently passed away, and I took a sabbatical from work. I decided to move to the Costa del Sol because our family had an apartment there.
M2M: Why did you decide to move to Spain?
Kim: Honestly, I wanted to learn Spanish and learn about the Spanish culture. I am originally from the UK, but have also lived in the US and Singapore. In Singapore I met so many people that were fluent in many languages, which inspired me to learn another language. Since my family had a house in Spain, and I have been in and out of the country since I was a child, it seemed the logical choice.
M2M: Did you learn Spanish on the coast?
Kim: Well, that is where I started. I took a class at an Academy there. For me, it was the best introduction to the language as it wasn’t a total immersion school, like the ones here in Madrid. In the beginning, it was very helpful to be able to communicate with my teachers in English. Once I got to a certain level, I needed total immersion or I wouldn’t have progressed, but in the beginning, this approach was the best for me.
M2M: How long did you live on the coast?
Kim: Six months. Then, I realized that learning Spanish wasn’t enough – I wanted to totally immerse myself in the Spanish culture as well as the language. I have too many British friends on the coast to allow immersion so I moved to Madrid and took a more intensive Spanish course. I’m naturally lazy, so for me the only way to learn the language was to put myself in a situation where I had no choice. In Madrid I knew no one and lived with a Spanish family. After which I returned to the UK for a few years. Then, in 2009 I moved to Madrid for good.
M2M: Why didn’t you return to the coast?
Kim: In short, I just fell in love with Madrid! I have been coming to the Spanish coast on holidays since 1976, so I associate it with being on holiday. It is difficult for me, especially during the summer season when there are lots of tourists around, to reprogramme myself into work mode. I have no will power and end up going out every night. It’s not good for me. I have never been to Madrid on holiday. I came here first as a student and then to work, so my relationship with Madrid is more balanced. Madrid is for living, working and experiencing Spanish culture. The coast remains my holiday and party destination. I love both but for different reasons.
M2M: Why did you choose Madrid, as opposed to Barcelona?
Kim: Barcelona is wonderfully diverse city which I love to visit. It has always felt very international and cosmopolitan to me and seems larger in size than Madrid (though I’ve no idea if it is). Its vibrant ambience reminds me a little of London or New York. It is the sort of place I would have loved in my twenties, but the older me needs a slightly less energetic pace. I tend to feel lost in bigger cities, probably because coming from Cambridge I’m a small city girl at heart. I lived in London for two years, which was an amazing experience, but it never felt like home. Madrid is a better size for me and has the small city ambience I like.
M2M: What are your favorite things about living in Madrid?
Kim: In one word: variety. Because it is a city, you have lots of options for entertainment. There are a plethora of bars. You can go to the opera, the ballet or theatre. If you are more interested in popular culture there are many movie theatres to choose from (including places that show films in their original language), live music venues, comedy and even performance art. There are museums, galleries, shops, markets and all the things you get living in a big city. Plus an amazing number of picturesque parks.
Madrid is surrounded by beautiful nature: lakes, valleys, plains, mountain ranges, cycle paths, old railway tracks, forests, fields etc. As a hiking enthusiast I’m in seventh heaven and I’m out every week. Then there are all the day trips: historical towns, UNESCO heritage sites, cute villages,palaces, castles, lakes, churches, basilicas, amusement parks, zoos and safaris, shopping centres and designer villages .. the list is endless. In ten years living here I still haven’t visited them all but I’m working on it. Even more impressive is the fact that all these places are easily accessible via public transport.
My other love is good food and wine. The options available to indulge this hobby are fantastic. I could be on a different wine tasting every night, both Spanish and international wines, but manage to restrict myself to just one or two. I could also lunch and dine out on a different ethnic foods every day or for those who prefer to cook at home both local and international ingredients are readily available here and any number of places that will teach you how to use them. There is also a healthy alternative food scene here including vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and organic.
The choice of cultures must also be mentioned. Madrid has a large international community, but is not overwhelmed by it and remains essentially Castilian. People move here from all over Spain. On any day I can choose whether to immerse myself in a particular Spanish culture, indulge in an African, Asian, Latino or other European culture, or take a break with the other English speaking expats that live here. Most of the groups I meet with are a mixture of all nationalities and I love that.
Finally there’s the fact that Madrid is centrally located with good links to the rest of Spain by rail and bus, and to the rest of the world by plane. I visit the UK for family reasons every five weeks. It is quicker for me to visit my family flying in from Madrid than it was driving to see them when I lived in the South West of England. The cost is pretty much the same as well. Flights to Madrid are usually much cheaper than those to coast, and the metro system makes it easy to get to the airport.
M2M: Was it difficult for you to make the transition in moving to Madrid?
Kim: Not at all. That is another thing I love about Madrid – everyone is so incredibly welcoming. When I first moved here, I would speak with locals and they were always so happy to talk to me and share their culture, even back when my Spanish was relatively limited, their eyes just light up that I was making an effort. They are so pleased when someone is willing to learn about Spain and eager to share. They’re equally eager to learn about you and your culture. In fact I found it easier to adjust to Spain than other countries I have lived in such as Singapore and the U.S. Visiting Spain so frequently as a young child helped me absorb more of the culture than I realised.
M2M: Is there an expat community in Madrid?
Kim: Yes, there is. There is a large English speaking community here and, as in other areas, many expats live here quite happily without learning the language. For me it is all about a balanced lifestyle. I enjoy that so much is on offer in English and that I can find other Brits when that side of me needs to express itself. Equally I spend time with my Spanish neighbours and friends, use the wonderful facilities available here and converse away in Spanish feeling quite like a local.
M2M: What advice would you give to people moving to Spain?
Kim: Take your time to work out what is best for you. Moving to a new country is a big transition. If you are used to living in a big city, moving to a small Spanish town will be an even harder transition. Just because a place is appealing for a two week vacation does not mean you will enjoy living there long term.
M2M: Anything else you would like people to know?
Kim: Yes. I am a host for Costa Women Madrid. Costa Women is an organisation dedicated to supporting women of all nationalities who have chosen to make Spain their home or are looking to do so. As the name implies, the organisation was started on the coast, but now has groups throughout Spain. It is free to join and we welcome any women moving to Madrid to reach out and connect with us via our website and, once you have registered, through our Madrid Facebook group.
Property prices in Madrid versus the coast
Real estate in Madrid is more expensive than that on the coast (barring Barcelona and Ibiza). Much of this is due to supply and demand. Most people want to live in the center of Madrid. The apartment stock here is limited- particularly if you want to live in an old world building. However, if you are like Kim and like to live in the suburbs, you have many options that are comparable to buying a place on the coast.
Do you want to learn more about moving to Madrid and how to find your ideal neighborhood? If so, arrange a FREE CONSULTATION TODAY and we will be happy to walk you through pricing in different neighborhoods.