One of the things that has upset me most about expat life is to hear about how lonely a lot of expats seem to be. I must admit that initially I struggled to understand this as I had never had a fuller social life! As I heard the story time and time again, I began to try to find out why so many expats were saying that they felt lonely and/or isolated. I talked to some and emailed others – both people who were commenting on behalf of neighbours or family members and also directly with some people for whom their new life was not what they expected.
I was given a whole number of reasons and as I talked to these people it became clear that usually it was not one single reason but rather a number of different factors. “John” or “Mary” would have been fine with just one thing going against them but often it was the combination of reasons. There was the lack of family/friends from home, often there was “the language issue”, there was a feeling that everything was a battle with bureaucracy, learning about bus-routes or driving differences, very often the expats were on sprawling holiday home urbanisations that were nearly empty for good parts of the year and if they had neighbours these were Germans or Russians who they did not understand either! There was often a feeling that the days were long and without purpose – this was especially true of those who had just retired. After a few days the golf-courses or beaches, bars and restaurants lost the appeal they had before they moved here. I can relate to that – I live 200 meters from the Med and think it’s 2 years since I was on the beach! I rarely go into a bar and doubt I go into a restaurant as often in a year as I used to on a two week holiday! Obviously the list was different for each person but generally it was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
So, what happens? People can stay unhappy or move back to where they came from …….. or do something about it! Let’s look at some of the points in more detail. Learning Spanish – “You can either make excuses or friends”. Now that may be rather hard-hitting but it is the reality. The average Spaniard is more gregarious than his British or Scandinavian counterpart but you cannot expect the Spanish to be fluent in your language. I have written meters about the Spanish language in this site and you will have read that the standard of English-language tuition in Spanish schools is nowhere near the level in other European countries. Unless a Spaniard has need for contact with expats/tourists the average Spaniard over the age of 30 will not be able to string more than a few words together. So, learning Spanish is a “must”. Fortunately that is a great way of meeting people in similar circumstances and you can soon make new friends as you practice saying, “Tengo dos hijos y tres perros.”
In most parts of expatshire there are any number of clubs and associations that are of a social nature – they range from Royal British Legion to line-dancing and from snooker to para-gliding. Sometimes, membership is required but often guests are welcome. The expat press will have lists of clubs in your area. Obviously if you are in deepest Extremadura or on a farm in Teruel the opportunities will be more limited but one thing you will know or learn is that when two or more expats get together, they start a club. Enjoy.
Obviously, there are English-language church services in the expat and tourist areas and they are also a good place to make friends. They seem to be more relaxed and certainly the ones I know have a huge number of social events to which guests and visitors are normally welcome whether or not you are a practising Lutheran or Methodist. As always, the latter expat media will have contact details.
Moving on, if you are looking for a more one to one relationship then expat dating clubs have sprung up. One is. which advertises as Spain’s biggest expat dating site. On the Costa Blanca there is Costa Blanca Speed Dating which operates in both Spanish and English and has local meetings as well as a virtual offer. Of the international brands FriendFinder is huge in Spain with over 8 million members and the site is in English and Spain. Here are the links for sister sites of AdultFriendFinder and SeniorFriendFinder.
If your interest is a relationship of a more transient nature (he says using euphamisms) then, as a male, Spain will not disappoint you. The expat papers are crammed with ads and most of the local Spanish papers have found ways around the government’s feeble attempts at stamping down on the girls advertising! I could write meters about Spain’s relationship with the oldest profession in the world. Every local authority has tried various measures to keep their more conservative voters happy. The reality is that “clubs” or “nightclubs” can be found throughout Spain and usually without looking too far! If you prefer to arrange something privately, you could try Costa Blanca, Fuengirola and .