Many Britons have headed home after retirement dreams have been broken through reality of life during the euro crisis and recession. But not all are returning to the UK, and others intend to remain come what may! Peter Evans and John Jackson report.
AT PRESENT home for 72-year-old Brian Stretton is a comfy villa on the outskirts of Palma.
Life is good for Brian and his wife.
But now they are planning to move on. Not because of money concerns, but simply because they have had enough of local bureaucracy, and the “at times seemingly Third World approach to day to day life here in Spain “We arrived in 2003 and chose to settle here because Spain offered a great climate, easy access to all parts of Europe, and we thought a modern-thinking nation.”
English-born Brian left his homeland in 1972 to seek his fortunes abroad as an oil worker, but once abroad never contemplated re-settling in the UK.
“It may have been my birthplace but it does not meet my lifestyle preference in retirement including year-round golf,” says Brian, who has worked in Indonesia, Australia, Russia and the US, where he met Noemi.
But just like the UK, to Brian Mallorca has also failed to come up trumps. “The weather is generally great and while the winters can be cold, Noemi and I have the option to travel to the Caribbean , where her parents now live, for extra winter warmth,” he says.
Even so, local bureaucracy over the last 10 years has got the better of them both, and their days in Spàin are now numbered with their villa on the market and plans for a new life in Florida where they have already bought another home.
“When we arrived in Spain and after looking at the mainland and Ibiza as possible bases we settled on Palma. It then took another year to sort out all of Noemi´s residence pàpers and visas for Europe.
“Even though we were basically stranded here we were busy having the villa built so quite settled. “But then around four years ago we were stranded for almost another year while Naomi´s official papers once more bounced around in a renewal process that was more Third World than modern-day Europe.
“We were asked for slips of paper we had provided five years earlier….we needed translations….we needed a lawyer….we needed patience….but in reality , we don´t fortunately need any of these in our daily lives.
We are retired, pay taxes, we spend in the local economy and – apart from the sunshine – take nothing out,” says Brian “Therefore, before Noemi´s next lot of papers need renewing, before they start pulling our strings again in a game of bureaucratic badminton, we will be living elsewhere.
“We have sufficient funds – and given earlier working spells in the US the contacts – to make our new homely base in Florida. Brian admits that both he and Noemi, who also regularly plays golf, enjoy the summer weather….
“but nowadays there are lots of places with good climates, good shops…and good communications and transport links.
“So soon we will be Tampa Bay based….and will merely visit Mallorca for holidays with friends.
“We will no longer as residents be part of the antiquated bureaucratic local system. We can relax in the sushine, and call Florida home instead.
“Spain is generally welcoming for those from Europe. I am well treated and life can be good. But it is not good when your wife is regularly stranded through paperwork. We travel together – not separately – our lives especially in retirement are together….so it is time to say Adios.”
I’m going nowhere
THE notion people have in Britain of what their retired life will be is closer to fiction than fact.
A recent study of 2,000 adults in Britain determined how people expect their retirement to be, comparing these against results of those already retired.
Only six per cent think they’ll need extra income to support their pension.
And the majority expect at least four holidays a year in their golden years.
The reality is a fifth of those currently retired in Britain have a job in retirement to gain extra income and the average pensioner gets by on £258 per week, which equates to less than £37 a day.
More than two thirds cannot afford the holidays abroad that were a key feature of the ideal later life.
More than a third (35 per cent) claim that retirement has seen their standard of living decrease notably.
Marc Bell, Benenden Healthcare, said: ‘’Nearly of third of us are caught up in this dream of putting greens and Mediterranean cruises – a far cry from the reality where retired people can only afford two short UK-based trips a year.
These are pensioners who dreamed of a life of sun, sea and sangria, but had to settle for a coach trip to Skegness.
When in 2010 EWN asked readers aged over 50 if they were ‘happy in Spain’ 77.3 per cent said yes, 2.7 per cent said planned on leaving.
In Channel 4 2007 TV show, Location, Location, Location, Middlesbough in Northern England was labelled the worst place to live in Britain.
One of the show’s presenters, Phil Spencer, told viewers that in ‘Boro: ”Ninety per cent of the residents never exercise and few eat healthily … robbery, burglary, sexual assault, violent crimes and car theft are all more than twice the UK average.”
Every few months the subject of expats in Spain desperate to return to their homelands does the rounds on internet forums and newspapers.
British daily The Guardian recently reported that due to Spain’s rising unemployment, falling property prices and lack of economic growth “it is no wonder surveys regularly find three-quarters of expats want to come home.”
But it warns this desire may be misguided because many social security benefits treasured by the elderly in Britain are on the chopping block, and care for the elderly is suffering some of the worst planned healthcare cuts.
Britain has little reason to be smug when it sees poor Spain suffer, The Guardian reports.
How many elderly people living in some deprived council estates of Bradford, Middlesbrough or Walsall afraid to leave their homes after dark, would turn down a chance to live in Spain?
As the years pass by, expat memories of Britain seem to morph from a nation filled with binge-drinking youngsters to Miss Marple and scenes from Are You Being Served?; from frightening council estates to fancy country cottages; from kebab shop brawls to tea and scones at The Ritz.
It is easy to forget how lucky we really are here in Spain where the sun shines on the prosperous and poor in equal measures.
I wonder what the results would show if the same EWN Over 50s survey was carried in by Middlesbrough’s Evening Gazette?
When I lived in ‘Boro, locals would joke if you drove through Grangetown (a township on the outskirts) you’d come out the other end without wheels on your car.
Still want to return to Dear Old Blighty? I’ll take Benalmadena any time.
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