There is always a good side and a bad side to everything. Living in Marbella is no exception. However, many choose Marbella to relocate and its no wonder as the good outweighs the bad. Let’s have a look at the good and the bad.
Andalusians are one of the friendliest people in the world
Andalusian enjoy life and enjoy sharing good times. No matter the situation, they have this positive attitude towards life which is contagious. It’s a mission to be sad and unhappy in Marbella. What’s more, they are open to foreigners and happy to share their beautiful land and culture with anyone who chooses to embrace it. Show them a little respect and they will give you the world.
They have a strong sense of community and are open to invite you to it. Feeling alone with no one around to help you in times of difficulty is a choice you make and you have to work hard to achieve it. Andalusians are warm and welcoming. Once you become a part of their community, they take you in as one of their own. You will never stand alone. They are always ready to help and they will be there for you, so long as you respect their culture and treat them as your equal.
I remember a single mother, an ex-pat, who had a mild heart attack whilst watching her young son play football. The Spanish parents took charge of the situation. They called the ambulance and one of the Spanish mom’s said: ” Don’t worry about your boy, he’s with us.” As the ambulance took the foreign mom to the Costa del Sol hospital. All ended well. But during the entire time the mother stayed in the hospital, this Spanish family who also had a son playing on the same football team, took her boy into their home and cared for him as if he was their son. They brought him to school, fed him, brought him to football training and every day they brought him to the hospital to visit his mother. And when it was time for the mom to leave the hospital, this Spanish family came to get her and drove her back home with her son. That is how strong the Andalusian sense of community is. There were no questions asked, everything was taken care of. This single mother, alone with her son in a foreign country, was not alone.
The Andalusian sunshine and the Mediterranean diet benefit your health
Spain has the longest lifespan after Japan. It is due to their way of living, their diet and the environment they live in.
The Mediterranean diet is one of the best for the heart, blood circulation and pressure and it reduces cholesterol levels. It is filled with vegetables, fruits and fish and some meat as well. Everything is cooked with olive oil which has some fantastic health benefits. Plus, Spain is the biggest producer and exporter of organic foods in Europe and the fifth-largest in the world. So fresh ingredients all day every day is not hard to come by. For more information on the benefits of the Mediterranean health diet, please read this article.
The Andalusian sunshine is a consistent source of vitamin D and Marbella has got that sunshine throughout the year on a very regular basis. This wonderful weather is both beneficial for mental health as well as physical health. For more information on the health benefits of the sun please read this article.
A more relaxing way of living life to its fullest
Living in Marbella is very different from living in northern Europe. The slower pace of living does take some adjusting to, but once you do the rewards far outshine the negatives. Once you get into the Marbella groove, you will feel a weight come off your shoulders. Life becomes less stressful. Time is less of the essence. You will catch yourself socialising at the post office, bank or fruit store whilst you wait in line. You will learn that it’s okay to take a break and appreciate taking the time to be with your family and friends. You will enjoy sitting down together to eat, rather than gulping a sandwich down on the go. You will learn to appreciate the little things in life that matter. Once you get into the Andalusian groove, there’s no going back.
A family-friendly culture
Life in Spain revolves around family and friends. People work to live. They do not live to work and that is a sacred philosophy which can be difficult to adapt for northern Europeans. Being together and spending time together is the number one priority for the Spanish. It is very common to see large family gatherings including members of all ages from the youngest to the oldest, all spending time together at the beach, in cafes and parks. School holidays are longer in the summer and winter to allow family time.
The Spanish are inclusive in every way. Children are not separated from adults. All of their activities are done together, dinner parties, beach days absolutely everything from the oldest to the youngest. There is no such thing as “adult time” or “me time”. Contrary to many northern European cultures, the Spanish do not feel the need to take a break from their children. Age is not a concept that matters in their social habits because they share everything, the responsibility and care are vastly shared and never becomes overwhelming for one or tow individuals. It’s a pleasure for everyone together.
Marbella has a strong ex-pat community
It may sound strange as technically when moving abroad, you should be interested in moving into a new culture and embracing it too. Whilst that is true, it is always challenging to move to a foreign country and knowing that other foreigners have settled in the area certainly makes the transitions period a lot easier.
In the beginning, you may not speak the language or understand the ins and outs of this new country and its people. It is always nice to know that you can revert to a strong support community among ex-pats with many active groups on social media you can look up, join and meet up. You will be among people who have been where you are now, can offer advice and support.
Marbella does have its downsides as well. Though there aren’t many, let’s have a look at the bad side too.
Marbella is overly crowded in the summer months
Like most coastal cities and tourist magnets, Marbella can get very crowded in the summer months. July and August can at times be a nightmare with tourists tripling the population, busy partying 24/7. It does disrupt the tranquil way of life, but at the same time, it does bring a lot of extra festivity to the area. Many ex-pats choose to take advantage of the excellent rental income that can be generated during these months. They go elsewhere to avoid the madness of the tourist and rent their property out, a high-income stream providing an excellent financial cushion for the rest of the year.
For some integrating into the Spanish way of life is challenging
With so many ex-pats around, it is sometimes difficult to move away from what you know and to try and integrate with the Spanish culture. You could spend years in Marbella and not ever speak a word of Spanish.
Many may find themselves trapped in the ex-pat bubble. Essentially you are living in Spain but completely disconnected from the Spanish and their culture. This can become an issue when you are forced to interact with the Spanish in certain situations, where there is no other choice. The Spanish, whilst very friendly and welcoming, do expect you to make an effort if you are living in their country. You do not need to be fluent, but if you can say a few words whilst interacting with the locals, you’ll find that doors open much more easily than if you insist on them speaking your language and doing things your way. After all, you are the one in their country.
Bad customer care and slow delivery
The Spanish have a very alien concept of what customer care should be like. Whilst they are friendly and will greet you with a smile, at the same time, they are not too keen on going the extra mile to please a customer. They prefer to say “no”, then to try and find a way to fix the problem or provide the customer with an alternative, if what they wanted isn’t readily available. Also, whilst in northern European countries the customer is king and always right, the Spanish do not share that vision. If you try to challenge a Spaniard providing you with a service, you will find yourself in a losing battle.
I remember once sitting in a restaurant with a friend. The waitress passed by and bumped into my friend’s chair as she tried to squeeze by with plates of food. A plate of tomato sauce pasta fell on my friend’s white shirt and stained it. At first, the waitress politely said I’m so sorry, looking concerned. She picked up the plate that she had dropped and walked off. We then tried to get her attention to ask her to bring a cloth or something that my friend could use to wipe his shirt. She kept pretending that she couldn’t see us. They do that when they’re busy. They ignore you instead of acknowledging you and asking you to wait.
Finally, my friend got up and went up to her to ask her for something to wipe his shirt with. She got very upset yelling: “Can you not see that I’m busy. It’s just a bit of sauce on your shirt it’s not the end of the world. Go back to your seat and when I can I’ll bring you something.”
Long story short, the restaurant never offered a dry clean as you might expect in your country. They charged the full price, never offering a discount for the inconvenience and the waitress never brought anything to wipe the sauce off my friend’s shirt. When we tried to explain the situation to the owner of the restaurant his response was: “Well these things happen, we’re very busy, she didn’t mean to bump into your chair.”
Moments like these can be very frustrating, to say the least. Certainly, there is a huge culture clash when it comes to customer care. The Spanish sense of customer care is completely alien to the northern European expectations of what customer care should be.
The frustrations of a foreign business owner dealing with the Andalusian slow pace
Northern Europeans have a very different concept of customer care and as well we live to work. We expect thing yesterday and done to perfection. The Spanish believe the “to do” tray will still be full when you die so why stress yourself over it.
Time off, holidays and spending time with family and friends is more important than closing a deal and satisfying a customer. The customer can wait. The deal can get done when it gets done. These clashing mentalities can make it very difficult and frustrating to run a business in Spain.
People do not bend over backwards to get things done as a general rule. If you need to get something now, expect to have to wait and wait and get comfortable with the fact that you will get it, the question is when?
Also, it is important to make sure you check and double-check everything. Even at a Mc Donald’s drive-in, do not assume what you ordered will be in the bags they hand out to you. Check it. Nine times out of 10 something will be missing.
Whilst living in Marbella has its challenges, mainly due to cultural differences, it is still one of the most wonderful places to live. Overall Marbella’s unique way of living and the benefits that come with it, outweigh everything else. That’s why so many choose Marbella for a better way of life for themselves and their families.