Nobody in their right mind could deny the fundamental attraction of a regular holiday to the tired and stressed Brit. After all, we’re working longer hours than ever, our economic future is looking increasingly dubious in the wake of the Brexit referendum, and the famously grey and drab weather certainly doesn’t help matters either. There can be no denying that Brits are among the most deserving nations when it comes to catching a few days in the sun, but why is it that we’ve long held such a special relationship with the beaches and resorts of Spain?
While the stereotypical image of British holidaymakers in Spain is one of sunburnt, lager swilling hooligans, the truth is that both nations have fostered a mutually respectful relationship spanning back to the 1970s which saw the advent of an explosion in cheap flights and a national appetite for exploration which gave birth to the package holiday. Today some 12 million British nationals visit Spain every year and history has shown that today’s tourists have a tendency to become tomorrow’s expats with a thriving expat community of British born citizens (two thirds of whom are retirees) currently residing in Spain.
Sun, sea and sand are the staples of a relaxing holiday and not only does Spain has those in abundance, it allows relatively fast and easy access to them. Spain is a relatively close European neighbour, yet its climate is to ours as cheese is to chalk. The relative proximity means that Spain shares its hottest and coldest months with the UK (August is the hottest month in both). As Spain is such a large nation, it crosses three climate zones yet its weather is generally Mediterranean in nature, broadly characterised by hot, dry summers and mild, rain specked winters. Those looking for a more maritime climate, however, are better suited to the Basque Country where the summers are a little milder, while serious sun-a-holics will find an almost African climate in the south, particularly around regions like Murcia in the south east. The diverse, yet fair climate makes it the envy of the rest of Europe and a destination to suit virtually any tastes.
There’s an inherent romanticism that pervades the streets of Spain that’s reflected in all aspects of its culture, from its language, to its architecture, to its music and theatre. The Spanish enjoy their culture with the same gusto as the Italians and the passion of the French, yet without quite the pretension or ceremony of either. The Spanish culinary palette is rich in colours, flavours and multicultural influences, yet is familiar enough to appeal to the traditionally conservative British palette. Likewise, Spanish wines are typically flavoursome and full bodied, with fruity and floral notes without the oaky idiosyncrasy of their (better advertised) French cousins.
Spain has always enjoyed a vibrant arts scene to rival the rest of Europe. Madrid was hit quite hard by the financial crisis, but recent years have seen a marked revival in the capital’s scene.
Perhaps it’s the people of Spain that are so endemic to the nation’s appeal among Brits? Sure, it’s in their best interests to be nice to us since we’re such a significant contributor to their economy in terms of tourism revenue, but Spanish people are generally warm, welcoming and friendly. They wear their hearts on their sleeves, are quick to emotion and embody a joie de vivre that creates an appealing contrast to your typically shy and reserved Brit. The Spanish way of life, as in many mediterranean countries is more sociable and far less insular than that of the British aisles. Cafe culture, eating al fresco and enjoying the company of friends and family is very much the norm.
The Spanish people are less bureaucratic than their French or Italian contemporaries and it’s their positive attitude that has prompted many a British entrepreneur to make their fortune in Spanish climes.
The Cities And Beaches
The streets of Madrid, Seville or Barcelona are as steeped in romance as anything one might find in Paris, Rome or Athens. Barcelona alone represents one of the most fascinating combinations of gothic, modernist and Romanesque architecture anywhere in Europe. But these famous cities are really just the tip of the iceberg. Check out the ‘golden city’ of Salamanca or the stunning mountain view of Granada and you’ll gain some appreciation of the nation’s diversity of character.
The country is also host to some of the best beaches in the world including Ibiza’s picturesque and family friendly Cala Llenya, Mallorca’s surfer paradise Es Trenc and the beach of Benicassim on the Costa Azahar which has long been a Mecca for music lovers.
Despite its strong sense of national identity, Spain has a decidedly cosmopolitan mindset which has enables legions of British expats to make the country their home. Like the UK, Spain has a permissive and multiculturalist approach to immigration and while it’s both beneficial and encouraged to immerse one’s self in Spanish language and culture, there’s enough familiarity to make a Brit feel at home. Most indigenous Spaniards speak at least a smattering of English and the country’s sizeable expat population is as famously welcoming as the locals. If you’re looking to buy a property or start a business in Spain you’ll find a host of people more than willing to help. If you’re hoping to dip a toe in the waters, investment in a holiday home might be a prudent first step. Check out www.interhome.co.uk/spain/ where you’ll find a range of highly desirable properties. While many expats remain cautious about the impact of Brexit negotiations on their homes, retirement and livelihoods, the unavoidable truth is that both Brits and Spaniards will have to wait and see how their rights will be protected during negotiations.
While the political and economic future may be uncertain, the special relationship between the British and Spanish will remain in some form or another whatever the outcome may be.