John Kramer travelled extensively before settling in Southern Spain over twelve years ago. Tri-lingual and with a background in IT, he now works for Spain Holiday which provides rental solutions across Spain, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I am originally from Brighton in the UK
Q: Where are you living now?
A: I live just east of Malaga in what (until recently) was a small Spanish fishing village – La Caleta de Velez.
Q: How long you have you lived in Malaga?
A: Twelve years
Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: No. I met my wife here – she is Spanish and we have two young children. Both of whom were born in Spain.
Q: Why did you move to Spain; what do you do?
A: I travelled all over the world following my studies and have always loved Spain. The quality of life, the people, I decided to make Malaga my home. I originally came across to Spain working in IT for a Spanish bank.
About La Caleta de Velez
Q: What do you enjoy most about Rincon de la Victoria, how’s the quality of life?
A: The quality of life is second to none. The people, the food, the climate, there are so many things that make living in Malaga an amazing experience.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: Spanish bureaucracy. In any country, the bureaucracy is always a problem, but it seems to be doubly difficult in Spain. For people who are self-employed or have their own companies there are lot of legal loopholes to jump through.
Q: Is Spain safe?
A: Very safe. Common sense is needed in any large city, in Malaga for example. Where we live, we still leave the car unlocked; the door to our house is often open. The Spanish are very welcoming and when you are part of the community, it is like having a large family. Everyone knows each other and theft (or any crime) is almost unheard of.
Q: Describe an ideal way to spend a weekend in Malaga?
A: Malaga has a lot to offer. Apart from the obvious, beaches and fish restaurants...it is a city that is steeped in tradition and culture. Malaga is still very Spanish and untouched by tourism. Just west of Malaga along the Costa del Sol, there are some very touristic destinations, Fuengirola, Marbella etc. But the city of Malaga offers a wealth of parks, museums and historical landmarks.
About living in Spain
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Malaga as an expat?
A: Within Malaga, the historical centre is very pretty and responsibly priced. Pedregalejo situated just 10kms from the centre of Malaga, is one area that is extremely popular and set in a beautiful location. It is very Spanish with some great beaches and a very relaxed way of life.
Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation?
A: With the explosion of building that took place across Spain and the Costa del Sol in particular, there is a lot of accommodation on offer. Standards vary, but generally speaking the standards are up to the level as you would find in the UK or Northern Europe.
Q: What’s the cost of living in Spain compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Rental prices have fallen a lot over the last few years. It is most definitely a buyer’s market at the moment and some real bargains can be found – both for rental and purchasing.
Q: What are the Spanish locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: I live in an area where they are very few expats. We are fully integrated into the local Spanish life here. We speak Spanish at home and with all our neighbours. I do have many expat friends and there are certain areas where they are more foreigners than Spaniards! Anything east of Malaga tends to be very Spanish, whereas going west from Malaga things are far more international and touristic.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: It is important to learn the language and the customs of the people in your area. If the Spanish see that you are making an effort, they are very forthcoming and accepting. Making friends and meeting people has never been an issue.
About working in Spain
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
A: The same work permit rules apply as within any EEC country.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Spain, is there plenty of work?
A: Bad. The economic climate in Spain as a whole is fairly dire and southern Spain has suffered the most. The economy was heavily dependent on building and real estate. When the property bubble burst, Andalusia really noticed a slow down. The high tech industry and renewable energies are sectors which are doing ok. There is still a lot of seasonal work. Tourism and related jobs in the summer months. Teaching English as a foreign language is something that also appears to be doing well.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: The Spanish live first and work second. People tend to take a fairly relaxed attitude to working conditions and hours. Although the average person certainly has less money and there is less work around. The Spanish are a very optimistic people...you don’t notice the doom and gloom that is portrayed in the media. Andalusians, in particular, really live in the moment and live for their families.
Family and children in Spain
Q: What are the schools like, any particular suggestions?
A: Both my children are in local, public schools. They love it. I am not sure that education standards are up to the same standards as in Northern Europe, but for primary schools we are very impressed. There are numerous international and private schools as well. Prices for which tend to be far more reasonable than in Northern Europe. We have never experienced any problems whatsoever, on the contrary, we have been very impressed.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Spain?
A: The Spanish healthcare system is good. You need to make sure you are properly registered (see bureaucracy), but when you are, the system works extremely quickly and efficiently. You seldom have long waits to see specialists or receiving any form of treatment.
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Do your homework first. Spain is very beautiful and a very diverse country. One area is very different to another. It is important to know exactly what you are looking for and where to find it. My advice would be to travel around, get to know the areas, the people and most importantly the language. When you do, Spain is without a doubt one of the best places to live in the world.
~interviewed March 2011