Monday, 23 February 2015

The Philistines Guide to Spain (1)

We went out for the evening into a local tavern frequented by a large friendly group of British expats. It was recommended to us by another expat living in the same complex. Quite an enjoyable evening out and as the beer flowed all kinds of inhibitions disappeared.  Brits are a funny lot with their culture of a 'stiff-upper-lip' yet when slightly inebriated you discover their true metal. As might be expected the jokes and stories were flowing with the Brits usual irreverence for Johnnie Foreigner. Stories and jokes there were - some of the more tame examples I can recount here. Almost always done at the expense of the Spanish. So here are a couple. 

A Spaniard walks into a bar with a toad on his head. ‘What the hell is that?’ asks the barman. The toad replied ‘I don’t know – it started as a wart on my bum and grew.’
Which in the main was quite harmless bit of fun and in many ways was just reflecting the cultural differences.
A grasshopper walks into a bar. The barman looks at him and says, ‘Did you know there’s a drink named after you?’ ‘I can't believe it' says the grasshopper 'there’s a drink called Jose?'
Typically any Brits in the joke are called Dave and it would seem that all Spaniards are to be called Jose.

The conversation later changed as the expats got more into their cups. Now it revolved around the two main topic for Brits abroad. The first of which was the weather.  It gets a bit cold out here of a night, but in the main its a couple of layers warmer than in the UK. This is of course the main reason why some of the expats were out here. What is euphemistically called 'living the dream' while at the same time trying to hang on to their Brit identity. 

Then as the evening progressed the conversation became quite deep and dark. Maybe for some its starting to be more 'living the nightmare'. It seems that in the last decade things have changed around the EU, and not always for the best. Unemployment and unrest being ever more significant factor for political change. This is also to a point being reflected by political flavour changes taking place in Spain. The main concern currently is the ongoing steady devaluation of the Euro against other currencies. (we got 1.22 to the pound in mid January and now in mid February we are getting 1.35 to the pound) Which is believed to be as a result of the change in the flavour of politics in Greece.  The uncertainty is boosted by the printing of billions of Euros as quantitative easing by the central bank.  To make matters worse for the expats the upcoming elections in the UK and what might happen if UKIP get there referendum is also adding to the angst.

The second topic is property prices which included the usual lament about how the prices had fallen through the floor. There was a certain surprising under current which manifested itself.  Generally the longer people had been living here the more they wanted to sell up and move. There was no particular reason other than they seemed to be bored with the lifestyle. The more recent arrivals seemed to be quite ambivalent because they had arrived and purchased property at what they judged to be a good time. The long term ex pats now felt that they were in something of a financial trap as properties they had paid £120 grand for a decade ago were now selling for £70 grand or less. Some properties were subject to different covenants such as those in tied complexes which also made things more difficult for some. 

Now a new threat has reared it head as ISIS beheads Christian hostages on the Mediterranean beaches of north Africa. In a direct threat to introduce and encourage more acts of terrorism into the European mainland. This is concentrating political minds as acts of terrorism in France and Denmark display the vulnerability of Europe to protect its citizens. 

Europeans living close to the Mediterranean with a 2000 mile coastline in north Africa. Where ISIS is currently operating training camps and now has access to a vast arsenal of newly liberated arms in Libya. Physically close points such as Greece and Spain must now be on high alert for sea born attacks on cities and holiday locations. Attacks could be mounted similar to what happened in Mumbai. 

Its almost certain that the Blair-Bush warmongering administration has put British nationals in deeper threat than other European nationals. Many European countries have reduced the size of their armed forces due to the economic meltdown of the Eurozone and the rest of the world. This does not bode well as Europe now needs to carefully balance the watching brief on ISIS and the simmering problems being stoked by Russia in the Ukraine.
While our own preference would be to purchase a mobile home rather than a property abroad.  (We owned a properties in Tenerife and another one near Carcassonne for a few years) Based on our preference for moving around much as it is with our boat at home. Mooring up for the winter and touring abroad is still our plan of action.  But we had a look around a few estate agencies - just looking at properties on line and also looking at how the properties values have fallen through the floor. We looked at properties in and around Denia and many properties have had very significant price cuts made and the cuts are continuing. 
The big worry for the long term expat was that political and financial changes would also take place in Spain.  The circumstances of which could overtake them. Yet, in a curious way they were also in a typical British way, making the best of it. It would seem that the wartime spirit is still in their genes. As one expat confided in me, the Spanish see the typical expat as being like those who holiday in Benidorm.   He was worried that the expats could become in Spain, the equivalent of the problem that eastern Europeans are in Blighty. Especially if it was to bring terrorist inspired attacks to the Spanish mainland. 

To be continued.

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