Valencia is the third largest city in Spain, with a diverse and multicultural population. Originally the capital of an autonomous Valencian region, you will hear a dialect of Catalan (the language spoken in Northern Spain) spoken here. Although almost all Valencians speak Castillian (normal Spanish) it is a delight to hear Valencian, being as it is, a dialect that sounds like a blend of Spanish, French and something all its own. Always ensure you have a good level of travel and medical insurance if you visit Spain.
Valencia Getting there
Valencia airport, also known as Manises Airport, is located about 15 minute by transfer coach from the city centre. As well as many major international airlines, Valencia also hosts budget airlines flying to and from the UK.
Unlike the Costa Del Sol and Costa Brava, Valencia does not have a large population of American and UK expats. Immigrants in Valencia tend to be from Morocco and African nations, so cultural diversity is plentiful. The English-speaking expats who do live in Valencia prefer it this way, staying away from the resort ghettoes of English-speaking sunbuurned bodies ordering fries for lunch.
There are International Schools in Valencia that offer the British Curriculum. These service a wide geographical area and students can travel many kilometres each day between there home and campus. The most popular International Schools are: The British School of Valencia (http://www.bsvalencia.com/introduccion.htm), Los Olivos English School (http://www.school-losolivos.es/english/index.html) and Caxton College (http://www.caxtoncollege.com/index.php). All of these teach in English, Spanish and Valencian.
Valencia Getting Around
Public Transport in Valencia is excellent, although the city centre is compact enough that it is easier to walk when in the the Central Business District. For travel in and around the city, the bus is best: It has an extensive network, frequent services and costs no more that 1.20 Euro per ticket. Once you get a little further out, use the (safe and clean) Metro system, which offers more frequent and regular services than the bus.
Settling In Valencia
Adjusting to the heat of Valencia can be difficult for those who arrive from the UK, especially in summer. Although a Spanish summer is beautiful, if you are not used to heat, try to avoid arriving in August. Also, it can be frustrating for newcomers to realize that banks and post offices are only open for about 4 hours a day (usually 10am – 2pm) and that most shops are closed in the afternoon for siesta. Try to go with it, get a nap in the afternoon and you will become more accustomed more quickly.
Rent in Valencia is pretty cheap. A one bedroom apartment will cost no more than 350 Euro per month, while a 3 bedroom, 2 bathrooms villa with an open fireplace and a pool can be had for around 600 Euro per month. For those who are more interested in buying a home, allow about 270,000 Euros for a three or four bedroom, two-storey family home in perfect condition.
British expat Nick Snelling gets his feet wet and his hands dirty living in Spain. He’s definitely not just here just to sample the sangria and paella.
What was your first impression of Valencia
I have known Spain since 1973 when Franco was in power and I have seen it develop steadily since then to what it is now – a first world, firmly democratic country with a superb infrastructure and a way of life that is, day to day, not disimilar on the face of it to any modern state. However, I believe that a combination of the glorious climate, the charming Spanish people and their still working nuclear communities makes it a better place to live than other developed countries.
What do you think of Valencia food?
I am no gourmet and like plain food. So, Spain suits me as I doubt that the country will ever be famous for its cuisine – good and healthy but not for the epicure!
What do you think of shopping in Valencia?
I loath shopping with a passion that has not diminished through the years – which is in direct contrast to my wife who loves shopping, particularly in Valencia city.
What do you appreciate most about living in Valencia?
The Spanish people and their sense of community, toleration and traditional values. The Spanish are very open, warm and welcoming. They can certainly appear abrupt at times but their charm and sense of fun is completely seductive.
In a cave in Cuenca
What do you find most frustrating about living in Valencia?
Business. It is amazingly difficult to ‘nail deals down’ despite some incredibly impressive initial talk. There is also an absolute lack of understanding of marketing and the cold, brutal reality behind many situations.
What puzzles you about Spanish culture and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
The more articles and investigations I do about Spain and Spanish culture the more fascinating and complex I find the country. Spain is under huge social pressure as can be seen from the explosive divorce rate, the underlying domestic violence problem, the high drugs usage, sharp drop in religious faith, and the pressures of the recent sudden and massive influx of immigrants. An interesting future lies ahead – made all the more potentially volatile by the present economic crisis…
I miss very little about the UK – perhaps only reading the British Sunday papers, playing squash and hearing Radio 4.
How does the quality of life in Spain compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
Spain offers a superb compromise. There are more exciting countries, places with more dramatic scenery and areas in which it is easier to live. However, Spain wins on compromise. It is close to the UK, user-friendly, has low crime, a benign climate, no dangerous creatures and a tolerant, kindly population. The education is very good, outdoor activities cheap and accessible and the healthcare excellent. In other words – a fine place to raise a family or settle into a safe and pleasant retirement.
As a dedicated rock climber – I am, of course, in Heaven!
If you could change anything about Spain, what would it be?
The housing. Sadly, for the most part building over the past 20 years has been irredeemably ill-planned, ugly and often poorly constructed.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Come here with the right philosophy – to do more here than you ever did in the UK. Everyone I know who has settled here happily over the long time, irrespective of age, is busy and lives an energetic life. Be passive and come here to do as little as possible – and you will quickly find yourself bored and within a ‘gilded cage’.
Any additional comments?
I think the conumdrum of Spain for the relocating Britain is that it can deliver a terrific way of life – but rarely does so in the medium term for most people. This is borne out by sketchy evidence that seems to suggest that some 30 percent of relocating Britons return to the UK after three years. My own practical experience would confirm this and I can only imagine the scale of returnees after five years.
For the most part, I think people are too ‘reductive’ in their thinking when they come here. All too often they become seduced by the thought of buying their dream house at the cost of properly working out the best long term location that wil provide an enriching lifestyle. To my mind, it is bizarre that Britons choose to live on vast estates (often with few or no amenities) alongside…other Britons.
Certainly, sitting by the pool all day, drinking with fellow expats, the odd game of golf or lying on the beach may seem a dream – but can, after a year or two, become stunningly boring. In contrast, trying to get to grips with the language whilst also getting involved in the Spanish community -and perhaps some form of work (voluntary or otherwise) – can make all the difference. Facing challenges, being bold and taking advantage of the wonderful life inherent in a linguistically and culturally different country is what makes one’s time here enriching and fulfilling. Hiding away, meekly, along with your countryfolk is rarely satisfactory in the long run.
Living in Spain can be a stunningly wonderful experience with so much to play for, irrespective of age or wealth. It saddens me that all too often us Britons do not grasp firmly the opportunities that exist – and thereby thrill to all the fun and the spectacularly fine lifestyle on offer here.
Welcome to the latest in our “Go Expat in:” series from Matthew Hirtes. This time we focus on “Moving to Valencia”.
Spain’s third-largest city is first choice for many expats
The Mediterranean climate. An average of 217 sunny days a year is a draw. Especially if you’re locating from the UK. Where an umbrella is essential workwear. The food. Welcome to Spain’s Tuscany, one of the country’s outstanding gastronomic regions, birthplace of paella.
They love a moan in Valencia. Sure, el crisis gives cause for concern. But if the economy improved, they’d find something else to gripe about. Although, unlike in the UK, that would never be the weather.
In and out
One of Spain’s more central airports, the Aeropuerto de Valencia (VLC) is located around 10km to the west of the city-centre, in Manises. The most direct journey is by car, along the A3, a trip that will take you just over 10 minutes. Valencia boasts an excellent public transport system, with interconnecting buses, trams, and trains. Purchase a travel card at newsagents, tobaccionists, and the stations themselves to save on your journeys.
The pick of the international schools is undoubtedly Cambridge House Community College. Located in the exclusive north-west suburb of Rocafort, it’s the only Ofsted-approved school in the whole of Spain. In their own words, they “uphold an open and collegiate first names policy which incorporates friendly and supportive one to one treatment of our students with caring, firm discipline”.
Shop until you drop…
For a British-style supermarket, head to the basement of the El Corte Inglés (Calle Colón 1 and 27, and Calle Pintor Sorolla 2). For a cheaper option, Mercadona has branches throughout the city and indeed province. Their product range has recent improved. There are 16 covered markets to choose from. The most famous is the Central Market, although the Rufaza is probably the most authentic.
Over to Valencia Property’s Graham Hunt: “The Carmen, Ruzafa and El Pilar are the most bohemian areas with a lively nightlife and something always going on. The more sedate Ensanche is the most exclusive residential area in the city. Outside space is at a premium in all of the areas so attic flats at good prices are like hens’ teeth.”
One-three bedroom apartments, €100,000-€600,000. Detached Villas, €300,000-€1,000,000. Country fincas €90,000-€270,000.
In Praise Of
“Valencia offers a more relaxed atmosphere than you would expect of Spain’s 3rd city, there’s no sense of “hustle and bustle” as in Madrid or London for example. Beautiful architecture and open-air plazas make it a pleasure to reside in.” Toni Wilson (Valencia Holiday Rentals)
“Valencia is a fab city to live in and a great place to get to know all different types of people. In fact it’s far more bohemian, fashionable and cosmopolitan than many people give it credit for.” Guy Alexander Bell (Valencia’s resident expert for Spain-Holiday.com)
“Valencia is neither too big or too small. It’s a village within a town within a city. It’s both open and closed, dynamic yet staid, liberal yet conservative, intense yet frivolous.” Will McCarthy (editor, 24/7 Valencia)