Are you happy in Spain?

Hello everyone!

According to the 2016 UN World Happiness Survey, Denmark, Switzerland and Iceland are the happiest countries on earth.

How about you? Are you happy in Spain? Do you feel happier today in your host country than before in your home country? What has contributed to the change?

In your opinion, are locals in Spain happy? How can you tell?

Please share your experience!

We now live permanently in Menorca and have done so for two and a half years.  Many years ago we lived in France close to the Spanish border at Frontarabia, northern Spain.  The contrast between the way the French and the Spanish engaged with life was remarkable.  In our part of France, the locals  were formal and inflexible.  Apart from weddings and festivals, everyone was tucked up in bed by 10.30.

We would often drive over the border to San Sebastian just to escape for a few hours and the contrast was palpable.  In San Sebastian life is lived on the street.  Every evening, summer and winter, the lanes throng with people.  At 2.00 in the morning the buses are still running, bars and restaurants serve drinks and taxis rush too and fro.  Leaving to return home, we would cross the border into France and plunge back into gloom.   Lights were out and the streets deserted.

Although the French invented the phrase 'joi de vivre' it is the definitely the Spanish that exemplify it.  We are yet to find a European country that enjoys life more than Spain or is more welcoming to us ancient pensioners  who can't afford the cost of living in Britain any more. The economy may be in tatters, the politicians corrupt and unable to form a government, but it's fiesta time, so let's party!

I echo the thoughts of DhBahiya as we too lived in France for several years but the xenophobia, inflexibility of attitudes and systems driven by what can only be called institutionalised madness finally drove us out. France has changed!
In Spain we have been welcomed everywhere and the style of life is just so much better. The French appear to be dead in so many ways whereas the Spanish are alive and it shows.
We would not return to the U.K. partly because the motivators behind the Brexit vote were simply astounding. While I believe the right decision was reached it was for entirely the wrong reasons. The xenophobia that became so apparent during the debate was, is, appalling. That single factor alone is enough for us to turn our backs on England. (Scotland and Ireland are an entirely different kettle of fish.)
In Spain we have found administrative systems to be fast and smooth but I accept that others have had different experiences, which is true of processes in other countries.  There is now an obvious delay being built into some of these processes because of the Brexit vote. However, on the positive side the Spanish are a flexible, sensible people and I am sure common sense will come back into play.
I wake each morning with a feeling of being alive. Something that drained from us in the nanny state called the U.K and more so in France. That feeling, as I stand on my beautiful terrace, makes the feeling of life so much nicer. Government or no government, corruption up to the gills and beyond or not, we’re staying.

Quite a contrast with Spanish Galicia where people are also tucked in bed at 10.30 and buses stop at 10 unless on Friday night.c :)

Paperdetective, you have my sympathies. We lived in France like this for 8 years, except they were in bed by 9.30 and the town was deader than charity in a tax collector's heart by 7pm.  Never again!
Each area in Spain is different so find a place that suits you. There is plenty of variety.

Funny you say so, Writerman. We live just across th4 border in Galicia and just cross the bridge to get in livelier Portugal, where the stores are open on Sundays as opposed to Galicia. :-)

Hi, I'm happy to reply
... and Happy to have moved to Spain. In fact one should come to my area to understand why i say that.
I live in a triangle of 3 National/Natural Parks in the Center North of the country.  I would like to include a picture here of my house but don't know how. I prefer not to add through URL.
As to the question if the Spanish are happy in their own country... I have mixed feelings about it... Spain is a bit less expensive than the other European countries,... try drinking a coffee on a terrace in France or Belgium... and compare that with drinking a coffee on a terrace in Span... You will definitely want to have your coffee in Span... But what I want to say... is that life is difficult for many of my Spanish friends. Although rents for houses / pisos are low, also salaries are still low here and cost of living (except for food and beverages) is as high as in other countries of Europe. Yes, my Spanish friends are positive and relatively happy but at the same time many are struggling to live a good life.... compared to my Flemish friends over in Belgium who can spend more money but are not necessarily more happy.
The message is: Live simple and be happy with what you have... most important a good health, many friends and a bit more money than you need to pay all your bills.
Wish EVERYONE happiness!

We are retired Americans.  Have lived in Barcelona for a year, after 3 years in Istanbul, Turkey.  We love Spain...that life is lived on the street, that the cost of living compared to Silicon Valley is reasonable, that the food is great and the local culture even more so.  Our daily life here is very enjoyable.

Generally, yes. But there are negatives, too. I am a single guy, still in good shape but notwithstanding the "social" type clubs here, meeting someone is well nigh impossible. Maybe it is the area I chose. Who knows. Whatever, life can be quite lonely.
Also, despite our wonderful EU and its alleged unified rules, consumer protection here is shambolic at best. Try (as i am doing) to get some justice/refund from a car dealer for selling lethal motors! In the UK, the law would be on your side, but of the 3 abogados I have spoken with, only one is optimistic about my claim! ONE! FFS!!!!!
Add to this the wee niggles, such as the brain-dead town planners who put pedestrian crossings immediately after a roundabout exit or a handful of yards /before/after a junction. In other words....just where your attention would NOT be focused at that time!
Then there's the copious dog poo on the pavements and the shops closing 2 - 4 pm which drives me and my friends/neighbours *many are South American) bonkers. Can you imagine a country with massive unemployment and empty coffers....yet it still finds time to put its feet up for 2 hours every day?? Honestly, you couldn't make it up.
So.......there are annoyances and difficulties here ain't all bad.
That said, I often wish I had chosen Asia.

Hi Tenerifediver,

I can understand your frustrations well!!... I have many similar experiences which I will spare everyone but maybe only this: Many times the discussion between my Spanish friends and myself end up in negative mood when the discussion goes into the direction of the Spanish economy.  I'm from Belgium, where workers start at 8 and have 30 mins break at 12  to eat the sandwich that they brought from home to start again working till 5. Now compare that to the average Spanish worker who arrives at your place at 9 (if at all he arrives! cause he may have met friends in the bar for a few "carajillos") stops at 11 to eat his "bocadillo" for 30 mins. Goes to town at 1 pm (20 mins drive!) to enjoy a full 3 course meal and drinks half a bottle of wine; comes back at 3:30 to 4 and calls it at day around 6 pm. That makes that he worked not a complete 6 hours while in the north people work their 8 hours round. Now, it is debatable what is the better lifestyle. But personally I like working a bit harder and have a few more euros in my pocket which buys me in turn a bit more freedom.
I agree with you about the working hours. Going to the capital of my province to deal with the admin mill is equally frustrating. I drive 2 hours going ... stand in line for 1 hour... be sent walking cause something is missing... but can't get it cause at 1 pm they pull the plug... I drive back 2 hours and return the  next morning... and the story repeats itself!
I leave it here...I'm still staying though!

But Tenerifediver... if you're into diving and you are still single and you regret that you're not in Asia...why not trying out some other country... or have one foot in both!?...Have you been to Thailand?... Philippines... great diving places!!!

Good luck in accepting a few things... not bothering with others... and enjoy life your way in this beautiful interesting and exciting country.

Kind greetings

Amusing stuff, Peter. Actually I am very familiar with the Asian countries you mentioned.  In fact it was a coin-toss.........a condo in Thailand or a house here.  I often wish.........well, you can imagine.

Take care


I can imagine well... but don't stay alone... Asia and Spain go well together!

Think of it.


Indeed. I just need a job so I can afford the luxury of travelling!

In response to the comments by Peter and Tenerife diver, I would only point out that in having work done in your home my wife and I have found that it usually better to go through established firms if the project is of significant size. Get a fixed estimate for work and workers show up at 8am and work to 6 pm with a 1/2 hour break, in our case in Alicante. We find it best to be present and observe to make sure that the work is done correctly. We have had a number of projects done, one being the expansion of our home to an adjacent lot and with the exception of a large construction project done 18 years ago, all have been completed with excellent quality at reasonable fees. Generally, I find the quality of work done in Alicante to be better than that in places I have lived in the US as work in the US is often done by untrained immigrants, while in Spain if contracted correctly, by seasoned professionals. Talk with locals to avoid hiring "chapuceros". As for government offices in Alicante, I have found they work pretty efficiently, most or all with number machines and displays, and in many, you call for an appointment. There are times that I wait for 1/2 hour to see a doctor, but I usually get an appointment the same day if I call early in the morning, much better than the US. I am married to a Spanish national and got my residency card here within a few weeks for a small fee. I applied five years ago for residency for my stepson in the US. The cost was over $600 and it took 3.5 years for him to be accepted. However he is now in line for a visa to enter the country and it has been two additional years. Trying to get information is useless in the USA. Needless to say, I am VERY happy to be in Spain and will take the Spanish burocracy over the American any day of the week.

Dear Claxnes,

Thanks for your reply and it is well appreciated and glad to hear this. I'm sure there are so many different experiences all over the country concerning working ethics and admin hours/facilitation.
Following a bit all the rhetoric from the (campaign) in the US... and having lived there for 1 year (in Idaho) It's indeed a big illusion to believe that the US is the "greatest Country" in the world... sure maybe for 1 aspect.... but when it comes to quality of life, you have made the right choice to move to Spain. Spain remains one of the best countries in Europe to live in, regardless of some of the admin challenges...and maybe ... I regret in fact, that indeed, as some are also pointing out, that Spain has not done enough efforts (and still has not realized enough) to protect the cultural-natural-architectural-agricultural heritage/landscape unique for Spain.

Kind regards


This type of research is always dodgy, you must also look at who is sponsoring the research. You would predict that high tax countries would have higher levels of happiness, because lots of people have more to spend than their economic worth because of redistribution of income.

Hey everyone,

My partner and I moved to Valencia, Spain about a year and a half ago, from Denver, Colorado. We are very happy living in Spain and believe it can be the happiest and healthiest country for people to live in. We take into account that our situation is also beneficial because I have dual nationality through my grandfather having been from Asturias, the north of Spain.

We love living in Spain and for me especially, it is a dream come true and one that I feel is in my blood; a calling to 'return home' I guess one can say. My family has some amazing history going back to the first Spanish Republic and was involved in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side.

All our housing experiences here have been wonderful, each home being even more amazing and wonderfully affordable than the last. We now have settled into Denia, south of Valencia, right on the beach. Cost of living is very affordable and downright inexpensive; from food and drink at home to eating out, transportation and travel costs within Spain and Europe, and activities and cultural/community involvement - it's high quality of life at low costs.

It's also interesting to take into account that we are not retired (yet). I'm actually in my early 30's and we still work, having our own businesses and working online. We make choices about our lifestyle that differ from the social norm in both the US and Spain, we feel. Like we still do not have a car and we live quite minimally. All our belongings fit into 3 large suitcases if we wanted. We rent our home and rent it furnished.

Overall, we believe it is all about our attitudes and choice of perspective. To see things in a positive, abundant perspective and make choices that feel good to our heart, is what has expats and locals alike, enjoying an amazing life in Spain and loving this country. Like attracts like and we create our realities.

We think Spain is the happiest country for us because we choose to be happy here and follow that bliss. We're so happy and grateful to be at home here in Spain.

Loved this conversation and hope to see any of you connecting with us on our travel site. We would love your stories and great discussion there as well:

It is so good to hear such a wonderful story. I too can work online and from our last visit the area where you presently live appealed to us . we are close to making the move and consider Spain to hit all the boxes on our wish list .  glad to see you have "come home"  kind regards Bruce & Francine

Dear Bklynboy,

Thank you for your encouragement and kind words. I love hearing that you're considering Spain and specifically our part of Spain. We can't say enough great things about it. It really is a wonderful place to live within Spain and this world.

Let us know if we can answer any other questions you have and best of everything to you in your move and enjoying life in Espana :)

well now that you mention it , do you have a decent honest realtor that handles rentals with an online site to get an idea of what we can rent for starters. and on a personal note what areas do you think we should avoid? (there has to be a "sweet spot" where you get all the good and none of the bad of the neighborhoods.  thank you Bruce

You bet, Bklynboy!

We are good friends with Graham Hunt of They mainly buy and sell, but they also do rentals. He's a great guy, trustworthy and we've introduced him to many friends of our's and made friends through him here in Valencia area. Feel free to reach out to him and tell him Amalia and Eric referred you :) And his Facebook Page for the company can be great for getting an idea of what kind of places they have:

We do also have a couple of friends in Denia who work in real estate. One in particular just started his business here managing property and specializing in rentals. He could be a great contact if you're interested in Denia. His name is Dominic and his business Facebook page is:

We really think Denia is the perfect place in the community of Valencia. Not too small, not as big as a city, so more places and lifestyle right on the beach/closer to the sea. But it's only about an hour or so drive to Valencia and the villages inland of here in the mountains are great to enjoy and explore as well. Wonderful markets to go to!

We would stay away from Benidorm further south because of how touristy and developed it is. Also places like Javea and especially Moraira can be appealing but they seem more British / English than Spanish and can be more expensive as well.

If you're open to right in the city of Valencia we would recommend the Carmen neighborhood or Barrio del Carmen, just keep in mind that it can get busy with tourist in the summer and at other times of the year. There are some other nice parts of the Valencia center as well, like the new hip Ruzafa neighborhood. Very creative and artistic and centrally located. Lots of great places for good food and culture. The place in Valencia we would stay away from are the neighborhoods around either side of the City of Arts of and Sciences, which is at the end of the Turia Park. Had friends from NYC who bought a flat to renovate near there and the neighborhood was pretty ghetto and their building was noisy, dirty and run down. The streets there can tend to be dirtier too.

We spent over four months in Valencia and stayed in a variety of neighbors on other visits back as well. We still go often and love the city. While we do like visiting Madrid and Barcelona, we now feel after getting to know all three cities and being around much of the rest of Spain, that Valencia is a gem! It really just depends on your preference and desires.

Let me know on our site of any other questions you have and stay in touch so we can meet up when you get here! Hasta luego!

- Amalia & Eric

Amalia & Eric, thank you so much for the info . i know my wife and she likes to visit the busy cities for shopping  but would chose to live outside of them  . on another note since you have lived in spain have you thought of buying a home or apartment or is there still so much inventory around that it is cheaper at this point to rent? thanks again kind regards Bruce & Francine..

Amalia,  Healthcare  for americans in Spain is a issue that i don;t fully grasp. Is there a short version on options for americans needing good affordable healthcare in spain. We are lucky enough to be in great health but now that i am a bit north of 60(of course my wife is 9 years younger lol)  it is a concern. Thanks You guys are truly a great source of honest straight forward information  Bruce & Francine

Hi again Bklynboy,

I haven't been able to get back to your last two questions till now but hope this is still helpful.
I'll answer them here quickly because I'm going to go more in depth in the Living Abroad series we've started on our travel site:

Hope you can connect and stay in touch with us there as well since we're on there more.

For the question about renting or owning, we have only rented here. Both opportunities are great - renting is so inexpensive even with furnished places, but depend on location and style. Owning is also great - there are wonderful real estate opportunities here, especially in Valencia center. Amazing deals!

About health insurance, it is wonderful here, even for expats. We have friends who go to the dentist, eye doctors, and certain specialists even when they're just visiting Spain on vacation, because even out of pocket as a visitor, it's far more affordable than the US. But for ongoing and living here, just make sure you get your NIE, which is the card foreigners have to get for living here. I'll go into more detail on the blog soon about that. Once you have that, health care is so so affordable here. It's wonderful and will be no problem to have.

Thanks and look forward to staying in touch!

Bruce, healthcare is an issue but perhaps not as bad as you might think.  Some health plans in the US cover overseas; I'm a retired federal employee and my Blue Cross coverage pays the same benefits here (I live in Valencia) as it did at home. 

The key is that you have to have something already in place when you apply for the visa; but you can buy coverage for 100-150 euros a month per person, which of course is incredibly low by US standards.

It's worth noting that Medicare does not pay benefits overseas, and when you're eligible for it you might want to sign up for it; if you don't, and later move back to the US and need it, there's a penalty for the time you didn't have it.

There's a terrific web site called Idealista that gives you a very good idea for pricing info for both rental and purchase.  I would strongly urge that you rent for at least a year to be sure that it's all for you.  Living in Spain has been great for us, but there's a lot of challenges for a non-Spanish-speaker unless you live in a community with a lot of English-speaking immigrants/expats.

I agree. Spain is best....and so is Gibraltar.

Be in the streets in Spain and enjoy the sunshine. Been in Spain for over 30 yrs.....after London!

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