What I miss about the UK – and what I would miss about Spain

Our resident in Spain, Sally Veal, has lived away from the UK for almost 20 years – 12 years in France and more recently on the Costa Brava. Here she has put together the things she misses most about the UK, and the things she would miss about Spain if she did move home…



I make frequent trips over to the UK to see my family and friends and it is they that I miss most. We get together as often as possible, but it isn’t quite the same as being able to “pop in” or decide today that we will meet for lunch tomorrow. Visits have to be planned and organised well in advance to fit in with everyone.

However, if I were to return permanently to the UK, I would not be living very close to either of my sons who are in London and near Leeds. My roots, such as they are, reside in southern England, Hampshire and Wiltshire, so it is to that part of the country I would go; it is where I feel comfortable even though I was born in London and spent part of my life in the city or its peripheries. I would still have to “arrange” to see my family, and in the end, I have come to the conclusion that I am a Mediterranean type, at my happiest in this lifestyle and culture.

After being away from the UK for so long, the things that I missed when I first moved to France no longer have the same importance, and I have accepted that there will be things that I can’t get here and which I look forward to when I go back.

When it comes to food, I sometimes crave a few British specialities such as Jersey new potatoes, small fresh spring onions, artisanal English cheeses (we can get cheddar and others, but not the truly delicious strong, crumbly or smooth ones), as well as some Indian spices or other ethnic delights.

It must be said that nowadays, a lot of British food items are available in Spain but at a price. In the areas where there are very large expat communities, there is of course a wider choice, with British stores such as Iceland or British supermarkets where you can get practically everything you bought back in the UK.

Where I live however, the expats are fewer in number, and so our selection is smaller. It no longer bothers me as I enjoy the good local produce that is available and adapt recipes where necessary using a local alternative to the original ingredients.

I suppose I miss the choice of good quality clothes at very reasonable prices in the UK. Here we have inexpensive clothes but they are mostly thrown together in China or you have to go for really lovely items that are expensive. There is very little in between.

I usually go shopping when I am back in the UK and, because I only do it occasionally, I actually enjoy it. Car boot sales English-style and, believe it or not, charity shops are on my list. I love browsing, just in the hope that I might find a little treasure that I didn’t know I needed!

There are car boot sales and second-hand markets in Spain, but in areas where there are a low number of British residents, they are few and far between. We did have one very good regular second-hand market near me on Saturday mornings, but the authorities closed it because, apparently, there were a lot of stolen goods for sale. Now there are just a few “professional” stands and the whole place has lost its charm and atmosphere.

What would I miss from Catalunya if I left and returned to the UK? Many things:


  • The Locals! I have made several very good Catalan friends here and I would miss them dearly.

  • My expat friends. I only have a few, but they are lovely people.

  • Living outside more than inside.

  • Sunshine!

  • Later breakfast, lunch and supper.

  • Shops open until 8pm in the winter and much later in the summer.

  • Having a drink in a bar or outside for a price I can afford.

  • Lunching with friends for around €12 a head, including bread, water and wine.

  • The beaches in winter, when they are deserted.

  • The culture (except for Sardanes, the traditional Catalan dance).

  • Jazz and other music available free or for very little money.

All in all, I think I will stay where I am. Skype allows me to see my grandchildren regularly and to chat to friends. Email and other modern technologies mean that I am always in touch with those I care for and a trip on a plane is always possible – for them and for me.

Further reading for Living In Spain


Finding work

There are a number of ways that UK expats can fund their lifestyle in Spain.

Read more..


Social life in Spain

Find out as much as you can about your new community and find new friends.




Arrange health insurance and locate your new local hospitals and practices.



Education in Spain

Emigrating with school-age children? Learn more about schooling in your local area.