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I left UK for Spain & will never go back – beers are £1.20 & bills cost peanuts

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ALMOST 20 years ago Carrie Frais sold her one-bedroom London flat – and bought a five-bedroom house in Barcelona for the same price.

The Brit mum-of-two and her family have lived in Spain since 2006 and now she says there is little reason for her to ever return.

Carrie Frais says there is nothing in England worth moving back from Spain for

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Carrie Frais says there is nothing in England worth moving back from Spain forCredit: Supplied
Carrie and her dog Reggie at her home in Barcelona

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Carrie and her dog Reggie at her home in BarcelonaCredit: Supplied
Carrie and a friend living it up on the beach

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Carrie and a friend living it up on the beachCredit: Carrie Frais

“Literally everything is cheaper,” Carrie, 54, told The Sun from her home in the Spanish city.

“From public transport to food to eating out to produce to clothes to property – everything is so much cheaper, even compared to the rest of Europe.”

Working as a broadcast journalist, Carrie had spent years travelling between the UK and Spain for work, before meeting her now-husband, who persuaded her to up sticks permanently.

The pair moved over and had their two children Poppy, 17, and Bertie, 15.

Now a freelance journalist, Carrie has become an expert at navigating the challenges of settling into expat life – so much so that she has built a business around it.

She and her friend, Jane Mitchell, started Mum Abroad in 2008 when they noticed how few resources were available for families with children who had moved countries.

Carrie and her family are four of the estimated 784,900 British nationals living somewhere in Europe.

In the year ending June 2023, the number of people who emigrated from the UK was 508,000 – an increase of 37,000 from the previous year.

Why Spain?

For Carrie, Barcelona’s main appeal is the relaxed culture. She says people are less obsessed with wealth, inflation is lower, and she doesn’t have to pay to go on pricey beach holidays.

Instead, she and her family can spend their breaks wandering the coastal town and soaking up the sunshine before returning home without a pound spent.

Viva la Vida: The 5 Glorious Benefits of Living in Spain

If she decides to take the family out for a meal, Carrie expects to pay between €50 (£42) for a four-person dinner, with a few glasses of wine included.

“There’s so much choice as well, and of course it’s tapas so you get lots of lovely little plates,” she says. “They make local dishes with local produce so that brings quality up and prices down.”

It’s a far cry from London, where the average cost of a meal is £30 per person.

A lunchtime meal in Spain is even cheaper, thanks to the menú del día

Having spoken to friends and family there doesn’t seem, for me, particularly much that I would go back to [in England]

Carrie Frais

Menú del día was introduced by the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco and means menu of the day.

Originally required by law to try and draw tourists in, it is now a staple for many restaurants and offers a starter, main and dessert or coffee for a set price.

Carrie said when she first made the move, the average price for one of these lunches was around €7, but it is now closer to €12 – approximately £10.

Cheap booze

Popping out for a pint is cheaper still.

“Water is more expensive than beer or wine here,” Carrie says. “If I was going out for a drink I’d probably be looking at €1.50 to €2.

“But we don’t have the culture here of going out and getting the pints in, the drinking culture here is much more civilised.”

She adds that her family is able to save countless Euros on things like holidays.

“The things you might pay for in England like beautiful holidays in the sunshine, they have no cost.”

“We don’t really take holidays.”

Lower bills

Her bills are cheaper, too. Carrie’s home has solar panels and with the weather in Spain being a far cry from gloomy England she says the electricity is next to nothing.

“The initial price to install them is expensive but now we hardly pay any electricity at all.”

By comparison, the average monthly bill in England is around £1690.

Although she gets pangs of longing for Britain, Carrie is perfectly happy to stay where she has put roots down.

One of the things she loves about Spain is the laidback lifestyle – she is glad to be rid of the high-powered London lifestyle where money talks.

Carrie’s ‘Moving to Spain’ checklist

Carrie started mumabroad.com to help UK families moving overseas. Here is her checklist for moving to Spain.

  1. If you’re not from the EU, you’re going to need a visa. To get a visa, you’ll need a job offer, university place, pension, self-employed business, relative in Spain, sufficient funds to support your costs, or €500,000 to invest in Spanish property.
  2. Find a solution to transfer money without expensive fees, use an online banking app, or get your NIE to set up a Spanish bank account.
  3. If you’re not investing in property, research rent prices in your chosen region as costs vary wildly dependent on location.
  4. If you’re not from the EU, working in Spain, or paying social security contributions in Spain you might need private healthcare.
  5. Means to pay an average of €1,000 a month in rent and monthly living costs.
  6. If you’re not from the EU, you may need an international driving licence, and then a Spanish licence after six months in Spain.
  7. Find a private school that teaches in English or another foreign language, or prepare for private English lessons, or your child might have difficulty accessing higher education in their home country.
  8. Make sure your dog or cat is microchipped and your dog has had a rabies jab.
  9. Learn Spanish or hire the services of a translator or expat specialist to organise initial administrative tasks.

“That whole thing about keeping up with the Joneses you know, where your kids go to school, what car you’re driving, how big your house is, the labels on your clothes.

“Here, you can pretty much be who you want and people respect that authenticity.”

“I thought I would go back and live in the UK at some point and what has changed is I don’t think I will anymore. Having spoken to friends and family there doesn’t seem, for me, particularly much that I would go back to.”

Carrie has lived in Barcelona since 2006 and loves the lifestyle

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Carrie has lived in Barcelona since 2006 and loves the lifestyleCredit: Getty
She says the Spanish lifestyle works for her so much better than the British one does

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She says the Spanish lifestyle works for her so much better than the British one doesCredit: Carrie Frais
Reggie the dog chilling on Carrie's wisteria laden patio in Spain

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Reggie the dog chilling on Carrie’s wisteria laden patio in SpainCredit: Carrie Frais
Carrie's two children Poppy and Bertie were born and raised in Barcelona

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Carrie’s two children Poppy and Bertie were born and raised in BarcelonaCredit: Supplied

Since she arrived, Carrie has been busy not only with Mums Abroad but 4Voices – a platform that encourages teenagers to get comfortable with public speaking – as well running a co-working space, hosting events and podcasting.

“I just think when you say expat most of us have the image of an old British man in a linen suit and a boater – it comes with that image of superiority and being more affluent as well,” she says.

Carrie urges anyone who is considering a switch to another country to do their research and be prepared for the experience to have its highs and lows.

“I think a lot of people are seduced by these fantastic shows that we see on television about life in the sun – but you don’t exist in the sun, you’ve got bureaucracy to go through!” she says.

“Being abroad initially can be enthralling and glamorous at times but it can also be very lonely and if you don’t speak the language it can be hugely difficult to integrate.

“You’ve got to find your tribe and be open about how you feel.”

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