When you are in Marbella it is not always possible to tell straight away which country you find yourself in – especially after a couple of Sangrias (jugs not glasses). For example, at a hair salon a tall blond Vikingy-looking man in red trousers could be chatting in English to his much shorter and darker hairdresser, both with heavy foreign accents, while a stunning lady in extremely high heels (and extremely short skirt) is discussing the hottest nail colour for her extremely long nails in a language that sounds complicated enough to be Russian. And with Radio Gibraltar in the background.
Opposite the salon, there is a coffee shop where Eric of Belgium bakes his wonderful cakes and to die for croissants. Next door is an Irish pub, then German kitchens, Dutch butcher, Danish interior design, Swedish golf club, and so on… Which planet are you on? And where are the Spanish?
Given this truly cosmopolitan spirit and unique mix of cultures and languages in a relatively small place, one does not feel like a bloody foreigner as often happens when moving countries – especially to non-English speaking countries. Everybody is a foreigner here and the Spanish don’t mind this at all. They are very friendly people, they do not try to rip poor tourists off as Italians often do, they do not ignore you as French often do, and while they are quite helpful and nice (as long as you don’t make them rush) it is unlikely that you will make close friends with them as they like to live in their own community.
A lot of Spanish speak English because in recent years it became necessary in order to have a career in this popular tourist destination. It is a well-known fact that it is possible to live in Costa del Sol without speaking Spanish at all, apart from some key phrases like “Una cerveza por favor”. All the necessary services, such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, insurance brokers, banks, car workshops, and of course, hotels, restaurants and real estate agencies are available in a range of languages, including English, German and Scandinavian. The only places that are an exception are government departments but it is not advisable to go there alone because even if you are able to speak Spanish you are unlikely to reach any understanding with a public servant.
Apart from many Spanish resorts that buzz with tourists enjoying the sun, the beaches and the Mediterranean cuisine in summer and that turn into depressing ghost towns in winter, Marbella is exciting all year round. Summer, then mid-term holidays, then Christmas and New Year, then mid-term, then Easter, and before you know it – it is summer again! And of course golf all year round. Any time of the year Marbella is lively, fun with a lot of activities on offer. Aside from tourists, Marbella has an impressive 20% permanent foreign population that escaped from gloomy grey shores of their native Northern European countries. This creates a very unique atmosphere and high quality lifestyle in a perfect setting.