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The great Spanish love affair

06th July 2012

It's fair to say that the British have a great deal of affection for Spain. Millions continue to holiday in the sun-swept country, year after year, despite the fact that the globalisation of air travel has made it easier and cheaper to fly anywhere in the world.

While that may afford people the opportunity to explore deeper and wider than before, which some no doubt will, Spain, like a welcome breeze on an enchanting summer's day, is irresistible. They leave something behind in the country, a piece of their heart, waiting, knowing that at least every year, they will be able to pick it up again. Spain is a great love affair.

It's not hard at all to see why British people hold the country in such high regard. The gorgeous climate, for one, is most appealing, a stark contrast to the capriciousness of the British weather. If anything typifies Spanish weather, then it's the dominance of sunshine, whatever the season.

This is important to note, especially for professionals moving to Spain … the country has seasons. Moreover, because of its geographical location, the country experiences three kinds of weather, from Mediterranean (hot summers, mild and wet winters), to continental (as above, but inland, the summer is drier for longer), and oceanic (cool summers, mild winters). An umbrella and stylish trench coat or mac will be part of your wardrobe.

Spain captivates also because of its exuberance, and it's a nation that is self-assured in its perceivably flamboyant personality and colourful culture. From the traditional and much misunderstood sport of bullfighting to the liveliness of the flamingo art form (song and dance) and the enviable custom of the siesta (a nap during the hottest part of the day), the country is unlike anywhere else in the world.

Add to that a wonderful attitude to food, companionable, open, lavish and varied, where everyone digs in and shares – complemented with good and affordable wine – arresting backdrops and beautiful utopian coasts, and manmade architectural triumphs – from age-old castles like the very grand Alcazar of Segovia and modern day gems like the Guggenheim Museum – and you begin to see why people fall in love with Spain.

Such is the ardour that approximately 400,000 British have felt confident and comfortable enough to live and work in the historic country, which represents the highest percentage of expats anywhere in Europe (France is the second most populous with more than 150,000 British people based there, followed by Germany with just over 100,000).

Spain is, compared to the UK, much more relaxed, a calmer place to live, with a sort of meandering mood dictating the pace of life in the country. That's not to say it is indolent, lacking in vibrancy or airing a certain languid temperament – far from it. Its cities do bright cosmopolitan life, shopping and the hustle and bustle of big business as well as any other in the world, it's just that they do so with a pinch of cool detachment. Life is to be enjoyed.

The great 20th century Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who was part of the Generation of '27 – an influential group of poets – captured the country's inimitable spirit remarkably well when he observed with spiky black humour that the dead in Spain are "more alive than the dead of any other country in the world".

In her book Living Abroad in Spain (2004), the former New York magazine writer Nikki Weinstein recounted when she first came across this well-quoted line. She repeated it back to a Spanish friend of hers who replied with a smile on her face that it perfectly captured the country. Why exactly, she couldn't explain, only that "it felt right".

"Perhaps that really is why Lorca’s description of Spain is so fitting—because it elicits a feeling that is even more important than the actual words," Ms Weinstein wrote in her informative book.

"It often seems that what binds Spain together is a collective feeling. Emotion is the unifying glue in a culture awash with contradictions, rife with regional differences, and alive with the past. From Galicia to Ibiza, the Spanish jump into life heart first."

Perhaps it stems from its mixed historical fortunes. From its dominance as a world power, a true pioneer in exploration across the tempestuous expanse of the oceans, from which it conquered and created its empire, to the endurance of 36 years of dictatorship under general Francisco Franco, Spain has enjoyed absolute highs and experienced massive lows. What have they learnt? That life happens, so live it, be happy, enjoy that nap, eat another olive, dance into the night.

For everything in Spain is touched by a passionate zest. From intellectual discourse within the upper echelons of high office to a riveting debate about football to brooding ponderings about the skills needed to be a great Matador, there's a real zeal emanating throughout. Unrushed though, for tomorrow is another great day.

Cadogan Tate is a specialist in international shipping and can help professionals relocating to Spain with transporting their belongings, furniture and valuable items.

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