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LIFE IN SPAIN

These are the 17 absolute worst things about living in Spain

Graham Hunt is an Englishman who has spent more than half his life living in Spain. Here he takes a cheeky look at what we all hate about living here.

These are the 17 absolute worst things about living in Spain
Photo: mandygodbehear/Depositphotos

These are the 17 worst things about living in Spain: (WARNING: This article is laden with sarcasm).

1. The Zenlike challenge that is bureaucracy (not too sarcastic here). It should be treated as such because otherwise you might just go on a “spree”.

2. Having to put up with all of these holidays. You just cannot get into the groove of working here because there are too many opportunities to have barbecues with friends, go out for something to eat and stay out late because there is no work tomorrow.

3. That you may have to enjoy the rain because it might be the last time that you see it for quite a long time. I want to be able to complain about the weather. It’s not fair.


Photo: grafvision/Depositphotos

4. Having too much fruit and veg in your garden at various times of the year when you get a windfall. Oranges, plums, apples or whatever you are growing because things grow so easily here. Make it a challenge mother nature please.

5. Having to put up with children and families in restaurants because they are allowed in and welcomed with open arms. It’s really annoying when it should be more like a Catholic Mass with whispering and reverence for the food and having to put up with disapproving looks when you make a sound over 5 decibels.

6. Having to put up with people coming and visiting and absolutely loving it and envying you for a living in Spain. Why can’t they just leave us alone in our misery as described every day in the Daily Mail?

7. Not being able to spend enough on a bottle of wine to impress people when you visit their houses. They always know it only cost you a few euros for whatever you bring round.


Photo: gregorylee/Depositphotos

8. Not getting the opportunity to buy loads of coats, raincoats, umbrellas and hats to keep out the cold and wet. Please climate, come on, give us a chance of being fashionable with rainwear.

9. Not being able to get awful food in fast food stores everywhere and having to put up with that home-cooked rubbish that takes forever to cook that they do in the majority of bars and restaurants when you want a menu of the day. Can they just not do quick tasteless food?

10. Getting woken up every day by bells from a church or fireworks as another pointless Catholic Fiesta goes ahead in your neighbourhood. We want peace and quiet, not happiness and celebrations!


An Easter procession in Palma de Mallorca. Photo: AFP

11. Having to put up with those endlessly long straight motorways with no other traffic on them and driving your car through cities with little congestion. We want road rage please. It’s what keeps us edgy and alive.

12: Having to put up with coffee that isn’t from Starbucks or Costa Coffee and only costs between €1 and €1.50. When will the Spanish learn they can make much more money by overcharging for a huge polystyrene cup of froth and sugar rather than sticking to actual coffee?

13: Cities are just too small. There is no huge sprawling city like Mexico DF, Shanghai or Calcutta where you can get lost. This in turn means that you are never far from nature. Nature, yuck! We have spent years trying to get away from it in the rest of the world with sprawling cities and now we have to be near to it again.

14: You have to start drinking later because the pubs open much too late and where is the 11 o’clock bell meaning you have to leave so you can get ready for work the next day? They just carry on forever… and they do lock-ins!



Photo: James Pallinsad/Flickr 

15: And speaking of alcohol why is it so cheap here for Pete’s sake. You would think they wanted us to get drunk every now and again or something.

16: The roast chicken shops. Why should we have to put up with the gorgeous delicious smell of roast chicken as we walk down the street in every Spanish town? Thoughtless for foreign vegetarians… (There aren’t any Spanish vegetarians, are there?)

17: Having to put up with your family. In other countries we don’t have to put up with our family why should it be so in Spain? Family picnics, family days out, family reunions and more. We want more solitude.

Photo: monkeybusiness/Depositphotos

So what would you add? What are more of the worst things about living in Spain? Leave your comment below or join the discussion on The Local Spain's Facebook page

Graham Hunt is a real estate agent and relocation expert. Originally from just outside Liverpool he came to Spain as a student and never left. Read more at his blog or follow him on Twitter.

 

MONEY

Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.

READ MORE:

Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 

 

Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.

Santander

Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.

BBVA

The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.

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