|Will your family choose a beachfront villa or a town centre flat?|
By Katie O'Neill
Following are some basic considerations you should keep in mind when shopping for a family neighbourhood in Andalucia. The area where you decide to live will have a big impact upon your lifestyle, so there are a few things you should think about before you even begin to look at houses.
If you choose to live in the centre of town or city - as many Andalusians do - you will have access to all the shops and services you should need, many within walking distance, and others by taking public transport. This can be very useful for someone who does not drive. However, you will also have the tradeoff of probably needing a garage to park your car in if you do drive, and of course the noise factor. In the city centre it is much more difficult (and costly) to find a house per se, with garden, etc; whereas apartment living is more the norm. This doesn't necessarily mean you will have to give up swimming pools or gardens; many apartment complexes, even very centrally located ones, include these amenities, as well as private parking. But whether or not the apartment complex has these things, there are municipal pools and sport centres that you may want to live near because of the sports programs that are offered for all ages. Music, art, languages and other programs are usually centrally located as well, for example at the "Casa de la Cultura", "Conservatorio", "Escuela Municipal de Música", and "Escuela Oficial de Idiomas".
If you choose to live more on the outskirts of a city or in the countryside, do be aware that you will be more isolated in all respects, such as shopping, nearness of friends, schools, sports centres, hospitals etc. You will most likely rely on a car to go anywhere. But you will probably have the quiet of the country and probably a lot more space for your money.
The school that you think you might like your child(ren) to go to is a very important consideration also, as you will be going anywhere from two to four times a day - depending on whether you choose an international or Spanish school and whether your children stay for lunch or go home to eat and then back in the afternoon. Look into what schools are in the areas you are considering, and find out what procedures there are for admitting new students (many schools have waiting lists). Naturally, your workplace (if you know it) is another factor to consider...riding a bike or walking to work is a luxury few people have nowadays, but it could mean having lunch at home, and perhaps even meeting your children at home for lunch, if their school permits leaving the campus and allows enough time to do so before returning after lunch (school schedules vary greatly, with some having lunch at school and getting out in the afternoon at four pm, others at five or six pm after a midday lunch break of a couple hours; others still get out at two pm without having eaten lunch and do not return later).
Also be aware that there are two kinds of "urbanizations" along the coasts. In the first type, foreigners tend to pre-dominate. These are often quieter, but many have few children and the families that settle there for year-round living sometimes feel isolated, especially during winter months. The second type are those where Spaniards predominate and these tend to come with plenty of friendship and integration opportunities for children, but they are also noisier. Many of the homes will also have large dogs, which will probably be chained and will usually bark quite a lot. This is part of the package in rural and suburban Spanish neighbourhoods.
Once you have narrowed down the neighbourhood, you may want to try to find out if there are other families in the area, providing friends for you and your children, as well as perhaps a little more tolerance to the lifestyle with children (especially if there are shared community areas that all ages will be using...not everyone likes hear children´s shouts while they are dozing by the pool). Being at home is much more pleasant if one has good relations with the neighbours.