Thematic Analysis - British Migrants Living in Spain

This essay deals with two of the most common pull and pull factors Spain had made British migrants move, these were the weather and the relaxed nature of life lead as well as the feeling of safety. With regards to integration, most of the interviewees found it hard, as they did not have prior knowledge of the language and very little spaces where to practice the language. Moreover, the essay also argues how certain activities carried out would help integration with Spanish community such as speaking the language and also taking part in their culture. 

When talking about migration, push and pull factors are a common comment on very discussion that takes place. Push factors are those factors that make an individual want to move such as violence or financial insecurity. Pull factors, on the other hand, are those factors that attract individuals to migrant from their home country to a new country, it offers the individual a better way of life. 

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Push and pull factors can easily be seen from analyses, one of the most common pull factor Spain had for many of the interviewees was the weather and also the more relaxed way of life the Spaniards lead. When asked about factors that made Peter (inter. 3), want to move to Spain, the weather was an important factor into the decision to move the whole family to Spain as, he argues that ‘we wanted the children to have a more of an outgoing kind of life, and we felt the weather is a contributory factor to that.’   When further asked to elaborate on the reasons for choosing Spain, Louise (inter. 9) answered as follows: ‘I’m in Spain because I like Spain and um, you know, the Spanish ways.’  

One of the most talked about push factor England offered and a pull factor for Spain, is the level of safety they feel. Moreover, the family environment is stronger in Spain, than in England which could also explain why they feel as though it is safer. Paul (inter. 3) when asked why Spain feels safer than England, he answered: ‘…Um, I think the family environment is stronger here. Um, … I think there’s more respect for the generations and um, potentially respect for property. You don’t seem to see awful amounts of graffiti, broken bus stops,..’ When asked a similar question, Katy answered that the Spanish ‘They don’t just try and get in your way where you walk or threaten you or anything, but in England they are just bored or something and look they just want to get in a fight’. From these answers, it can also be concluded that life back in England could have been possibly quite stressful and the relaxed pace of life in Spain was something they wanted for themselves. 

Literature shows that the better the language proficiency, the easier it will be to assimilate oneself in the host country (Adsera et al. 2016:342). Moreover, it helps in social integration and also helps with forming friendships. From the interviews analysed, one easily sees that most of the participants did not know the language well enough to be able to interact with the locals, instead an English community was formed.

Within the English community, one finds various groups and clubs that reflect more the English way of life rather than the Spanish. When asked about the clubs found within the community, Jane answered as follows: ‘That’s a really English thing isn’t it, a gardening club. These people seem to just want to create what they had back at home.’ The presence of these communities could also highlight the fact that as most of the British living in this town, don’t feel as if they have integrated with the Spanish and the clubs and the community is a means of making them feel at home when they are not. 

When asked whether or not the interviewees feel as though they are integrated within the Spanish community, most of them, if not all, answered that they do not feel as though they are integrated. The language barrier between the English and the Spanish seems to be the biggest common factor for the interviewees not feeling integrated however Peter (inter. 3), for example, felt that to be fully integrated within the Spanish community, one would need to speak the language, ‘ I think if you’re gonna stay here permanently and you’re gonna work here you’ve gotta learn the language.’  As some find it hard to integrate and assimilate with the Spanish, the importance that the English community has comes across when analysing further Andrew’s (inter. 16) comments about life in Spain, ‘I mean, life in Spain is all very well, but because you are, because you, because you never really integrate with the Spanish people. They tolerate you but you’re never accepted in. You always live on the margins, you’re always on the outside of everything that goes on. You can go to the ferias, you can go to the, the fairs, you can go to their local markets and all sorts of things like that but you’re never really part of things – other than the English community.’ 

An aspect of Diaz’s theory of integration (1993), which could help explain better how knowing the language will help integration, is communicative integration. This particular phase is characterised by learning the host country’s language and also the consumption of mass media. Upon analysing the interviews, one can easily notice how much use of mass media platforms like the radio and the television, the interviewees make use of. Jane (inter.4), answered that ‘I have Spanish radio on in the car, so I listen to that from time to time, but we haven’t got Spanish telly anymore not since we had Sky fitted’. So whilst making use of Spanish mass media, the radio particularly, the same cannot be said for the television. Rick (inter. 10) answered this question as follows, ‘yeah, well I watch the T.V. …But I do make sure I watch a bit of Spanish TV as well, even if it’s just for ten minutes.’  

Communicative integration also comes into play when talking about cultural integration. Taking interest in the hosts’ country’s culture such as the theatres and cinemas, for example, could help by making the British migrants more socially attractive to Spanish locals. This idea is discussed further by Blau (1990), in which he states that ‘the concept of attraction refers to favourable sentiments toward others which find expression in an inclination to engage readily in social intercourse with them’.

This also draws on Goffman’s theory of Impression Management as a way of controlling one’s image in order to be liked and accepted more easily by the locals, in this case. Therefore, participating in Spanish culture could be seen as a way of letting locals know that they are not in Spain simply to leave after a short while but to live the rest of their lives there.   

An interesting point that came out of one of the interviews, is the reasons as to why British migrants are not interested in Spanish politics. This particular interest in Spanish politics, after discussing further with the interviewees, sheds light on whether they are registered in the Spanish system or not.

When the researcher asked Peter as to why he thought British migrants did not register with either the town hall or residence papers, he answered as follows, ‘they have no interest in politics, they don’t want to pay their taxes, they are working on the black market, they could be renting, so they’re not settled.’  It also very easy to see that most of those interviewed do not know how to apply for residence papers, for example. This point is highlighted further, when talking to Jane (inter.4) about the Spanish public health service, as she says, ‘He pays social security of course, and that covers me as well, but we didn’t realise we have to apply for that, it’s not automatic, did you know?’ 

Another important factor that comes out the interviews is that as these interviews were held in a coastal town and so it is frequented by more tourists rather than Spanish people and so, one would find more people who would practice their English rather than Spanish. This point is further highlighted by Peter (inter.3), ‘...but anyway I tried to use my little bit of Spanish but there was no point, I mean all the waiters spoke English, and even when we left we go muchas gracias, you know and he goes, yeah, cheers mate.’ Louise (inter.9) further highlights this argument as she says, “where I live you have to speak Spanish but here on the coast you can get away without speaking any.’ 

In conclusion, one can easily see the importance language plays in integrating migrants with locals.  Moreover, participation in the country’s culture and politics all help in better integrating the migrant with the local community. Finally, as these British migrants have not integrated within the Spanish community, the presence of the English communities help the migrants still integrated and not experience isolation.



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