7 Reasons Not to Retire in Gran Canaria

Although retiring to Gran Canaria might sound like a good plan, don’t start packing your bags just yet. When you choose where to retire, you are making a decision for life. You are going to buy a home and spend the rest of your days in the location of your choice, which means it is crucial to choose the right location for you.

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If you have visited Gran Canaria many times on holiday and fallen in love with it, you should bear in mind that retiring and living somewhere is very different from visiting there as a tourist. Here are 7 cons to weigh in with your pros:

1) YOU’LL BE FAR FROM HOME

Retire to the coast and you can get home (if there is an emergency or if your friends or family need you) in an hour. Retire to mainland Spain and you can be home in 2 hours. Retire to the Canaries, which are located just off the north coast of Africa, and the flight alone is 4 hours.

When my Dad had an accident I discovered there was just one flight a week from Gran Canaria to Exeter. If your children visit you often (or vice versa) that won’t be happening after you retire to Gran Canaria. Can you really bear to swap your weekly visits for a one-week holiday in the summer and a few phone calls? You will be far from home and you will feel like you are.

2) SUMMER CAN BE UNBEARABLY HOT

Visit Gran Canaria in different seasons to make sure you can cope with the sometimes extreme weather. If you usually spend the winter in Gran Canaria and the summer in the UK (I know a few couples who do this) the summer might come as a shock. 40 C is not unheard of during August. 50 C can happen during a sirocco. I even suffered 60 C during one sirocco (calima).

If you can afford air conditioning (a fan is useless during sirocco) at least you can stay indoors. If not, your usually cool swimming pool will be hot, the “cold” water coming out of your shower will be hot and popping to the shop to pick up more ice and bottled water will be an ordeal. Likewise, when it’s 13 C in the winter and you don’t have central heating or double glazing you might dream of being next to an open fire back in the UK. You will miss the seasons, you’ll miss the “fresh” weather, you will miss the rain, you will miss the Autumn colours. You will miss the summer nights being light until 10pm. This far south it’s dark by 8pm even in the summer. Maybe you don’t believe such things are miss-able but just wait and see.

3) THE CULTURE IS VERY DIFFERENT

Canarians are nothing like the Brits or Irish (or any other nationality I know) and I’m saying that after 12 years of living here. Some things that seem normal to you seem strange to them, and vice versa. The Canarians like different food and different entertainment. They hold different values and have different hobbies. They even speak a different language! Canarians don’t understand sarcasm. They don’t get British humour. They don’t identify with British customs or etiquette.

They don’t know what’s going on in EastEnders or Coronation Street, they don’t know anything about the UK (apart from the absolute basics) and they don’t want to know either. You will find the odd exception but prepare for the worst. I’ve been here for 12 years and, although I have plenty of friends, I don’t have one Canarian friend. We’re just too different, I guess. I’m not anti-Canarian but I have 50 non-Canarian friends and no Canarian ones. Fact.

Photo by Hector Garcia

4) WHAT WILL YOU MISS?

Think about this one. What will you really miss? What do you like to do at the moment? What makes up the larger part of your day? Do you have a local pub where everyone knows you? Do you like to visit your children or grandchildren? Do you like High Street shopping? Do you enjoy eating out at good restaurants? Do you like British food and drinks at reasonable prices? You can forget most of that when you retire to Gran Canaria.

You can find a new local pub but that will take time. You won’t find as many shops as in the typical UK shopping centre or High Street. You can get imported British food and drink at super-inflated prices or learn to like Canarian food. You will miss your children and grandchildren. Spending an hour on Skype or MSN Messenger is not the same as living a 10 minute drive away. Your grandchildren will visit you in the summer and you will be shocked to see they’re a foot taller.

Photo by Mr Bill

5) INTEGRATION CAN BE HARD

Living in a place where they speak a different language, have different beliefs, customs and more can be difficult. Moving from the North of England to the South can be hard enough but moving from the UK or Ireland to the Canaries can present even more problems.

Not only do you have to deal with all the day-to-day things but you will also need to open a bank account, buy a house, work out how to get your UK pension, buy a car and more. You will need to learn the language or afford an English-speaking lawyer. There will be misunderstandings, delays (what is important to you will be “yeah, manana, whatever” in Gran Canaria). Half my mail doesn’t arrive. Half of what I send doesn’t arrive either. The shops close for “siesta” from 1pm until 4pm or 5pm. The locals like to stay up until 2am (with their kids) and make as much noise as they can (or at least our neighbours do and so did the last ones and the ones before them).

6) THE LANGUAGE BARRIER

I’m not saying you can’t learn Spanish because of course you can if you want to. You cannot learn it overnight though. If you are determined to retire to Gran Canaria you will want to learn Spanish in the UK or wherever you are from before you come over. Some Canarians speak English but don’t expect it to be spoken outside the resorts. Don’t expect your doctor to speak English. Don’t expect your waiter to speak English (unless you’re in one of the resorts).

Photo by Claire Guzman

And don’t forget that Canarian Spanish bears very little resemblance to classic Spanish. They have different words and they pronounce things lazily, leaving off letters and sometimes omitting entire syllables. I have an A level in Spanish but it took me months to get used to the Canarian drawl. Sometimes I still can’t keep up.

7) GRAN CANARIA IS FOR TOURISTS

The island is full of tourists. If you’re on holiday you expect to hear drunk people singing outside your window at 3am. You expect the local shop to be packed with sweaty tourists in bikinis and Bermuda shorts. You might even expect to be hassled every single day by timeshare touts, reps from bars and restaurants trying to drag you in (because they’re on commission, not because the place is any good) and by other people trying to con you or sell you things you don’t want. Having to say “no thank you” every day becomes tedious.

Photo by Mr T Man

So now what are you thinking…?

If you live in one of the main resorts, it will be like being on holiday for a few weeks and that will be fun. After that it depends whether you can put up with the endless hordes of tourists and everything that goes with tourism. It is very expensive to find a house, villa or bungalow in the tourist area besides, and the shops in the tourist resorts are really expensive. Do you really want to pay one pound fifty for a half-litre of milk or eighty pence for a peach? If you plan to live outside the tourist resorts, your neighbours will only speak Spanish and you will be totally away from any other Brits or Irish.

So you have a choice to make. I strongly suggest you read the above advice and bear it in mind. There are enough articles on the internet about how great Gran Canaria is and how wonderful it is to retire somewhere sunny but you might end up thinking the sun is the only good thing about the island. And once you realise what you miss, it might be too late.

My objective with this post is to give you the flip-side. Every cloud might have a silver lining but that means every silver lining has a cloud.

Weigh up the pros and cons. Visit the island during different seasons. Spend 3 months there and see how you feel.

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Perhaps retiring to Gran Canaria would suit you perfectly. Or perhaps it would be the biggest mistake of your life.

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62 Comments

  1. Oliver

    Some ridiculous comments if you ask me…..
    – there’s only one flight a week to Exeter, oh dear! Could you not travel from Bristol, Cardiff, Bournemouth, Southampton or even London?
    – the summers are not generally really hot at all, save for a few days max every month, and I very much doubt you suffered in 60 deg, as the highest temperature EVER recorded in Gran Canaria is in fact only 44 deg!
    – you don’t have to live among tourists at all, there’s not many tourists in Las Palmas and even less in Telde.
    – there are plenty of shopping high streets and high quality restaurants in Las Palmas.
    – no one who lives in Maspalomas actually shops at the local Spas or even Hiperdinos, except for last minute items, they go to Mercadona, Erurospar or Carrefour.
    – all your comments about the language and Spanish culture etc apply just as equally to the Spain mainland or any other islands, save for the flight time possibly.

  2. Mason MD

    For me, Victoria’s post was very helpful. Nothing about it was dismissive/hostile towards the people of CI. Much more was it about those few citizens of the UK who, after enjoying maybe 3-4 weeks on vacation, decide impulsively that this is how they want to spend the rest of their life. Mostly the post was about the foibles of such people.
    On the other hand, the rude and hostile comments of a few of the commentators…I can only say: you reveal more (too much) about yourself than you do of Victoria. “Bigoted”, “fuddy-duddy” I find particularly offensive, worse: simply juvenile. Grow up!!!!
    I have never been to CI, hope to travel there this winter, unless the Covid panic-demic prevents me (from the USA). I shall certainly refer to this blog (all the other posts) as one of my guides.
    All the best to the rest you!!

  3. Lindsey

    I have lived in Gran Canaria for 13 years and never once has it reached 60 degrees! What an exaggeration! It also does not get dark at 8pm in summer, it actually gets dark at exactly 9.30pm. And then in the depths of winer in gets dark at exactly 6.30pm so you get another 2 or 3 hours more of daylight than im the UK. Saying that canarian spanish does not resemble “castellano” is ludicrous as well. I am perfectly bi lingual due to my years there and have no issues in the islands or on mainland. Also how can someone live somewhere for 11 years and not have 1 local friend?? Crazy. If all you want to do is eat british food and drink british drinks and speak to british people then it is true, Gran Canaria is not for you 😂

  4. Jennifer Ward

    You sound like someone who has a big problem with heat. This is usually true of fat people. Are you fat? And the temperature has never reached 60 degrees anywhere on earth, ever in the history of the world. So lying like this puts the rest of your post into doubt as well.

    And you have to find a new pub when you move to a new place, imagine that! You sound like a very hostile person and it’s no wonder you can’t make friends. If it’s so terrible, then why don’t you just move back to England?

  5. Mario H.

    I think it might be good to recheck the temperatures you listed. 🙂 I think the record high temperature in the Canary Islands is around 45 C. The world record temperature is just under 57 C, and that was in Death Valley, California. I take it you’re from the UK, where even summer temperatures are probably not that warm (for me at least)? I’m in Southern California, so it gets quite warm here.

  6. Chris

    Since the current record for the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth is 56.7 degrees, I suggest you give the Guinness Book of World Records a ring. Or could it be that you’re exaggerating just a tad?

  7. Joseph

    A good idea to stay in the uk if you wanted to watch benders and stay british!
    Awful article you should take it down, it’s disrespectful, ignorant, abusive and nadding fictio in there to!

  8. Bribu

    Thank you Lindsey for calling out the exaggerations and oversimplifications in this blog. I felt particularly offended by the paragraph about culture. It is sad to read that someone who has apparently lived there for over a decade has such little appreciation or understanding of the culture she chose to live in (“I’m not anti-Canarian…prepare for the worst..”???? And one of the most ignorant statements is about the Canarian dialect and speakers pronouncing “things lazily”. What a snobbish and uneducated thing to say about another culture’s language, a culture which she chose to live in. No wonder she doesn’t have any Canarian friends…

  9. María Robinson

    Hello! I have read the first comment of this site and heaven! How can any one expect to go to the Canary Isles and find that the culture and way of life is same as the British one. Why would a Spanish person would need to resemble an English person and the vice versa, heavens! I think the most interesting thing of going to another country is to find that: the culture, food, sense of humour and everything else are all different from ones own. How narrow minded is that? Well, please do not settle in neither the Canaries, nor another country if you expect to eat an English diet. It is better for you to stay in your own country and avoid being offensive to another race. The issue of weather: Imagine that the whole of the planet had the same temperature…The balance of the vegetation woul dimish. There are no bananas growing in the UK or Victoria Plums in the Canaries but that’s good! It is important to have respect for other nations and cultures, you can stay at home if you like. 🤦🏻‍♀️

  10. JIM SCOTT

    The hottest temp since 1980 was approx 39c ? So I’ll take rest of blog with a pince of salt

  11. Ricardo

    To a non-British person, every point made me think GC might be the ideal place to retire. You remind me of an American…every place you visit has to be exactly like your home. You want US products, English spoken wherever you go, and don’t want to assimilate into THEIR culture. Remember, you’re the tourist visiting their lovely culture. If you choose to retire there, do it for the right reasons, not just for the dry, sunny, and warm temperatures. If that’s the only reason you want to move there, save your money, drink your warm beer, and buy a sun lamp.

  12. Oriana

    Serious, the only thing said totally true in this (let’s call it) article is you’ll be far away from home. I’m canarian and I’ve been since I was 10 investing my time and effort in understanding your languague, wich is a great part of any culture as far as I’m concerned. And still I commit mistakes, big ones, and it’s difficult to understand tv and stuff like that, even though I try to meet English people to practise every now and then.
    I know my case is parcular, but so is your opinion. This article just stands for part of the true.
    If you wanna get an idea of Gran Canaria, come and visit
    We have all kind of people, all kind of weather depending on the season, good food from all regions of Spain, and lot of people studing English in order to meet you
    Nice day!!!

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