An increasing number of Icelandic retirees and people receiving long-term disability benefits are settling in Spain, RÚV reports. Spain is becoming a popular place for these individuals to settle not only because of the country’s sunny weather, but also because it allows them to take advantage of affordable healthcare and to stretch their pensions and benefit payments much further than they’d be otherwise able to in Iceland. Costa Blanca is a particularly popular destination for Icelanders, as are the Canary Islands and Tenerife.
Almost 700 Icelanders have registered their legal domiciles in Spain, which is a 10% increase from last year. It’s difficult to estimate how many people who aren’t registered as permanent residents spend all or part of the year in Spain, but the number of registered legal domiciles is thought to only be the tip of the iceberg.
“I was just going up in smoke in Iceland,” remarked Birna Guðrún Jennadóttir, who is on long-term disability and now lives in Torrevieja. “I didn’t see any future.” Birna Guðrun said that she saw systemic problems with the Icelandic benefits system but knew they wouldn’t be resolved within her lifetime. She booked a ten-day trip to Spain but then ended up settling there permanently instead of coming back to Iceland. “When I first got here, I was just living in luxury. I’d long since stopped even going to coffee shops in Iceland,” she continued, stating it was simply an extravagance she couldn’t afford on her stipend. The only problem now, she said, is that she doesn’t speak Spanish and misses her family. But since moving to Spain, her daughter and grandchildren have come for a number of visits.
Another Icelander, Sigrún Jóhanna Þorsteinsdóttir, is on long-term disability and her husband is retired. Five years ago, they came to Spain on vacation and ended up selling their home in Iceland and purchasing one in La Zenia.
“Most people here are Icelanders,” she remarked, “and since we don’t speak Spanish, it’s also a question of language.” There is, however, a local association of Icelandic homeowners that operates an emergency phone and also has interpreters who accompany members to the doctor’s office or hospital.
In spite of the language barrier, Sigrún Jóhanna says that she’s very happy with the healthcare system, and never has to pay out of pocket for care, as the reciprocal European Health Insurance system covers all her needs.