Young expats settle well into new life abroad, Spanish study finds

by Ray Clancy on July 23, 2014

Spain is a popular country for expats, especially families, and now new research shows that young people in particular integrate into Spanish life without any major problems.

For parents moving abroad, it is often a worry how youngsters will adapt to a new life, language and climate, but the Obra Social La Caixa study shows they generally have a good experience.

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Almost 80% of children experienced no major issues integrating into life in Spain

The research was based on 7,000 children between the ages 12 and 17, and looked at the type of issues unsettled youngsters might encounter: problems at school, leaving home, finding a job and getting involved in negative behaviour.

It found that 78.4% of this age group said that they had not experienced any of these problems, while 4.3% registered two or more of the problems.

Professor Rosa Aparicio, who led the study, pointed out that young expats feel much more accepted by Spanish society than their parents do, and find it straight forward to mix with local children, especially as they pick up the language faster.

“The data shows a positive adaptation process and a psychological and cultural convergence between children of immigrants and children of natives,” she explained.

She added that teenagers find it less stressful to integrate as they face less prejudice than adults, so the overall experience of moving to a new country and experiencing a new culture is more positive.

There are a growing number of activities and support groups provided by the international community for new expats in Spain, including websites and forums. Kids tend to make friends easily at school and this can help their parents too.

Also, many local parents are keen for their children to learn English and there are opportunities for making friends with Spanish families by arranging play dates and other activities.

More and more expat families are identifying a need for encouraging reading, writing and other activities that ensure children and teenagers can continue to develop their mother tongue.

For kids who need to learn Spanish quickly, most language schools offer courses for their age group. It is generally accepted that younger children pick up languages more quickly than older children, but it can take a year or so for kids to feel confident in communicating in Spanish at school.

Experts say that 10 years of age is the point after which it is harder to relocate children. Trying to integrate into a new culture can prove more of an issue than the language barrier, especially for teenagers.

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