Article by Vivion O’Kelly
A handful of cities around the world are named each year by various business and lifestyle publications as the most ideal places to live in, and Málaga is one of them. Its most recent appearance on such a list, although more specific this time, is in a Forbes article titled “The 20 Best Places for Americans to Live, Invest, Work in Europe”, with Málaga listed among three other cities in Spain, the others being Madrid and San Sebastian.
Málaga is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Its history is in its name. When the Phoenicians decided to establish a settlement on this spot close to a thousand years before the Western World started counting, they called it Malaka. Then came the Carthaginians and then the Romans, who named it Malaca. The Moors kept the name, calling it Malaqah, until reconquest just a few years before the fall of Granada and the name we know today.
The city is ideally situated, in a way being slap bang in the middle of Europe, because these days, we use air travel as a measurement of how quickly and easily we can get to the other great cities of Europe. For example, it’s quicker and cheaper to get to and from London or Berlin from Málaga than it is from much of the south of France or most regions of Italy.
The Forbes article mentions various criteria that include health care, quality of life, international flight connections, cost of living, the presence of a large foreign community, education and international schools, low crime rates and internet connectivity, also stating that “If you love Europe for its culture, openness, architecture, events, tradition or gastronomy, you will love Málaga.”
That about covers it, apart from the sand, sun and beer, if that’s what takes your fancy. But Málaga has always meant a great deal more than an easy life in the sunshine, and credit to the Americans for recognising this. We’re essentially talking here about places for American expats to live in all year round, to invest in and to start new projects in. As they say in Forbes, this is also one of the cities in Europe “with the best quality of life, best internet connections for remote working so that you can keep your job in the US or launch your online project and set up business.” The concentration of museums in the city where Picasso was born, they add, is the highest per square kilometre in Europe.
They finish by commenting that the city is family friendly, very suitable for single and gay people, and for retirees who wish to live an active and culturally rich life in an open-minded society, offering a variety of international schools in one of the Spanish destinations with the highest tourist growth in the country.
So much for the ancient and beautiful city of Málaga, but we make more or less the same claims for Marbella, just a 40-minute easy drive away on excellent roads along what is often referred to as the California of Europe. To put it in a US perspective, from Málaga city centre to Marbella, as the crow flies, is the same distance as from San Francisco out to Palo Alto. That means that even if Marbella on its own were not a great destination for living and working Americans, which it most certainly is, it would still measure up to the Forbes criteria.
Many well-known Americans and people relevant to American culture have made Marbella their home, temporary or otherwise, over the years, including Mel Ferrer and his wife Audrey Hepburn, Jean Negulesco, Stewart Granger, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, Sean Connery, Peter Viertel and Deborah Kerr. Málaga city is most famously associated with one of America’s greatest writers, Ernest Hemingway, who stayed and wrote in what is now one of the best restaurants south of Madrid, outside the city in Churriano.
Marbella also has magnificent museums, great restaurants, excellent internet connection, international schools, top quality hospitals and almost all that Málaga city can offer, with the added attraction of a more peaceful lifestyle and easier-to-get-to beaches. Many Americans already run successful businesses there, from bars and restaurants to real estate development companies, and of course, many Americans have already chosen Marbella as a retirement or holiday-home destination. There are a number of lively American clubs in the town, both social and political, catering to a growing number of US citizens moving to the area in recent years, partly as a result of Michele Obama’s stay in 2010. Knowing which bars are showing the next Super Bowl is no more than a phone call to any of these clubs, while Thanksgiving in Marbella has always been a shared experience.
The challenges of moving to another country to retire in, live in, set up business in, or these days, continue one’s business in, should not be played down. After all, the psychologists tell us that moving house anywhere can be one of the most stressful event in our lives. But numerous studies carried out by the Costa del Sol tourism board list the absence of stress as one of the main reasons foreigners love living in the region.
Spaniards have left a profound mark on the history and culture of the United States, from the naming of Galveston after Málaga-born military leader Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid in the 18th century to Hollywood’s favourite Zorro, while Málaga celebrities like golfer Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Marbella chef Dani García have strong connections with the US. They were welcomed by the Americans in different ways, and now we, the people of Marbella, welcome Americans to come and live with us.
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