It is fascinating to look at the origins of expats moving to the Canary Islands over the last two centuries or so. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it was the British who stamped an almost colonial footprint on the city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the north of the island. We can still see epitaphs, such as the British Church, British Cemetery and British street names dedicated to the great and good of the city at that time, and who brought great prosperity to the island in the form of shipping bananas and other fruit and vegetables to the UK. Cruise ships also regularly plied their trade to these islands, bringing with them a privileged few to enjoy these much favored and popular “Fortunate Isles”.
In later years, it was Tenerife that found the greatest favor with British holidaymakers and expats, and who still flock in great numbers to its shores. However, it was its neighbour, Gran Canaria, which attracted more discerning German holidaymakers and expats.
The reunification of Germany, following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, together with a joint taxation agreement between Germany and Spain, forced many cash strapped German expats, as well as those with holiday homes, to sell their homes. Many British purchasers,who found themselves with more ready cash than anticipated, due to rapidly rising domestic house prices on the home market, were happy to take full advantage of a property market that was rapidly falling in value.
We are now at another stage in the on going transition of the island. Since the world recession of 2008, many traditional purchasers of properties in Spain and the Canary Islands, such as the British and Irish, have been forced to sell their homes, often at much reduced prices. Scandinavians, and particularly Norwegians, whose strong currency has allowed many to view the purchase of a holiday home on the island as a rather pleasant alternative to buying the traditional summer cabin in the Norwegian lakes and mountains, have swiftly taken their place.
These islands are a wonderful patchwork of nationalities, color, religion and race that live and work harmoniously together for most of the time. Interestingly, there is a significant Korean population on the islands, which occurred by accident following the sudden collapse of the Korean whaling industry. Hundreds of workers and their families were stranded on the island, which quickly became their home. Chinese and Indian business owners also maintain a significant presence on the island, which I strongly suspect the islands could not do without.
The identity of the islands continues to change, as it is now the Russians who are buying properties in great numbers in the Canary Islands, as well as in the Costa Blanca and Costa del Sol. In Tenerife, for instance, many companies are now sending their employees on Russian language courses, in order to better serve the needs of their new affluent clients. Indeed, it is reported that the Government is considering the relaxation of Spanish residency laws to Russians who purchase a property of sufficient value to gain automatic residency. It is thought that this measure would help to reinvigorate property sales in the country.
Personally, I have no problem with who my neighbors are, just as long as they obey the laws, traditions and culture of the country that they are in. However, I have recently received several disturbing accounts from several residents who are desperately trying to sell their homes, both in the Canary Islands and in the Costa Blanca, and who are being taken advantage of by potential Russian purchasers who, it would seem, are not the most straightforward of clients to deal with.