A study of the British expatriate community in Spain has found that fewer than one in five can conduct a conversation in the local language.

 

According to the Economic and Social Research Council think tank, half of British expatriates never read a Spanish newspaper, while a similar proportion only watch British television.

 

A third, meanwhile, have no Spanish friends or work colleagues.

 

More than 160,000 Britons have officially moved to Spain, although the true figure could be closer to half a million as many do not register officially.

 

Spanish bureaucracy

 

Attracted by sunshine, cheaper property prices and a culture made superficially familiar through summer holidays, large numbers of Britons have settled in Spain in recent years, mainly in the south of the country.

 

Aberdeen University's Dr Karen O'Reilly, who spent two years in Spain conducting the study, said many British people had great trouble with Spanish bureaucracy.

  

"People don't know there are regulations about car number plates, driving licences, registering with town halls, registering their children at school," she told the Independent on Sunday newspaper.

 

As a result, only 9% of the expatriates O'Reilly spoke to had voted in local or European elections for which they were eligible to cast a ballot.