La Linea de la Concepcion – A love hate relationship.

La Linea.   A town that sits in southern Spain bordering Gibraltar.

To the north, beautiful San Roque,  and Castellar.  To the east, the upmarket Sotogrande and the very popular Costa Del Sol.  To the west Tarifa, the surfing capital of Europe and the Costa Luz.  To the south the prosperous British Territory of Gibraltar.

So why, and how is La Linea sitting there in the centre looking like a shit stain on the map?   Why does it only have 60% of its work-capable population in a job? Leading to other major social problems such as tobacco smuggling, and a higher crime rate than its neighbours.

As a none speaking Spanish outsider who has only been living down here for a few years, I am incredibly naive in any reasons or understanding. But I can say what I can see, and I see a filthy town crumbling apart.  It is no coincidence that since moving from Estepona to make commuting easier for work, not one person has returned after visiting from the UK.  The place looks, and feels like a shit hole.  It seems to do everything it can to stay in the past, rather than take a slice of the wealth from its neighbours.

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You can’t sit and have a cafe con leche in the main squares without beggers pestering you.   Coming out of Gibraltar you are welcomed by crowds which I call “The La Linea welcome committee”  They are basically dodgy looking people waiting for their comrades to come out of Gibraltar with more tobacco.  As for walking through the town late at night.  I speak from experience where I say DONT.  Because I was a victim of mugging a few months ago, which is unfortunately a regular occurrence here.

Despite the undesirables, the grime, and crappy apartment blocks. La Linea actually has a huge foreign population with British, and other European nationals descending on the town and setting in roots.  Why? Because its easy to get to Gibraltar from there for work.  If it wasn’t for Gibraltar I am pretty sure that no one would elect to  move to another country and choose this place.    But despite these foreign populations coming in. The town holds fast to its old fashioned Spanish routes.  Despite English speaking Gibrlatar being next door, you will not find anyone who can speak English in La Linea.  We’re not just talking coffee shop staff either. I’ve head to deal with doctors, police and other higher scale people and no one could (or were unwilling to) speak a word of English.  Even the Spanish Police on the border refuse to speak any English.   I understand the argument, why should they?  Yes its Spain, you should learn Spanish etc.  But go up the road a bit to the Costa Del Sol where the British have practically took over and a lot of Spanish people there are willing and happy to try speaking English so that they can engage with people who are bringing money to the area.

This is what I don’t understand. Why not engage with people who are bringing money to the area?  Take people coming from Gibraltar for instance. The Guardia Civil make them sit in hours of queues to go in, and then there are numerous spates of vandalised cars.  Its as if the town is saying “We don’t want your money”  Well, considering the town council couldn’t afford to pay its workers and had debts of millions of euros. I think they’re not in a position to choose who’s money they want. They should try and get what they can!  Their attitude of sticking to the past is just going to have to change!

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Damaged streets still not repaired 5 years later.

Here’s another thing I don’t understand.  A town with such visible poverty as La Linea suddenly comes alive in the evening.  You go into the centre, down the main streets and you can be struggling to get a seat if you want a coffee.  It is heaving with people.  We recently went to a fish restaurant which sits near La Atunara, perhaps one of the worst of the areas and by 9.30pm people were queuing out of the door waiting for a table.   Go to the main Mercadona supermarket on a saturday morning and you can be struggling to find a trolley its so busy.  And people aren’t just buying the necessities.  I see people with cakes and allsorts of ‘extras’ in their trolleys.  Are people really that poor?  If so how are they so poor with Gibraltar soaking up thousands of jobs, a huge industrial fuel refinary down the road and the Costa Del Sol nearby too.  It doesn’t make sense!

Its a town with two sides of the coin.  There are some very amazing bars and restaurants tucked away in the corners.   La Patagonica serves some of the best Argentinian meat I have ever had.  Gold Indian is the best curry house I’ve ever been to, and Wok Real just outside of town is the best Chinese all you can eat buffet place I have ever been to.   Where I say the best, I don’t just mean here. I mean anywhere I’ve been in the world.

Every July the fun fayre comes to town. There are huge parades down the main street, and a whole section of the town is closed off whilst rides are built. They spend weeks building this thing, for it to be only open for a week.   It is probably one of the best Spanish ferias i’ve been to as well.  Its huge, and they have the Casitas, which are the huge tents with the night clubs.  It also brings in the crowds. With people spending huge amounts of money on flamenco style dresses which they proudly wear. The atmosphere is amazing.   Shortly after feria, its Domingo Rociero. Where everyone takes to the streets drinking Tinto Verano. Once again, an amazing atmosphere and this town simply knows how to party!   There is never any racial aggravation and everyone is welcome!  The town has a real charm to it as well.  Its got character and its not superfiscious unlike Sotogrande which is just full of snobs..

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Domingo Rociero Street party! Throwing wine around!

My own Spanish neighbours seem to be really nice people. I wish I could get to know them more, but there is the language barriers in the way.  I feel we’ve been welcomed as much as possible from the neighbours.  They’ve not gone out of their way or anything, but they certainly aren’t upset about us being there and have exchanged plenty of pleasantries.  In fact we found one of the neighbours lost cat a few months ago, and she came round the next day with a cake she baked as a thank you!  It was very unnecessary!

When I first moved to Spain, I seemed to move house about once every year.  Whereas I’m coming up to three years in La Linea now. So the town can’t be all that bad.  Its just a great place to be if you’re working in Gibraltar. As there is no need to drive anywhere.  Not too much worries about the border when cycling over.  Plus there is quite a lot of people down here. So socially its very good. Can have drinks after work and not worry about having to drive home.  Taxi home is cheap enough.

So yes, I exchanged my brand new 400 euro a month apartment with air conditioning, sea views, sky tv, and swimming pool in a luxury urbanisation, for an old 625 euro 2 bedroomed house in an shit hole of a town that refuses to modernise.  Gone are the luxuries but its a trade off with convenience.  But that is it. I am only in La Linea because its convenient, and because of that., other people, especially those whom don’t have a car or don’t drive are also in La Linea because its convenient which then creates good social circles.

I used to live in Estepona, and although it was beautiful.  I found myself driving all that way for a bed.  No one else lived up there and as such I was coming back to Gibraltar/La Linea for social events anyway.

So yes, I love this place, but I hate it at the same time.  I want to get out, but if I did, I will miss it.  If it was possible to unzip Gibraltar from the bottom of this hole, and stick it onto the bottom of Estepona. The world would be an amazing place!

 

 

19 Replies to “La Linea de la Concepcion – A love hate relationship.”

  1. Hello!

    My name is Banna and I’ll be moving to La Linea for a new job in Gibraltar next week. I stumbled upon your blog, do you still live in La Linea? Would you like to meet up and maybe grab coffee sometime next week? I am very curious about the place and it would be highly appreciated!

    Kind regards,
    Banna

    1. Hi Banna

      Sorry I have only just seen this. I guess you’re well here by now 🙂 Hope you settled in OK and are enjoying the place!

  2. Lived there for 5 years and I personally loved the place – still consider it home, even though I’ve been gor for nearly 4 years now. Sure, it’s ghetto, but that’s part of the charm – never been the one for snobby places without much life. Preferred it over Gib as well – by miles!

  3. I have to say, despite some negativity in your piece, I’ve formed the opinion that I now want to live there, rather than overpriced Gib itself, or Estepona, where, as you say, very nice, but is a block to socializing and building relationships in Gib. We are moving out next April (2016), with a quick fact finding mission in September this year. Regardless of what we find, I think its already decided.

    I respect a town for not bowing down to our “Britishness” in a way, although it would be convenient for us non native speakers if they would assist us like the rest of Europe does. That being said, I guess it will force us to learn some language. Must be some excellent Spanish Courses in La Linea!! Previous trips to Spain, we have tried to avoid the tourist spots, and hit “real” Spain, which is easier said than done sometimes. La Linea will be a breath of dusty fresh air.

    Maybe meet you one day.

    Regards

    1. Hi Gareth,

      Yeah La Linea certainly has its place. It’s got a charm, and a vibe and some people absolutely love it. Its easy to reach Gibraltar on foot from it, and as such opens up a lot of good socialising as people either stay in Gib for drinks after work or cross into La Linea. Needing a car to get home can be a real drag, and you find yourself commuting to a nicer area really just to get a bed.

      The problem with down here in general, is that you have to sacrifice something. You cant have it all. So whereas up the coast you can rent somewhere half price of what you can in la Linea and have a pool, some amazing views, air conditioning all in a sparkly clean new build property and in a lush urbanisation, and when your friends from the UK come over, they will be really envious. But then you have the hassle and expense of a commute, and you’ll find you are the only person on that urb and don’t really feel part of anything.

      Youre right, the town doesn’t bow down to the britishness, in fact it doesnt bow down to anything, and as a result, it could have been so much more. Work in Gib, play in La Linea could have easily been its vision, and it could have had some upmarket snazzy places, rather than some back street dives where youre lucky if you get more than a grunt out of someone serving you, and then lucky to get home at night without being jumped. But hey ho. Horses for causes!

      1. Thanks Andrew for your reply. Just browsed back to this website today and noticed.

        I’m looking forward to our little excursion out in September and will post my personal findings from the point of view of someone entirely new to the area. I’m trying to keep my expectations to a minimum, so that I’m pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed. I expect some things will be far better than expected, and others less so.

        Regards for now

        Gareth

  4. Greetings,

    My name is Chris.
    I am thinking about taking a job in Gib and live in Spain.
    I am living close to Barcelona on my 5th year now (my spanish is still bad) I got two dogs, a spanish registered car (Range Rover) and a spanish scooter as well.
    I will be sharing a house with a friend, that I have shared apartment with the last 3 years now.
    Do you have any good ideas about where to look for a good house, preferable with garage for one or more cars?
    Which city is best around Gib?
    We would prefer that it is not more than 15 km to work, as my friend has no driver license and therefor need to take the bus 🙂 We also prefer it not to be more than 700 euro, but at the same time as big as possible with garage and all the other house luxury 🙂
    Any ideas about rental agency ect, any of them I should stay away from ect.
    I would really appreciate your input in this matter 😀

    Cheers
    Chris

    1. Hi, there are a few urbanisations just outside of la linea which make the commute into Gibraltar by bike pretty easy. Santa Margarita is very nice and close to everywhere if you dont want to live in the thick of La Linea itself. Its cleaner, more modern and has enough local amenities to satisy. Its about 5km from the border of Gibraltar. Sorry I dont know about rental agencies.

  5. Hello Gareth,
    There is a great proposition for work in Gibraltar and i am thinking to move in.
    How far is Linea from Gibraltar?
    I mean by walking how long does it take?
    Are there any alternatives for those who don’t have a har?
    For example to take a us from a near town and then walk?
    Thank you.

    1. La Linea is the town directly at the border of Gibraltar. There are apartments right there, so you can easilly walk across. But La Linea is pretty big, so the other side of town makes Gibraltar further away. There is a local bus service to the bus station which is about 5 minutes walk from the border. Depending on how close you are, cycling is probably the best bet, or get a moped.

    2. Jake

      Sorry, we are as amateur as you at the moment in regards to Gibraltar and La Linea, I know its mere minutes walk depending where you live in La Linea, but we wont know much more, until after our trip out in September. Despite what we find, we have already cut some bridges in the UK, giving up our house, moving in with parents, ready to take the plunge. My thinking is, if its good enough for the many thousands that went before us, its good enough for us, and the UK holds very little to keep us here. I know it will be difficult at first, we can’t sort jobs out till we move their due to the general way employers operate in Gibraltar, so it is a gamble, 2 years from now, we could be on poverty street, or living a great life. We are both giving up excellent jobs to take this plunge, as well as losing our dogs, and upsetting some family members, so it had better be worth it. I’ll update this forum on how we perceived things after we’ve been out in September.

      Regards

      1. OK, we’ve been. Slightly more able to offer an opinion now.

        Gibraltar. – Loved it, mostly. It’s a strange little world, where you turn a corner, and a different type of experience awaits. Quirky side streets, larger than life bars, lovely views from the top. Opulence and the not so opulent, all side by side. Overall, loved it, and if it wasn’t for the ridiculous but understandable price of renting the most basic of accommodation, we would consider living there.

        Border Crossing. Obviously nowhere near the issues there once was. A simple enough process to get across and back each day – although those damned automatic passport readers are so dodgy, was pretty hit and miss, and most of the time, we were just waved through.

        La Linea – If your only experience of Spain, is custom built resorts, then your likely to be shocked. We however, having built up a horrific picture in our heads, were pleasantly surprised. Easy entry into the town centre where the cafe’s and shops are. Predominantly friendly, although must brush up on the Spanish a little, as I don’t think they appreciate our lack of effort at times. We convinced a letting agent to let us see some flats, very surprised at the quality, considering the price. Found some nicer areas to live, although, we had been told Bullring area was a no go, we found no real problems, and saw little difference day or night between the different areas we visited.

        In summary, my partner got a job whilst we were there, so we will be going to back late November, to live and breathe the place, live in La Linea and work in Gibraltar. Fascinating place, and think it will take some time to get bored.

        In addition, we visited San Roque. Beautiful, but too quiet, too hilly, and overall, 34 degrees seemed a lot hotter up there, than down in La Linea. But highly recommend for those who want it a lot quieter. Only 25 minutes by bus from La Linea, and only a 1Euro 40 cents single bus ticket.

        Advice, go see it all first. We were lucky, it suits us, but I can see how some people may not take to it all.

  6. Hey. I’m 16 and looking into moving to la linea with my 20 years old friend. The plan is for us both to work in Gibraltar so I have a few questions.
    Do they stamp your passport when you cross the border?
    Will I be able to live in la linea at my age?
    How hard will it be to get jobs?
    Can I use uk pounds in Gibraltar?

    Thanks, delci

  7. Hi there,

    I’ll be moving to La Linea in a week. Given your experience with living there, what neighborhoods do you suggest to live in? Any advice will help!

    Dave

  8. Estoy buscando una familia que vive allí el nombre de “Nachmany”. Durante las raíces de búsqueda. Le agradecería cualquier información.

  9. m looking for a family who lives there named “Nachmany”. During the search roots. I would be grateful for any information.

  10. I really enjoyed your article
    I lived in La Linea in 1985-88 , (and worked in Gib ) ,

    I liked it then , it was a rough town , and there were always fights between drunken Brits , and Spanish druggies , that was just something that happened

    there was a good restaurant called “Comidas Economica ” run by a chap called Jesu ? SU ? , and you got a 3 course meal for 500 pesetas , (which at the time was £2 ? including a bottle of wine .

    There was a Campana bar ? full of tapas and creamy cervesa , just as you walked into la Linea in the street behind the main square , and off course all the “British pubs ” like Casablanca , run by a Yorkshireman called Dave , and “Roy of the Rovers ” or something similar , another little bar .

    a room in a shared house in LA Linea then was about £15 a week , we lived off Gib street ? Calle de Gibralatar ? where all the prostitutes were ? would imagine they are still there .

    To give an idea of money at the time , i was a 20 year old building labourer , working for various British firms at the time , Haymills , Shand , Lillley , Miller , Mackley , and earned approx £80 a week clear , so it was a good quality of life , earning in Gib and living in Spain .

    All the same the talk of the mugging and begging does put me off , it was there then , cant say i ever bothered then though .
    As you get older am not so keen .

    At the time in Gib all the workers were either Brit or Moroccan , and they spoke a kind of Spanish (the Moroccan migrant workers ) , so I cant remember ever having too much trouble with the language , it was easy enough to pick up .

  11. Hi Andrew
    I moved over 2 weeks ago I totally agree with your blog … la linea is like marmite lol
    But when you find the gems it’s most rewarding
    Regarding rental agencies
    Put people through seekers in gibraltar as they can accommodate for newbies wishing to relocate
    They got me a lovely town house in alcaidesa which is affordable and quiet
    Hope you’re well and would like to meet up for chat and coffee
    Email me richardvickers13@gmail.com

  12. I really enjoyed reading through this whole piece and the comments. My partner and I are relocating in March 2017 (hopefully I will be working in Gib) we have really been struggling with where to settle. We a re flying over in Feb to look for an apartment and hopefully put a deposit down.
    The only thing that really worries me is the mention of walking through La Linea of a night time, does that mean not to venture out after dark????
    Are there any parts of La Linea that need to be avoided at all costs???
    How about finding work? Is there plenty of work locally? What is the best way to go about looking for work?
    Really excited but overwhelmed with everything at the minute lol.

    Many thanks and hope to meet up with some of you at some point

    Lindsey 🙂

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