The expat community in Spain consists of 5.6 million foreigners, according to the latest figures from the Spanish government. With everything Spain has to offer, from its warm climate to its laid-back lifestyle, this number is set to grow. Life in Spain is more attractive than ever after the Corona crisis. If you are an expat looking to move to Spain, there are a few things you should consider before you relocate: Spain is much more than sun, sand and sangria.
Learn some Spanish before you emigrate
Moving to another country means adapting to the new culture and therefore learning a new language. Even if you plan to move to an area where many emigrants from your home country already live, it’s a good idea to brush up on your Spanish for several reasons. Because although the level of English among Spaniards is slowly but surely improving, and especially in the holiday regions many also speak some German, you should not rely on it.
You can learn a few simple phrases before you move, or enrol in one of the many language schools once you have settled in Spain. Emigrants who make an effort to learn Spanish generally report greater satisfaction with their new life in Spain. In addition to helping you find a better-paying job, being able to speak and understand Spanish is also a big help when you’re looking to buy or rent a house, which involves plenty of (Spanish) paperwork.
Be prepared for a lot of bureaucracy
Spain is famous for its bureaucracy. As an expatriate, you will need various papers, such as an NIE number (Spanish tax number) or an empadronamiento (registration certificate). This process can be somewhat frustrating, as the level of professionalism and knowledge of officials varies from province to province, as do processing times and procedures. So be patient and confident. Before moving, check that you have all the necessary paperwork, original documents and several photocopies, and collect any other documents you may have, even if you don’t think you need them. If you want to buy a property in Spain, large amounts of paperwork are also required. The Spanish phrases you learned before you moved will come in handy here too!
Everything comes to a standstill in August
Don’t try to do anything important in Spain in August, such as renting or buying a house, renovating, installing a new kitchen or anything else that might be remotely productive. During the hot summer months, mainly in August, most major cities in Spain experience a mass exodus as everything flocks to the coast. Many shops, cafés and services only open in the mornings, including public facilities.
Everything in Spain generally happens later, from meals to working hours. You will be forced to adapt to this if you want to fully integrate into Spanish life. Therefore, forget about just having a sandwich at lunchtime and dinner at 6pm. In general, Spaniards have a sumptuous lunch between 2 and 4 pm, an afternoon snack around 6 pm and dinner after 9 pm. Therefore, if you plan to go out for dinner, don’t expect to be served anywhere at 6pm, as many restaurants are not even open at that time!
Spain also does not adhere to traditional 9-5 working hours. A normal working day starts around 8:30 or 9:00 and often doesn’t end until around 8:00pm, as there is an extensive break for lunch.
Cost of living in Spain
The cost of living in Spain is generally much lower than in Germany and many other countries in Western Europe. Nevertheless, they vary from region to region. It should also be noted that while living in Spain is often described as “cheap”, wages also tend to be much lower. In the Spanish capital Madrid, for example, the cost of food, rent, bills and additional expenses can range from €800 to €1,000 per month for a lower student budget, but much higher for families depending on your lifestyle and where you live.
Legal requirements for buying or renting property
Buying and renting property in Spain will not be the same as in your home country. It is therefore important to do your research and, if necessary, enlist the help of a professional to at least help you with the Spanish paperwork. The rental and purchase conditions need to be understood to avoid future legal difficulties, and you also need to take into account that mortgage interest, taxes and special conditions for foreigners apply to buying property in Spain.
Opening a bank account in Spain
Finances are another important point to consider before moving to Spain. If you plan to stay in the country for the long term, opening a bank account is essential. It is important that you check with several banks. Be aware that some banks charge quite high monthly fees if you do not meet certain conditions. If you want to open an account before moving to Spain, several banks offer you the option of doing so as a non-resident. However, if you intend to maintain permanent residence in Spain, you will need to apply for your NIE number before opening your account.
The Spanish mentality
Spaniards are generally very friendly and open-minded. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind if you want to fully integrate into your new home. Things in Spain are usually done and said directly, which means that pleasantries and small talk do not translate very well into Spanish. Another important point to know about Spain and its people is that it can get noisy! If you compare a Spanish bar to a German bar, the atmosphere is completely different and you may have to shout to be heard, considering that conversations are much louder than in other countries.
The myth of the Spanish siesta
The famous Spanish siesta, one of the biggest stereotypes of Spain. Without intending to ruin your idea of being able to take a nap every day, siestas are a thing of the past and are based on the fact that farm workers would actually take a nap for a few hours in the afternoon to avoid the hot Spanish sun in summer. Apart from that, Spaniards love a good siesta at the weekend after having lunch with the whole family.
When moving to another country, it is very important to do plenty of research to avoid unpleasant surprises when you arrive. The points mentioned in this article are just some simple guidelines to help you know what to expect when you move to Spain, but by no means everything you need to consider. To make your move to Spain as stress-free as possible, you should read as much as you can about the area you want to live in, schools, local amenities and employment opportunities, through to the weather and legal procedures.