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Expat Exchange - 10 Things to Know Before Moving to Spain
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The Alhambra Garden in Granada, Spain


10 Things to Know Before Moving to Spain

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Balcells Group Lawyers
Balcells Group Lawyers

Summary: If you're planning a move to Spain, here are 10 things expats living there wish they had known before moving to Spain.

Spain, with its rich history, vibrant culture, and beautiful landscapes, is a popular destination for expats from around the world. However, moving to a new country is a big step and it's important to be prepared. Here are 10 things you should know before packing your bags and heading to Spain.

1. Understanding the Spanish Lifestyle

Spain is known for its laid-back lifestyle. The Spanish take their time to enjoy life, whether it's a long lunch in the afternoon or a late-night dinner. Siestas, or afternoon naps, are common, especially in the hotter regions. Many businesses close in the afternoon for a few hours and reopen in the evening. Adjusting to this slower pace of life can be a challenge for expats used to a more fast-paced lifestyle.

2. Mastering the Spanish Language

While many Spaniards speak English, especially in larger cities and tourist areas, it's beneficial to learn Spanish. Not only will it make everyday tasks easier, but it will also help you integrate into the local community. Plus, in certain regions like Catalonia or the Basque Country, there are other official languages besides Spanish, such as Catalan and Basque.

3. Navigating the Spanish Healthcare System

Spain has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. As an expat, you'll have access to both public and private healthcare. However, it's important to understand how the system works. For example, you'll need a health card (tarjeta sanitaria) to access public healthcare. Also, while public healthcare is generally free, some services like prescriptions may come with a fee.

4. Embracing Spanish Cuisine

Spanish cuisine is diverse and delicious. From tapas to paella, there's something for everyone. However, meal times in Spain are typically later than in other countries. Lunch, the main meal of the day, is usually around 2-4pm, while dinner is often not until 9pm or later. It's also common to have a small breakfast and a mid-morning snack.

5. Getting to Grips with Spanish Bureaucracy

Spain is notorious for its bureaucracy. From getting a residence permit to setting up utilities, be prepared for a lot of paperwork and potentially long waiting times. It's a good idea to seek advice from other expats or hire a gestor, a professional who can help navigate the Spanish bureaucracy.

6. Experiencing Spanish Festivals

Spain is famous for its festivals, or fiestas. From the running of the bulls in Pamplona to the tomato-throwing festival in Buñol, there's always something happening. These events are a great way to immerse yourself in Spanish culture and traditions. However, they can also be loud and crowded, so it's worth considering this if you're thinking of living in a city center.

7. Adapting to the Spanish Climate

Spain has a diverse climate, from the hot summers in the south to the cooler, wetter weather in the north. It's important to consider the climate of the region you're moving to, as it can impact your lifestyle. For example, if you're not a fan of hot weather, you might want to avoid inland areas during the summer.

8. Understanding the Cost of Living in Spain

The cost of living in Spain is generally lower than in many other European countries. However, it can vary greatly depending on the region. Cities like Madrid and Barcelona are more expensive, while smaller towns and rural areas are cheaper. It's important to research the cost of living in your chosen area before you move.

9. Getting Around in Spain

Spain has an excellent public transportation system, including high-speed trains, buses, and metros. However, in more rural areas, having a car can be beneficial. Also, while driving in Spain is generally safe, it's important to be aware of different traffic laws and regulations.

10. Appreciating Spanish Art and Culture

Spain has a rich cultural heritage, from the flamenco dancing of Andalusia to the modernist architecture of Barcelona. Museums, art galleries, and cultural festivals are abundant. Embracing this culture can greatly enhance your experience living in Spain.

Moving to Spain can be a wonderful adventure, full of new experiences and opportunities. By understanding these aspects of Spanish life, you'll be well-prepared for your move and ready to make the most of your new home.

Expats talk about Moving to Spain

"Make sure you don't end up in a tourist trap area and that where you do end up there is plenty of close by public transport. In Mallorca, stay in Palma or choose a country town where the train passes thru. The bus system is not good," said one expat living in Palma de Mallorca.

"The following applies to anywhere bt applies to my wife and living on the Costa Tropical. 1. Establish Goals for how you want to live your life 2. Choose a location wisely based not only on geography, weather and climate but also based on the local cultural opportunities and transportation infrastructure. 3. Try out the place, visit the place and give it a dry run 4. Consider health care, it doesn’t matter how old you are 5. Figure out the local housing market to establish your new home 6. Check out the cost of living to know if your budget plan and goals work 7. Understand the Visa requirements 8. Get a grasp of the local culture 9. Be aware of local opportunities for sports, leisure, entertainment and cultural activities 10. Become familiar with issues relating to taxes and banking 11. Work out issues relating to communication technology. I have written a short book called "Renaissance in The Sun" Its virtually FREE. You can find it on Amazon and Kindle. Its about life and Spain," said one expat living in Spain.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


Balcells Group Lawyers
Balcells Group Lawyers

Balcells Group Lawyers
Balcells Group Lawyers

The Alhambra Garden in Granada, Spain

SJB Global
SJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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SJB GlobalSJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
Learn More

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