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Barceloneta Beach

Living in Spain

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 05, 2023

Summary: People often describe life in Spain as vibrant, exciting, and full of culture. Expats love the warm climate, the delicious food, the friendly people, and the relaxed lifestyle. The average cost of living for an expat is around $1,500 to $2,000 per month, depending on the city and lifestyle. The population of Spain is approximately 46.7 million people, and the largest cities are Madrid (3.2 million), Barcelona (1.6 million), Valencia (800,000), Seville (700,000), and Zaragoza (660,000). The cons of living in Spain include the high cost of living in some cities, the language barrier, and the bureaucracy. Additionally, the country has a high unemployment rate, and the healthcare system is not as comprehensive as in other countries.

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What do I need to know about living in Spain?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Spain, they said:

"Retiring abroad is becoming increasingly more popular, and many people are looking at Spain as an exotic and affordable place to retire. If you're considering retiring in Spain, there are a few important things you should be aware of first. Spanish bureaucracy and paperwork can be complex and time consuming, so it is important to research your entitlements and what processes you will need to go through before you move. Applying for a visa, residence permit, healthcare and social security can be complicated, so you may want to consider hiring a legal representative to help you with the process. Once you have the right paperwork in order, you should look into opening a bank account and organizing a tax reference number. This can help you manage your finances and ensure you pay your tax liabilities accurately. It is also important to understand the different cultural norms and customs in Spain, so you can make yourself at home. Whilst the social and economic systems may differ greatly to what you have experienced in your own country, there are lots of opportunities to get involved in your local community and make the most of retirement in Spain," remarked another expat living in Spain.

"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," added another expat in Spain.

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How do I meet people in Spain?

When we asked people living in Spain about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"The best way to meet people in Spain is to join social activities like sports teams, classes, or language exchange groups. You can also connect with locals through sites like Couchsurfing or Meetup.com. Attending local events such as concerts, festivals, or public markets can also be a great way to meet new people in Spain. Lastly, don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with someone wherever you go! People in Spain are generally friendly and open to chatting, so all it takes is a smile to start a conversation," remarked another expat living in Spain.

"Marbella is a great place to meet new people with so many cultural activities, sports and clubs to join. The area of Marbella even has it's own social networking website called www.yourmarbella.com where residents and vistors can meet people, find out places to go, clubs to join and much more. There are clubs in the area which meet regularly based around expats, i.e. The American Society and hobbies i.e. Golf Societies," added another expat in Marbella.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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What is life like in Spain?

When we asked people living in Spain what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Living as an expat in the UAE can be very enjoyable due to the overall high quality of life that can be found in the country. The UAE has a great cultural and social scene, with many activities and cultural events to enjoy. Expats have access to world-class healthcare, high-end shopping, modern infrastructure, and excellent safety standards. There is a large expat community in the UAE, which makes for diverse and often vibrant social opportunities. In addition, expats may take advantage of the tax-free salaries and the low cost of living. Finally, the UAE is known for its diverse outdoor activities, and expats have the opportunity to explore its beautiful deserts, sandy beaches, and lush green oases," wrote a member in Spain.

"Lifestyle in Valencia is about family, friends and enjoying the Mediterranean lifestyle," commented one expat who made the move to Valencia.

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Is there a lot of crime in Spain?

We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:

"No, there is relatively low crime in Spain. According to a survey conducted by the EU, Spain is one of the safest countries in Europe, with a lower crime rate than many other European countries. While there is some occasional petty crime, such as pickpocketing, overall crime in Spain is much lower than in some other countries," added another expat who made the move to Spain.

"There is very little crime. I feel much safer here than I did in California. Walking my dogs at midnight doesn't worry me at all," explained one expat living in Salamanca, Spain.

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Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Spain accepting of differences?

"Spain is a highly diverse country, with many different languages, cultures, and national origins represented. The country is known for its openness to people of various backgrounds, religions, and beliefs. Generally,Spain is tolerant of differences and has a history of welcoming foreign cultures, withthe country's own culture heavily influenced by its history of waves of migration from around the world. As a result, there is a lot of cultural exchange and appreciation in the country," explained one expat living in Spain.

"Personally as a Filipina/British expat, I have not experienced anything negative. However, Valencians are very proud of their culture and language. Valencia city is becoming more diverse and English speaking shops and services are now becoming more popular," said another expat in Valencia.

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William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance in Spain

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
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What are the schools in Spain like?

"The schools in Spain are quite similar to those in the U.S. and other European countries. Primary education (education for children aged 5 to 12) typically takes place in publicly-funded public schools, and secondary education typically takes place either in public schools or in private institutions. Schools in Spain usually offer a bilingual education, teaching both Spanish and English (or French or German). In addition, schools may also offer certain specialized courses, like those in art, music, and physical education. School hours vary across the country, with most children attending classes from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday to Friday. Most schools also offer after-school clubs and extra-curricular activities. In terms of grading system, students typically use a 10-point grading scale, with 6 points being the pass mark," remarked another expat living in with children attending .

"Don't waste time looking at other options. A great school, I wish I had come to it as a child," said another expat in Portals Nous with children at King Richard III College Mallorca.

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Is the cost of living in Spain high?

We asked people how much they someone comfortably live on in Spain, they wrote:

"The cost of living in Spain is generally considered to be lower than in most other European countries. Prices for everyday goods, like food and gasoline, are fairly reasonable, although rents in some of the major cities can be high," added another expat who made the move to Spain.

"I can only attest to the cost of living in my city. For Salamanca, you can live very comfortably for 1500 euros (or around $1650)," explained one expat living in Salamanca, Spain.

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"Very inexpensive to live in Granada. The rent starts as low as €250 per month for a room in an apartment. If you want to have your own apartment, rent can start at €400 depend on location. The food is cheap here if you stay out of eating in tourist areas. Grocery is inexpensive with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables year round," mentioned another expat inGranada .

"We used Numbeo to reasearch and compare. Basically, cost of living in Granada is 1/3 that of NEW York and 2/3 the cost of our US home, Dallas. Did we mention free health care?," commented one expat who moved to Granada, Spain.

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What type of recreational facilities are in Spain?

When we asked people living in Spain about recreational activities, they mentioned:

"There are city facilities throughout different area that have swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, skating park, fitness room. It's easy to use them and inexpensive," mentioned another expat inGranada .

"There are tennis clubs, plenty of good hiking trails, beautiful parks. The city have several sport complexes that have swimming pools, tennis courts, paddle balls, basketball and soccer," commented one expat who moved to Granada, Spain.

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What is the weather like in Spain?

"A lot of sunshine almost every day. July and August can get very hot up to over 40 Celsius and Jan and Feb can get very cold can get down to zero. But it's very dry so the heat is bearable under the shades," said one expat living in Granada .

"In the summer- hot and dry between 80-100F winter- dry and cold between mid 30F to mid 40F but usually above freezing with Spring and Fall have the best weather between 50F- 80F," mentioned another expat inGranada.

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Are there good restaurants in Spain?

"Lots of restaurants and tapas bars. It's best to go where the locals go and avoid the more expensive tourist areas. We live outside of the center and we love our area. A lot of people go out for tapas at night or sit in the plaza socializing," said an expat in Granada .

"Lots of restaurants and bars. Very vibrant. People stay out until 1-2 AM if weather is good and just hang out with friends," remarked another expat in Granada.

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Where will I buy groceries and do other shopping in Spain?

"There are plenty of neighborhood shops for fruits, meats, bread, or seafood in most neighborhoods. There are also bigger stores like Mercadona, ALDI, El Corte Inglés that have everything in one place. I personally like the small shops so I can personally know them and practice my Spanish," commented one expat living in Granada , Spain.

"There are many big stores like El Corte Inglés, Mercadona and Carrefour and most expats shop. There are many smaller neighborhood stores in every corner. It's very easy to find grocery stores here," remarked another expat living in Granada.

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What are the visa & residency requirements in Spain?

"For non-lucrative visa like us, you have to apply in your own country. The requirements are proof of sufficient income, good health, full cover insurance, criminal background check. As long as you meet the requirements, there is no problem getting a visa," commented one expat who moved to Granada .

"To live here, one can get a non-lucrative visa and is considered a temporary resident. After 5 years, we can become permanent resident. These are the main requirements to get non- lucrative visa - background check, health certificate, proof of available funds, health insurance," said another expat.

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Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Spain?

"I have a private insurance with Sanitas and it costs 80€ per month for a full coverage. I have to see doctors in Sanitas network. I had used the emergency service at the hospital and received excellent care. I also saw a general doctor, and OB/GYN and received excellent care. I’m very happy with the plan with Sanitas," remarked another expat living in Granada.

"We have a private health insurance with Sanitas and are happy with them. It’s acceptable at our nearest hospital. Sanitas was most well known health insurance among expats. They will take payments without a Spanish bank account, which we find very convenient because we didn’t have a Spanish bank account last year before we moved to Spain," said one expat living in Granada.

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William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

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.

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