Moving to Spain is an exciting prospect for many but it can also be a huge culture shock. However if you are prepared to embrace the culture, lifestyle, people and customs, and immerse yourself in it then you can reap so many rewards. Here’s what I found…
Shopping – Some of the best seasonal produce in the world is grown, caught, or sourced here, but if you are looking for something that isn’t typically Spanish, it can be hard to find. Unlike UK supermarkets where you can buy anything and everything under one roof, you will need to be prepared to shop around. In addition to this, apart from the larger supermarkets, most of the shops close in the afternoon and open again early evening and all shops are closed on Sundays. This took a bit of getting used to at first I have to admit. Mañana -The legendary Spanish ‘mañana’ attitude to life can be problematic when waiting on tasks to be done. Instead of feeling frustrated, good advice would be to embrace it in the manner that it is supposed to be taken… and that’s with a huge pinch of salt.
Language – A big culture shock for me was the language barrier. However I soon learned that even if you aren’t fluent, most Spanish people will go out of their way to help if you try to say a few words in Spanish. However, and quite rightly so, many consider it rude to be spoken to in a language that isn’t their native tongue. In the tourist destinations it may be fine, but my advice would be unless they speak English first, then don’t assume they understand you.
Red tape and bureaucracy in Spain is notorious and none more so when it comes to banking. I experienced this first hand when I arrived in Spain and opened a bank account in Alhaurin El Grande (near Malaga). I only had my passport as I didn’t at the time have a registered NIE number (Spain’s equivalent of a national insurance number). It wasn’t until months later I found out that I was being charged €5.00 per month for the privilege of not having an NIE number. After a period of time I moved house (about an hour further east from Malaga) and went into the local branch there after acquiring my NIE. I was told that if I wanted to change my account I had to make the 2½ hour round trip back to Alhaurin El Grande and close the account there and then open another account in a new branch. This was despite the fact that it was the same bank. To cap it all I also needed to pay €18.00 for doing so. The moral is to make sure you have everything you need paperwork wise before you open an account.
When it comes to finding rental accommodation in Spain there is plenty to choose from and prices can range from €250.00 per calendar month for a studio flat or €500 – €1000 for a town house or private villa with land. This does depend on where you want to be. Clearly in southern Spain if you chose to live near to Marbella then €1000 isn’t going to buy you much. However there are far cheaper places if you travel slightly inland. To find property you can go through an online property portal (Here’s one such site) or alternatively take a drive around and you will see a number of properties saying ‘se Alquiler’ (to rent). These are generally privately owned properties where the owner is seeking to rent without advertising, or indeed going through an agent, and these can be cheaper. However, the downside is that if you do have any issues then you will have to take them up directly with the landlord, rather than having the agent fight your corner. Prior to 1994, laws protecting tenants used to be non-existent, however when the ‘Ley de Arrendiamentos Urbanos‘ came into being, this all changed. Here are a couple of great websites which explain how property rental in Spain works.
Finally; a word of advice… Avoid any rental agents that charge a so called ‘finder’s fee’ (normally one month’s rent). This is an unnecessary practise and there are plenty of agents out there who don’t charge for this service.
Spain like many other EU countries is going through tough economic times. In fact in a country with just over 47 million people, 24.4% (5.63 million) of those who are of an employable age are out of work. Therefore the chances of finding a job even as a Spanish speaking ex-pat are very slim. For those who do have good jobs here, they tend to have already been working for companies in the UK and have accepted foreign posts. As a result, many ex-pats have chosen to set up their own businesses relying on the large ex-pat communities that are based nearby. Others look to operate online businesses which don’t necessarily rely on the Spanish economy. Another way that some people find work here is by teaching English. Here’s a link to a useful website on the subject. Teaching English in Spain
It is fair to say that the Spanish pension system is very good indeed, but paying into it can be expensive, especially when starting out in business as there is simply no flexibility. Here’s a great website that explains the benefits and pitfalls of paying your way in Spain and more importantly how much it will cost you. Guide to paying taxes in Spain.
So you’re young and may well be looking for a bit of fun and possibly even romance, but how do you go about finding potential boyfriend/girlfriend material in Spain? The younger Spanish generation are romantic and you don’t have to go too far to see couples walking arm in arm or kissing in public. So where does that leave you?
If you go to any of the larger cities or towns then you will find plenty of ‘cervecerias’ (beer houses). This is how many young people like to start the evening after work, prior to moving on to a tapas bar or two. Why not find a busy bar around 6pm that’s full of people and order yourself a glass of chilled cerveza and then mingle. Throw in a few flirtatious glances or perhaps if your confidence is really up, then try speaking a little Spanish. Why not ask them where they are headed to next, or simply follow the crowds. The Spanish love to converse so it shouldn’t be a problem and remember… even if you aren’t fluent in Spanish; a few words go a long way. Apart from the nightlife scene another great place to meet Spanish people are English language centres. This is good if your Spanish isn’t completely up to scratch. Alternatively, if you really don’t feel like doing all that legwork then you may want to enrol in a dating site. Here are some local dating sites pertaining to the Andalucía region.
As EU residents UK personnel do not require entry visas to live in Spain. However the laws have changed recently and there are some steps that you will need to take, especially if you plan to live in the country for over 3 months. Check out this detailed website from the British Embassy in Madrid which tells you all you need to know.
When the words Costa del Sol are mentioned, then most people immediately think of the glitzy resort of Marbella, and the tourist hotspots of Fuengirola and Torremolinos. However I’d like to share with you some of the best kept things to see and do that aren’t necessarily in the tourist guides.
About an hour inland from Malaga is the stunning Axarquia region of Malaga Province. Take the ‘raisin route’ up from Velez-Malaga as you slowly climb up to the stunning mountain villages and breath-taking scenery of Competa and Canillas de Albaida.
If you want to escape the crowded beaches, then the Malaga region is located within the area of three national parks (the Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama) and as a result the stunning mountain scenery is fantastic for hiking, trekking, horse riding and even quad biking.
My name is Dale King and I have been living and working in southern Spain for the past eight years. I live on the outskirts of a typical whitewashed Pueblo about 1 hour east of Malaga and 30 minutes inland from the coast and love the peace and tranquillity it offers. I work from home as a freelance writer and share my life with my partner Julie, plus our two dogs and 3 cats.
Check the prices of removals to Spain.
Contribution by Michael Pawlicki
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