It is by no means easy just to turn up in Spain and start a new life with no connections, and your old social network far away at home. Scared the hell out of me when I first got here.
But there are a lot of ways to find your feet, and a social life in Spain, pretty quickly. All you have to do is plan well before you arrive, or get on the case as soon as you get here. Here are some top tips gleaned from my own experiences, and those of others. So, in no particular order:
1. Enroll on a course in Spain before you leave
I walked straight into a TEFL course at International House, Madrid, when I first arrived in Spain. I instantly met 11 other people in the same boat as me. What a relief! It was an even bigger relief when the school hired me afterwards, and I had a whole staffroom of people to go out with at night! Which leads me to…
2. Get a job in a language academy
You will meet lots of savvy ex-pats who have been here for years and can give you excellent advice on those first difficult weeks in Spain (and show you where the beer is coldest 😉 ) Don’t be afraid of mixing with English speakers (some people only want to meet Spaniards), they can be a very useful asset in those early days!
3. Get a job anywhere, better still, have your company send you here!
It’s not all about English teaching. You can work in anything you want with the right amount of effort and patience. If you can get a transfer to Spain with the company you already work with, even better – there will be an office full of Spanish people waiting to bring your language skills up to par.
4. Get an intercambio
No, get three intercambios (see our Spain Glossary entry). Use Loquo.com’s language exchange section for your city. Place an ad of your own. This is the very best thing you can do to make contact with the Spanish. Do not underestimate the power of the intercambio!
5. Use the Irish Pubs
If you feel like you need to speak to someone in your own language, don’t worry about checking out the Irish Pub scene when you first get to Spain. There will be a host of ex-pats propping up the bar, who can give you great advice about finding flats, work etc.
6. Flat sharing
Find a shared flat with one or more locals. Look at noticeboards in bookshops, colleges, universities etc, ex-pat paper classifieds, loquo.com… with any luck some of your new flatmates’ social life will rub off on you!
7. Choose a busy city
All of the above will be a lot easier in a big city such as Madrid, Barcelona or Valencia.
8. Join a Spanish class
…in a language academy. Your Spanish will improve, and Spanish classes in Spain tend to be full of people from all over the world that have just moved to Spain for the long term.
9. If in real doubt, use a relocation service
Some of them are very personal and friendly, and will help you to find a flat, and to orientate you in your new surroundings. I met the owner of one, “Easy Landing“, on a plane to the UK – seems highly recommendable!
10. Find a Spanish bar to call your own
Been in a real, typical Spanish bar and felt quite at home? Make it your local. Pop in regularly for a coffee, caña, or menu del dia. The barmen/waiters will soon come to recognise you and make you feel more at home.