Living in Spain

Moving to Spain: Mistakes you can make… The big one.

Talking about moving to Spain and making mistakes in the same sentence is a bit of a contradiction in terms. In fact, if you have been dreaming of moving to Spain for a long time, then the only real mistake you can make is not doing so. What’s the worst thing that can happen after all? You take a huge cut in wages or risk a big career regression? You miss all your friends? None of these or similar perceived disasters are as terrible as staying where you are and always wondering "What if” you had actually made the move to Spain instead of staying at home and never giving yourself a chance to just do it. Remember, if it all goes wrong, you can go home and feel good about having had the guts to have tried it in the first place.

Anyway, let’s skip a step and imagine that you have done yourself an enormous favour and fulfilled your desire to move to Spain. What, in my 9 years experience in Spain, do I consider to be my single greatest mistake?

Up until a few years ago I was often under the impression that I might not get as far as I might in Spain as I am not Spanish. I thought that I would forever be doing jobs that were intrinsically linked with being English, i.e. English teaching and translation. Don’t get me wrong, these are both 100% worthy, legitimate professions to be extremely proud of, it’s just that it wasn’t what I had in mind, it wasn’t what I was aiming for when I first arrived in Spain. I got it into my head that I was foreign, and therefore I would have to do "being-English” related jobs that didn’t match up with my aspirations.

This attitude was a mistake, obviously. Firstly, if you move to Spain remember that you have every right to be here – we live in an internationalised world these days and if you want to live and work in Spain then don’t feel funny about it. I have friends in Spain who run businesses, and others who found great jobs here in multinational consulting and advertising companies – it’s entirely possible that they won’t move up the promotions ladder as quickly as their Spanish counterparts, but the two people I am thinking of (English and Italian) are both managers of small teams and in their early thirties. Not bad considering the global importance of the companies they work for.

So what are the antidotes to this feeling that you aren’t Spanish and therefore might not get as far career-wise as you could back home?

1. Learn Spanish Fast. If you want to compete on equal terms with your new compatriots, show them that you have made a hell of an effort to learn their language.

2. Believe in yourself! If you had the guts to get this far then you can certainly take your new life all the way through to your ideal finish line. You may not be Spanish, but you are a brave SOB and you’re as good as any of them!

3. If a career path in a Spanish company looks tough, think about the the privileged position that your foreignness puts you in – all the niches you can cover! – and think about starting a business in one of these areas.

4. Sorry to repeat myself, but Learn Spanish! Get 5 intercambios, be the most motivated language learner in your class (yes, go to classes twice a week as soon as you arrive and until you are reasonably fluent), and absorb everything you read and hear like a sponge.

Do fears like this stop you moving to Spain? Did you move here and experience the same?