Living in Spain

Is this the year you will move to Spain?

Bolonia beach
Photo: Bolonia beach, another great reason to move to Spain!

10 years and 5 days ago I stepped foot on mainland Spain for the first time. It was December 31st 1997, and my destination was San Sebastian. 4 days later I was back in the UK with one thing on my mind, moving to the incredible country I had just discovered as soon as possible.

It took me 9 months to pluck up the courage to do anything about it, but eventually, in September ’98, I arrived in Madrid, a move I have never regretted for one minute.

Is this the year you are considering a similar move? If so, here are a few pointers that might help:

1. The idea of moving to another country is terrifying. That’s normal. The reality is much less scary. Once you arrive, you’ll be way too busy settling in and having fun to feel worried, scared or unsure of your decision anymore. So never let the fear put you off.

2. Of the many countries I have visited or spent time in, I have no doubt that Spain is one of the easiest places on earth to set up a new life in. Why? Not sure. Maybe it’s that easy-going, relaxed thing that the Spanish do so well…

3. You don’t need any Spanish to move to Spain but it is probably a good idea. You will need it to rent flats, get bank accounts, buy food etc. You’ll learn very fast on arrival, but having a bit before you get here won’t do any harm. Having said that, I arrived in Madrid with a Spanish vocabulary of about 5 words and phrases so completely ignore this point if you like!

4. If you plan to be an English teacher to begin with, then strongly consider starting out in Barcelona or Madrid, especially if you don’t have any kind of diploma to your name or come from outside the EU. There is far more teaching work available in these cities than elsewhere.

5. If you want to continue in your current professional field after the move, then be prepared to fight hard for a job. There are jobs in IT, engineering, telecommunications etc, but you’ll be up against a lot of Spanish people who also want to work in these fields, and they have the connections that make such a difference in Spain. But, as the great running shoe in the sky says, impossible is nothing, and I know many expats who work in their chosen field in Spain. Which leads on to:

6. I never tire of saying this. You do not need to sacrifice your career to move to Spain. You can, and have the right to, do whatever you want with your life in Spain. Unless you want to join the Spanish police force, then you might need a bit of Spanish nationality in the mix somewhere…

7. If you run an on-line business forget the above. Why aren’t you here already? Spain has great broadband (though you might have to wait two or three weeks for your new connection to get hooked up…), and your cyber-clients don’t mind where you live!

8. Unless you move somewhere very quiet, and very far from Madrid, Seville, San Sebastian or Barcelona, Spain is expensive these days. Not London or Paris expensive, but getting there. Gone are the days of stupidly cheap drinks and restaurant meals. (The rise of the euro put pay to that – maybe that’s why so many Spaniards like to keep thinking in pesetas…) Come prepared to support yourself for a while.

9. Making friends with Spanish people is tough and takes a while. Some people arrive in Spain determined not to go near anyone else from ‘back home’, but this is a mistake. Apart from being very nice and just as interesting as you (they made the move too, right?) other expats are invaluable sources of information and help during your first years in Spain.

10. As usual, it’s over to you. What would you like to add for point 10?

11. Update: if you are moving here with a family, or thinking of starting a business here on arrival, you must read this post by Brian, an American friend who moved here with his family but later made the tough decision to go back home. He has invaluable words of wisdom to offer – read it even if you don’t fall into the above family-moving or business-starting categories.

Further thoughts…

“Impossible is nothing”, “just do it”, “you make your own luck”, “you only live once”, “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” You know what I mean! If you really really think you’d like to make a bold move this year, then by whatever means possible, surprise and inspire yourself into doing it. It is very very very unlikely that you will regret it ten years down the line…

Ten years down my line from that first urge to ditch London and move to Spain, things are going quite well. It’s exactly one year since Marina, my wife, took a big gamble and left her job to work full time with me on our blogging and podcasting projects, and while we are by no means dot com rich, we manage to have a fine time and cover the mortgage. It’s funny to think that blogging and podcasting didn’t even exist when I arrived in Madrid!

If you make this the year to pursue this (or, for that matter, any other) dream, where might you be in ten years time?

Have you got any questions about moving to or living in Spain? Join our forum, where many happy expat-experts are delighted to help!