Moving to Spain
Moving to Spain is an absolutely incredible experience - you get to experience a new culture, learn a new language, meet new people, face your fears, and have the time of your life that you honestly can’t find anywhere else. Spaniards really know how to live, so it’s a great place to learn how to do just that!
So, now that you’ve decided that you want to move to Spain, or even if you’re just kind of tossing the idea around in your mind right now, what is there to know? Well, there’s a lot to know. There’s things like what you should be expecting, things you should avoid doing, how to get about getting to Spain in the first place, and how to meet people so that you’re not totally alone. Read along, my friend!
Pros and Cons to Living in Spain
If you’ve never traveled outside of your own country, you may have this idea in your head that everywhere else is better than your own. I know this is definitely true for Americans like me, who have gotten the idea by now that we’re the butt of a lot of other cultures’ jokes. Yeah, I get it. Beautiful, beautiful Europe. It’s romantic, it’s ancient....it’s gotta be better, right? Well, yes and no. Just like everything else, there are pros and cons to living in Spain, because you're just not going to love all the cultural differences you find.
A thing you’ll find by traveling is that there are parts of new cultures that you’re going to fall head over heels for, but others that you’re going to hate. You just are. You have a love/hate relationship with your own culture, right? It’s the same with any other culture. For example, the Spanish are sllllloooooowwwwwwww, especially in the metro. Americans are fast. Real fast. And I walk quickly even for an American, so you wouldn’t believe how stressful it got for me. I took a lot of Spanish culture in for growth purposes, but that just does not fly with me. Sorry, I got long legs. They’re going places.
But not matter how much the Spanish bother you, you will always be left blown away with beauty. You will love all the exercise you get walking around (no more painful diets for you!), the deliciously fresh food, and the energy of the Spanish. As a general rule, they are a calm, happy people. They know how to live. I mean seriously, they take 2 hour naps in the middle of the work day! That’s living.
So yes, while you do have to take the bad with the good, believe me when I say that the bad far outweighs the good. There is so much to get out of the experience of moving to Spain, you will feel so fulfilled. Yeah, fulfillment. That’s the feeling you’ll feel. Filled to the brim with beauty, the feeling of accomplishment when you face your fears (which is absolutely gonna happen), and really just joy. You want a pro? There are your pros.
The Biggest Mistakes When Moving to Spain
So, now that you’re absolutely, 100%, no-questions-about-it convinced that moving to Spain is the thing for you (which, by the way, it is), what do you not do? Well, a lot.
My biggest mistake when moving to Spain was bringing too much crap! Seasoned travelers have probably got this one down pat, but I definitely made an (almost literally) back-breaking mistake. So the rule of thumb is to look at all the stuff you want to bring, narrow it down to the stuff you’ll need to bring, and then cut it in half. Yeah, that was a little too painful for me. So I ignored it. Which meant the actual process of moving to Spain was physically painful, I broke my brand new backpack, and I just had way too much stuff considering how little space there is in Spain. That being said, if you’re new to the whole travel thing, don’t do that.
Second. Moving to Spain? For Pete’s sake, dress like a Spaniard! Americans have this awful habit of not dressing well as a whole. Europeans dress to the nines. Not only does Spain (especially southern Spain) have warmer climates than a lot of Europe, but they’re also right next door to Paris. There’s nothing worse than looking around and seeing a bunch of touristy-looking tourists. I mean, yeah, there’s nothing wrong with being a tourist at all. It’s great! But not looking like you belong does single you out and make it more probable that nasty locals will make a victim out of you.
What do I mean by that you ask? Good question, and a GREAT segue into my next point: pickpockets. Spaniards, and Europeans as a whole, do it well. Not being aware of where your stuff is, especially when it comes to wallets, passports (which, by the way, you should never carry on your person, unless you're actively traveling), and cellphones, is a ginormous mistake! Pickpockets are real good at what they do.
The rule of thumb is to always have your personals in front of you. No back pockets, no purses on chairs, not even a cell phone on a table at the restaurant - they’ll distract you by putting a menu between your eyes and your phone, swipe it, and you’ll never even know it happened. Ladies, I got into the habit of keeping all my things in my (small) purse, and keeping my purse in front of my body while I walked and in my lap when I sat down. Never, ever hanging off the back of my chair. Guys, same goes for you. Nothing in the back pocket. And never just in your hand. All you gotta do is put it down once...
So, now that you’ve got a decent idea of what you know before moving to Spain, how do you do it?
How to Live and Work in Spain
Are you a native English speaker? Then you’re absolutely set. Seriously. You don’t need an ounce of Spanish to find work in Spain. You might want it, for survival purposes, but over the last few years it’s become easier than ever to find English speaking jobs in Spain.
There are a ton of online resources for you to find work. The undoubtedly most popular job for you to find out there is a job speaking English - you don’t necessarily need any experience, or even have to have an interview!
Just starting with Facebook, for example, there are several groups to help you out and get you moving to Spain. Some of the common groups:
If you can’t find anything there, there are zillions more opportunities out there for you both with companies looking for English-speaking employees on the regular, and on open job boards.
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Meet Other Americans Living in Spain
Finally, you’ll definitely want to connect with some potential friends when moving to Spain. If you really want to learn Spanish while there, I highly suggest you avoid English-speaking friends if at all possible. It’s so so easy to revert back to English even with Spanish speakers who are comfortable in English, and it’s pretty much impossible to practice your Spanish when you’re always around English.
That being said, there are tons and tons of networks out there for you to find Americans living in Spain. Tons of ‘em. If you’re moving to Spain through some sort of organization, like a teach abroad company, you’ll probably meet other Americans like you, and they’ll have their own networks they’ll tell you about. If not, there’s a couple popular Facebook groups out there for you:
Worse comes to worst, don’t forget just how social Spain is. The country and its people are really good at pulling you out of your shell - just go outside and people will talk to you!
Looking for More Information?
I've written a guide and accompanying resource list from my experiences moving to Spain, including all the legal information I used, what I wish I had known before leaving, and detailed reports of how I lived and how you can, too! Click the guides for more information.