Rich with culture and history, Spain is a fabulous place to visit. And for many people, the idea of living in Spain seems like a dream come true.
But you can’t judge Spain based on a week-long vacation. There are many great reasons to move to Spain, but the fact is that expatriates face a variety of challenges.
Today we’re talking about what it’s really like to live in Spain as an expatriate. Check out this list of pros and cons so you can decide whether living in Spain is right for you.
Why Living in Spain is Great for Expats
One thing is obvious: it’s easy to fall in love with the Spanish lifestyle.
Spain is home to incredible weather and beautiful beaches. With over 300 days of sun every year, it’s one of Europe’s sunniest places.
If beach living isn’t your thing, that’s okay. The cities of Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville are steeped in culture and style.
If you’re into arts and architecture, you can view buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi and enjoy museums dedicated to Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.
Add fantastic tapas, incredible wine, and exciting nightlife, and it’s easy to see why people love to spend time in Spain.
But vacationing and visiting are far different from living there…
The Best Reasons to Live in Spain
If you’re thinking about living in Spain, there are a lot of benefits.
For starters, Spain’s low cost of living makes it more affordable than most Western European countries. For example, rent in London is 120% higher than in Barcelona. Compared to the U.S., rent in Spain is 45.28% lower. Even little things, like a bottle of imported beer, will cost you 73% more in London than it will in Barcelona.
Another reason to head to this affordable western European country? Spain’s health care system is among the best rated in the world.
The benefits don’t stop there.
Spain has an excellent public transportation system. It’s easily accessible and it makes it easy for people to get around.
The overall lifestyle is quite laid-back, and there are lots of leisure activities to enjoy. People in Spain work to live – they don’t live to work. In general, Spaniards are friendly with a relaxed way of life, making it very easy to feel comfortable.
And if you have a family, you’ll love the child-friendly environment. The majority of families have multiple children, making it a great place for expatriates with kids of all ages.
Why International Citizens Don’t Like Living in Spain
Now that we mentioned all the things that make Spain fabulous, it’s time to get honest and discuss the parts that aren’t so great.
With the low cost of living comes low wages and slow financial gains. Spain has a high rate of unemployment – in fact, it is very difficult for expats to find employment.
It is a great choice for retirees and self-employed workers who aren’t seeking employment.
What else makes Spain a challenging place for expatriates? It’s difficult for expats to purchase a property because dealing with locals attorneys and the Spanish government is challenging. In fact, the bureaucracy of the Spanish government is a major complaint from most expats.
The hardest thing to adjust to for many expats is the siesta. In theory, it’s a great idea, but the reality is that during the siesta most places shut down.
Shops and businesses usually close from 2 to 5 pm. Bars and restaurants tend to remain open at that time, then close from about 4 pm to 8 or 9 pm. You can’t just go anywhere you want at any time of day, and that’s a bit more culture shock than many expatriates can handle.
Things to Know About Living in Spain
Even if you can handle the big complaints that many expats have, there are some other little things that you’ll have to get accustomed to.
1. Lines are long.
Not only are the lines long, but no one ever seems to be in a rush. If you come from a fast-paced environment, this can be infuriating. Our best advice is to plan ahead and go with the flow. If you want to live in Spain, you should try to assimilate to the laid-back lifestyle.
2. The food is excellent – as long as you like the local cuisine.
There simply aren’t that many international restaurants. Spain is well known for its seafood-filled tapas, so if you want to live there, you should try to get used to it.
3. The culture varies greatly from region to region.
It takes some time to get used to the local traditions, regardless of where in the country you settle down. When living in Spain, try to spend as much time learning about local history and traditions. This will help you understand and appreciate the culture that surrounds you.
4. People party late – and they’re loud.
If you prefer peace and quiet, living in one of Spain’s larger cities is probably not the place for you. And we’re not just talking about late-night drunks, children and teenagers are often in the streets (due in part to the low employment rate.) That doesn’t mean you can’t find quiet areas outside of the city.
Visas and Work Permits Needed to Live in Spain
Do you think the pros of living in Spain outweigh the cons? If so, it’s time to think about the visas or work permits you’ll need to live in Spain full-time.
If you’re a national from the European Union, you don’t need a visa or a work permit to live and work in Spain.
If you’re from America or a country that is part of the Schengen Agreement, you can spend up to three months in the country without a visa – but you can’t work.
Looking to live, work, or study in Spain for more than 90 days? You’ll need to secure a visa from the Spanish embassy.
A brief visit to Spain is not an indication of what it’s like to live there. Spain has tremendous upsides, but expats can expect to face their fair share of challenges when living there.
Before you decide if living in Spain is right for you, weigh the pros and cons. The cost of living is low, but the employment rate is high, so you’ve got to consider your options.
For retirees, Spain is a fantastic place to live in. But if you’re thinking about moving there to start a new career, it’s not the best choice.
The bottom line is that it’s an excellent choice for some people and a terrible choice for others. Think about your personal needs so you can make an informed decision before you decide to live in Spain or any other country.