So, you're moving to Spain, are you?
It's one of the most beautiful parts of Europe, after all.
And boasts some amazing history dating back to before the Romans conquered it.
Also, let's not forget about the jaw-dropping scenery.
Spain is beyond describable. Mountains in the north. Also in the south, and the center. Pretty much everywhere.
World-class beaches on the Mediterranean. And if you don't like Mediterranean beaches, there are beaches on the Atlantic.
But you know what else?
Spain is insanely affordable. I'm talking disposable income in your pocket at the end of the month affordable.
According to the 2018 Mercer's Cost of Living Survey, Madrid was 33-percent cheaper than Los Angeles, and a whopping 42-percent cheaper than New York!
Barcelona and other major Spanish cities came out even cheaper.
It gets better.
You can take a bus or a train for a Euro!
That's $1.15 U.S. You can't even buy a coffee for that price.
Wait, there's more!
The weather in Spain. Yes, please. Their bikini season lasts nine months.
And winter requires only a nice sweater and a jacket.
So You're Moving To Spain
Want to know more about moving to Spain?
The first thing you want to do is learn about the country.
In my experience, going in well-armed with local knowledge sets you up for success.
A long time ago I spent nearly seven years living and working in a bunch of different countries.
In that time, I learned a thing or two about moving overseas.
Things like homesickness.
You see, when you move overseas, the first few weeks are filled with wonder and excitement.
Everything is new. New people. New friends. And a new life. You feel reinvented, and it's awesome.
Just wait, because...
Bam! Homesickness hits.
After weeks of riding a high, you're suddenly down.
You want to hear English and talk to "normal" people.
You just want to go out and understand everything like you're used to.
And wow! You REALLY miss the food from home. Nothing here is like that.
What does this mean for you?
The good news is:
Homesickness passes. Eventually, you stabilize and just live your life.
Those exciting tourist highs are gone, but so are those depressing lows. Now, you're just a regular local.
Chances are you know the local convenience store staff and a bus route or two.
But if you don't take measures beforehand, that homesickness will come a lot faster, and be a lot harder.
So learn what you can before you head out, and start with a few of the basics.
Spanish weather is unlike any other weather on the continent.
First, it's completely schizophrenic.
There are warm beaches on the Costa Del Sol. You can even catch some rays in February, although the water will be chilly.
But head northwest, and suddenly you're dealing with Atlantic winter storms.
And the interior is a desert, yet a few hours north are lush mountains with forests and meadows.
Just remember a few basics:
"I love Spain. I go back two or three times a year to ride horses"
-- Bo Derek
You can go skiing in the winter, so you'll want to bring snow gear for that.
Otherwise, forget it.
What do you call a Spaniard with a rubber toe?
All joking aside, Spaniards love a good joke.
And they love sharing their hilarious jokes with others.
That's because Spaniards love hanging out.
It's rare to see someone sitting alone in a cafe or bar in Spain. There's always a few of them.
And because they're so friendly, it won't be long before you're friends with a dozen locals.
You'll be eating out with new friends in no time.
Just don't criticize anything.
Spaniards don't accept any criticism about their country from foreigners.
Then again, that holds true for everyone. No?
Did you know that Spain has a love affair with rails?
If the rails won't get you there, you can rely on thousands of buses. They pretty much have the entire country covered in buses.
Buses in the city are called autobus.
Inter-city buses are known as autocar.
Remember that. It's a key piece of knowledge when moving to Spain.
When you're moving to Spain, you may be wondering if you should rent or buy.
You should rent.
Unless you're going to spend the next 10 years or so living in Spain, it's not a buyers market.
Plus you'll need 15-percent above purchase price for commissions, which are paid by the buyer.
Spain is a constitutional monarchy. King Felipe VI ascended the throne in 2014.
But renting has its headaches, too.
You need to go through a registered rental agent.
Once you find a place you like, you'll need to pay the agent the equivalent of one month's rent as a fee.
And because you're a foreigner, the landlord may ask for several months rent up front.
Also, you'll need a written guarantee from a bank or employer that you actually have money.
The places you can choose from vary wildly, from upscale to downright condemned.
Be careful when choosing a place, because while regulations exist to protect you, enforcement is lax.
So if you end up in a place with a leaking roof, it can be difficult to get your landlord to fix it.
On the other hand:
Once you do settle into a suitable apartment overlooking a flowery boulevard in Bilbao, you will never want to leave.
It just takes a bit of digging, but you'll find it.
Living In Spain
You yearn for adventure.
Spain has that in buckets.
The Iberian Peninsula consists of 17 different regions, each with their own culture and identity.
Aragon, on the border with France, is refined, conservative, and quaint.
Andalucia is the most famous part of Spain:
It's the one with all the beaches in the south and is the home to Flamenco dancing.
Castilla la Mancha, where you'll find Madrid, is urban and sophisticated.
Galicia, just above Portugal on the northwest coast, is the home of intellectuals, universities, and art.
So what's it all about?
It's about variety and adventure. If you get bored in one place, go to another.
In Spain, more men are unemployed than women, and 60-percent of all small businesses are female-owned.
But that's not all:
Food in Spain is colorful and cheap. If you love seafood and fruits, Spain is for you.
And everywhere you go you'll be surrounded by gorgeous flowers and trees.
There are gardens everywhere.
But that's just part of the story...
Because Spaniards love to party.
We're talking a lot.
In fact, Spain is known as the party capital of Europe.
And that leads to a lot of noise and a lot of drama on the streets.
Lovers quarrels, hooting, and hollering, fist fights. You name it.
If you want to make friends, partying in Spain is an easy way to do it.
If you're looking for a more laid back experience, consider moving to a smaller town or a suburb.
The secret to Spain is this:
Leave your stressed-out American ways behind you when you're here.
Relax. Chill. Just go with the flow.
You see, things are going to happen that make you scratch your head.
Why is that old lady doing that?
Or why won't shopkeepers just act "normal"? Can't I just give them money and get products in return?
There isn't really answer to these questions in Spain.
Instead, accept it for what it is: an adventure.
And once you learn to laugh and love life, you'll be so much happier!
The first novel, Don Quixote, was written in Spain in 1605.
Are you ready for some bad news?
Spain has the worst-performing job market in the European Union.
We're talking 20-percent unemployment.
That number goes even higher for youth unemployment.
As in nearly 40%.
So if you're a graduate, you'll be competing against millions of Spanish graduates.
That said, if you're an English-speaker, you have an advantage.
You can teach English.
Spain has a booming TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) market.
Remember all those unemployed graduates?
Ya, they want to learn English to give them an advantage in the job market, and that's where you come in.
If you don't want to teach, you can self-finance your travels with writing.
Because there's no shortage of things to write about in Spain.
You'll need to build up a portfolio and get some paying clients. That takes about a year of hard work.
Finally, if you're a young woman with reasonable fitness, you can dance.
The party spots of Costa del Sol and Ibiza are always hiring go-go dancers for their nightclubs.
Spanish children don't get the tooth fairy. Instead, a mouse named Ratoncito Perez comes to take their teeth and leave money under their pillow.
Want to know more about your home in Spain?
First off, you'll most likely end up renting a Local.
Think of four-story buildings with shops and cafes on the ground level and a bunch of apartments above that.
That's a Local.
They're the most affordable and most common form of housing available for rent.
480-square-feet will run you between 600 and 800 Euros a month, with another 100 Euros a month for utilities.
Wait until you see the place.
The first thing you'll notice is that the doorknob is in the center of the door.
That's right -- the center.
Next, the windows don't have screens, so all the bugs get in.
And there is carpeting EVERYWHERE!
Even the kitchen is carpeted.
Talking about kitchens, yours will have a few surprises in store for you.
First, the bombonas.
You'll see a bunch of orange canisters near the stove.
Those are pressurized butane canisters.
That's because there's no gas line connected to your apartment, so you basically need to keep stocked up bombonas.
They're also the source of gas for your hot water, so plan ahead before you shower.
You'll also be shocked that Spanish washrooms are just that: for washing only.
There's a sink, and a shower, and probably a washing machine.
But no toilet.
That's in the next room.
In true European style, Spaniards keep their dirty toilets separate from their clean washrooms.
It doesn't matter though, because they're both carpeted for some reason.
Madrid is home to Restaurante Botin, the oldest restaurant in the world which opened its doors in 1725.
You see an ad for three rooms for 1,000 Euros, and you think "Holy wow! What a deal!"
Notice the ad said three rooms and not three bedrooms?
That's because in Spain, as in most of Europe, the living room is counted as a room.
Our apartments usually rent by the bedroom. The living room is just assumed.
So what we call a two bedroom, they call a three room.
Remember this when you're apartment hunting.
Spain gets more than 3,000 hours of sunlight a year, making it the sunniest country on earth.
You're afraid that modern communications in Spain won't be up to par.
Spain is highly-connected. Over 90-percent of the country owns a mobile phone.
Nearly 100-percent of people under the age of 65 have high-speed internet access.
Wi-Fi abounds at every cafe.
You'll be fine.
Before you head out, you'll need to make sure that your phone will work on the GSM network. If so, bring it and simply pop in a Spanish SIM card. You're all set. You can choose service from one of the four main providers.
Vodafone is the largest mobile network operator in Europe, covering 96-percent of the continent with fast 4G or LTE speeds. They're also more expensive.
Compared to US plans, Spanish plans are a steal.
Data is cheap. Expect to pay between 30 and 50 Euros a month for up to 100 GB of high-speed data.
Spain is the third most heavily-touristed country in the world, after the USA and France.
Food and groceries
Don't you just hate it when you need bread, but the store is closed?
Haha, who are we kidding? Stores don't close.
But in Spain, that's exactly what happens. Constantly.
The stores seem to keep completely random hours.
One day they're open at 9 am. The next day, not until 11:15. What gives? And don't forget about siesta.
Every day around noon, everything closes. Of course, on a weekend they might just stay closed until 2 pm. Nevertheless, some aspects of Spanish commerce make sense.
Stores tend to specialize in certain products.
You don't go to a giant department store to buy engine oil and bananas. Walmart doesn't exist. Instead, you go to a small store that specializes in engine oil.
And for bananas, you would hit up a tiny store specializing in fresh fruits. It just makes sense.
According to the OECD, the average workday in Spain is just six hours long, making Spain the least productive workforce in the world.
How To Get There
Seriously, how much are you considering moving to Spain now?
The weather is (mostly) awesome, the people are friendly, and the country is beautiful.
Best of all, everything is super-affordable compared to America.
Sure, you have to put up with some annoyances.
Shopping is such a pain in the derriere that entire songs should be made about it.
And don't forget the constant noise.
Wow, they like to make a lot of noise in Spain.
Spain has the second highest lifespan in the world, after Japan. The average woman lives to age 85.
But overall, moving to Spain will be the adventure of a lifetime.
What's the catch?
Well, for starters, you need to get there.
You can't just waltz in as a tourist and expect to stay for a year or more.
And if you want to work, you'll need the proper visas. And that means finding a job before you go.
Worst of all:
It means dealing with Spanish bureaucracy.
More on that later.
How do I know?
Like I said, I have quite a bit of experience working in foreign countries.
I've even dealt with the Russian bureaucracy!
So when it comes to finding work, getting a visa, and moving to a foreign land, I'm an expert.
So let's get down to it.
The process of getting there is going to suck.
It's going to be long and tiring, and you're going to jump through a lot of hoops.
A lot of Spanish government services aren't available online.
That means trips to the nearest Consulate or expensive registered mail.
But that's not all.
First, you need to secure a job.
If you're going to finance yourself with writing, you need to get the proper visa.
You're moving to Spain, not just visiting.
You'll need a visado nacionale. A national visa.
But you can only get that if you have an employer, so self-financing means you can only stay for 90 days out of every 180 days.
Get a job
The easiest way to get around Europe's Schengen visa laws is to find a job.
It sounds simple, but it isn't.
As I mentioned, Spain has the highest unemployment rate in Europe.
There just aren't that many jobs for foreigners.
You can teach English or write for a local English-language publication.
Some companies might need an English speaker for PR.
But it's easier (and cheaper) to hire other EU citizens from Ireland or England.
So that's ruled out.
If you want to go the dancer route, be prepared to live a party-hard lifestyle.
Get your visa
Okay, I know what you're thinking.
"How can I get a visa if I don't have a job?"
Let's just assume that you're moving to Spain because you have a job lined up.
In that case, you need to get a National Visa for working and living in Spain.
What's the catch?
You can't do it on your own.
Your employer needs to submit the application on your behalf to the Labour Ministry. That means you'll need to submit all the information to them.
And it can be, so make sure you trust the people who are about to hire you.
Another way in is through the Golden Spanish Visa.
This is a residency visa which allows you to live, but not work, in Spain.
Hang on a minute.
It requires that you invest a minimum of 500,000 Euros of your own cash into buying property in Spain.
A word about Spanish bureaucracy
I'm going to stop you right there.
That's because there's one piece of the puzzle missing.
The Spanish bureaucracy. There is nothing quite like it in all of Europe.
You can fill out a form perfectly, and they'll send it back because they found something missing.
Sometimes they have two identical forms, but one has three dots on the bottom left corner where the other has two. That's reason enough to make you resubmit it.
Of course, the next bureaucrat will decide that you actually needed the form with three dots, so go and resubmit it again.
Dealing with their bureaucracy is brutal.
It's ugly and frustrating, and many people on the path to moving to Spain turn back at this point.
There are easier countries to move to. Like the Moon.
But if you persevere, or hire an expert at navigating the nonsense:
You'll eventually come out the other end with all the right visas and forms.
Spain is the second largest country in the European Union after France.
When you're working in Spain, part of your pay deductions go to cover health care.
Which means you get completely free access to one of the best health care systems in the world.
The Spanish health system is ranked in the top five of the entire world.
They are modern, efficient, professional, and really, really good at what they do.
And like every European country, health care is paid for by the state. It's also considered a human right, so you won't be turned away.
What's the catch?
If you're moving to Spain and not working, then you'll need to supply your own health insurance.
Also, Spain uses both a public health care (asistencia sanitaria publica) and private health care (privado).
Private health care means you get in to see a doctor or a specialist faster and includes goodies like massages.
You'll need your own health insurance for that, too.
How To Pack To Live In Spain
Pack your underwear and toiletries in your carry-on in case the airline loses your luggage.
But you're not just a tourist.
You're moving to Spain. You're an expat.
Do you see where we're going with this?
Moving overseas for a year or more requires a different kind of packing. It also requires some planning.
We'll get to that in a moment.
First, don't pack all your clothes.
Instead, pack enough to wear clean clothes and clean underwear for a week.
That's right. A week.
That's because once you're there, you can buy new clothes.
You see, most companies in Spain pay once a month. That means you'll need to survive for a month, and then you'll get paid.
Boom! Go clothes shopping!
Which means if you bring enough clothing to wear something clean every day of the week for the first month, you're laughing.
After all, within the first month, you're going to realize that what passes as well-dressed in America is rather slovenly in Europe.
Spaniards dress up to go buy milk.
Everyone looks good.
Well, you're going to want to find local fashions at local stores.
After a month, you'll have a good idea of what to wear so you can blend in.
jogging pants isn't one of them.
Instead, pack the following:
What about personal items?
Remember when I said we'd discuss planning your packing?
Ya, we're there now.
Chances are you have some cherished items at home that you're considering bringing.
Don't bring too many.
If anything weighs more than a few ounces, don't bring it.
If anything takes up more space than a pair of rolled-up socks, don't bring it.
Why do I say this?
Because aside from adding unnecessary weight to your luggage, you won't need it in a year.
A year after you arrive in Spain, you'll have a whole new life.
You'll have all new memories, including souvenirs and cherished items. Eventually, you're going to want to bring those home when you do return.
Same rules apply.
But if you already have a bunch of stuff from home taking space, you're going to have figure out what to leave behind forever.
At least when your personal mementos stay home, you know they're safe until you return.
Complete nudity is legal in Spain
What do you do with all your photo albums?
And what about your book collection? You know you'll want to read when you're over there. How do you read without books?
Every movie and song and book that you love is online.
Buy yourself a Kindle or a Kobo.
You can't go wrong with an iPad. iTunes is great for storing movies and television, plus iBooks has a decent collection.
You know what else?
Use Google Photos and never carry a big photo album around with you.
Google gives you unlimited storage, and it's really easy to upload your photos there.
You've got this!
Decide Where To Live
Imagine what it would feel like to step out onto your veranda with a cup of coffee in your hands.
The sun shines down on you, beautiful plants greet you, and then....what?
What do you picture next?
Is there an ocean breeze? Or do you feel the rush of urban traffic? Perhaps the scent of mountain pine is in the air?
Of course, if you already have a job lined up, then this isn't a question you need to dwell on.
But if you're just starting to explore the idea of moving to Spain, you might want to decide where to live.
Think about it.
In a country like Spain, with so many different regions doing their own thing, your choice of locale will determine your entire experience.
So, if you want to live by a warm beach, then Cartagena or Valencia is worth exploring.
Of course, the urban sophisticates will flock to Madrid or Barcelona.
For something more quaint, head to the region around Bilbao and check out smaller cities like Pamplona.
Let's take a look.
Head to Spain's capital if you want a busy and sophisticated urban lifestyle. Also, Madrid has all the most modern conveniences and some of the best shopping in the country. There are nearly 4 million inhabitants in Madrid, which makes it bigger than Chicago. That makes it the hub of the country.
And you know what else?
The lion's share of jobs can be found in Madrid. So if you're job hunting, check out Madrid first. The downside is that Madrid is the most expensive city in Spain.
Everything costs more here, especially rent. Also, it is stinking hot in the summer. We're talking pavement that will melt your sneakers heat. Even Spaniards don't like Madrid's heat, and you're hundreds of miles from the coast, so there's no relief.
Can you handle it?
Architecture. History. Culture. Arts. Wine. Where Madrid is the fast pulse of Spain, Barcelona is its soul.
This 2,000-year-old city on the sea boasts some of the most beautiful urban landscapes in the world. And, because it's right on the Mediterranean, Barcelona is the party capital of Spain. It's the party capital of the party capital.
Think I'm exaggerating?
If you move to Barcelona, be prepared to drink a lot. On the other hand, Barcelona has one of the greatest culinary scenes in Spain.
Drinking. Eating. Partying. You'll need to make time to tour the city.
If you thought Barcelona was nice, wait until you see the most beautiful seaside city in the country.
Valencia is surprisingly modern for such an old city. They've harnessed technology and created a top-notch public transit system, free Wi-Fi hotspots, and a fast 4G network everywhere.
Alongside medieval castles, mosques, and palaces, you'll find contemporary buildings.
This mix of new and old gives Valencia a distinct Spanish flavor which sums up the country perfectly.
But that's not all.
Flamenco is said to originate here.
Also, the third largest city in Spain has the best waterfront in the entire country. The crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean beckon.
And unlike party-hard Barcelona, Valencia enjoys a more relaxed atmosphere. Not too much, though. This is still Spain, after all.
Did you know that Seville was rated the best city to visit in Europe by Lonely Planet two years running?
Nestled in the southwest corner of Spain, a few hours from Madrid, Seville is peaceful and charming. The city was once the capital of the Moorish kingdom following the Muslim conquests in 711 AD.
Then Christian crusaders built a massive gothic cathedral overlooking the city after they reconquered it in 1248.
So ya, Seville is pretty historic. If you really want to avoid the party lifestyle yet enjoy the fruits of urban living, Seville might be for you.
Finally, check out Bilbao.
The city is stunning.
It's so beautiful and has such vitality to it, that Lonely Planet calls it the jewel of Spain.
We're talking culture in heaps here. The famous Guggenheim Museum can't be missed. But even if you don't settle in Bilbao, hop on a train and go check it out.
And you'll love the city packed into a valley between rolling green hills on three sides, and the rugged Atlantic coast on the fourth. Because this is Basque country, you get a different cultural experience than the rest of Spain.
It's chill here. The party lifestyle isn't a thing. Sometimes, that's for the better.
Spanish Etiquette Crash Course
Before you start moving to Spain, you need to learn some basic Spanish etiquette. First, remember that family is the most important thing to Spaniards.
That means the elderly are highly respected, and a family gathering consists of hundreds of people. So if you become romantically involved with a Spaniard, be prepared for the family.
Next, if you visit someone at their house, you should always bring a gift.
A bottle of wine, some chocolates, or even some flowers are always appreciated.
If they have kids, bring something separate for them.
Never visit someone empty-handed.
Finally, be prepared to be surrounded by cigarettes because smoking is a national pastime.
It seems everyone and their brother have cigarettes going.
If you don't like cigarette smoke, too bad.
Learn to live with it.
So, have we got that straight?
Oh ya, one last thing I forgot to tell you about.
Spaniards are super-Catholic.
After the Italians, you won't find a more religious country in Europe.
They love their churches, and the entire national calendar revolves around Catholic holidays.
Respect their traditions and culture, and you'll be just fine.
Time To Get Moving
Seriously, why are you still here?
One of the greatest adventures of your life awaits.
Moving to Spain is unlike anything else you'll do in your life.
From the stunning beauty of the land to the carefree way of life, and the fantastic health care and public transit to the fact that everyone smokes like chimneys, nothing compares to Spain.
And did I mention the soccer?
Ya, they're crazy about soccer. Well, football, as it's called in Europe.
So let yourself go while you're over there, and put aside your weird American hang-ups. Get some new clothes, and enjoy siesta!
Have you been to Spain? What is your favorite thing about the country? Share your experiences in the comments!
Featured Image: CC0 via Pexels