Living in Spain as an Expat: What to Expect          


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Have you always wanted to live in a sunny European country? Millions of people visit Spain every year. Many of them decide to stay long-term. Spanish cities like Barcelona, Valencia, and Malaga are home to large communities of expats attracted by the fun-loving Spanish culture, Mediterranean lifestyle, low cost of living, and pleasant climate. Living in Spain is rewarding, but adapting to a new culture and ways of doing things is never entirely smooth.

Are you thinking about moving to Spain? Is living in Spain a good option for you? What should you expect? Read on to learn more.

Housing & Real Estate

The first crucial thing to know is that non-residents can buy property in Spain. There are no restrictions or special requirements to worry about if you want to invest in real estate or buy a home for your family.

Spain has several immigration programs and encourages foreigners, especially retirees, to invest in the real estate market. Properties are significantly cheaper than in the rest of Western Europe, the United States, Australia, or Canada. And if you buy a home, you will be granted permanent residency.

Health Care

Spain has a universal healthcare system, and the standard of care is excellent according to numerous metrics. Few other countries in the world provide such reliable, free-of-charge public healthcare services. However, every resident pays monthly social security contributions.

As an expat, you can become a beneficiary of public healthcare services by simply paying the social security contribution. If you are unemployed, you will get emergency assistance for free but not have access to other types of care.

All this sounds great, especially if you are from a country that doesn’t provide free medical coverage. Now the question is: do you need private insurance in Spain? Sadly, there is one major problem with the public healthcare system: long waiting times for certain types of assistance. You can expect to wait a long time if you want to see a specialist or need surgery.

If you have health issues that require many specialist appointments, it’s best to invest in private insurance. Receiving timely medical assistance is critical. Without quick intervention, your health problems could become more severe. The best option for an expat in Spain is thus to have access to both public and private medical services.

Language Barrier

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. However, many foreigners underestimate how much the accent can affect comprehension. Even if you speak Spanish, you will need time to get familiar with all the different dialects and accents that exist in Spain. Moreover, in some regions, such as Catalonia, Galicia, and the Basque Country, people speak different languages that don’t even resemble Spanish.

Can you get by with English in Spain? It depends. In major cities like Madrid or Barcelona, there are many English speakers and a high degree of cultural convergence. In touristic areas on the southern coast, many people have at least a basic understanding of English. However, relying solely on English is not a good strategy because only a small percentage of the local population knows English.

The good news is that Spanish is an easy language. If you speak another Romance language like French, Italian, Portuguese, or Romanian, you can learn Spanish quickly.

Weather and Climate

As a Mediterranean country, Spain has a temperate climate and gorgeous weather. In the southern regions, it’s sunny almost all year, so if you love swimming and spending a lot of time at the beach, the south of Spain is an excellent place to call home.

Thanks to the pleasant weather, many Spaniards love to eat and drink outside and are big fans of outdoor activities like surfing and hiking.

An important thing to mention is that winters can be chilly and rainy in Spain. People use heating in the northern and central regions. However, in the south, central heating is not available everywhere, even though homes get cold in winter. Thus, winter in the south can be uncomfortable even though the temperatures don’t go very low.

 Job Opportunities

The unemployment rate is shockingly high in Spain compared to other European countries. Spain didn’t fully recover after the economic crisis in 2008. Many young people struggle to find jobs despite holding valuable degrees.

As a foreigner, you can easily find a job if you have rare or sought-after skills. For example, being a native English speaker can be a significant advantage when looking for a job in Spain.

Can living in Spain help you meet your career goals? Do your research to find out. Although the situation may look dire, there are still good opportunities out there.

Final Words

Spain is one of the most romanticized European countries. If you want to live in Spain, don’t ignore the practical implications.