If you are planning to move to Spain and you will do so with your kids… This is your article! You are about to learn the 5 strategies that have helped hundreds of foreigners from all around the world settle in the Spanish territory with their whole family.
Spain is home to a thriving expat community, appealing in part because of its warm climate and laid-back lifestyle. In fact, it is estimated that around 12% of Spain’s population is made up of expats from overseas, whilst 14% of those relocating here do so with kids in tow.
With access to a range of great international schools and plenty of opportunity to integrate children into its language and culture, it is no surprise Spain is consistently seen as one of the best places to relocate to as a family.
According to HSBC’s Expat Explorer survey, 60% of expats with children say that moving to Spain has brought them closer together, which may be one of the reasons that their 2020 report ranks Spain second in the world for expat family experience – as well as number one worldwide for quality of life.
Despite this, whether you’re moving with toddlers or teens, international relocation can be a stressful time for everyone involved. Here, we look at a few top tips for moving to Spain with kids, helping you make the transition as smooth as possible.
5 tips that will make things much easier
Now you can understand why Spain may the perfect place for you and your family. And now it is time to learn about the 5 tips that will help you move with your kids smoothly while making sure your whole relatives integrate into the culture easily.
Finding the right school for your family
One of the most important decisions you’ll make during your move is which school to register little expats with.
From a range of subsidized (concertado), private or international schools, you can feel spoiled for choice, but the final decision will come down to your children’s ages, interests and individual needs.
Whatever you decide, you’ll need to make the call well ahead of moving day.
Younger children can find it fairly easy to fit in at a state-run school, picking up additional languages more easily than older siblings and are often quicker at making new friends.
But with a wealth of international schools to choose from, it may be preferable to register your family somewhere they can follow on with the same curriculum, as well as where you know they can meet other children who are also settling into a new life overseas.
Expat networks online can be a great place to connect with other parents in the region you’re planning on moving to, especially if you don’t know anyone in the area already. Join conversations about the schools they would – or wouldn’t – recommend, to establish what’s right for you.
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Brushing up on your Spanish skills
Don’t assume that the existence of a large expat community in Spain means English will be spoken by everyone you meet.
While you can get by in big cities with a minimal grasp of Spanish, you’ll find everyday life much easier the more fluent you are – and practicing together is a great family activity.
Though immersion in a new language is always the best way to learn, you can get a head start by working together as a family to improve your Spanish skills before you move.
From trying to only communicate in Spanish at mealtimes, to using sticky notes on household items to reinforce use of their Spanish names, there are plenty of ways to help the whole family learn together.
Look for free language-learning games online, available from a range of websites, and once you have touched down in your new home, take the opportunity to top your immersion learning with dedicated classes too.
After all, if your children are taking language lessons at school, you may need the extra help to keep up!
Deciding on healthcare choices
In addition to a high quality of life overall, you can expect high standards of healthcare for all the family in Spain.
Once you start to make Seguridad Social (social security) payments, you and your family will have free access to Spain’s state healthcare system either via your employer or through the state scheme for the self-employed.
You will need a reasonable level of fluency in Spanish to communicate with healthcare professionals, and dental care will typically be at additional cost.
Many expat families avoid the language barrier – and the risk of long wait times in the public system – by taking out global medical insurance for their time abroad.
There are various options available, and it may be that your family has certain needs best met by one healthcare plan or another, so dedicating some time to research before you move is advisable.
Getting children familiar with the native cuisine
Depending on where you’re moving from, the availability (or lack thereof) of familiar foods may be particularly noticeable.
And if you have picky eaters in the family, adjusting to additional spice, or to popular Spanish dishes that are rich with olives, cured meats, and other national classics, might be a difficult task.
Introduce Spanish flavors into your food before you move and prepare to make serious adjustments to mealtimes and eating patterns.
Lunches in Spain are slow and sociable, while dinner isn’t typically served much before 9 pm. Your daily timings for eating, sleeping, and all the other details that slot in between will likely need to get flexible while everyone is settling in.
For a few Spanish dishes that should go down well with even the pickiest eaters, try ham and cheese empanadas, albondigas (Spanish meatballs), and tortilla de patata – a plain and simple potato omelette that is easy to make and can be served either as a main, a side or even as a bocadillo sandwich filling.
Mixing expat connections with local living
It’s great to find like-minded people who have also moved from overseas and can understand the challenges and experiences your family are facing, but it’s still important to really embrace your new home and think of yourself as a local.
Go to local events as a family, get involved in school life and take the time to seek out connections with natives and expats alike.
Spain is a country rich in culture, with beautiful scenery and thriving cities to explore.
However you choose to enjoy it, make sure you’re sharing new experiences as a family as much as possible to help make Spain feel like home in no time at all.