In our news section we have focused a lot on how to get each of the different residence permits or visas. We have covered the basics of the Spanish immigration law, and even provided some ideas of the best places to live as an expat.
Nevertheless, there is still something really important to be aware of: all the aspects that make an easy living. Everything you need to know to make your life as an expat in the country simple. Because, what makes life different in the Spanish territory compared to your country? How do people behave here? Which are the main norms and conventions?
These doubts are over. In this article we are going to give you the main tips for living in Spain as a foreigner. Don’t follow them and things will get complicated!
Yes, it is true that over 10% of the Spanish population is made up of foreigners. And yes, that number never ceases to grow.
You will certainly find tons of expats communities and foreigners who are in your same situation with whom you will be able to speak English or even your tongue language.
Nevertheless, learning to Speak Spanish can present enormous benefits. It will make your living in the country much easier.
Spanish nationals may not be the best English speakers in the world. Especially if you move to smaller towns, the English level may not exist there.
Furthermore, and especially for the initial procedures you will need to do with the bureaucracy, like getting your residency card, Spanish can be essential.
It is highly probable that the government clerks there don’t speak a single word of English. So going there with a minimum Spanish level can save you.
Finally, it obvious that if you really want to experience, understand and integrate with the Spanish culture, knowing the language is a must. It will allow you to make Spanish friends and talk to local people, which makes the whole experience complete.
Understand Spanish timings
If you have visited or even lived in any other EU country, forget about their timing. Spain works completely differently.
Stores and shopping malls are open up till late (9 pm usually). People have lunch at 2 pm and dinner at 9-10 pm. Mid-morning snacks are a must, and some even will get a quick nap (siesta) after lunch.
If you go out to have lunch or dinner, take it easy.
Something that Spanish nationals enjoy is sitting on their tables after having finished their meals and spending great quality time together talking. It’s like a ritual that makes lunchtime last forever.
Travel as much as you can
One of the best things about Spain is its diverse landscape. Even though the whole country is amazing, what you find on the north is completely different from what you find in the south.
Each region has its own peculiarities: cities that feel completely different, unique food, and particular culture.
That is why we had a difficult time when suggesting the best places you could choose to live in Spain as an expat.
But that offers a great advantage: you can start traveling through the country and you will never get bored.
Our advice? Embark on short weekend trips. And try to cover the whole territory.
If you are living in Barcelona, for example, discover Bilbao and San Sebastian during a long weekend. Travel to Sevilla or Malaga during another. And visit Valencia whenever you can.
The whole country has a lot to offer. Your job is to start discovering each of those corners progressively.
Be careful with your restaurant choices
Something that many foreigners highlight is how well you can eat in the Spanish territory. Food is simply delicious here.
Nevertheless, you should be careful. Many restaurants, especially those located in the main touristic areas, won’t be as good as they could. They are made for tourists.
For example, if you want to eat great paella, try to first find the best places for paella. Going to the main street where tourist abound won’t get you to experience what a real paella is.
The good thing is that today you can easily get to know those places. Just take a look at the reviews on Google Maps or Tripadvisor of each restaurant, and choose according to what locals say. That is a good rule of thumb.
And if you happen to be traveling throughout the country, don’t be scared to try local restaurants located in small towns. There is where you will eat delicious food at a really cheap price.
Merge with your cities’ activities
Another positive aspect of living in Spain is how active the country is. Getting bored during weekends is really complicated.
You will find plenty of leisure opportunities. Many activities are organized throughout the week, some specifically designed for expats (which abound), and others for families in general.
So make sure not to stay at home and discover what your city has to offer.
And even if there is not much organized for any given day, going for a drink or coffee at any Spanish plaza to watch how people move is another pleasant experience you can embark on.
Adapt to the climate and weather
Many consider Spain paradise due to its pleasant weather and ideal climate conditions.
And yes, it is true that rain is not usual and that the temperature is perfect.
So, in that sense, the tip here is simple: enjoy as much as possible the countries climate, never stay at home, go for a walk under the sun, go jogging, go and read on the beach, etc.
But, as complicated to imagine as it can be, the Spanish weather also has its downsides.
First of all, because in certain regions like Madrid and especially Andalucia (in the south), it can be too hot during summer. To the point in which going for a walk to the street is not a good option until 7 or 8 pm.
On the other side, some regions in the north, like the Basque Country, enjoy colder temperatures and rain is something more common. So if you are considering any of these regions as your new base of operations, bear those facts in mind.
Understand that the Spanish bureaucracy is slow
Embracing a calmed and relaxed state of mind will be essential when doing any kind of paperwork. The Spanish bureaucracy is really slow, and it can get on your nerves.
Be aware that you may have to wait in line for a long time, and that it is highly like that you are missing documents.
If you can go with someone local or even with a lawyer, much better. They will help you enjoy an easier time.
Forget about rigid social norms
If you ask any Spanish national their impressions whenever they visit countries like the UK there is a common answer among them. Foreigners there are really polite and respect each other a lot in social situations.
We are not saying that Spanish people are impolite. It is just that they are much more flexible with social norms.
Queuing is not a national sport in Spain, and someone you don’t know is seen as a friend even though you have never talked before.
Those are some examples that can explain why, from the outside, Spanish citizens can seem a bit careless.
Rely on a immigration lawyer
Living as a foreigner in another country can be a bit complicated. There are tons of new norms and different laws you must be aware of. You need to start paying Spanish taxes and new obligations arise.
And that creates doubts and uncertainty for many. How should I proceed here? Which are my rights there? Do I have a legal obligation in this situation?
That is why it may be really wise to rely on an expert immigration lawyer who can take care of your legal duties.
An immigration lawyer helps others in the same situation as you, and knows exactly what to do and what to avoid.
And, if they can be generalists, also being able to help in any other area you may need, the better.
At our office, we offer assistance with taxes, real estate, immigration, business and any other legal issue any expat may face while living in Spain. So if you have any doubt, do not hesitate to reach out. We are here to make your life simple!