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Moving to Spain: Everything you need to know

Although the Coronavirus pandemic is still on, a lot of expats keep on moving to other countries, especially in Europe as it’s easier to move from one country to another.

One of the favorite country by expats is, without any doubt, Spain. Expats move to Spain for several reasons, such as work, life balance, good weather and cheaper cost of life.

With this article we are going to tell you everything you need to know if you are planning to move and live in Spain for a long term.

Table of contents

the Country

The Expat Community in Spain

Major cities

Languages

The country

Spain is the second most visited country in the world, according to Weforum. It is divided in 17 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities. The autonomous cities are Ceuta and Melilla, which are located in the Africa, at the border with Morocco.

Although the word autonomous might make think to a federal state, Spain is instead a decentralised state. It means that every community (Comunidad) always depend on the main government, located in the capital Madrid.

A side note:

Apart from being hit hard by COVID, Spain has also been on the news for the Catalunya independence ongoing issue. But despite of how it looks like, it is still a pretty safe country and -even if not living in - a visit to Barcelona is a must for every tourist.

The Expat Community

Many people would think that Madrid and Barcelona have the largest community of expats, since they are also the largest cities. But the truth is a bit different. Due to their positions and expensive cost of living (compared with other Spanish cities), those are not the favorite cities for expats in Spain.

The province of Malaga and Alicante are the provinces with a greater number of expats. But we also need to consider that not all the expats living in these areas are not working, both areas are well known for being a favorite place for expats from Northern Europe to retire in a more mild and warm climate.

The biggest expats communities in Spain - according to the office of statistics in Spain - are:

  1. Morocco
  2. Romenia
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Italy

There is also a large community of latin Americans, and in the recent years - due to their political situation - the Venezuelan community has grown a lot.

Most of Moroccan and UK citizens live in the southern part of Spain, in the famous “Costa del Sol”: the coast that goes from Malaga up to Gibraltar being the favorite destinations for UK expats.

Barcelona and Madrid are mostly favoured by Italians and Latin Americans and - we will discuss it soon - are the cities with most favorable job opportunities.

So at this point you might be wondering: Where should I live in Spain? The answer it’s not easy as there are different factors, for example the cities in the south (namely the Andalusia Community) have a more favorable cost of living, and weather, but also less jobs compared to biggest cities. And do not expect to be receiving a high salary. In Spain it is very famous the image of the “mileurista”, which is basically the average Spaniard who earns a salary around 1.000 euros.

The major and most important cities of Spain are (not necessarily in order of importance):

  1. Madrid
  2. Barcelona
  3. Valencia
  4. Bilbao
  5. Alicante

Of course, there are several others, but those cities are the ones who have the biggest expat communities and better opportunities to find jobs.

Madrid being the capital has a lot to offer, while Barcelona has become one of the major European hub for startups. So if you work in IT, probably Barcelona is in a better place than Madrid, but keep in mind that also in the south, like Malaga, there is a growing eco-system of startups and established international companies, most are related to gaming and the groth has been exponential since the Brexit.

On the other hand, Madrid is a very financial city, and many corporate jobs are offered there. Valencia and Alicante have also good opportunities for work, but less compared with the 2 major cities. Bilbao and the Basc community are also pretty well organised and have a lot of opportunities for jobs, although probably the expat community there isn’t bigger as the previous mentioned cities.

Languages

If you expect every spaniard to speak English, then you might be disappointed. Although there are very big UK and English speaking communities in Spain, English it’s not a common spoken language. In the main cities like Madrid and Barcelona it's easier to find English speakers and of course the young generations are more prone to speak English. However Spain is a country that has been isolated for many years, due to the dictatorship, and only in the last years English has become more common in the country.

While in the south (Andalusia and the province of Alicante) there are plenty of English speaking expats, that does not mean that every spaniard in the south speak English.

Spain is not just a decentralised state but it is also a country with different traditions and - of course - languages. Here is a list of some other languages spoken in Spain:

  • Catalan is spoken in Catalunya, Valencia and Balearic Islands
  • Gallego is spoken in Galicia
  • Basque is spoken in Basque region (Bilbao)

There is still so much to discover about Spain, and for this reason we will have another article soon to talk about:

  • Job

  • House

  • NIE Documents

  • Health insurance