Tips for moving to Spain

Tips for moving to Spain

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Are you ready to move to Spain? Test your knowledge on life in Spain with these handy tips for relocating to Spain.

There are many factors that make relocating to Spain a wonderful adventure. Spain is geographically diverse with its many beaches, mountains and valleys. It’s culturally rich, offering a mix of Old World style, unique Spanish flair and modern sensibilities. It also offers lovely weather for most of the year. The people in Spain are warm, open and friendly, the vibe is relaxed and easy, and everything from dining out to buying a home is relatively affordable.

Moving to Spain obviously isn’t as easy as moving across town, or even moving to a new state. After all, the culture, language, lifestyle, and attitudes are completely different. However, because of the laid-back and friendly nature of the Spanish people, and the relative ease of navigating the country, it is not as difficult a transition as you might think. Many expatriates are able to find what they need, make friends and get the lay of the land with relative ease.

That said, there are some things to keep in mind to make your move to Spain as seamless as possible.

Decide carefully what to bring and what to leave behind

You may want to bring your sentimental items and furnishings to Spain with you, but packing up your whole house and transplanting it may not be the best idea. Shipping items is easy – there are all kinds of options to fit your budget and your needs. However, hauling items overseas can get pricey, and since homes are smaller in Spain, there’s no guarantee that your things will fit in your new home.

Beautiful, well-crafted furniture and decorative items can be bought affordably and easily in Spain, and most of the other household items you need are readily available. Electronics are the exception – they tend to be pricier and harder to come by. The voltage system is different in Spain, so you will have to invest in a converter for your electronic devices.

Expect to relearn to drive 

Certain nationalities (for example, American) can drive for six months in Spain using their foreign licence. The United States doesn’t have an agreement with Spain in terms of driver’s licences, so after six months you will have to go through the whole process of obtaining a Spanish licence.

Carry your ID with you at all times

Everyone over the age of 13 is expected to have some type of identification in Spain. Without your ID, you won’t be able to make a credit card purchase or legally drive a car, for example. It is wisest to always have your ID handy.

Learn to take siestas

Spaniards take relaxing and living well very seriously. From about 2pm to 5pm, most of the country takes a hiatus. Stores and businesses close, and people head home for some rest and relaxation. It’s considered impolite to call, visit or conduct business during siesta time.

Expect to make new friends – quickly

Spaniards are very friendly and far less reserved than Americans or Brits. They are also very hospitable. You may find yourself part of the neighbourhood in no time, with dinner invitations and neighbourly visits pouring in. The Spanish are also less concerned about personal space than Americans or Brits they are very expressive, and will often lean in closely or touch others while talking to them.

Buy bottled water

The tap water in Spain is safe to drink (unless it says otherwise), but it doesn’t have a very pleasant taste. Bottled water is a better way to go. It is sold everywhere, and is available carbonated (con gas) and non-carbonated (sin gas).

Learn Spanish or something else

Learning to speak SpanishMany assume that they would need to learn to speak Spanish when moving to Spain, but that really depends on which part of Spain one is aiming for. Though Castilian Spanish is the national language of the country and 89 percent of the population speaks Spanish as a first or second language, there are other languages commonly spoken in Spain, depending on the territory.  

For example, on the upper west coastal regions of Spain, the language most often spoken is Catalan, which is recognised as the co-official language in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, and as a distinct variant, Valencian, in the Valencian Community.

Basque, another co-official language, is spoken in the Basque Country and Northern Navarre. Galician is yet another co-official language spoken in Galicia. It is also spoken without official recognition in the adjacent western parts of the Principality of Asturias and Castile and León.

Learning the local language will help you navigate your new home more effectively and it will earn you respect, and kindness, as you settle in with your new neighbours. While many Spaniards do learn to speak English in school, most are shy to speak it or don’t speak it well.

Source: Einat Mazafi, owner of NY International Shipping based in New York.

Photo credits: Geralt (learning sign). 

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