From Barcelona: So you want to live in Spain?

From Barcelona: So you want to live in Spain?

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Blogger Jeremy Holland talks about why some Americans may find it exceptionally hard to adjust to life in Spain.

Many people have asked me what it takes to live in Spain. And, while it has been the best decision I have made, I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. This, I found is especially true of Americans.

As an American, the first thing you have to accept is that in Spain and the rest of Europe, you are the same as the African, Moroccan, and South American -- Namely, you are an illegal immigrant, and it makes little difference if you're from a world superpower.

This does not mean you can't find work, but it does mean you have no rights and that it will be more difficult with less pay -- at first.

Secondly, asked yourself: "What do you hope to accomplish?"

Do you plan to stay for a year or two to learn the language? Why are you moving, and what is important to you? Is it a professional career or to live in a foreign land?

Learning Spanish

If you want to move to Spain and learn Spanish, then moving to Barcelona is not the right place to move to. Many students come to Barcelona and complain because Spanish isn't the official language -- Catalan is. Of course it is, you're in Catalunya and the Catalans are proud of their language and culture. They don't mind speaking to you in Castillano, but it's not their mother tongue, so to expect them to is a little like going to East LA and hoping to improve your English.

People queue as they wait for a government job centre to open in Madrid


The second point is probably the most important. As an American, I understand how important your job and career is. In many respects it defines you.

But to come to a foreign country and expect the same position and salary that you had in the States is delusional, and talking about how much you earned in the past will only lead to depression.

While it is possible to climb the corporate ladder or have a career in a company that uses English, you will need to be able to speak Spanish or Catalan.

Like the States, networking is key and especially important in Spain, Greece, and Eastern Europe, where many jobs are handed to people with connections and not the most qualified.

So what does that mean? It means: until you can gain a decent level in the native language and build up a network of connections, you will have to work in either a bar/restaurant, as an English teacher, or in a call centre to live. If you're willing to do that, hustle, and go out and make a life for yourself -- then chances are your move will be a success.

If either of these jobs is beneath you, feels like a step back, or doesn't match what you believe your self-worth is -- then save yourself the time and come for a vacation, but not to live.

That way you won't return home six or nine months later to the smug looks on people's faces saying: "I knew you'd be back."

Jeremy Holland / Expatica

Written by an American expat, From Barcelona, is a blog dedicated to the city, the life and the people of the capital of Catalunya (Catalonia).

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3 Comments To This Article

  • northwestrider posted:

    on 14th October 2009, 17:29:26 - Reply

    What if you can speak Spanish, have a graduate degree, over 15 yrs professional experience and do not need a work permit? My spouse is an EU citizen, and I enjoy all the benefits of working and living in Europe as he does, except voting.
  • Keith posted:

    on 14th October 2009, 16:32:15 - Reply

    You would be surprised at the number of intelligent people who just want to "escape" where they are from and don't even speak the language and ask me every day via email... Do you think its a good idea for me to move to Spain. I give them the same advice as this article but it still shocks me that they haven't thought it through. And these are people who have highly paid jobs in the UK, US etc... It appears they have a romantic view of running away to a new life without thinking about how they are going to accomplish it!

    Also, another piece of! We have a saying in Sitges.. "How do you make a small fortune in Sitges... The answer..Start with a big one!"
  • Jaye posted:

    on 14th October 2009, 13:55:04 - Reply

    Who is this written for? I don't understand why someone who might have corporate-ladder ambitions would need to be told that Catalan is the official language in Barcelona. [Edited] Who moves to a country expecting to make a lot of money without first doing some research, or having a position available? You're talking to two different target audiences: ladder-climbing career seekers and students doing "the European thing" [Edited by moderator] By the way, having work define you is not solely American. Are you really taking full advantage of being out of the States or are you an "Accidental Expat"?