Moving to Spain

Expats moving to Spain will find a country famous for its history, fashion, food, architecture, music and arts. The allure of this vibrant country is hard to ignore, and foreigners will be exposed to exciting new experiences and encounters no matter what their interests.

Spain is defined by its distinctive cultural core, with the individual characteristics of each of its 17 autonomous regions contributing to the country's unique cultural identity. That being said, Spain shares important cultural roots with other Western European countries and, as such, most expats should not have to make too many adjustments when moving. 

While the most widely spoken language of the country is Spanish, other local languages such as Catalan and Basque are also commonly used. Expats are encouraged to learn as many of the local, region-specific languages as possible to ensure that they will be able to comfortably integrate into Spanish society.

Expats living in Spain are ideally placed to not only explore locally but also to experience all the best that Western Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa have to offer. Within Spain, public transport is most efficient in its large cities, with buses being the first choice for much of the country's transit needs. The rail system is extensive, and cities like Madrid and Barcelona offer hundreds of flight and rail connections to nearby exotic destinations every day. 

In recent years the employment environment has been improving steadily, and while salaries are still often lower than they are elsewhere in Europe, this is made up for by a lower cost of living. Expats relocating to Spain should do what they can to secure employment before they relocate. Those from outside the EU are likely to need a solid job offer in order to get a work permit.

The unhurried lifestyle and affordable beachside accommodation lure many expats to live as retirees on the coasts of Spain. Britons and Germans, in particular, have flocked to the country’s sunny shores to scoop up reasonably priced villas and haciendas for quite some time.

Although the country is renowned for its idyllic coast and sprawling countryside, the Spanish terrain is highly varied. Spain might be known for its favourable climate but the weather actually varies quite dramatically from one region to another. In fact, Spain is home to Europe’s only desert and its southernmost ski resort. Expats should therefore do a bit of research before making the move.

The Spanish are known for both their relaxed attitude to life and exuberant social personalities. Things take time in Spain so expats should follow the lead of the locals and try to enjoy the slower pace of life. Interpersonal connections are important in Spain so new arrivals should invest time building solid friendships. Expats who arrive in Spain with an open mind and a sense of adventure are sure to have a vibrant and fulfilling experience in their new home.

Fast Facts

Population: About 46 million

Capital city: Madrid 

Other major cities: Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza

Neighbouring countries: Spain shares borders with Portugal to the west and France to the north. To the south, across the Strait of Gibraltar is Morocco, while Algeria is to the southeast.

Geography: Spain's terrain is varied, ranging from sandy beaches to flat desert-like areas and high mountain ranges. Most of the country's borders are occupied by sea, with the Pyrenees Mountains forming a natural frontier with the rest of Europe. It also occupies a number of islands in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean.

Political system: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Major religions: Catholicism. Spain is a secular state that guarantees freedom of religion.

Main languages: Spanish. There are several regional co-official languages such as Catalan and Basque. English is widely spoken and understood.

Money: The Euro (EUR), which is divided into 100 cents, is the official currency. ATMs are widely available and usually accept foreign cards. A Spanish tax identification number is needed to open a local bank account. 

Tipping: Most locals do not tip more than small change. Ten percent is considered generous and would be appreciated, but is not necessary.

Time: GMT +1 (GMT+2 from the end of March to the end of October)

Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. Standard European two-pin plugs used.

Internet domain: .es

International dialling code: +34. 

Emergency numbers: 112 (the European emergency number), 061 (health emergencies), 091 (police)

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right. Roads are usually in good condition. Drivers are required to flash their lights before overtaking another vehicle.