Expat’s guide to living in Spain
Industries and income
These are some things that you should know if you are planning on moving to Spain! Historically, it has had a largely agricultural economy. It’s still the world’s biggest producer of olive oil and is in the top five for wine. Over the last few decades it’s developed in a variety of sectors, including machinery, automobiles, textiles, food production, and tourism. Finance, telecommunications, and business management are also growing, and are popular industries for expats.
Salaries in Spain are generally much lower than countries like the UK and USA, although this is often a trade off for the lifestyle and location, and often lower living costs. Towards the end of 2016 Spain’s statistic organisation (INE) reported a slight decrease in the average salary to about EUR 21,648 per year. However, many other websites still estimate reasonable salaries for top jobs – a common salary estimated around EUR 25,000, with the average over all coming out at around EUR 48,000–50,000.
Visas and right to work – What do I need before moving to Spain?
If you’re intending to live, work, or do research for more than three months (and you’re not an EU or EEA passport holder) you’ll need a visa. To get a work permit, you’ll already need to have secured a job. Your employer will generally start the process for you. Most permits are valid for up to one year, and can be renewed as long as you keep meeting the terms. For more information, you can look at the Schengen Visa Spain webpage and find information on all visa types at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation website.
If you don’t have a job secured yet, you are likely to be able to travel to Spain for up to three months on your passport or a tourist visa. This should give you time to search for a job (and maybe look for a place to live).
Castilian is the local name for the Spanish language. While it’s the only official language there are some other regional languages. English is also widely spoken, and in cosmopolitan areas languages from across Europe are spoken.
Cost of living
For many expats, Spain is an affordable choice. A good standard of living is achievable for less than other popular locations like the UK, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Its climate and easier pace of living also make it attractive. However, there has been a rise in living costs over the last few years while salaries have remained about the same.
As always, places in more prestigious locations and larger cities tend to cost more. Locations near the coast are also more expensive. That being said, rent in London is on average 120.26% more expensive than Barcelona, and in Hong Kong it’s 138.84%. Groceries, and in particular fresh produce that can be grown locally, tends to be quite affordable. For a good break down, visit Numbeo.
Spain has one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe. If you’re not moving with an offer from a company, you may find it a challenge to secure a job. Speaking more than one language can be a big help, and often you will need to have some Spanish. The government also have a list of occupation shortages, so if you have skills in one of these areas it will help.
Spain Expat has a job board, and you can also search on the Public State Employment Service’s portal, or search the government portal Empleate. There are also a huge range of specialist and general job boards you can find by searching the internet.
Finding a place to live
There are plenty of good places to live in Spain – the main thing is to do a little background research first.
“Piso” is the Spanish word for apartment, and finding one can sometimes be a challenge. Renting is often a good way to start, with buying being a good option if you think you’ll be staying there three years or longer. It’s worth remembering that holiday and short-term property in Spain requires a license to operate, but longer-term properties don’t – this means a broad range in quality. In Spain tenancy agreements are legal whether they’re verbal or written (but it’s probably a good idea to get something down on paper).
The Spanish government encourages foreign investment, so as a foreigner it’s relatively easy to buy a house. In fact, if you buy property you’re likely to be eligible for an investment visa. However, there is a high capital gains tax and you’ll need to be conscious of property scams.
Real estate agents and online portals are good options for your search. You could try Servihabitat, comprarcasa, and idealista.com. Make sure you research the cities or neighbourhoods you’re considering, and don’t get tricked
Schooling options are public, private, and international. Your choice may depend on which languages you’d like your children to learn, the course of study you want them to take, and also on your budget. Public schools are free and there are some private schools that are government-subsidised.
School is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. There are three stages: pre-primary, primary, and secondary (split into two phases). It’s compulsory to learn Castilian, even at schools that teach in another main language like English. El Mundo released a list of the top 100 schools from 2017. ECIS has a list of international schools in Spain.
Fact: Spain has the fourth highest life expectancy rate of all the OECD countries.