Liz Carlson, our guest writer and expert on Northern Spain, has moved alot. I mean alot. Salmanca, Madrid, Malaga to name a few. She is the Queen of Move and is in the know on how to do it. I wonder if she did bring those six pairs of jeans.
By Liz Carlson
Packing is key when it comes to moving abroad, and 9 times out of 10, people pack too much. When moving to Spain permanently, for a year or two, or even just a few months, one of the biggest mistake made is to overpack. So pack that suitcase, and then unpack it and take half of it out.
Do you really need 6 pairs of jeans? You can find most things you want in the stores here. And with baggage fees getting higher and higher these days, it really isn’t worth wasting all that precious space. Once you get all settled in, it’s an excuse to go shopping. Always look on the bright side.
I hate to bring up the dreaded money question, but let’s be honest, moving abroad is almost always more expensive than anticipated. It is really important that you come prepared with enough money to start a new life in Spain, especially if you are young and in general financially incompetent like me.
Make a list beforehand of budgets and potential costs, such as airline fees, transportation costs, housing costs, food, paperwork ect. If you are planning on renting, many places require more than one month’s deposit.
Once you are in Spain, open up a Spanish bank account; it’s usually free and if you set up a Spanish PayPal and a separate one with your home account, you can move money between them without the hefty fees. Take that budget and then give yourself a good cushion in case of unexpected expenses. And trust me, there are always unexpected expenses.
3. Know some Spanish
Brush up on the basics before moving to Spain. Whether you listen to a podcast of conversation topics on your lunch hour or take an online class, the more Spanish you know, the easier the move will be.
Spain is one of the last frontiers in Europe in terms of speaking English, and you definitely cannot rely on people understanding English. It’s definitely key to know some of the basics before making the move, even if it’s just how to say your name and order a red wine and tapa.
4. Tranquila (be patient)
Living in Spain is not like living in the US or other countries in Europe. It definitely takes patience when you encounter problematic cultural differences. It is easy to get frustrated and compare things to like they are back home. “If I was in America, this would never happen…”
Trust me, been there, done that, wrote the blog on it! Spain takes the cake as a country with huge bureaucratic problems that seem designed to torture expats, but if I have learned anything after living here for years, things almost always work out in the end. If moving to a foreign country were easy, everyone would do it. So it’s important to take things in stride, remember that if things don’t go as planned or problems emerge, heed the words of Winston Churchill, and “Keep calm and carry on.”
Not only is Spain on a different time-zone, its concept of time is completely different. Stores are open at different times; normal work hours are different, along with dining times. It’s really important to acquaint yourself to the Spanish lifestyle if you really want to get comfortable and integrate into your new community.
Almost all stores are closed on Sundays, and don’t be surprised if they are also closed in the afternoon. Lunch is usually the bigger meal around 2 or 3, while dinner is around 9 or 10. Tying to go against these long established hours is frustrating. In these situations it’s best to go native and adopt your new country’s sense of timing.
6. Become a local
Take advantage of offers in your town by registering as a resident (empadronamiento) at your local town hall. This process is relatively painless and it reaps loads of rewards. Once you are empadronado/a (registered) you have access to many of the same benefits as the locals, such as getting the cheap fairs on bus passes, or joining the local public gym for cheap. It makes living in your new town a whole lot easier, and it is definitely worth it.
Need more help? The Scoop is to get removal support from Removal Brokers in Spain and France.
Related Spain Scoop: Surviving Barcelona’s airport that stretches for miles. Regina has The Scoop on how to get working papers in Spain. Wondering about food in Spain? La Tortuga Viajera has some tips.
Liz writes Memoirs of a Young Adventuress which is about traveling and expat life abroad. Four years ago, she said goodbye to the freezing cold New England winters and hola to sunny warm Spain, and hasn’t looked back. Unsatisfied living in the same place for too long, she has called several cities in Spain home, from Salamanca to Madrid, Córdoba and Málaga, and now Logroño.