Liz Carlson has moved lot. I mean lot. Salmanca, Madrid, Malaga to name a few. She is the Queen of Move and is in the know on how to do it.
By Liz Carlson
What should you keep in mind when packing up to move to Spain? Here are a few tips I’ve learned through experience.
Packing is key when it comes to moving abroad, and nine times out of ten 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 over pack. So pack that suitcase and take half of it out.
Do you really need six pairs of jeans? You can find most things you want in the stores in Spain. 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 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 (like two or three months).
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 your 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 language 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 it all the time. 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 (very important).
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, it is that 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 challenges 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, the concept of time here is completely different from the US. 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 from around 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., while dinner is around 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. 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 fares on bus passes or joining the local public gym for a lower price.
Liz writes Memoirs of a Young Adventuress which is about traveling and expat life abroad.