HEALTHPLAN MAGAZINE

10 Do’s and Don’ts When Moving To Spain Expat Tips
Each year, thousands of British and other Europeans move to Spain permanently in order to find a better life for themselves. With around 300 days of glorious sunshine each year, miles of golden sandy beaches, a laidback lifestyle and of course, the warm and friendly welcome from the Spanish locals, it’s easy to see why Spain has become such a lure for many of us.
 
Being around two and a half hours from the UK by air, Spain is the perfect location for those wishing to find a more sedate and stress free way of life, that little bit closer to home.
 
But moving to any foreign country does not come without its pitfalls. Moving to another country can be a real culture shock and if not fully prepared, can be quite stressful. That aside, if you do your homework before moving here, you’ll know exactly what to expect so that your move can go as smoothly as possible with minimal stress.
 
So let us share some quick tips with you in order to help make the transition that little bit easier.
 
1. Do Get Your Finances In Order 
 
Before you move to Spain to live, it is extremely important that you are financially sound. Ideally, you will have fixed income from a pension or will have good cash reserves on tap. If you will need to get your income through work then you will need to make sure that you either have a job to go to or you will be setting yourself up as self employed or starting a new business.
 
In Spain, unemployment is currently at an all time high with no let up insight. Make sure you have a game plan and that you have finances to fall back on if you are unable to find work or to allow your business time to get fully up and running.
 
You may also want to consider paying off any UK debts.
 
2. Do Think Of Schooling 
 
If you have children, make sure that you have fully reviewed your options when it comes to schooling. You have three main options which are, international schools, state schools or home tutoring. You will need to weigh up the pro’s and con’s here.
 
All three have their advantages and disadvantages. Putting an older child into Spanish school is probably a bad idea as to is relying on an international school if funds are tight. Home schooling can be an option, but this can also have its disadvantages.
 
3. Do Rent Before Buying
 
If you are looking to buy property in Spain it can be a wise choice to rent for a while before taking the plunge. Renting long term for say 6 months or so will give you time to decide whether a permanent move is right for you. It will also allow you enough time to work out the best location to purchase in. Many move inland and then realise that being on the coast is the more sensible option for them and visa versa.
 
4. Do Be Patient
 
One thing you will most definitely find is that the pace of life is a lot slower here in Spain. Things get done a lot more slowly than in other countries such as the UK. Spain is a very bureaucratic country where the most simple of things seem to take a lifetime. So keep cool, be patient and don’t expect to get things done at a drop of the hat.
 
5. Do Make Sure You Have the Correct Health Cover
 
There are any number of reasons why you would want to purchase private health insurance in Spain. You may not be working and want the peace of mind that you will be fully covered in any eventuality. Due to the financial crisis the national health service in Spain has been experiencing increasing cuts, which will ultimately affect the quality of the medical care for patients. By choosing private health insurance, you can be sure that you will be treated quickly and efficiently by fully qualified professionals. You can also be certain that all practitioners will be able to converse with you in your language.
 
At Health Plan Spain we offer a range of private health insurance policies for expats living in Spain. View all of our policies here
 
6. Do Get a Visa If You Need One
 
If you are from a country outside of the EU you will in many cases need to get a Visa before arriving in Spain. If you are studying in Spain you may need to obtain a study visa. If you have been contracted to work for a company in Spain you will most probably need to get a work Visa. Either way, make sure you are familiar with the visa requirements for Spain.
 
7. Do Understand Your Tax Liabilities
 
If you live in Spain for more than 183 days of the year you are deemed to be resident in the country by the authorities. This means that you could be liable for a range of taxes including wealth tax, income tax or capital gains tax to name a few. Make sure that you research this thoroughly or undertake the services of a good accountant or legal advisor so that you do not upset the Spanish tax man.
 
8. Do Get An NIE Number
 
If you will be undertaking any financial activity in Spain including buying a house or purchasing a car then you will need an NIE number. If you are living in Spain full time it is almost impossible to get by without one. For further information, please read our guide to NIE numbers.
 
9. Do Integrate and Immerse Yourself Into the Spanish Culture
 
The last thing you want to do is to live in another country and not become familiar with the local culture. Spanish has a rich culture with Spanish people generally very welcoming and friendly. Learn some Spanish phrases as soon as possible and really get to know your new neighbours.
 
10. Do Expect a Real Change in Culture and Lifestyle
 
This may sound a little obvious, but moving to a foreign country with different languages and traditions can be a real eye opener. For most, moving to Spain can be a real culture shock. Many things here are just so different. Not in a bad way, just done differently.
 
For example, shops in Spain generally close between 2pm and 5pm for siesta. This is just their way, their custom. Get used to it! Another thing you may experience is that many locals are just not in any sort of hurry. It’s quite common for somebody to stop their vehicle for a chat totally unaware that there are cars behind them. It’s just the Spanish way!
 
1. Don’t Expect The Spanish To Speak English
 
The Spanish are bit like the British, generally not very good when it comes to speaking another language. So don’t expect the Spanish to bend over backwards for you and speak English. Why should they? Take some time and learn some Spanish before you come to Spain. It’s not that difficult.
 
2. Don’t Expect Any Handouts
 
If you are used to getting benefits in the UK or other European countries you may be in for a shock. There are very few benefits available in Spain although there are one or two still available if you are an expat from the UK living in Spain. This is why it is so important that your finances are in order and that you are not dependent on benefits.
 
3. Don’t Bring Your RHD Car To Spain
 
Bringing your right hand drive car to Spain is generally a bad idea. In Spain they drive on the right unlike in the UK where you drive on the left. Driving a RHD car on Spanish roads is not only dangerous, it can also be very expensive. After around 6 months you would need to register the car and then pay out for import taxes. If you do not register your foreign car in Spain within this period and get stopped by the police, it could be impounded. It’s really not worth it!
 
4. Don’t Close Your Bank Accounts, Sell Your Property 
 
Many people who move to another country with the intention of staying there permanently often have a change of heart and decide to move back to their home country. If possible rent your property in your home country and leave your bank accounts in place until you are absolutely sure a new life in Spain is exactly what you want.
 
5. Don’t Just Choose Any Old Real Estate Agent, Lawyer, Accountant or Gestor
 
There’s no doubt that if you are moving to a new country, you will want to hire someone from the list above to undertake any of your legal work. Before you hire anyone, make sure you ask friends, family and other locals and get good recommendations. You will also want to use a number of the expat forums which are a great source of information from others who have been in the same situation. Like in any other country, there are many who masquerade as experts, yet are not qualified to do so.
 
Do your homework, ask friends, ask in forums and get good recommendations.
 
6. Don’t Expect to Get Much Done in August
 
August can be extremely hot in Spain and is when most Spaniards take their holidays. This is also the time in which many business shut up shop for the month. So don’t expect to get to much done during this particular month of the year.
 
7. Don’t Be Offended, If You Don’t Hear Gracias and Por Favour Constantly
 
It’s a fact, the Spanish do not like to use their p’s and q’s as much as the Brits. It’s a cultural thing. It’s not that they are being rude, it’s just that quite often a smile, your attitude and friendliness are enough. You just don’t need to constantly say please or thank you as you would in say the UK.
 
That doesn’t mean you have to stop using “por favor” and “graciás” while out and about. Just don’t expect the Spanish to say please and thank you as much as you do.
 
8. Don’t Drive on the Wrong Side of the Road!
 
That’s right! The Spanish drive on the right hand side of the road. So before you get into that new car, become familiar with the roads, road signs and markings. Take a few trips with a friend and get used to driving on the other side of the road.
 
9. Don’t Get Burnt
 
Spain gets hot during the summer months. Expect temperatures in the 90’s during July and August (or higher) and the 80’s during many other months of the year. It’s easy to forget just how little exposure it can take to get burnt and dehydrated. So respect the sun, put lashings of suncream on and drink plenty of water.
 
10. Don’t Expect to Find Vegetarian Restaurants
 
If like millions of people you no longer rely on meat and prefer a healthier vegetarian diet, you're in luck. There are literally thousands of stores in Spain that sell fresh vegetables on a daily basis! Just don’t expect to dine out in any vegetarian restaurants, as there are very very few. The Spanish love their meat. This is the land of jamon and chorizo after all!!