Healthplan Spain


21 Things You Need To Know Before Moving To Spain Expat Tips

Embarking on a new chapter of life in Spain is an exciting and enriching endeavor. Whether you're drawn to its vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, or laid-back lifestyle, moving to Spain offers a multitude of experiences and opportunities. However, before you set off on this adventure, it's important to familiarise yourself with some key aspects of Spanish life and ensure a smooth transition into your new home.

In this article, we will delve into 21 essential things you should know before moving to Spain. From cultural peculiarities to practical considerations, we'll provide insights and tips to help you navigate the intricacies of Spanish society. Whether you're planning a permanent relocation or an extended stay, these insights will help you better understand and embrace the nuances of life in Spain.

From adjusting to the Spanish concept of time, with its unique time zone and late meal times, to immersing yourself in the rich linguistic tapestry of the country, we'll explore the cultural aspects that make Spain truly unique. Additionally, we'll delve into practical considerations such as healthcare, transportation, and the cost of living, ensuring you have the necessary information to make informed decisions.

Furthermore, we'll shed light on the vibrant expat community in Spain and provide guidance on integration, legal requirements, and administrative matters. Understanding the local customs, embracing the culinary delights, and participating in festivals and celebrations will also be key points of focus.

By familiarising yourself with these 21 important aspects, you'll be better prepared to embark on your Spanish adventure, making the most of your time and immersing yourself fully in the beauty and warmth that Spain has to offer. So, let's dive in and discover the rich tapestry that awaits as you prepare to call Spain your new home.

Cultural Aspects

1 - Time Zone Quirk:

One unique aspect of living in Spain is its time zone. Spain operates on Central European Time (CET), which is one hour ahead of neighboring countries. This means that when you're in Spain, you'll need to adjust your schedule accordingly. It's important to keep in mind this time difference when planning meetings, appointments, or even communicating with friends and family in other countries. While it may take some time to get used to, adapting to Spain's time zone quirk is a small price to pay for the rich cultural experiences and vibrant lifestyle that await you in this beautiful country.

2 - Meal Times and Siestas:

In Spain, meal times and the concept of siestas hold significant cultural importance. Spaniards have a unique approach to dining, with lunch, known as "la comida," typically served around 2 or 3 PM. Dinner, on the other hand, is enjoyed late in the evening, often around 9 PM or even later. This leisurely approach to meals allows for extended socialising and emphasises the importance of family and connections. Siestas, though less common in urban areas nowadays, traditionally involved a mid-afternoon break for rest and rejuvenation. While the siesta culture has evolved, the emphasis on work-life balance and enjoying quality time with loved ones remains an integral part of Spanish life.

Having a siesta

3 - Appreciation for Family and Social Connections:

Family and social connections hold a special place in Spanish culture. Spaniards deeply value their relationships with family members and prioritise spending quality time together. Extended family gatherings, such as Sunday lunches, are cherished occasions for sharing meals and creating lasting memories. Additionally, close-knit communities foster a sense of belonging and support. Social interactions play a significant role in Spanish life, with locals often taking the time to engage in friendly conversations and build meaningful connections. The appreciation for family and social connections creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere, making it easier for newcomers to integrate into Spanish society.

4 - Passion for Football:

Football, or soccer, holds an unparalleled place in the hearts of Spaniards. It is not merely a sport but a deeply ingrained part of the culture. The country's passion for football is evident in the fervent support for local teams and the national squad during international tournaments. Match days are marked by a lively atmosphere, with fans filling stadiums and cheering their teams with unwavering enthusiasm. Football discussions and debates are common social activities, allowing people to bond over their shared love for the game. Whether you're attending matches or engaging in football-related conversations, embracing Spain's football culture is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the local community.

5 - There Are Lots of Holidays

Spain takes great pride in its numerous holidays, recognising the importance of time off and celebrations. While many of these holidays have religious origins, people of all backgrounds enjoy the leisure time. In addition to the national holidays that differ from those in the UK, such as Epiphany, Assumption Day, All Saints' Day, and Immaculate Conception Day, Spain also commemorates events like Labour Day, Hispanic Day, and Constitution Day. Regional holidays are equally significant, with each region honoring its patron saint's special day. For newcomers, it's essential to stay informed about the holiday calendar to fully embrace the festivities and avoid any unexpected closures.

Language and Communication

6 - Importance of Learning Spanish

Learning Spanish is crucial for anyone in or planning to visit Spain. As the official language, Spanish proficiency enables effective communication, deepens cultural understanding, and fosters meaningful connections with locals. It allows for seamless integration into Spanish society, opening doors to new opportunities and enhancing travel experiences. From navigating daily life and building relationships to expanding career prospects, learning Spanish is key to fully immersing oneself in the vibrant Spanish culture. Moreover, mastering the language offers personal growth, broadening perspectives and enhancing cognitive abilities. Whether for practical or personal reasons, learning Spanish is a valuable investment that enriches one's experience in Spain.

7 - Regional Languages and Dialects:

Spain boasts diverse regional languages and dialects alongside Spanish. These include Catalan, spoken in Catalonia; Galician in Galicia; Basque in the Basque Country; Valencian in the Valencian Community; and unique Spanish dialects like Andalusian. These languages reflect Spain's rich cultural heritage and contribute to the country's linguistic diversity. Understanding and appreciating these regional languages and dialects can enhance cultural experiences, foster connections with local communities, and showcase the unique identities of each region.

Practical Considerations

8 - Cost of Living and Affordability:

Spain offers a relatively affordable cost of living compared to other Western European countries. While prices can vary depending on the region, on average, daily expenses such as groceries, dining out, and transportation are reasonably priced. Rent and housing costs also tend to be more affordable, especially in comparison to major cities in other European countries. This affordability, combined with Spain's high quality of life, makes it an attractive destination for those seeking a comfortable and enjoyable lifestyle without breaking the bank.

9 - Public Transportation and Driving Regulations:

Spain has a well-developed public transportation system, including buses, trains, metros, and trams in major cities. Public transport is reliable, efficient, and affordable, making it a convenient option for getting around. Driving regulations in Spain follow European standards, with right-hand driving and strict adherence to traffic laws. A valid driver's licence from your home country or an international driving permit is usually required for visitors. It's important to familiarise yourself with local driving regulations, road signs, and parking restrictions. However, in urban areas, public transportation is often the preferred mode of travel due to congestion and limited parking availability.

10 - Climate and Regional Weather Differences:

Spain experiences a diverse range of climates due to its size and geographical variations. The country can be broadly categorised into three climate zones: Mediterranean, Continental, and Oceanic. The Mediterranean climate prevails along the coasts, offering mild winters and hot summers. Inland areas have a Continental climate, with greater temperature variations and colder winters. The northern regions exhibit an Oceanic climate, characterised by mild summers, frequent rainfall, and cooler temperatures. These regional weather differences make Spain an appealing destination for those seeking varied climates, from sunny beach days to snowy mountain retreats.

Learn more about the weather and climate in Spain.

Expat Community and Integration

11 - Presence of British Expats:

Spain has a significant presence of British expatriates, with many Brits choosing to live or retire in the country. According to official figures, there were over 313,000 British expats in Spain as of 2021, comprising about 0.7% of the country's population. Popular areas such as Alicante attract a large number of British residents. The majority of British expats in Spain are retirees, enjoying the country's pleasant climate and relaxed lifestyle. However, the impact of Brexit may have implications for future British expats in terms of residency and access to certain benefits, which is still unfolding.

12 - Expatriate Services and Support Networks:

Spain offers a range of expatriate services and support networks to assist those living or relocating to the country. These services include expat-oriented relocation companies, legal and financial advisors, language schools, and expat-focused social and networking groups. Additionally, many cities have international clubs and associations that provide a sense of community and support for expatriates. These resources help expats navigate the challenges of moving to a new country, providing guidance on legal requirements, housing, healthcare, education, and cultural integration. They play a crucial role in facilitating a smooth transition and fostering connections within the expatriate community in Spain.

13 - Cultural Integration and Embracing Spanish Traditions:

Embracing Spanish traditions and cultural integration is a key aspect of living in Spain. Immersing oneself in the local customs, festivals, and traditions helps forge connections with the Spanish community. Whether it's participating in lively fiestas, enjoying traditional cuisine, or learning regional dances, embracing Spanish culture enhances the expatriate experience. Taking the time to learn the language, understanding social etiquette, and showing respect for local customs promotes a deeper sense of belonging and fosters meaningful relationships with Spaniards. By actively engaging in Spanish traditions, expats can create lasting memories and truly embrace the vibrant Spanish way of life.

Legal and Administrative Matters

14 - Visa Requirements and Residency Permits:

To live in Spain as an expatriate, it is essential to understand the visa requirements and residency permits. Non-EU citizens generally need a long-term visa or residence permit to stay in Spain for an extended period. EU citizens have the right to live and work in Spain without a visa, but they must register with the local authorities. Different types of visas are available, including work visas, student visas, and retirement visas. It is important to research and comply with the specific requirements for each visa category and apply for the appropriate residency permit to legally reside in Spain.

15 - Taxes and Financial Considerations:

Being aware of the tax system and financial considerations is crucial when residing in Spain. Expatriates are subject to Spanish tax laws, including income tax, property tax, and value-added tax (VAT). Understanding tax obligations, deadlines, and any applicable tax treaties between Spain and one's home country is important. Seeking advice from a tax advisor or accountant can assist in navigating the complexities of the tax system and ensuring compliance. Additionally, considering financial planning aspects like healthcare insurance, pension contributions, and banking services helps effectively manage personal finances while living in Spain.

16 - Education System and Schooling Options:

Spain has a well-established education system that offers a variety of schooling options. Public education is available and free for children aged 6 to 16, with primary and secondary schools following a curriculum set by the Ministry of Education. Private and international schools are also popular, offering bilingual or multilingual education and following different educational systems, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) or British curriculum. Higher education institutions, including universities and vocational schools, provide a wide range of degree programs. Families relocating to Spain have the flexibility to choose the schooling option that best suits their preferences and the needs of their children.

17 - Public and Private Healthcare

Spain boasts a well-developed healthcare system that provides quality medical services to residents and expatriates. The country has a network of public hospitals and healthcare centers that offer comprehensive care. Access to healthcare is generally easy, and emergency services are readily available. Moreover, Spain also has a thriving private healthcare sector, offering individuals the option to obtain private health insurance for additional coverage and personalised care. Private healthcare facilities provide a range of services, including faster access to specialists, private rooms, and more personalized treatment plans. This dual system of public and private healthcare ensures that individuals in Spain have access to quality medical care that suits their preferences and needs.

Food, Drinks, and Dining Culture

18 - Tapas Culture and Culinary Delights:

Spain is renowned for its tapas culture, which involves enjoying small, flavorful dishes accompanied by drinks. Tapas are a delightful part of Spanish cuisine, allowing people to sample a variety of dishes and flavors in one sitting. From classic options like patatas bravas and tortilla española to more adventurous creations, there is a tapa to suit every palate. Tapas bars and restaurants are popular gathering places, offering a vibrant and social atmosphere where people can savor these culinary delights while enjoying conversations with friends and family. Exploring the world of tapas is a must for anyone living or visiting Spain, as it provides a delightful gastronomic experience that is deeply ingrained in the country's culture.

Spanish cuisine

19 - Love for Seafood and Mediterranean Cuisine:

Spain's coastal location and rich maritime heritage have fostered a deep appreciation for seafood and Mediterranean cuisine. Spaniards take great pride in their seafood dishes, showcasing a wide variety of fresh catches from the sea. From succulent prawns and octopus to mouthwatering grilled fish and paella with seafood, the culinary offerings are abundant and diverse. The emphasis on quality ingredients, simplicity, and flavorsome combinations is a hallmark of Mediterranean cuisine, making Spanish seafood dishes a true delight for food lovers. Whether enjoyed at coastal restaurants, seaside markets, or local festivals, indulging in the country's seafood and Mediterranean cuisine is an essential part of the Spanish dining experience.

20 - Wine and Olive Oil Culture:

Spain has a rich and celebrated culture of wine and olive oil production. The country is known for its extensive vineyards and diverse wine regions, producing a wide array of high-quality wines. From the renowned red wines of Rioja to the crisp whites of Rias Baixas and the sparkling cavas of Catalonia, Spain offers a wine for every palate. Similarly, Spain is one of the largest producers of olive oil in the world, with a tradition of olive cultivation that dates back centuries. The country's olive oil is prized for its exceptional quality and distinctive flavors. Exploring the vineyards, participating in wine tastings, and savoring the flavors of Spanish olive oil are integral to experiencing the rich culinary heritage and agricultural traditions of the country.

21 - Festivals and Gastronomic Celebrations:

Spain is renowned for its vibrant festivals and gastronomic celebrations that showcase the country's rich cultural heritage. From the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona to the colorful La Tomatina festival in Buñol, these events offer a unique blend of excitement, tradition, and culinary delights. Food plays a central role in these celebrations, with street markets, food stalls, and traditional dishes taking center stage. Whether it's indulging in paella during Valencia's Fallas festival or enjoying the delicious pintxos in San Sebastian's Semana Grande, these gastronomic celebrations provide an immersive experience into Spain's diverse culinary traditions.


Moving to Spain is an exciting adventure filled with vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and a laid-back lifestyle. Before embarking on this journey, it is essential to familiarise yourself with key aspects of Spanish life. From cultural nuances like the unique time zone and meal times to practical considerations such as healthcare, transportation, and the cost of living, understanding these facets will ensure a smooth transition. Embracing the language, integrating into the expat community, and immersing yourself in Spanish traditions will enrich your experience. Whether indulging in tapas, savoring Mediterranean cuisine, or participating in lively festivals, Spain offers a tapestry of delights to explore. By embracing these aspects, you'll be well-prepared to call Spain your new home and fully embrace the beauty and warmth of this captivating country.