So many websites about moving to Spain are dry, boring and too factual.
The more you read, the more you realise they are trying to portray moving and living in Spain in 2024 as some sort of paradise where life is completely perfect (most likely because they are trying to earn a commission from selling you a property in Spain).
Well in many ways Spain IS a paradise but it does also host a number of criminals, parasites and downright low-life’s.
You just have to be careful! Life’s problems do not instantly disappear the moment you land in Alicante (Costa Blanca), Malaga (Costa del Sol), Madrid or Barcelona.
As well as my story of why I moved to Spain, below you will find plenty of other personal tales both positive and negative.
These are REAL stories from REAL people who have already moved and relocated to Spain and they will help you to make up your own mind whether a move to Spain is right for you. We also have real expats telling you where they think the best places to live in Spain are.
We would also love you to write your own story and have it posted here for the benefit of others who are thinking of living in spain. Just email it to us and we will publish it.
It is natural to have doubts and to think if you really should move to Spain. It is a big decision, especially if you have young children. Perhaps you should read our article on international schools or find out more about the Spanish school system.
If you are a British citizen the decision has now been made even harder by Brexit. Obviously you have to consider what effects will Brexit have on you if you move to Spain. Indeed we have received many questions such as: Will I be able to move to Spain to live after Brexit?
So why do so many people want move to Spain?
Spain offers a great lifestyle and climate and if you are retired and get a pension then we certainly can recommend moving to Spain. However the younger you are the more uncertain the possible move to Spain. Much depends on your career and job prospects, your personal skills, character and ability to speak Spanish. The decision to relocate is yours alone.
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Daily Life in Spain
By John Rizzo
Many of us dream about moving to Spain, but what is daily life in Spain actually like?
Even simple things like breakfast, or shopping, can be completely different to what we’re used to in the UK. Read our tips so you know what to expect.
We’re very patient and polite about queueing in the UK, but the Spanish just don’t do it. Well, not as we know it anyway. A more accurate way to put it is that the Spanish do not ‘stand in line’. Learn this quickly, otherwise you could end up very frustrated and angry as people pop up in front of you every time you think it’s your turn.
Insider tip: if you go to the bank customers will be standing or sitting around. Ask who is last in line, so you know it’s your turn after them. This way everyone knows their place in the line without actually having to queue.
Many Spanish people leave the house without having any breakfast at all. Office workers tend to eat breakfast out at cafés, about an hour after starting work. The typical breakfast might be a tostada (a halved toasted baguette covered with sieved fresh tomatoes), a pastry, or churros (fried dough sprinkled with sugar), alongside a coffee.
Insider tip: keep this breakfast time in mind if you’re going to a bank or post office – you may end up waiting a while for someone to come back from breakfast.
Lunch starts at 2pm, and most people head out to a café bar or restaurant for what will be the largest meal of their day. Many choose the menu of the day (menu del dia), which is always reasonably priced and has a choice of starter, main course, dessert, coffee and bread.
The Spanish eat dinner late, at around 9 or 10pm, and it’s a small meal, where they pick on leftovers or have a few tapas dishes or snacks.
Although you can find the fast food outlets we’re used to in some towns, fast food is not as readily available in Spain as it is in the UK. What they do have is a great number of places selling Pollo Asado (roast chicken), quail, and rabbits cooked on rotisserie spits (sometimes up to 50 at a time) to take away, with salads, roasted peppers or potato dishes.
Shops, open from 10am until 2pm, and then usually from 5pm until 8 or 9pm at night, sometimes later depending on the time of year. However, large shopping malls tend to stay open all day, as well as the evening.
There’s a great variety of places to eat out, including restaurants, café bars, and tapas bars, and you’ll find all sorts of different foods on offer. Smaller towns tend to provide predominantly Spanish food, whereas the cities will have a more international selection on offer.
Insider tip: many of the beach bars / restaurants (chiringuitos) will have a bbq on the go, cooking sardines on skewers, along with pork brochetas (skewers of pork with peppers and onions etc.) or large prawns (langostinos).
Tapas is done quite differently in Spain; instead of ordering several dishes at once, as we do here in the UK, the Spanish tend to go from one bar to the next, sampling a different tapas in each (and choosing the speciality of the bar).
Insider tip: Granada is THE province for tapas, still giving it free with every drink.
Eating out with kids
It is very common to see young children eating out late at night with their parents. At the weekends it’s a popular pastime for the Spanish to take a walk after their meal, and stop at an ice cream parlour on the way home.
The siesta is no longer part of everyone’s daily life in Spain, though people are still given a long enough break to take one if they want to. People take a siesta more often in summertime (due to the heat), and it’s generally more typical of the older and younger generations to have an afternoon nap.
The typical working day starts at 9am, with most places closing from 2pm – 5pm for lunch and siesta time. Everything then opens back up from 5pm until 8, or 9pm.
You may have already heard of Spain’s fiestas (national or local festivals, and holiday), but the ‘puente’ (meaning bridge in English) occurs when a fiesta falls on a Tuesday or Thursday. It is common for the Spanish to then also take the Monday or Friday off, to ‘bridge’ the gap between the fiesta and the weekend.
Post Offices and Banks
Post office opening hours are from 10am – 2pm, and banks are open from 8.30am, closing at 2pm sharp. These limited hours can be quite difficult for workers, with some needing to book time off work to visit the post office or bank. (Some post offices and banks open briefly on Saturday mornings, but even then, some banks only do so in winter.)
Insider tip: stamps and various forms can also be purchased at tobacco shops.
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We are sure you have found this page because you have concerns or questions about elements of finance and living in Spain.
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We also have practical advice on where to get started with the basic services you will need to set up such as legal advice, financial advice, utilities such as electricity and setting up your telephone and Internet, making friends, banking, healthcare, compare insurance, post, registering as a resident, learning Spanish, social security and benefits advice, advice on property in Spain, where best to move to in Spain – and lots and lots more!!!
If you are concerned about the language issues, don’t be. Many Spanish businesses in popular expat areas have adapted to offer English-speaking services such as dentists in Spain.
We aim to make settling in and living in Spain, as easy as it can possibly be – there will always be teething problems but hopefully not anything too drastic.
I know many people are asking us – should we move to Spain now? Obviously economic times are bad but many people successfully live and work in Spain so clearly it is possible – just harder than it was before when everybody seemed to be moving out there in the period from 2004 to 2008.
Our expat interviews will also help you in deciding many common questions we get such as:
- Which is the best coast in Spain to live in?
- Where are the best jobs in Spain?
- How to meet other expats living in Spain?
- What is it like to live in Spain?
- Where should I live in Spain?
- How do expats move money back to the United Kingdom?
- What do English people miss in Spain?
- What is Spain like for entrepreneurs?
- Is the Costa del Sol really full of criminals?
- Please can you give me moving to Spain advice?
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Here is one answer from Colette:
Where Do You Live in Spain?
Costa Blanca south
Why do you like/dislike it?
Too many English.
“It is almost impossible to integrate with Spanish people in this area. I speak Spanish to A level standard and hoped to improve but it seems only English is spoken here! I assumed that the Spanish people who work in shops, hospitality industry would prefer to speak in their language but no, I speak Spanish, they answer in Spanish. The British people here are often quite dodgy. I have a few close friends but in the main they are rather catty, love drama and arguments. The houses usually have no proper insulation and can be freezing in January and February even with heating. The wine is cheap, I hear tobacco is too. Food is about the same price as the uk. The furniture is dearer. I recently bought a nest of 3 glass tables for 340€, you can buy similar in Argos for £50. There are some lovely places to visit and if you drive inland you feel you are in Spain and not Costa del Yorkshire. Think carefully before moving to the Costas.”
Expatriate Interviews – Brits Now Living in Spain
We profile Jan who runs the La Marina forum and who runs a guesthouse in Spain. We find out why she chose to move to La Marina, Costa Blanca.
The real story and diary from Steve and Judith as they buy a bed and breakfast accommodation business in rural Spain – follow their progress…
Here we have some advice and tips from expats living in Spain.
Peter Lavelle works from Pure FX and has moved to Madrid, read his experiences of moving to Spain.
If you are thinking of moving to Estepona, then Celeste Alonso of The Property Agent has the inside story.
Reader article from Jasmine in Marbella who tells us she loves Spain and why.
If you are thinking of moving to Marbella, then you must read our interview by El Chorrito Rural Real Estate.
If you are considering moving to Benalmádena, then you HAVE TO read our expat interview with Daniel Martinez of Property Benalmadena.
Interview with Lee Hartopp of CB Property Brokers who helps people buy businesses on the Costa Blanca as well as helping people sell their business on the Costa Blanca.
Expat interview with Julie Colcutt of Alta Villas which looks at her move to the town of Javea on Spain’s Costa Blanca coast.
Following on from the previous interview, we find out how Julie is getting on with life in Javea, two years on from our original interview.
Many retirees choose to retire to Spain mainly due to the excellent climate but before you move, do consider these subjects as covered in our article on the best places to retire to in Spain.
We examine why moving and relocating to Spain goes wrong for most people. We list the reasons most people fail to settle in Spain and end up moving back to their home country.
If you have ever thought about moving to Spain and starting a bed and breakfast (B&B) then read this interview with expatriate Neil McLeland who runs a bed and breakfast in Spain.
Tips and advice including things I learned the hard way about moving to Spain from expatriate Barry Ibbotson who lives at the Alenda golf course in Monforte del Cid, about 20 km north west of Alicante.
Expat Nick Anders has grown to hate living in Spain. This article is certainly a bit strong and we can’t agree with everything he says but it does at least point out some of the downsides and disadvantages to living in Spain. This article also covers some positive suggestions if you are asking yourself where should I move to in Spain?
This article on why expats struggle in Spain is seriously priceless. It is the brutal and honest truth from Steve Hall, an expert on helping people adjust to their new life in Spain. Is a move to Spain the right thing for you? This article shows you what you will need to succeed.
Expats Beryl Allen and her husband Len initially bought a holiday home in the town of Moraira on the Costa Blanca in Spain and then subsequently they moved permanently to Moraira.
Expats Shirley Crago and her husband Len initially searched much of Spain looking to buy a holiday home with a view to eventually moving to Spain permanently. Shirley shares their story of their move to Ontinyent in Spain.
Laetitia is 60 and she moved to the Albaida Valley and lives in the campo close to a village of around 2,500 souls, roughly 30 minutes driving inland from Gandia (on Spain’s Costa Azahar).
If you are thinking of moving to Benidorm, then you HAVE TO read our expat interview with Maria Marchenko of Mediterranean Properties.
Part one of the interview with Nick Snelling, a larger than life character who lives with his wife and two children in the mountains near Valencia. Nick is an author and writer who has written three books about Spain.
Part two of the interview with Spanish property expert Nick Snelling covering the Spanish property market, the credit crunch in Spain and the state of the Spanish economy – interview with Nick Snelling part two.
In this latest Spanish expat interview I talk to Paul & Karen about their new business venture in Spain, running a florist shop, Cream and Browns Florist, located in Javea’s Port on the Costa Blanca coast of Spain.
What is it like to live abroad in Spain as a single woman? We talk to expatriate Jane Wilson to find out about her move to Spain. Jane moved to Spain six years ago with her 12 year-old son when she was 50.
Find out all about meeting people in Spain and what it is like being single in Spain as we interview Chris Hawkins, an expat who runs a very successful online Spanish dating website. We also find out about relationships in Spain and why so many people end up getting divorced in Spain.
In another of our great series of expat interviews we talk to dynamic entrepreneur Steve Forber, who started his business in the Playa Flamenca area of Spain.
Opening a shop/retail outlet in Spain – A great interview with Karl, a young entrepreneur in his 20’s who runs his own business in Spain. Many people moving to Spain will have ideas of retailing unique items to sell by opening a shop. With large expat populations there are certainly many products from ‘home’ that people miss and wish to buy in Spain.
Here is an explanation and opinion about crime in Spain:
Moving to Spain from the UK: A Simple Guide
Did you know that Spain is ranked the second most popular destination in the world for British expats? According to official data, around 370,000 British expats are currently living permanently in Spain, excluding temporary stays in holiday homes or tourist rentals. Even Brexit has had no impact on this steady growth of British population in Spain, causing a notable 10% surge as Britons make their Spanish residency official.
It is no surprise why these figures continue to grow. According to Maria Soledad Sala, a Tejada Solicitors specialized immigration lawyer, the main attractions for British expats to move to Spain include:
- Good weather
- Enriched Culture
- Quality of food and wine
- International schools
- Excellent communications
- Great healthcare system
- Low cost of living
In her experience, the most popular areas to reside are found on the Costa del Sol; Marbella, Malaga, Mija, Nerja and Fuengirola amongst many others.
If you, like thousands of others, are interested in residing permanently in Spain from the UK, the following guide is perfect in covering the bases for everything you need to know for your exciting move.
Table of Contents:
- The necessities checklist
- Buying a property in Spain
- Renting a property in Spain
- Post-Brexit: what will change?
THE NECESSITIES CHECKLIST
This checklist highlights all of the steps that are absolutely necessary in order to move to Spain, regardless of whether it is for pleasure or otherwise. There are several steps which must be taken either before or at the very beginning of your arrival in Spain. These make up the initial and transitional phase of your move to Spain, during which you are subject to legal and tax obligations in both the UK and Spain, as an official British citizen. This can be tricky, and so it is often recommended to seek professional advice to aid you.
The necessities checklist has been specially devised by the Tejada Solicitors team to help you complete these necessary steps in order to make your move to Spain as smooth as possible.
- Your NIE (Número de Identificación de Extranjería) – Your NIE is the Spanish identification for foreigners. It is recommended that this should be completed before you travel to Spain to ensure your process is as easy as possible. In order to register for an NIE, you must:
- Download the application form EX-15
- Fill out the form
- Submit it through your nearest Spanish consulate
If you are unable to apply beforehand, you can also apply for it when you are in Spain, where it is processed through your immigration office or police station.
- Civil residence – Once you have applied for an NIE, you must also apply for civil residency in Spain. These are two separate processes and so you must ensure both are completed. You must apply for tax residency within the first 3 months of your arrival in Spain, in order to be considered a legal resident. You can apply for your Spanish residency at your immigration office or police station. Once you have been approved of this, you must visit the Foreigner’s Office or Police Station nearest to your place of residence in order to obtain your TIE (Tarjeta de Identificación de Extranjero) to accredit your status as a resident in Spain.
- Tax residence – As you will be residing permanently in Spain, you will need to pay your tax as a Spanish tax resident – this is essential in order to obtain your TIE. Article 9 of the Personal Tax Income Law states that if an individual resides in Spain territory for more than 183 days, or whose primary financial interests are located in Spain, they must become a tax resident in Spain. In order to do this, you must ensure that you comply with the following tax obligations:
- Personal Income Tax (IRPF) – Model 100: Your worldwide income will be taxed in Spain. In order to avoid double taxation, you must ensure that a double- taxation agreement is signed between Spain and your country of origin.
- Declaration of Assets – Form 720: All individuals and legal entities must complete a 720 form in order to declare overseas assets outside of Spain that exceed €50,000. This is needed in order to ensure you are not accused of tax evasion.
- Informing the British healthcare system – When temporarily visiting Spain, your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will cover your healthcare. However, when choosing to permanently move to Spain, you are no longer entitled to UK medical treatment. You must inform your GP practise of your move so that you can be removed from the NHS register. However, in becoming a resident in Spain, you will be able to access the free healthcare system like any other Spanish citizen, as long as you meet the following requirements:
- If you are a pensioner and receive a pension from your country of origin (State or Government Pension), you will be able to access Spanish healthcare by submitting the S-1 Form issued by your country of origin
- If you are either self-employed or employed, you and your family members are entitled to the free public healthcare offered by Spain
- If you do not apply to any of the above, you can apply to join the Convenio Especial – a monthly-fee scheme which gives you access to the Spanish health system (other rules apply), or you can take out private health insurance
- Ensure validity of your passport and driving licence – When applying for the more specific legalities, it is often easy to forget the most basic ones. There are many reasons to ensure both your passport and driving licence are valid (some more obvious than others!), including whether you want to continue to use your same car in Spain. For this specific reason, you must apply for a Spanish driving licence, which can often take up to 6 months. Once you have received your census certificate (certificado de empadronamiento), it is highly recommended you then complete this procedure as soon as possible.
- Register your new Spanish address – Once you have arrived in Spain, and you have secured a Spanish property, we recommend that you immediately go to your local Town Hall Office to notify of your new address. This process is known as the ‘padrón’ – once registered to this, you start to earn certain rights in Spain, even if you haven’t yet received full Spanish nationality.
- Set up a bank account – Depending on the bank you choose, the documentation required to open a Spanish bank account will vary. However, the following are the basic documents that are required:
- Personal and financial information; P60, Personal Income Tax or pension certificate
- Your Spanish NIE number
BUYING A PROPERTY IN SPAIN
Buying your new home in Spain is inarguably one of the most important and exciting steps in achieving permanent residence in Spain. Because of this, we aim to ensure that this step is as efficient and as smooth as possible, by establishing regular communication between you and our Law Firm.
Our team of experts in property conveyancing will advise you from the very beginning of the procedure, ensuring that we cover every aspect of the conveyancing process. Our team and solicitors will cover all relevant paperwork and safeguard your interests in the best possible way. Once the paperwork and process has been reviewed, your contract will be signed, ready for completion.
Our Tax advisor will notify you of all the relevant tax implications before and after completion.
RENTING A PROPERTY IN SPAIN
One of the main reasons that British residents are purchasing properties in Spain is the prospect that they can double up as an additional source of income by renting out for tourist purposes.
If this is the case for you, our tax advisor will be able to study your property investment and advise on any tax implications before you officially purchase the property.
If you have decided that your Spanish property will be dedicated to tourist rental, it is extremely important that you register the property in the Andalusian Tourism Registry. Our team at Tejada Solicitors will be able to provide you with all of the relevant information required to complete this procedure. This is an extremely important step, and failure to register your property under the Tourism Registry department will result in very high penalties.
POST-BREXIT: WHAT WILL CHANGE?
The departure of the UK from the EU will alter the procedure for UK residents to obtain Spanish citizenship, as they will be considered non-EU citizens. However, a Transition Agreement has been put in place, in which UK residents are able to obtain residency in Spain through the current process, up until December 31, 2020.
Post Brexit applications for residency in Spain will primarily impact the residence certificate that is issued by the authorities. If you registered your residency before July 6 2020 and have a green paper residence certificate, you do not have to take any other action, however, we do advise that UK citizens should renew their residency and obtain a new TIE certificate. However, if you are registering after this date, you must follow a procedure to obtain a TIE Certificate. You must carry out the following steps:
- Submit your residence application to the immigration office in the province where you live
- Provide the following documents
- Application form EX20
- Proof of residency in Spain before 31 December 2020
- Documents proving you meet the EU residency requirements on income and healthcare
- Present evidence that you have sufficient financial means to support yourself and your family in Spain
For information on the next steps of your TIE Certificate, visit the GOV website.
If you are moving to Spain from 1 January 2023, different immigration requirements will be required. These requirements are yet to be released.
The current UK to Spanish healthcare procedure will continue up to the end of the transition period.
Any other processes relating to your Spanish residency (for example, your Spanish driving licence), will be under the non-EU citizens rules once the transitional period has ended.
This simple, definitive guide has been provided by Tejada Solicitors in the hope that you will feel at ease with your next steps, allowing you to focus on other practical aspects of your big move, such as transportation and accommodation.
If you require any further guidance on any of these topics, please do not hesitate to contact the Tejada Solicitors team. We will be more than happy to help.
Places to consider moving to on the Costa Blanca: Albir, Alcossebre, Alcoy, Alfaz del Pi, Algorfa/La Finca, Alicante, Almoradi, Altea, Beniarbeig, Benidoleig, Benidorm, Benijófar, Benimar, Benissa, Benitachell, Bolulla, Busot, Cabo Roig, Calpe, Campoamor, Castalla, Catral, Caudete, Ciudad Quesada, Cumbre Del Sol, Denia, Dolores, El Campello, Elche/Elx, Els Poblets, Gandia, Gata de Gorgos, Gran Alacant, Guardamar, Hondon de la Nieves, Hondón Valley, Jalón Valley, Javea, La Drova/Barx, La Empedrola, La Fustera, La Marina, La Mata, La Nucia, La Zenia, Las Ramblas, Los Altos, Los Montesinos, Mar Menor, Mazarrón, Mil Palmeras, Monovar, Monserrat, Moraira, Oliva, Orba, Orcheta, Orihuela, Pedreguer, Pego, Pilar de la Horadada, Pinar de Campoverde, Pinoso, Playa Flamenca, Polop, Punta Prima, Rafol de Almunia, Relleu, Rojales, San Miguel de Salinas, Sanet Y Negrals, Santa Pola, Santiago de la Ribera, Sax, Teulada, Tibi, Torrevieja, Totana, Vall de Laguar, Villajoyosa, Villamartin, Villena, Villotel.
Places to consider moving to on the Costa del Sol: Algarrobo, Algatocín, Alhaurín de la Torre, Alhaurín El Grande, Almáchar, Almargen, Almogía, Álora, Alozaina, Alpandeire, Antequera, Árchez, Archidona, Ardales, Arenas, Arriate, Benadalid, Benahavís, Benalauría, Benalmádena, Benamargosa, Benamocarra, Benaoján, Benarrabá, El Borge, El Burgo, (Sitio de) Calahonda, Campillos, Canillas del Aceituno, Canillas de Albaida, Cañete La Real, Carratraca, Cartajima, Cártama, Casabermeja, Casarabonela, Casares, Coín, Colmenar, Comares, Cómpeta, Cortes de la Frontera, Cuevas Bajas, Cuevas de San Marcos, Cuevas del Becerro, Cútar, Estepona, Faraján, Frigiliana, Fuengirola, Fuente de Piedra, Gaucín, Genalguacil, Guaro, Humilladero, Igualeja, Istán, Iznate, Jimera de Líbar, Jubrique, Júzcar, La Viñuela, Macharaviaya, Málaga, Manilva, Marbella, Mijas, Moclinejo, Mollina, Monda, Montejaque, Nerja, Ojén, Parauta, Periana, Pizarra, Pujerra, Rincón de la Victoria, Riogordo, Ronda, Salares, Sayalonga, Sedella, Sierra de Yeguas, San Pedro de Alcantara, Teba, Tolox, Torremolinos, Torrox, Totalán, Valle de Abdalajís, Vélez-Málaga, Villanueva de Algaidas, Villanueva de la Concepción, Villanueva de Tapia, Villanueva del Rosario, Villanueva del Trabuco and Yunquera.
About the Author
Main author and owner of SpainMadeSimple.com which was started in 2004 when I first moved to Spain.
Spain Made Simple features expert advice on all aspects of moving to and living in Spain as well as useful tourist information and travel tips.
As well as my own articles we have many contributions from professionally qualified experts in varied occupations in Spain.
Thank you for visiting our website and if you would like to comment or contribute, we welcome this! Just type your message in the comments box at the bottom of the page.