Expats moving to Spain will find a country steeped in a rich and eventful history. As Europe's western-most peninsula and the landmass closest to Africa, Spain has been a point of contact between some of the world’s largest and most influential civilisations.
The Iberian Peninsula has witnessed the rise and fall of the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Moors and the gold-flush empire born of an ambitious sailor who famously discovered a "New World" in 1492.
It was also one of the last countries in Europe to see the fall of fascism, and although it later became a resurgent economic force, it fell on hard times during the global financial crisis. By 2013, Spanish unemployment rates had reached record highs with as much as a third of the population out of work. That said, the country’s economy has shown signs of growth over the last few years.
But the employment environment is still not ideal and salaries are often lower than they are elsewhere in Europe, although this is partially made up for by a lower cost of living. Expats who fail to secure employment before they relocate are also likely to have a difficult time obtaining a work permit
and a contract upon arrival.
The allure of a vibrant country famous for its fashion, food, architecture, music and arts nonetheless makes for an attractive expat destination.
The unhurried lifestyle and affordable beachside property lures many expats to live as retirees on the coasts of Spain. Britons and Germans, in particular, have flocked to the country’s sunny shores to scoop up reasonably priced villas and haciendas for quite some time. While the housing market will take a while to recover, it is still estimated that there are more than a million British expats in the country.
Spanish society shares much with Europe, but it still has a distinct cultural core that can make learning to live there a challenge. The dominant language of the country is Castilian (what many think of as Spanish), but largely regional co-official languages such as Catalan and Basque still define important social groupings. In fact, the Basque region has such a distinct national identity that part of its population wants the region to form an independent state.
Overall, the Spanish are renowned for both their relaxed attitude to life and their exuberant social personalities. It is common in Spain to be interrupted while speaking which, in contrast to the English way, is a sign of interest. Spanish people are often unhurried in their activities, and do not readily hurry for anyone else’s urgency. It has also been said of the Spanish that they invest a lot in established interpersonal connections, but if someone is a stranger, then to expect nothing of them is not to be disappointed.
Public transport in Spain
is most efficient in its large cities, with buses being the first choice for much of the country's transit needs. The rail system is extensive but its radial architecture means that it can take a lot of time to get to somewhere relatively close.
The Spanish terrain is highly varied, with the twin distinctions of having both the only desert in Europe and its southernmost ski resort. As a result, though the country has a reputation for having ideal weather, expats should pay careful attention to the regional climate associated with their city or town.