- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Spain Guide (PDF)
Spain is one of the most popular expat destinations in Europe. Many expats are drawn in by the beautiful weather and laid-back lifestyle. Like in any country though, living in Spain does have its drawbacks. However, most expats will agree that the good by far outweighs the bad. Below are some of the pros and cons of living in Spain.
Accommodation in Spain
+ PRO: Multiple affordable options
Accommodation in Spain tends to be more affordable than in other prominent European cites. Living outside major cities is very cheap. There's also a wide range of options available to expats like renting a room in a shared apartment or even a freestanding house.
- CON: More demand and higher rent in larger cities
Monthly rent is much higher in the city than it is in outlying areas. High demand also means that accommodation tends to get rented out quickly. If an expat has their heart set on a place, they should act fast so as not to lose their chance.
Lifestyle in Spain
+ PRO: Very laid-back
Spain is known for its great work-life balance. This enviable lifestyle is one of the major points that draws many expats to the country. The Spanish love to spend quality time with their loved ones – they always have time for vacations and extended lunches.
Mealtime is sacred in Spain. Many expats are shocked to find that one can typically spend two to three hours at a good lunch. People also love getting together during the week. It isn’t uncommon to meet up with colleagues or friends for after-work drinks. Spanish streets are alive on weeknights, especially between 7pm and 11pm.
- CON: Siestas can be disruptive
The siesta is alive and well in most of Spain. Even in major cities, things shut down between 3pm and 5pm. It’s also hard to find all-day kitchens. So, if one is hungry late in the afternoon, it may be more difficult to find something to eat.
Safety in Spain
+ PRO: Typically very safe
Spain is one of the safest countries in Europe. Expats typically feel very safe in Spain. There isn’t a huge threat of violence and major crimes and terrorist threats are uncommon. Typically, the most interaction expats have with the police will be if they want to make a noise complaint.
- CON: High risk of pickpocketing
Expats do need to be aware that pickpocketing is common in Spain. This is especially true in major cities and areas popular with tourists. Pickpockets mostly steal phones and wallets and tend to target tourists. However, there have been cases in broad daylight and even on the metro. Expats should stay vigilant. Avoid walking around with expensive laptops and cameras or flashy jewellery.
Working in Spain
+ PRO: Great work-life balance
Spain’s laid back lifestyle spills into the work environment as well. Expats will find that they get a good amount of holiday time. Companies are also understanding about sick leave as long as one goes to a doctor. The medical system in Spain even allows workers to take time off for mental health recovery.
Jobs in Spain tend to be low-stress. Expats may even start suspecting that people don't work for more than two hours without taking a coffee break.
- CON: Long working hours
Working hours in Spain can be a bit rough for those that like to get the job done and go home early. Expats will typically work from 9am to 2pm and then go back to work from 4pm until 7pm. The two hours in between are to accommodate the infamous Spanish siesta.
In addition, salaries are also very low in Spain compared to other European countries. This isn’t limited to English teachers or informal jobs; even engineers and mid-level jobs in large companies don’t earn as much as they would outside of Spain.
Culture shock in Spain
+ PRO: Not much culture shock
Culture shock in Spain tends to be reasonably low. Many people in larger cities speak English, so it's easy to get around with limited Spanish skills. Spaniards, in general, are also friendly and usually don’t mind helping expats with finding directions or giving advice on the local transportation.
- CON: Eating and greeting may take some getting used to
Expats coming from cultures where touching is uncommon may take some time adjusting to life in Spain. People greet each other with two kisses on the cheek (this doesn’t apply to men greeting other men though).
Mealtimes can also take some adjusting to as well. Breakfast is typically very small, with a piece of fruit or milky coffee being enough for most Spaniards. Second breakfast is more substantial and usually happens mid-morning. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day. A light snack late in the afternoon is followed by a light dinner of soup or some rice around 9pm or 10pm.
Cost of living in Spain
+ PRO: Living expenses are low
Except for housing in major cities, the cost of living in Spain isn't unreasonably high. Restaurants tend to be very affordable, making a night out doable on most budgets. Spain is also known for its tapas culture, so getting a free snack when ordering a drink at a bar is common. Groceries are also affordable. The metro system in cities like Madrid is excellent and often has monthly deals for people under 26 or over 65.
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