Seville has a vibrant culture and colourful history; although it is a big city it still maintains the charms of a small town and offers expats a slower pace of life than many other European cities. Nevertheless, as with every city, along with these positives, come the negatives.
Below is an overview of the pros and cons of moving to and living in Seville.
Lifestyle and culture in Seville
+ PRO: Vibrant culture with many options for entertainment
Seville encompasses all the usual stereotypes of Spain. Life here is everything an outsider may think when imagining Spain: a place where the tapas culture is an everyday routine, where the flamenco compás (rhythm) echoes through alleyways at night, where bullfighters are carried out of the ring like heroes. Many argue that it's Spain's most romantic and quintessential city – its culture and lifestyle, from its colourful history to celebrated spring festivals, never disappoint.
+ PRO: Small but welcoming expat enclave
While the population of Seville and its surrounding towns is much lower than other Spanish metropolises, it’s a city big enough to have a whole range of amenities and attractions, while retaining the charm of a small town. Groups such as the American Women's Club and Couchsurfing have active communities. There are also language exchanges, flamenco and cooking courses, and art groups all over the city. In a place as friendly as Spain, it's easy to make connections.
- CON: Closed-off culture
The old saying goes, “Sevillanos are the first to invite you to their home, but never tell you where they live.” Social circles in Seville often extend back ages, so breaking into their social scene can be difficult, causing new arrivals to run back or stick to expat circles.
+ PRO: Relaxing pace of life
One of Seville's most attractive qualities is how people live and the slow pace of life they adopt. People from all over the world come to Seville looking for a slower pace of life in one of Europe's most temperate cities. Lunches are long and leisurely, and the concept of time is practically non-existent.
- CON: The pace of life can sometimes be too slow
On the flip side, Seville's 'mañana, mañana' ('tomorrow, tomorrow') attitude can mean bureaucratic hold-ups, missed appointments, long lines and plenty of frustration. Additionally, the city employs many civil servants as the capital of the autonomous community of Andalusia, who have the unfortunate reputation of doing as little work as possible.
Accommodation in Seville
+ PRO: Relatively affordable living
Because Seville is small, virtually anything in the city is central, and there are housing options for every taste. Each neighbourhood has its own feel, and renting a room or apartment is generally cheap, especially when compared to other Spanish cities. Expect to pay much less for a bedroom in a shared apartment compared to Madrid. The general rule is, the closer to the centre, the more expensive rent will be.
- CON: Old, crumbling houses
Many homes in Seville have been passed on through generations, resulting in old houses in need of some work. Be sure to ask the landlord who will cover any necessary repairs, even if just for a small appliance. Additionally, houses in the city often do not have dryers, ovens or central air conditioning or heat.
Safety in Seville
+ PRO: Relatively low crime rate
Spain's crime rate is extremely low compared to other European countries, and Seville is no exception to this. New arrivals can rest assured that life in Seville is generally safe.
- CON: Petty crime is an issue
Despite the low crime rate, petty theft is rampant. Expats should always be aware of their belongings and keep them close by. If something has been stolen, always report it to the national police, particularly if it's been taken by force.
Getting around in Seville
+ PRO: Seville is walkable
Seville is flat, counting just one hill in the entire city. This makes using one's own two feet the preferred mode of transport, especially in the pedestrian-friendly city centre. The metro and light rail can be used to access areas and neighbourhoods a bit further out.
Healthcare in Seville
+ PRO: Affordable with basic coverage
Healthcare is available to anyone legally residing in Spain through the government's social security system, and insurance is almost always paid by the employer. Many foreigners often opt for affordable private insurance, which allows for less wait time and greater access to specialists.
- CON: Long lines and waiting times
The public healthcare system, though an invaluable resource in Spain, is not perfect. Expect queues in urgent care clinics and waiting a long time to see a specialist in Seville.
Education and schools in Seville
+ PRO: Public and concertado schools are government funded
Spanish education comes in three forms: public and government funded, concertado and funded in part by the Spanish government and the Catholic Church, and private schools. The government absorbs the greatest part of the cost, so families in Seville only pay the fees for books, school supplies and specialised courses, and possibly bus routes, uniforms and afterschool activities.
- CON: Bigger classes and fewer materials in public schools
Although public schools are inexpensive, classrooms can be cramped and teachers overworked. So expat parents are advised to ask about teacher-student ratios and the facilities available.
+ PRO: University education is affordable
Studying at a public university in Andalusia is far cheaper than in most European countries. This is a major pull factor for expat students looking for a semester abroad exchange programme as well as those who wish to study full time in Seville.
Working in Seville
+ PRO: Many working holidays and a full month paid vacation
Full-time employees enjoy many local holidays, a full two weeks at Christmas paid, and many days off during Easter and the local fair. What's more, one month's vacation is the norm for employees, often taken in August.
- CON: Hard to secure an expat job
While the unemployment rate had been decreasing nationally in recent years, Spain's job market has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Finding a job in Seville as a foreigner could prove extremely difficult and salaries may not be so lucrative. A company must demonstrate that no other European Union citizen is more qualified, and visas for non-Europeans are costly, time consuming and not always granted. The most common profession for young foreigners is teaching English.
Travel and tourism in and out of Seville
+ PRO: Well-connected train travel
Spain's public rail company is regarded as one of the best in the world, connecting even far-flung corners of the country. Getting around by train in and from Seville is easy thanks to Renfe, or Renfe Operadora, which is known for their service and on-time guarantee.
+ PRO: High-class hotels and important tourist destination
Tourism is one of Spain's greatest and most lucrative industries, with major brands recognisable throughout the world providing excellent hospitality standards in Seville. Additionally, Seville is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites and wonderful cuisine, making it a favoured European destination.
- CON: Heavy tourist movement during holidays and summer
Because of the well-established tourism industry, visitors flock to Spain, particularly in the summer and to the coastal regions, like the Costa del Sol and Costa Dorada. For this reason, hotels and restaurants sometimes operate a separate price quote for heavy tourist seasons and local holidays. Travelling off-peak can be more enjoyable and affordable.
►Start the house hunt by reading Accommodation in Seville.
►Check out our favourite things to See and Do in Seville.
"In America, I’d be considered poverty level because of my salary. But here we live comfortably (my husband is a civil servant) and can provide for our children.
What I love that’s cheap is the food and entertainment. We often joke that we can live like kings because we enjoy being outside and doing low-cost activities like taking the kids to the park, going out for tapas or hiking." Learn more about Cat, an American expat, and her experience of life in Seville.
Are you an expat living in Seville?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Seville. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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