When I think about Spain, I think about the food, the beaches and the typically Spanish activities, such as taking a siesta when the day is at its hottest. While living here I’ve come to realize that the siesta is essential to life, especially during the summer.
Moving to another country takes you out of your comfort zone. You travel to a place you’ve never been before. Being uncomfortable the first few days or weeks is normal. Your body and mind are adjusting to the new shapes and colors around you.
I’ve always liked Spain. I don’t know why, but it’s close to my heart. This article is about my experiences with moving and living in Spain.
The decision to move to Spain came suddenly. It was partly brought on by the high taxes in Sweden for small businesses (Sweden, you need to get this handled). In Sweden, a small business pays a 55% flat tax, and that got me thinking of moving.
While Spain isn’t a tax haven, it certainly has much lower taxes than Sweden. I was also getting fed up with the cold and darkness of northern Sweden. Our summers are short and our winters long. In December, when it is darkest, we only have a few hours of very weak sunlight per day.
Most of the day is darkness, so you can probably imagine that it isn’t that much fun. Darkness and cold isn’t a good mix, at least not for me.
I enjoy the warmth of Spain. When we arrived in January (in winter), the temperature was around 12C (53.6F for you across-the-ponders). The only problem is that it rains a lot between December and March, but I’d take rain over icy-cold weather any time, especially since I’ve lived in Sweden for pretty much my whole life.
And finally, the most important factor in my move was the feeling I had. I felt like I wanted to go live somewhere else. At first I didn’t know where, but as time passed, I started to realize that Spain was the only place I wanted to live in, so that’s where I went.
Life is so much more fun when you follow your wisdom. I have no idea where I’ll be one year from now, or what I will be doing. All I know is that I will be doing something I enjoy.
I really dislike the way transportation works in our current day and age. I’d much rather have some kind of teleportation or anything that’s faster and more comfortable than what we have now.
We traveled with a dog (her name is Cleo), so we needed to make sure everything was go on that front. It also cost a few hundred euros extra to pay for Cleo.
She was just a tad too big to travel with us inside the plane, so she got to hang out with the luggage. We were apprehensive about this at first, but everything went fine and she came out unharmed.
Other than the pain of traveling, everything went smoothly. We traveled within the European Union, so we didn’t have to get a VISA or do any paperwork. All we had to do was book our flights and let the Swedish government know that we were leaving.
Finding a Place
Finding an apartment felt overwhelming, because there were so many options. I started by looking at common Spanish websites, but nothing felt quite right.
I kept searching and finally discovered that there were a lot of Swedish agents that helped people find apartments on the Spanish coast.
At first I thought the commissions they took would be huge, but apparently they don’t take any commissions. I don’t know how they make their money. Maybe they make some kind of affiliate commission? Perhaps someone with more knowledge can chime in here.
I finally found a website with a Swedish agent where they had listings of “their” apartments. I started looking through them and one of them stood out. It just felt right. My heart said yes, so I said okay, let’s go.
We currently live in a 1-bedroom apartment that costs us €600/month. That includes electricity, water and 24-hour reception. It’s one block away from the train and buses, so we have no problem getting around.
It’s also in the same building as a big supermarket, so getting food is easy. This strategic location was important to me as I don’t want to own a car or anything else. I want to keep my expenses as low as possible, at least for now.
Moving to a new country is always scary, because you have to learn how everything works. There’s a new language, new systems and new routines.
To help everything go as smoothly as possible, I hired a Swedish accounting firm that helped me get my documents and business up. I also use them to get my accounting in order.
The first thing I had to do when I arrived in Spain was to get something called an N.I.E number. Opening a bank account or getting anything done would have been very hard without it.
Getting my N.I.E number went surprisingly fast. I went to the local police office, filled some papers (with the help of my accountant) and submitted them to the officer behind the desk. Within 5 days I got to pick up my papers.
When my brother (who also lives here) got his N.I.E, it took several weeks, so I guess they may have improved their system, or my brother just got unlucky and caught a busy period.
All in all, while getting settled was a bit disturbing since I don’t like things to be out of control, it was very painless. Within a month, everything was up and rolling.
The Language Barrier
Everything from TV-series to movies are dubbed in Spanish. The Spaniards love to dub everything. This is great if you want to learn Spanish (which is another article on its own), but not so great if you want to learn English.
I grew up in Sweden, where almost nothing is dubbed. I still remember answering the phone when I was around 9-10 years old. It was an English-speaking person asking for my brother.
I had no trouble telling him that my brother wasn’t home and that I could take a message. The reason I was able to do this was because I had been watching several hours of cartoons in English every single day (without subtitles at that time).
I’ve lived in Spain before. At that time I took an intensive 30-day course in Spanish. I didn’t learn much, because I didn’t immerse myself in the language on my own time.
Luckily, the aparthotel I am living at has an amazing staff. They have helped me get my ADSL connection. And as I mentioned earlier, I got someone to do my accounting for me, because that would have been impossible otherwise.
I knew that I wouldn’t stand a chance doing things on my own, so I found people that could help me. Most Spaniards do not speak English, especially in the less-touristy cities.
I am immersing myself in learning Spanish at the moment, so I’m loving the fact that I have to use my severely broken Spanish wherever I go ;).
I haven’t been eating out much, because my girlfriend’s cooking is just too good. And also I’ve begun to realize that the restaurants that are here don’t deliver food that’s worth it.
It seems to me that food all over Europe is becoming the same. Sure, there’s paella and other Spanish dishes here, but they don’t feel like anything special to me.
I’m sure that would change if I would go to a city that was less touristy, but at the moment I really like living in Málaga. It’s a great starting point with its 25% of foreigners, which means you can easily find Swedish, Finnish or English-speaking people if you need them.
The price of food in Spain is almost exactly the same as in Sweden. Since the euro has been adopted in Spain, all the prices have risen to a higher level. Some items are cheaper, while some are more expensive.
We currently spend around €300-400 on food on a monthly basis. That includes dog food. Note that we do not eat out more than a few times per month, and we eat a whole-food diet.
Spain has two options when it comes to medical care: they have a public option and a private one. My girlfriend has private health insurance, while I have public.
I’ve already got a chance to test out the public health insurance. In general, I’m very happy with the way I was treated. I went to my local health center (centro de salud) and got an appointment to see a doctor who sent me to another doctor.
People usually believe that the health care in Sweden is amazing, but I would say that Spain is right up there.
I have read many individual testimonies on the public health care system in Spain, and most people seem to really like it. The service is good and the people are nice. What more can you ask for?
The main differences between Spain and Sweden, which apply to me, are mainly the people and the weather.
It seems like the southern coast is a place where many Britons, Scandinavians and foreigners in general come to enjoy themselves. Some come here for a quick one-week vacation, while others buy an apartment and move here permanently.
That means more people come here by choice, which usually means that people are happier, because they are where they want to be. I see more people holding hands, laughing and in general enjoying life than I saw in Sweden.
Then there’s the weather. There’s a lot of rain during winter, but the weather starts getting much better after March. The summer temperature varies between 25-35C (77-95F), which is perfect for me.
I’m sure there are a lot more differences that I haven’t experienced yet, but those are the two big ones. Everything is much more relaxed here. There aren’t as many rules and restrictions. People are generally calmer and happier.
My Future Plans
At the moment I have no idea where I will be next year. I may stay here, or I may end up in India for all I know.
I’ve followed my wisdom ever since I finished school. Making a living as an online poker player helped me practice my intuition. I didn’t have to worry about money, so I could follow my impulses at any time.
At the moment I feel great staying where I am, learning Spanish, enjoying the culture and enjoying life.
I always follow my highest excitement as best as I can. If in 6 months I feel like going back to Sweden, I will. But right now, I have no idea what will happen, so I guess you’ll have just have to stick around and find out ;).
We’ve since moved back to Scandinavia. I’ve become a father. And a slew of other things happened. Or in short, life happened. You can read more about what I learned from living in Spain here.
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How to move to another country
It’s official. You’ve finally summoned up the courage to pack your bags, submitted your two weeks notice, and broke the news to your friends and family that you’re peacing out and moving to a foreign country. But, before you officially step onto that plane, there are a few important things you should consider before moving abroad.
Below is a list of the most important pros and cons of moving to a new country that you should definitely review before even considering a move abroad:
The Pros of Moving to Another Country
Although you may have already generated a list of general “pros” in your head, here’s a list that will sum up all of the benefits of moving abroad:
1. Travel Opportunities
The concept of “travel” could range from merely exploring your own neighborhood to venturing beyond and embarking on an adventure to a neighboring country.
One of the greatest perks of moving to a foreign country is the abundance of new cities and areas just waiting to be explored (in fact, here are 5 jobs that will PAY you to travel!). Depending on where you move abroad, the ability to travel around – and outside – of that country may vary from a short train ride to a couple hours airtime. Even for less exotic local exploration, there will always be that one Mom and Pop shop you haven’t been into yet or that hole-in-the-wall restaurant that you’ve been just dying to try.
No matter what, you’ll never find yourself in that monotonous routine— which may have been the deciding factor in your choice to move abroad in the first place. It’s time to get off the hamster wheel and open yourself up to all of the new opportunities and experiences that come hand-in-hand with travel.
Already Sold? Start Your Search Now: Volunteer | Intern | Work Abroad
2. Expansion of Knowledge
With travel comes the power of knowledge and learning. You can constantly learn about different cultures, languages, and histories as you travel to new cities and countries.
Wherever you decide to travel and move to, the amount of knowledge and real-world experience you’ll gain is priceless. Museums, books, classes, tours, etc., all become your teachers, but knowledge is also gained through merely taking a walk to the nearest grocery store and engaging in meaningful conversation with a local. These types of experiences are something that can’t be learned by reading a book, or even by searching online.
One of the greatest ways to learn is “by doing.” After moving abroad, you may encounter individuals and situations that you’re not used to, or have never experienced, but each will enable you to intellectually grow and mature in intangible ways.
[Keep Reading: 7 Jobs Abroad That Will Kick You Career Into Gear]
3. Personal Growth
When you move to a new country, you’ll be thrown into brand new situations and settings that may seem intimidating and scary at first, but are always the best ways to grow as an individual.
It’s a given that you’ll experience immense personal growth both emotionally – and physically – while living abroad (can’t deny that all the new cultural cuisines you’ll be eating won’t add a little extra somethin’!). The emotional growth you’ll experience is something that you may have been lacking in your current living situation; if you think about it, you’ve probably experienced and explored everything there is to do and you’ve met almost everyone around. Where’s the fun in that?
4. New Relationships
Anyone moving to a foreign country will expand their social circle, friendships, and relationships tremendously. You never know who you’ll meet abroad.
You will be new to the city and neighborhood, surrounded by a sea of new faces, and have no idea how to navigate around. Of course introducing yourself – a new, friendly face – and striking up conversation with strangers is one of the easiest strategies for quickly adjusting to your newfound home. As time goes on, you’ll eventually find yourself developing friendships and relationships that’ll make it hard to believe you were living all those years before without that specific person or group of people.
Moving abroad also means you’ll be expanding your career network. In addition to creating personal friendships, you’ll also make professional connections in your workplace, internship, or volunteer organization. These coveted international connections will be that key to future career success!
The Cons of Moving to a New Country
With every decision, comes a potential downside — especially a decision as life-changing as moving to a new country. Hopefully, this list of pros and cons of moving abroad will help you equally assess both sides before making a final decision.
1. Culture Shock
Culture shock may be triggered by anything, but the usual culprits are the differences in living situations, food, transportation, and social mannerisms.
When you first arrive in the new country, the culture shock you experience may cause great waves of homesickness and a lot of thoughts like: “What I wouldn’t give for my Wednesday night Chipotle and Game of Thrones ritual.” Initially, you’ll feel really overwhelmed and frustrated – the good news is that this culture shock is only temporary. Try your best to adjust by keeping an open mind and heart when you find yourself in situations that seem “bizarre” to you.
The best way to adjust to the shock as quickly as possible is to physically go out and immerse yourself in the culture as much as possible; even if this means trying new foods like chicken feet! The more you expose yourself, the more you’ll start to gather routine and familiarity. Don’t just hide out and hermit in your apartment! If you’re going to be living in a foreign country, you gotta, well, LIVE.
[Keep Reading: The Secrets to Coping with Culture Shock]
2. Language Barrier
Branching from culture shock are language barriers — Parlez-vous Francais? ¿Hablas español? 你会说中文吗? The best way to break down this barrier is to simply learn the native language.
If you’re moving to a new country that has a native language different than your mother tongue, you’re bound to experience communication barriers. So, you should consider taking language classes before, and especially after, moving to a foreign country. Although learning a language may not be as easy as it was when you were eight-years-old, it’s not impossible. With determination and practice, you’ll be fluently communicating with locals in no time.
For those stubborn enough to not learn the language formally, you can still get by without ripping your hair out. We recommend a combination of charades, speaking slowly, smiling, and patience.
[Find Language Courses in Your Destination of Choice]
It’s essential to save up for your move abroad months in advance and brace yourself to adjust to a different type of currency – we recommend mastering those exchange rates ASAP.
Balancing a budget is already hard enough, but balancing your finances and expenses before and after moving to a foreign country is the ultimate challenge, especially when you first arrive. We understand the excitement and thrill that greets you after stepping off the plane may cause you to impulse-buy everything you can get your hands on, but really, how many mini keychains that say “Italia” do you really need?
While you’re living in a foreign country, it may take you a few weeks, or even months, to land a job and steady income, so make sure to have a couple of months worth of money stored up in your reserves. Or, you could always find a job abroad BEFORE you make the big move.
4. “New kid” Syndrome
When moving to a new country, you may feel as if you’re the “new kid” all over again for the first week or two upon arriving to your new home. This is completely normal.
Think back to a time when you hesitantly walked into a classroom full of unfamiliar faces — a teacher you’ve never seen before may be writing “Algebra” (basically a foreign language) on the board and a group of kids may be throwing around inside jokes and slang that you don’t recognize. This is a situation that we have all been through before, but it remains intimidating and overwhelming at the same time.
No one will open the door to their new home abroad and be instantly greeted by lifelong friends and family. The best way to overcome this feeling is to take a deep breath and focus on why you decided to move abroad in the first place. Oh, and patience.
Decision Time: Are You Ready to Move Abroad?
Moving to a new country isn’t exactly the same as moving down the street. This type of change requires prior planning and a ton of research. Picking up your life and moving abroad can expose you to experiences and opportunities that would never have been achievable if you stayed put. Although this type of change will be the adventure of a lifetime, you should conduct in-depth research about how to move abroad, the country, and city you want to settle down in.
Here are our top picks to get you abroad ASAP:
Before you 100 percent decide where to move abroad, you should consider ALL the volunteer, internship, and job opportunities that are available — it’s always great to expand your horizons! But, once you're read, go for it! Dive into new waters and move abroad, and explore new cultures, languages, and lifestyles while you're at it.