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15 Things You Need To Know Before Moving To Spain From The UK

Moving abroad is always a big deal. Don’t be overwhelmed, though: we’ve abbreviated all our most vital snippets of advice and things to consider into one handy blog post. So from tapas and ketchup etiquette to visas and the jobs market, here are fifteen things you’ll be glad you knew before you move to Spain.

De nada! :)

1. Spain Is Bouncing Back

Dubbed the ‘superstar economy’ of the Eurozone, Spain is overcoming its banking and house price crisis and is now the fastest growing of the ‘Big Four’ euro economies, beating Germany, Italy and France to the crown. Madrid leads the pack, with economic growth in the capital city expected to exceed Eurozone averages this year.

Time to pack your bags?

2. No Visa Required

Thanks to the friendly Schengen Agreement, EU, EEA and Swiss nationals won’t need a permit or visa to live in Spain, no matter whether they’re working or studying there. So that’s one less form to fill out.

3. Spanish People Have Lots Of Names

Everyone Spanish has two surnames, inherited from their father’s first surname and their mother’s first surname – creating a brand new, hybrid surname.

What would yours be?


4. Ketchup Is Not OK

Not surprisingly for such a gastronomic country, lots of social bloopers in Spain are to do with food. Don’t reach for the salt or pepper without tasting your food first. Season your food at all and you’re at risk of offending your host, to be honest. And don’t ever, EVER ask for ketchup.

5. Nothing Gets Done In August

Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but take our advice anyway and don’t schedule anything important for August if you’re in Spain. Most cities see a mass exodus with even bakeries and pharmacies opening on a very part-time basis. This is true for pretty much everywhere except for coastal towns and cities like Barcelona, which see their peak season in August.




6. Shop and Bank In The A.M

… Unless you’re in a major city. Lots of shops shut for lunch, or for siesta. Retail workers will often work a ‘jornada partida’, or a split day, in the same way that hospitality workers in the UK might work a split shift with time off in the middle of the day. Try and find a good online bank or set your alarm clock, because High Street banks shut at around midday in Spain.

7. No Sleeping On The Job

You won’t get a siesta at work, sadly – even if you’re working in a hotel with big, comfy beds - but lots of offices and even schools and colleges work an ‘horario intensivo’ in the summer months. It goes like this: start work a bit earlier than normal, push on through lunchtime and clock off mid-afternoon. Which is basically lunchtime in Spain.



8. Spaniards Like To Share

If you want to make friends in Spain, listen up. When you go out for tapas with your new mates or colleagues, it’s not ok to hoard a plateful of calamari to yourself: it’s all about sharing here. So it’s absolutely fine to grab that last olive. Because if you don’t, someone else will.

9. Your Birthday? Your Shout

Nobody buys you drinks or lunch on your birthday, and don’t expect to be showered with cards and gifts at work – so don’t take it personally, amigo. If it’s your birthday, the drinks are on you. Likewise, send your children to school with enough sweeties to share with everyone in their class if it’s their birthday.


10. Time Is Different Here

La mañana (the morning) lasts until about 2 pm, la tarde (the afternoon) goes on way past the sun down, and there’s no specific word for ‘evening’. The early hours have their own name, though: la madrugada. Lunchtime is around 3 pm and dinner is rarely served before 9 pm. Nightlife only gets going in la madrugada, so don’t hit town before midnight.

11. Catalan Is a Language

No, NOT a dialect. Same goes for Valenciano and Gallego. These are all languages of their very own, and are deemed ‘co-official’ with Castellano (which is the proper name for the widely learned European Spanish language).

12. Sometimes Spanish Doesn’t Translate Simply From English

Often it does, of course - but rely on this at your peril. You’ll be forgiven for using your very own version of Spanglish while you learn the new language (applauded, even) but be aware when bilingual freestyling that ‘embarazada’ doesn’t mean ‘embarrassed,’ it means ‘pregnant.’ Now that could be embarrassing. Another one worth knowing now is that if you are ‘constipado,’ you have a cold. Promise. Check out our six top ways to quickly learn a new language here.


13. It’s Ok To Make A Scene

Along with all your oh-so-polite, tapas-related-dithering, do yourself a favour and leave your Britishness at the border. Been waiting at the bar a while? Yell '¡Oiga!' (“Oi, person -I-don't-know”), or for an even speedier response, '¡Oye' (“Oi, person-I-don't-know-but-will-speak-to-as-if-I-do”). For those of you likely to be working behind a bar in Spain, be prepared to be addressed in this rather direct manner.



But don't over do it :)

14. Knowing Spanish Has Never Been More Important

The good news? Unemployment levels are falling in Spain. The bad news? Overall unemployment has been high since the financial crisis of 2008. Competition for jobs is unsurprisingly stiff, but there are always sectors with shortages of qualified personnel (engineering, IT, and medicine to name a few), so speaking the language will always give you the edge over your contemporaries. Networking is a great way to hear about jobs before they’re formally advertised in Spain, so join online expat communities and professional networks through Linkedin. 

15. The Hospitality Industry Looks Good

Business travel alone is expected to increase by over 6% in Europe in 2016, with the largest growth anticipated in Germany, Italy, France and Spain. Madrid is looking especially buoyant, ranked the second city in Europe (after Dublin) for forecast growth in revenue per available hotel room. In short, hotels will be hiring!

Know someone with their sights on Spain? Share the love!