Moving to Spain comes with a lot more baggage than just what you bring onto the plane. In fact, anyone who decides to relocate to another country needs as much advice and information as they can get before pursuing the move.
With such a large number of people from the UK looking to fulfil their dream of living the sunny Mediterranean lifestyle, it’s incredibly useful to take a few introductory tips onboard to help your new journey get off to a positive start.
So what do you need to do before moving to Spain to make the whole thing run smoothly? Here are 10 top tips for you to follow that will help you settle into the Spanish way of life in no time.
Research is one of the most important aspects of any planning and preparation routine. You can never do enough research, so wherever you are in the world be sure to occupy yourself with all sorts of Spanish introductory booklets, documents and articles that provide you with information about the country, from property prices and tourist destinations to local restaurants and leisure centres. Speak to people who have experienced the move before as this gives you an insight into what it’s like to relocate. A good place to also look is on social media sites as Facebook and Twitter can be the perfect places to find actual current residents in a certain place who you can connect with for any questions prior to your move.
Upon moving to Spain, take some time out to relax and think things over for a while. Try and acclimatise to the new weather conditions and speak to some of the locals, introducing yourself as a new resident where possible. Again, you will probably find that local Facebook groups and events are more regularly updated than many Spanish websites and will provide a good source of current info.
If you’ve come from somewhere like London where things seem to move at a hundred miles an hour, remember that the Spanish lifestyle may be a lot slower than you’re used to. Siesta’s are commonplace in Spain and provide residents with the opportunity to spend time with family and friends during the day. It’s nothing to do with laziness as the working hours continue into the night to accommodate for lost time.
When moving to another country, integrating into the local community can be tough. Not only is it a particularly difficult obstacle to overcome for the less confident individual, it can be a tough job for someone who doesn’t speak the language fluently. Thankfully, the Spanish are known for their warm-hearted gestures and welcoming attitude towards new residents, so making new friends and bonding with community is something that comes naturally to many of the locals. The local bar would be a recommended starting place to get to know the locals as in smaller towns and villages you will probably continue to find the same people visiting the same establishments week in week out.
- Legal Advice
When you start searching for a property in Spain you will likely find that agents will be trying to get in touch with you 24 hours a day. Spain has its issues when it comes to property development and it’s always advised that you get the additional assistance from independent legal advice. You can easily get in touch with English speaking lawyers that will assist you when purchasing a new property.
- Coping with the Cons
Let’s face it, there are always things we don’t like about our local area and this is likely to be the case for you when you move to Spain. For example, many people like to escape the hustle and bustle of cities by moving to coastal towns and beachside resorts, which at certain times can get noticeable busier.
Anything off-putting like this should be considered before you decide to move if you feel it may become too much of an issue. However, you can deal with the cons of living where you are by staying in touch with family and friends back home or speaking about them with some of the locals.
- Renew Passport
It’s quite easy to forget all about your passport and getting it renewed, so make sure it doesn’t expire and keep a note of the date that it will. You may well have to pay for an emergency document to travel if your passport has expired and on most occasions it can take a while for a renewed passport to arrive, so make sure you always have your passport renewed well in advance of any travelling you plan on doing.
- Register for Healthcare
In order to be entitled state healthcare in Spain, you need to make your national contribution to the social security system. Unlike in the UK where the NHS is a residence-based system, you must be paying your equivalent of national insurance contributions to be registered for healthcare. This is often a convoluted process in Spain so the sooner you get the ball rolling the better it will be for you.
- Register at the Town Hall
This is an obligatory procedure whereby you register at the Town Hall so that the local area is aware of how many people live there. There are plenty of British people living in Spain who haven’t done this yet but it can prove to be extremely beneficial to the local community if you do so as services and facilities in a town are often built in line with the registered residents. It’s not rare to find large communities and residential areas without so much as a pharmacy as few residents have registered at the town hall. When the local town centre learns of your inhabitancy in the area, they can provide the required level of community services. There are other benefits this can bring, such as voting rights and discounts.
- Learn the Language
This isn’t a compulsory tip but if you do plan on living in Spain for the foreseeable future you should always try your hardest to settle and learn the language as quickly as possible. There are many reasons why this is important, with added benefits apart from being able to order the right dish at a restaurant. With many regional dialects and accents you may find it best to find some locals willing to benefit from an exchange of language teaching.
Spain is quite bureaucratic and you’ll probably find there are plenty of forms to fill in and documents to sign. If you don’t understand what it is you’re signing for, it could cost you in future. You can get assistance with the language by speaking with locals often, acquiring the help of a teacher or simply reading often.
- Enjoy Yourself!
Settling in takes time, so don’t get down-heartened if you’re feeling homesick or struggling to cope with what is a major change in your life. Instead, focus on the things you’d always hoped to do in Spain and perhaps think about travelling around the country for a while. By travelling, your new Spanish property will naturally turn into a base of sorts from which you can build a new way of life.
Mike James used to live on the Costa del Sol and is very familiar with the pros and cons of moving to Spain, running a business there and all of the various differences to consider when contemplating a move. With a background in the property market, Mike often writes about his experiences for Panorama Properties, a Marbella based real estate agent.