When it comes to the biggest mistakes people have made when moving to Spain, do not assume they are rare. Nearly every customer wishes they had done something different, when looking for a place to live permanently. While some retirees have hair-raising tales to tell, others talk about little details that interrupted a smooth move. We do not know of any expat living abroad, whether it be to Spain or another country, who can say everything was plain sailing.
This isn’t a surprise because experts say moving house is one of life’s most stressful experiences, so to retire to another country, is a significant achievement. However, you reap many benefits from moving to another country and embarking on a new lifestyle but as the saying goes forearmed is forewarned so let’s look at common mistakes and tips for moving to Spain.
Biggest Mistakes When Moving to Spain
1: Legalities First
Whenever we move abroad, red tape and bureaucracy rule our days, from the simple applying for an NIE number, visas, trying to open a bank account, residency regulations, moving pets across to car ownership. Many people assume the first thing to do when relocating to Spain, is settling in and then tackle procedures and legalities. The truth is, you can never start too early, and rules differ for EU nationals. So don’t wait until when you arrive. Stay one step ahead of regulations, complete research, and know what is coming next to avoid unnecessary stress.
2: Biggest Mistake: Mishandling Finances
Now is the time to manage finances like an accountant, especially if you still own property in your home country. Consider fluctuations in currency exchanges, ad hoc bills, and always have money set aside for a rainy day. Many people also misjudge the cost of living in Spain. Being in the land of Costas with gorgeous weather and delicious food is not fun while scrimping and saving money. Buy a budgeting book and know your income, debts, savings, monthly and yearly bills. Once you have done that, set aside a budgeting for socialising, shopping, and other daily costs.
3: Moving Out of Holiday Mode
Most people fall in love with Spain when on holiday and what is there not to like. All those hours of sunshine, an outdoor lifestyle, party atmosphere and laid-back, carefree living. Unfortunately, that lifestyle is not sustainable, when moving overseas to live. We’ve all heard stories of British ex-pats retiring abroad who end up in bars day after day, and not only does this impact on finances but also physical and mental health. Maintain a delicate balance between the practicalities of life and enjoying it.
4: Cultural Stereotyping of Spanish People
People often stereotype foreign countries but Spain’s 17 autonomous regions vary in culture, food, festivals, and history, and when looking at places to live, it is worth remembering this. Whether renting or buying a house in Spain, take your time and visit different areas to find the cultural edge that suits you. Once you arrive and settle in, visiting various destinations is also a great, fun way to learn about your host country. From Alicante to Malaga to Mallorca, and Catalonia, it is all different.
5: Laidback Spanish Lifestyle
Speaking of culture shock, the Spanish siesta, a lack of customer service and the tomorrow attitude is one quirky aspect that people either love or hate. People who move at a fast pace find it hard to adapt, for day-to-day living like shopping. For those who cannot change, they call the siestas and slow pace a waste of time, or being lazy. Unfortunately, no matter how much you quote “customer Service or express dismay at the slow pace of life, Spanish people won’t change just for you. Plan your day and allow time for the siestas and “Manana” attitude.
6: Culture Shock is Real
Home movers should not underestimate culture shock, when it comes to being internationally aware. This occurs when unfamiliarity gets too much for us to cope with; hence feelings of doom and gloom descend. A perfect example is bullfighting in Andalucía, of which many animal-friendly people just can’t wrap their head around, however, it can be small things, like navigating public transport, missing favourite foods, changing routines, or being unable to cope with summer temperatures when they peak, especially in places like Seville. The antidote is to give yourself time and be patient. Humans have a remarkable ability to adapt to current surroundings.
7: Neglecting Online Benefits
Often, we hear older generation ex-pats say they are technophobes. However, getting online and utilising the many apps out there, makes things so much easier. For any foreigner moving abroad, we recommend downloading apps like a currency converter, translators, banking, and What’s App or Messenger to keep in touch with family and friends back home. The energy invested in learning about online technology will reap great rewards, and makes living in a foreign country even easier.
8: Language Barriers in Spain
Very often when people live abroad in Spain, the number one common complaint is an inability to learn the language. The good news is that it’s not your fault. Experts say the best time to become bilingual and fluent is during our childhood years because our brains are like sponges and can absorb information. However, do not let this be an excuse to ignore learning the language. Even though many places have English speaking locals, knowing some Spanish yourself goes a long way. Try to remember one word a day or use the 80 / 20 rule of the most used words first. The benefit of doing so is immense.
Summary: One of the biggest mistakes’ expats make when moving to Spain encompasses all the above, and that is disinterest. Be curious, get outside of comfort zones, try new things, go to different places, and open yourself up. While retiring to the Costa Del Sol might be your only reason for moving, curiosity about the Spanish culture, history, food, and architecture will help your relocation endeavour go more smoothly and be stress free.
Further Reading to Move Overseas
If you are still undecided whether you want to relocate to Spain, this article lists reasons to move and benefits of doing so. From mental well-being and health to quality of life, it explains why ex-pats make up 12% of Spain’s population. If you are buying property in Spain or would like advice about investing in the Spanish real estate market, also call or email us and speak with an experienced agent.
Finding a new home in Spain throws out a multitude of possible destinations for any expatriate. To make your move and start a new life, this article about regions in Spain will be of use. Also discussing popular areas like Madrid, Catalan, and Barcelona, it will help those preparing to relocate.