Soon-to-be Spaniard? 8 Tips for Living in Spain as an Expat

Soon-to-be Spaniard? 8 Tips for Living in Spain as an Expat

Living in Spain as an expat is a fun and rewarding experience—but it also comes with plenty of challenges. If you’ve got your sights set on Spanish flavor, here are eight tips to help ease your transition.

Actually learn Spanish

Anyone moving to Barcelona or Madrid can get by without learning Spanish—but that doesn’t mean you should. Taking the time to learn the language will show locals that you’re more than just a tourist, and it will open you up to a whole new world of people you couldn’t speak with otherwise.

Manage mail at home

No one wants to get home from traveling abroad only to find they’ve defaulted on all of their correspondence. That’s why investing in a digital mailbox from iPostal1 is an excellent idea. With iPostal1, you can view mail from anywhere in the world and stay in touch with your loved ones.

Get your public health card

If you’re in Spain under certain circumstances, you may be eligible to take advantage of the country’s fantastic healthcare system by applying for a public health card. For example, if you or your spouse contribute to the social security system or are a pensioner, you can apply.

Learn how to order beer

Beer is a vital part of Spanish culture, and knowing how to order beer is more than just learning how to say “una cerveza por favor.” (Besides, you won’t be ordering beer using this phrase, anyway).

There are many beer sizes in Spain. The most common is “una caña,” which is a bit less than half a pint. “Un doble” is about double this size, and “un tercio” is usually a standard beer bottle. Most Spaniards prefer una caña as it’s the perfect size for staying cold while you chat with friends.

Eat late like a local

Mealtimes in Spain are different than pretty much anywhere else. Lunch is served around two in the afternoon (pro tip: take advantage of an economical menú del día during the week), while Spaniards sit down to dinner at 9 pm at the earliest. Many kitchens close at 4 or 5 pm, so don’t expect to be served a large meal after those times.

Dress like a local

If you don’t want to be pegged as a tourist, you need to dress the part. Spanish people like to dress more formally than Americans, so making a bit of effort can help you blend in. A word to the wise: unless you’re going to the beach, your flip-flops should stay at home. Likewise with basketball shorts, sweatpants, and other athleisure clothing.

Expect things to go slow

Spanish bureaucracy is notoriously slow. When applying for visas or other paperwork, expect it to take a while–from waiting in line at the public office to getting an answer. Embracing your inner chill is the best way to deal with the relaxed pace, and sometimes a lawyer’s expertise can speed things up.

Don’t expect anything to finish anything in August

Spain effectively shuts down in August, when everyone is enjoying their hard-earned vacaciones at the beach. Things like getting a doctor’s appointment, renewing your driver’s license, or renovating your house will all likely have to wait until September, so don’t put these things off if you notice the need in July.

Parting Shot

Moving abroad can feel overwhelming, but hopefully, these eight tips will help you feel more prepared for your Spanish adventure ahead.


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