Living in Spain: A Journey of Adaptation

Starting a new life in Spain Credit: Ketut Subiyanto

Spain has long been a magnet for expatriates and immigrants from across Europe.

However, moving to a new country with a different language and culture presents significant challenges.

Be ready to adapt

Many new residents have found creative ways to adapt and thrive in their new Spanish homes, and one major tool for this adaptation is social media, particularly Facebook groups.

The existence of online communities, such as Expats in Malaga, with 73,900 members, creates a space for those who want recommendations in the city, and connect with other expatriates from the same country.

Irina Saltmarsh, a Spanish Immigration Admin, and administrator of the Expats in Malaga group shares her own experience: “I’m originally from Russia, which I left twenty-two years ago. Since then, I’ve lived in various European countries before settling in Spain in 2009 with my husband. We were drawn by the promise of a more balanced lifestyle and, of course, the better climate.”

Irina Saltmarsh

As the founder of the consulting company Malaga Expat, Saltmarsh says the different mentality and language are the main challenges incomers face. “Every country ticks in its own way and for some nationalities it’s more difficult to assimilate than for others,” she added, “the language of course doesn’t make it easier either as many expect English to be spoken and this is not really the case.”

Give yourself a year to settle

According to Saltmarsh, being open and patient is the key to overcoming these challenges. “I always advise to people who come especially with families to give yourself the first year as an adjustment period. Don’t try to rush things, don’t try to push yourself into getting everything sorted from the beginning.”

She advises newcomers to take a careful approach to settling down: “Definitely do not buy straight away. Rent property, see if you like this or that area because the ideas and expectations can very much change compared to when you came here on holidays than compared to when you come here to live.”

When it comes to Facebook pages, she says the platform is a great source for sharing experiences and recommendations. ”It’s great also place to exchange information about places to go, like to eat, to entertain, for schools, for children, for families, for experiences of in Malaga.”

Facebook comments are often one person’s opinion

However, she stresses that each person has an individual experience, and the Facebook pages may not be the source for specific type of advice. “What I see much too often is that people are asking for professional legal tax advice, and this is definitely not the place to do so.  There are lots of qualified professionals who are members of the group, but there are also a lot of people who don’t have enough knowledge and still offer advice.”

Highlighting the advantages of online communities, a long-term expatriate commented on the Euro Weekly News Facebook page: “These days it is so much easier due to Facebook groups. If you have a particular hobby, you can just search for a local group, join it, and get involved, e.g., hiking, cold water swimming, Padel, etc. So much easier than 22 years ago when I moved here.”

Being proactive and seeking out social opportunities is a common thread among successful expatriates and immigrants. Many new residents find that learning the language and immersing themselves in the local culture are essential steps.

Observations from readers

As one recent arrival from Texas shared, “Moved from Texas about 2-1/2 years ago. All of our friends, other than those who visit from the US and Canada, are local Malagueños. We have rarely met Americans in Malaga except for visitors off cruise ships.”

For those willing to make the effort, the rewards are significant. A frequent sentiment presented in the expatriate community is the ease of making friends and finding activities if one is open to it.

“As long as you are willing to mix, there are loads of groups to join and classes to take. If you want it, you can find it,” commented one reader.

Whether it’s through sports, arts, language classes, or social clubs, new residents who embrace the local culture and make an effort to connect with their Spanish neighbours often find their lives enriched in unexpected ways.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Do remember to come back and check The Euro Weekly News website for all your up-to-date local and international news stories and remember, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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Written by

Talyta Franca

Talyta Franca, Class 2026, Northwestern University in Qatar.