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Sending Advice To Myself Before I Moved To Spain

By Mr Grumpy - Fri 12th Nov 2010

I was chatting with friends a couple of weeks ago and one topic of conversation came up that seemed to keep us talking throughout the evening. If you could send yourself a letter from the future, back to the weeks before you relocated to Spain, what advice would you give yourself?

Of course, everybody has a different experience and level of success in living their new lives in Spain, but it kept me thinking throughout the following week what advice would have been useful to me?

Well, to keep things as brief as possible, my advice to me in order to make life in Spain much easier, and to help me settle in to my new way of life much more quickly would be as follows :

Language : You can never know enough of the language or have too much practise. Sure, you will learn more when you are on the ground, but spend as much time as possible taking lessons whilst you are still in the UK. Oh, and buy a good phrasebook, dictionary and a couple of 'learn Spanish' CD's for when you are in the car. Why don't you even start to watch some of your DVD's set with either Spanish dubbing or subtitles ?

Sort your UK affairs : Does your UK passport or Driving license have enough valid date on it? - It will be much easier to renew whilst you have a UK address. What about a UK Bank account? - If you wish to keep one open then you may wish to change your address to a relatives and register for On-line / paperless banking if you haven't done so already.

Currency Exchange : It's sod's law that says that whenever the exchange rate is looking favourable, you find that it can take 3 to 5 days to go through the procedure of opening up a trading account with a Currency Exchange Broker. It's useful to open an account in advance and when you have the time to do it, as oppose to when you actually need the cash opening an account doesn't tie you into any obligation to exchange any money with them.

Healthcare : What are you going to do? If you will be working legally in Spain then you will be entitled to Free State Healthcare. If you are retired you can apply to have your entitlement to be transferred from the UK to Spain, if you fall somewhere in the middle then you had better sort out Private Health Insurance. Either way, just because you are an EU Citizen (with or without an EHIC card) don't just assume that you will be covered.

Legalities : Research as many of the legalities that you will be faced with when you arrive as soon as possible - do as much as you can from the UK. Just some of the things to look into include ; NIE number, Residencia, Padron, School applications, Healthcare, Vehicle Importation, Opening a Bank account...etc...

Accomodation : If you have purchased a property chances are you will have made a number of visits to your chosen area, but if you are looking to rent, or moving over here specifically to look for somewhere to buy, that's different. Personally, I would be much more open minded about areas and types of property that I would consider, For example, we moved to Spain with a clear idea that we wanted an old Finca in the Campo, but 6 years down the line we can see the benefits in considering a Townhouse in the Village. At that point we were basing our wish list on our lives in the UK, not what would be useful or desired in Spain. It does no harm to keep an open mind and look at things from a different perspective.

Fiestas : To a newbie it can often seem like Fiesta are kept a secret by the locals and that you only find out about them after the event. Even if you do know about them it is surprising how many of the local expats don't bother to take part. I was guilty of both, but since having our daughter we have attended many of the local fiestas and feel more involved in the community as a result.

Appliances : Furniture and Electrical goods in particular seem to cost a fortune in Spain and never seem to last as long aswell. If you can, bring as many appliances with you as you can on your initial move, as chances are the transport costs for you to bring them at a later date will not be viable. If you allow for fitting a surge protector to your electrics and a softener to the water supply then you will find that their useful life is extended quite a bit.

Cost of living: To start off with there are bound to be a few little things that you really miss from home : HP Sauce, Marmite, Tomato Ketchup, Baked beans etc.... of course you can buy them all here in your local 'English corner shop' but the cost tends to hiked up quite a bit. You are aswell taking advantage of any and every spare corner in the removal van and jamming it full of bits and pieces as this will save you a small fortune in the long run. And if you are one of those smug types who declares their intention to only buy local seasonal produce from the markets, then let's see how long you last!

Finances : Budget and be prepared for the fact that direct debits and bills are erratic at best. It is not unusual to find a demand for 3 or 4 yearly municipal tax bills all at the same time (they tend to be split down, as opposed to just one council tax bill like in the UK). Many of the Telephone and Utility bills often send you a bill only after they have deducted the money from your account. This mentality can often take some getting used to and personally, I prefer to try to pay for as many bills as I can in cash to keep these erratic DD's to a minimum.

Jobs : What's the plan here? IS there even a plan? - If there isn't then you'd better get enough savings together before you move to support yourself for a while, research the jobs market (Where are all the jobs advertised locally? Who are the Agencies to contact?) and prepare a number of paper copies of an updated CV written in the Spanish style and as a Spanish employer would expect it to be presented.

There we go - that's my advice to me 67 years ago (The next question is would I have paid any attention to myself ? I doubt it!)

Comment on this Blog

Despite being an old hand here - and yes I speak the local language, Catalan, and not "Spanish" - when visiting the notary to purchase the present home in the 1990's I was surprised when the German estate agent said "you'll only be purchasing the land today, tomorrow we declare the house as if it's just been built. Save a lot of purchase taxe that way". Yes, and you can also end up in prison that way - especially when the house had been built 14 years before and taxes paid every year on it. Visit to notary cancelled on the spot, lawey in Barcelona sent threats of criminal prosecution to lawyer. Eventualy sorted - but estate agent still in business, needless to say. I made the right decision to move here in 1991. However I would not make the same decision in 2013. Spain is headed downhill, dragging Catalunia with it, and horrors are ahead.
Robin - Wed, 24th Apr 2013
Good advice! - I would also suggest renting a property here in Spain before committing to buying to ensure you are suited to life in Spain and liek the area.
Gordon Bennett - Sat, 21st May 2011
Good advice - so easy to get caught up in the excitement and forget the everyday stuff!
Sam - Wed, 13th Apr 2011
I am not sure I'd disagree with a word of this. I especially like "You can never know enough of the language or have too much practise" I have seen so many expats struggle because they can't do much more than order a coffee and One thing I'd add. Get COPIES of driving licenses, certificates, medical/dental records, school records etc All much easier done in your home country than Spain.
Steve - Sun, 2nd Jan 2011

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