8 Important Questions About Ex Pat Life In Spain...Answered!

Have you always dreamed of living in Spain? Sun, sea, sand, and incredible culture means that life in Spain is at the top of many people’s bucket lists.

 The ex pat life can seem idyllic, but is it all that it’s cracked up to be? We’re here to help you decide!

Here are the answers to 8 commonly asked and important questions about ex pat life in Spain:

What Is Life in Spain Really Like For Expats?

Spain is home to a higher percentage of expats than almost any other country in the world. 15% of the Spanish population wasn’t born in the country. And around 5 million people currently living in Spain don’t hold a Spanish passport.

That means that for those people, life in Spain can take some getting used to. For example the pace of life in Spain is very slow. In some ways this is a good thing: long lazy lunches are great. But when you’re trying to navigate Spanish bureaucracy or have a deadline at work, less so. If you can cope with the unhurried Spanish pace of life, then living in the country can be very frustrating.

But the flip side of this is that the quality of life in Spain is exceptional. The OECD’s Better Life Index puts Spain above the European average in the categories of work-life balance, income and wealth, housing, and health status.

How Much Will It Cost To Live In Spain?

It’s the subject we need to talk about that nobody wants to talk about: money. But it’s a subject that comes with some good news in Spain because, as a general rule, it isn’t an expensive country to live. You’ll find that the cost of living is amongst the lowest in Western Europe, in fact.

The flipside of that? Wages are correspondingly low too. Although each households needs are different, recent statistics found that households spent about €2,250 per month on all costs in 2020. You should budget around €2,500 for a household of two – including dining out and entertainment.

Prices are higher in the city than in the countryside, but Madrid is still one of the cheaper Eropean capital cities. It ranked as  67th out of 206 cities in Mercer’s 2021 cost of living survey. The other big Spanish city, Barcelona, came in 84th place.

Despite the low cost of living there are high poverty rates in Spain. About 25.3% of the Spanish population was considered at risk of poverty in 2019, which is higher than the EU average. Social inequality only grew in Spain as a result of the covid-19 pandemic. But social security provisions in Spain are good, so there is a social safety net for residents who need it.

Is It Easy To Find Work In Spain As An Expat?

It’s worth noting that you can’t just move to Spain and get a job: before that you’ll need a visa that allows you to work in the country. But if you can work in Spain then it’s a great place to work, albeit very different from many other western systems.

Expats in Spain should prepare to embrace a longer, or later, working day. Typical workdays are broken into two chunks, with a long break between them. The workday typically starts at 08:30 or 09:00 through to about 13:30 and then resumes at about 16:30 to finish around 20:00. You’ll only work around 36 hours a week, but your days may seem longer as they’re so spread out.

Many expats prefer this system, but some feel like they’re missing out on their evenings, especially those with young families.

If you do move to Spain and find a job then count yourself lucky: the country has a very high unemployment rate.

And how much can you expect to earn? Well, the annual household income after taxes and transfers in Spain is just under €20,000 per year.

Is Housing Affordable To Rent Or Buy In Spain?

The property market has rebounded since the Covid-19 pandemic and house sale prices are now higher than they were in 2019, before the pandemic. You should expect to pay around €1,829/m² if you want to buy a property in Spain.

Spain has one of the highest rates of homeownership in Europe with 76% of Spaniards owning their place of residence. There are no restrictions on foreign buyers purchasing property in Spain and Spanish mortgage lenders offer an array of products for foreign investors.

But there is also a thriving rental market in the country. Expect to pay €640.98 on average for a one-bedroom apartment in the country, and over 1,000 euros if you’re looking for a 3 bedroom home.

What Is The Education System Like In Spain?

If you’re thinking of moving to Spain with a young family, then you’ll need to understand the Spanish education system. Education standards in Spain are high, which is reassuring for expats with children. The country scores 491 in reading literacy, mathematics, and sciences, which is above the OECD average of 486.

If you’re traveling with young children then you’ll find an excellent nursery and pre-school provision across the country. Children can stay in these pre-school settings up until they are between 5-6 years old. Provision is free from the age of 3 but you will have to pay for childcare from the ages of 0-3. However, childcare is much more affordable in Spain than it is in other countries, particularly when compared to the UK.

It is a compulsory legal requirement that all Spanish children attend schooling between the ages of 6 and 16. Most children will stay in education until they are 18 years old. This is usually in a school environment, but homeschooling is an option in Spain too.

Beyond this stage further and higher education is a common and popular choice in Spain too.

You have options when it comes to what kind of school you enroll your children into. You can consider state schools (where your child will be taught in Spanish), or international schools where teaching is in different languages. Method schools, religious academies, and boarding schools are all options in Spain too.

Worried about your child learning in a school where they are taught as a second language? Expat children who are learning Spanish as a second language enjoy state support. There is often extra support available in the classroom. And some schools also support and encourage children to learn their native language outside of school hours.

Does Spain Have A Good Healthcare System?

Having a private health insurance policy is a condition of most visas available to ex-pats in Spain. The country has an excellent public health system that the World Health Organization ranks the Spanish healthcare system seventh worldwide for efficiency. But you need to be working in Spain, or otherwise contributing to the social security system in the country, to access this. About 90% of the population uses the public healthcare system.

Regardless of whether you are using the public or the private healthcare system, the quality of healthcare in Spain is good. And you’ll find it easy to access high quality healthcare. According to the OECD, Spain had 4.4 doctors per 1,000 people in 2021. Many medical professionals in Spain speak English, especially in the larger cities, however if you’re living in a rural area and you don’t speak Spanish you may need to take a Spanish speaking friend with you to your appointments.

Around 19% of the Spanish population has some form of private healthcare coverage. Some of the largest private health insurance companies in Spain include:

Allianz Care

APRIL International

Cigna Global

You should expect to pay between €50-200 a month for a private healthcare policy in Spain.

What Is The Worst Thing About Being An Ex Pat In Spain?

A life in Spain would be a good one. And using the old adage that the best things in life are free, you can access the sun, sea, and sand in the country without spending a penny. But the worst thing about living in the country is that you probably won’t have as much money as you’re used to in your home country.

Spain has much lower salaries than many other European countries. And unemployment in the country is high too. The average household’s yearly disposable income is US$23,999 (about €21,000 in January 2022). Unemployment levels in the country are high too. So the worst things about being an ex pat in Spain are largely employment related.

What Is The Best Thing About Being An Ex Pat In Spain?

There are so many excellent things about being an ex pat in Spain. But perhaps the best is the laid-back pace of life and the Spanish approach to life to life too.

Spaniards live life to the fullest, taking an open, carefree attitude to everyday events. You can truly embrace your freedom when you live in Spain, enjoying a healthy lifestyle on any budget, and soaking up the sunshine.

Have you always dreamt of moving to Spain? Whether you’re looking for golden mile properties in Marbella or bargain property in Andalucia, our local property experts are perfectly placed to turn your dreams into a reality. Why not get in touch to find out more about how we can help you.



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