Spain’s expat tribes: Where do you fit in?

Spain's expats are a varied crowd. From jet-setters in Marbella to hipsters in Barcelona, it really does take all sorts. But what kind of Spain expat are you? Read on to find out.

Spain's expat tribes: Where do you fit in?

Welcome to the jungle that is Spain’s expat community.

While many think the country’s expats are only here for the sun and cheap beer, the reality is a whole lot more interesting.

READ ALSO: Expats or immigrants in Spain: Is there a difference?

From adrenaline junkies in the Canary Islands to bohemians in the hills of Andalusia, there is a group for everyone.    

But what kind of Spain expat are you exactly?

The Eat Pray Love expat:
Photo: Lereile Lereile / Flickr
Most likely to be seen in Menorca. You've done the corporate thing but it always seemed like there was something missing. Now you've come to Spain to find yourself and hopefully a nice Spanish lover too. Your dream for the future? To find spiritual peace. And maybe open a smoothie bar as well.
Hipster expat:
Photo: Joel Bedford / Flickr
The hipster: Most likely to be seen in Barcelona. You've come to Barcelona because it’s just so happening right now. There are cool galleries on every corner and the politics is so interesting. Your dream for the future? You want to open your own web design studio in Gràcia or — at a pinch — Raval.
The jet-setter:
Photo: J2R/Depositphotos

Most likely to be seen in Marbella. It's October, so this must be Marbella. You come to your Spain house a couple of times a year, mostly when it’s too cold to hang out in London or New York, or when Barbados just seems too far away. Last year you played golf on the same course as Antonio Banderas, and you met Eva Longoria too. Your dream for the future? To be invited onto the board for the annual Starlite Gala. 
The expat-in-denial:
Photo: gorelovs/Depositphotos

Most likely to be seen in Galicia (or anywhere else off the tourist track). You've come to Spain to lose yourself and are so integrated into the country you’re forgetting your own language. You have no expat friends, only watch local TV and sit with the old people in the village square for a chat every day. Your dream for the future? To wake up one day and actually be Spanish.
The English teacher:

Photo: rosipro/Depositphotos

Found in every sizeable town or city across Spain, this tribe of native-English speakers are entrusted with educating both adults and children alike. You came to Spain on a gap year or career break for a few short months, and picked up a few private classes and somehow launched a teaching careeer without even trying. Your dream for the future: To open a language academy and hire other teachers so you never have to correct another “I am from Espain” again. 
The Spain buff:
Photo: [email protected] / flickr
Most likely to be seen in Seville. The colour, the glamour, the flamenco dance classes — this Spain place is so amazing. After meeting your intercambio to polish up your past participles, you’re off on a tapas tour. And this weekend you’re off on a sherry excursion! Your dream for the future? You want to open your own flamenco school back home. What else?
The sun-worshipper:
Photo: Suxsieq/Flickr
Most likely to be seen in Benidorm. You love Spain but Benidorm’s even better because you don’t have to learn too much Spanish. Your dream for the future? You’re planning to open a sports pub with giant plasma screens and the best fish and chips on the Costa Blanca.
The adrenaline junkie:
Photo: simto75/Depositphotos

Most likely to be seen in the Canary Islands. You're here for the windsurfing, the climbing and the paragliding. There's nothing like waking up by the beach and getting out there among the waves. In fact, as far as you're concerned there's nowhere else in Europe worth living and you can't imagine ever going home. Your dream for the future? You're already living it man!
The bohemian:
Photo: ppl1958/Depositphotos

Most likely to be seen in the hills around Malaga. You're in Andalusia because it's just more authentic than Italy. The light is incredible down here and you can buy a cottage for next to nothing. It's just a shame there isn't a bookshop in the village. But that's what Amazon's for right? Your dream for the future? To run writing workshops in a restored farmhouse in the countryside.
The holiday rep:
Photo: AFP
Most likely to be seen in Magaluf (aka Shagaluf) on Majorca. You love tourism, helping people have fun and having a year-round tan. Best of all, though, when your shift is over you can hang out with your mates. Your dream for the future? The future – what's that?
The back-to-nature expat:

Photo: AFP
Most likely to be seen in Andalusia's Alpujarras region. You love the mountains and can't get enough of all this country air, and even the fact your rustic cottage is freezing for four months a year can't dampen your spirits. The lady next door makes the best goat's cheese on the planet and next spring you'll finish building your own barn. Your future dream? To have a little eco lodge, nothing fancy, and all made with natural materials.
The corporate expat:

Photo: pressmaster/Depositphotos

Most Likely to be seen in Madrid. You've got a two-year contract in Madrid, and although you were hoping for Paris, you are pleasantly surprised by how vibrant the city is. You're trying to learn the language, but everyone speaks English in the office. Your dream for the future? To be the respected CEO of a dynamic firm with global reach, and then retire at 50.



Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.


Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 


Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.


Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.


The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.