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The ten commandments for expats living in Spain

Irish expat Carol Byrne gives us the lowdown on the ten commdandments thou shalt follow if you want to settle into expat life in Spain.

The ten commandments for expats living in Spain
Sometimes you just need to throw yourself into the local culture. Photo: AFP

Thinking of a move to sunny Spain and wondering where to start? Once you have all the travel arrangements and new home sorted out, and have finally unpacked, you should then find out how best to fit in. Confused? Then follow some simple rules, and feel more at home in Spain.

After a decade here in the Alpujarra region of southern Spain, we have fallen foul of at least a few of these 'rules' – so be prepared!

1. Thou shalt give blood, sweat, tears – and another photocopy

When you go to finalize paperwork (a bit of an oxymoron as there is always more, and never a ‘final’ ream of paper to get through) always remember to bring many, many copies of absolutely everything that pertains to the subject at hand. A vial of blood may also be handy. Add approx one ton of patience and you’re almost there.

2. Thou shalt punish the liver – an evil organ


Photo: LexnGer/Flickr 

Party etiquette. Your child  – settled in school and lisping like a local – has been invited to a friend’s birthday. Yay – a couple of free hours. Wrong. Forget pinning the tail on the burro, or birthday games of any sort. You will also be expected to attend. The kids will be kicked into the street to play (whatever the weather) while the adults eat Russian Salad and get completely sloshed on home-made wine. There will be many of these – prepare your liver now.

3. Thou shalt not poison thy neighbour’s wife

Foreign food. Never bring a non-Spanish dish to a party. It may as well be labelled “radioactive polonium”. Everyone will ask you to explain what it is, what’s in it, how did you make it – but NO-ONE will eat it. You’ll be encouraged to take it home again, where it can sit in the fridge looking reproachfully at you for three days before being slung in the bin. As for curry – ha.

4. Thou shalt not get frustrated


Photo: Pablo Andrés Rivero

Never assume a free morning is the ideal time for popping to the bank, the doctor and the Town Hall. One thing at a time. Always. Listen to everyone’s aches and pains in line at the bank, their marital troubles in the doctor’s, and prepare to be surprised at the Town Hall – Ayuntamiento – where you’ll be presented with another bill or ten you hadn’t known about.

5. Thou shalt not arrange anything in August

Never attempt to get anything at all done in August. Spain is closed. The roofer, gynaecologist and lawyer you desperately need to speak with are all at the beach.

6. Thou shalt stay pale and interesting


Photo: Lady May Pamintuan/Flickr 

Oh no. Never go to the beach in August. In addition to it being packed out with all of the above  – see Commandment Five – you’ll feel hopelessly, pathetically under qualified when you take out your sandwiches. Mama and extended familia next to you will have salad, wood fire cooked paella and cold beers, coffee and cakes, and a tablecloth on a table to seat 20.

7. Thou shalt be assertive

STOP being so polite. “Please” and “thank you” gets you nowhere. If you want another drink, bang your glass hard on the counter. Shout louder, harder, stronger.

No, we still can’t do it either.

8. Thou shalt become a supergrass

Be prepared to tell everyone in a room how much you earn, how much you owe to the bank, how much you weigh, and the details of your sex life. In detail. Ya está…

9. Thou shalt honour the little people


Photo: Marcos de Madarlaga/Flickr 

Never expect to find somewhere to eat a quiet, romantic meal, with all kids tucked up in bed. Noooo, kids stay up as late as everyone else, and are happily ignored as they scream and run in close proximity to your plate of prawns. Grin and bear it. Tell one off at your peril. That might be a hanging offence, I’ll have to check…

10. Thou shalt remain smug

Enjoy yourself, turn your face to the sun, and your back on stress and worry. Never worriedly say “but what if…” instead wait until it might happen. Have a healthy respect for football and local fiestas, take the generous gifts of fruit and vegetables with gratitude, and you’ll soon settle into your new life in Spain.

Good choice, by the way 😉

Have you fallen foul of any of these “rules”? Let us know on our Facebook page! 

Originally from Dublin, Carol Byrne has lived in Murtas, in the Alpujarra mountains for ten years with her family and the collection of four legged creatures that find their way to her door. 

She writes travel articles for Vacasoleco-companion,Trip Advisor, Mypure Natural Beauty and can be found blogging at Carolmbyrne.com.

This article was first published in March 2016. 

EXPAT

Living in Spain: Why Valencia is officially the best city in the world for foreign residents

Anyone who lives there probably already knows it to be true. But now the secret is out: Valencia has officially been declared the most desirable city to live abroad as a foreign citizen.

Living in Spain: Why Valencia is officially the best city in the world for foreign residents
Valencia tops a ranking of 66 cities in the world for expats. Photo by Giuseppe Buccola on Unsplash

The Mediterranean city in the east of Spain ranks top in the annual Expat Insider Survey published by InterNations.

More than 15,000 expats participated in the survey which analysed 66 cities around the globe during March 2020 in pre-Covid times and before the global pandemic sparked lockdowns.

The survey placed four Spanish cities in the top ten worldwide; Valencia in first place, followed by Alicante (2nd), Málaga (6th), Madrid (9th). 

Spanish cities overwhelmingly score high for the ease of settling in and quality of life indices but score less well when it comes to urban work life, because Spain can’t compete on the work opportunities front.

The city of Barcelona lags far behind in 25 place since expat life seems to be most expensive there: it ranks far behind the other Spanish cities in both the Finance & Housing and the Local Cost of Living Indices.   

So what’s so great about Valencia?


Photo by travelnow.or.crylater on Unsplash

 

Well, according to the survey which asked more than 15,000 expatriates representing 173 nationalities and living in 181 countries, the Spanish city scored the best in all five indices but one.

It ranked first worldwide in both the Quality of Urban Living and the Local Cost of Living Indices.

In fact, 94 percent of expats rate the local cost of living positively (compared to 46 percent globally), and 91 percent consider healthcare easily available (vs. 74 percent globally) which places the city first in the Health & Environment subcategory.

The climate is also a big draw with Valencia ranking second in that category thanks to conditions that are not too hot or too dry but with plenty of sunshine and a sea breeze that means summer temperatures usually max out at between 32-35C, far more hospitable than the over 40C found in parts of Andalucia and inland Spain.

Valencia also ranked well for its leisure options (4 in the survey) with vast stretches of beach within the city, the warm Mediterranean to enjoy swimming, watersports and sailing as well lots of parks and bikes routes and hills to explore inland.


Photo by Paul Povoroznuk on Unsplash

It’s also easy to get settled in Valencia. More than four in five expats (84 percent) find it easy to get used to the local culture (vs. 61 percent globally), and 91 percent say that the local residents are generally friendly (vs. 68 percent globally).

And more than four out of five expats in Valencia (82 percent) find that housing is affordable in the city, compared to 41 percent globally.

“The quality of life and the cost of living” are what makes Valencia great, according to one American expat who responded to the survey.

Where Valencia, and indeed all Spanish destinations, score badly is in the Job and Career categories.

Valencia ranks 62 out of 66 in this section with 46 percent of expats living in Valencia admitting that they are unhappy with their local career opportunities.

“Finding employment has always been difficult,” responded a French expat living in Valencia.

But all the reasons that make Valencia a favourite among expats are also found just down the coast in the region’s second city Alicante, which ranks a close number 2 on the list beating Lisbon, Panama City and Singapore.

Malaga appears at number 6 on the global list and Madrid at number 9, although Spain’s capital scores the most points globally for “leisure options”.

Barcelona however doesn’t make it into the top ten or even top 20. In fact it ranks 25th out of 66 cities in the world. Only 53 percent of expats are satisfied with the state of the local economy (vs. 63 percent globally). According to the survey 28 percent of expats in the city are dissatisfied with their financial situation (vs. 21 percent globally), and 67 percent find local housing unaffordable (vs. 41 percent globally).

“I do not like the working conditions, the pay is too low, and the rents are high,” remarked one German expat.

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