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Why moving to Spain will improve your quality of life but not your career prospects

The Local Spain
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Why moving to Spain will improve your quality of life but not your career prospects
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Spain is championed for mental wellbeing and family life in a global survey of expats, but isn’t the place to go if you want to advance your career.


This year’s HSBC Expat Explorer survey saw Spain jump a staggering nine places on last year’s score, ranking in fourth position as the best place to be an expat out of a total of 33 countries and territories.

The survey involved canvassing the opinions of 18,059 expats on their thoughts about their new country in terms of family, economics and overall experience.

So what makes Spain such a great place for expats to live?

More than just the initial allure of the climate, expats feel that moving to Spain resulted in improvement to both their physical and mental health.

More expats in Spain than any other country said their mental wellbeing improved on moving there, feeling happier, healthier and more comfortable. “Those seeking an improvement to their quality of life should look to Spain,” the report stated.


With working days starting later, long lunchtimes and a more relaxed working environment, it’s no wonder that many expats reported an improvement in work-life balance. “You'll find you'll have more time with the family,” said one participant.

Mañana attitude

However, it seems that Spain is not well suited for those people who seek organisation and efficency in the workplace. “Be prepared to slow down,” one participant recommends. “Get ready for a more relaxed pace of life. If it doesn’t get done today, it'll get done tomorrow, or maybe the day after! Stressing about it will not get it done any faster.”

Table: HSBC


On the downside, Spain is not well credited for career progression and salaries. Lucrative expat employment packages are not very common and, importantly, salaries tend to be significantly lower than those in other European countries. The survey also only ranked Spain in a measly 27th place for disposable income.

Spain is also not the place for those seeking career progression, with the country ranking at the bottom of the list in this category. Unemployment rates are high and so expats often run their own businesses. That said, Spain’s progression in the leader board compared to last year can be explained by 5 point improvement in it’s ranking for economics and aspiration, suggesting development in these categories.

In any case, expats seem to think that improvements to quality of life make up for the lack of career prospects, with the country ranking second, behind only Singapore, for ‘Little Expats’ and first for both quality of life and physical and mental wellbeing.


The survey also emphasises the ease of settling into Spain and a surplus of cultural, open and welcoming communities.

Notably, expats noticed differences is manners on moving to Spain, having to adapt to the idea that abruptness and lack of punctuality from Spaniards should no be considered as rude. Women reported difficulty in adapting to the patriarchal Spanish culture with staring and catcalling in the streets being common, especially in rural areas.

Despite this, the survey gives a very positive outlook on life in Spain, while emphasising the importance of integration in the culture. “Don't try to bring your home country with you,” one participant advised. “Accept where you are going and get used to how locals live, shop, eat and assimilate accordingly. In the long term you will be happier.”

In the overall survey, Switzerland topped the leaderboard followed by Singapore and Canada. The UK dropped from 20th to 27th place this year and Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man were all added as separate territories.

Table showing the top 15 ranked territories. Credit: HSBC.

By Alice Huseyinoglu

READ MORE Tell us: What are the pros and cons of raising a family in Spain?




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