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WHAT CHANGES IN SPAIN

EXPLAINED: What changes about life in Spain in May 2022

May 2022 in Spain brings tax declaration changes, savings on your energy bills, second booster doses, a bank holiday for some, incredible festivals, a big announcement about UK driving licences and more.

What changes in Spain in May?
What changes in Spain in May? Photo: Robert Fotograf / Anatolii_Maks / JOSE JORDAN / AFP / Pixabay

Bank holiday for some regions

Many regions in Spain celebrate the Día del Trabajador or International Workers’ Day, but as this year May 1st falls on a Sunday, several regions have decided to push the holiday over to Monday May 2nd, creating a long weekend.

According to the work calendar of the Government of Spain, seven regions have chosen to move the holiday to Monday. These are Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Castilla y León, Extremadura, Murcia and Madrid.

This year, the long weekend coincides with Spanish Mother’s Day on May 1st.  

Spain’s Hipra vaccine to be on the market in May

Spain’s Minister of Science and Innovation, Diana Morant, has announced that the Spanish vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) from Hipra laboratories could begin to be marketed, after the green light from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) at the end of May.  

Hipra, which has received €18 million in aid from the ministry for development and production, is to be the first Spanish vaccine against Covid-19.

Going by the brand name PHH-1V, the Hipra shot is being developed as a booster vaccine for adults who have already been fully vaccinated with a different COVID-19 vaccine.

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Annual income tax declaration on the phone

From May 5th 2022, people who prefer to file their annual income tax declaration – la declaración de la renta – over the phone (in Spanish) can do so by calling either 91 757 57 77 or 901 200 347. They will also be able to resolve any doubts you have. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about filing your Spanish tax return in 2022

If you would rather file your annual income tax in person you’ll have to wait until June 1st, but alternatively the whole process can be done online. Here’s our step-by-step guide to completing your Spanish tax return

If you’re not sure if you have to file an income tax return in Spain, this article will help

Fourth Covid vaccine for over 80s and care home residents

According to a report by Spain’s Vaccine Committee published on April 18th, Spanish health authorities will most probably start to offer a second booster dose to over-80s and care home residents in early May 2022.

Until now, the fourth dose has only been made available to around 120,000 people in Spain classified as vulnerable, including people with cancer, HIV patients, those who have had a transplant or are receiving dialysis.

On April 6th, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) backed a second booster dose for over-80s, but added that it was “too early to consider using a fourth dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer’s Comirnaty and Moderna’s Spikevax) in the general population”.

READ ALSO: Spain set to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to over-80s

Energy prices to fall in May

Spain and Portugal have agreed with the European Commission to set a maximum of €50 for the price of gas over the next 12 months, a measure that will make it possible to lower the energy bill from May by between 30 and 40 percent.  

Electricity prices on the Iberian Peninsula will be slashed under an exemption allowing them to separate the price of gas from that of the rest of the European Union. 

This measure will lead to a substantial drop in the price of the wholesale electricity market. According to Madrid, around 40 percent of households should benefit from the system, and between 70 and 80 percent of companies will be affected.

READ ALSO: Spain and Portugal’s cost-cutting ‘energy island’ plan gets EU approval

UK driving licences of residents in Spain no longer valid from May 1st

On April 29th, the British Embassy in Madrid announced that the UK-issued driving licences of people who’ve been residing in Spain for more than six months will no longer be valid from May 1st 2022, adding that they will “rapidly accelerate talks” to find a solution but giving no further grace period to drivers left in limbo.

The last-minute announcement, posted just hours before the April 30th deadline for UK licence validity, confirms one of the worst case scenarios for British driving licence holders living in Spain.

“Driving a vehicle without a valid licence is illegal in Spain,” the UK embassy stressed.

“If you are affected by this change and need to drive, you should not wait for the outcome of the negotiations and should take immediate steps to apply for a Spanish licence – as we have been advising for some time now.”

Spanish authorities have previously given UK driving licence holders four grace periods (of three or two months in length each), but there has been no further extension of UK licence validity granted this time.

So does this mean there is no deal and UK drivers residing in Spain will have to sit their practical test with a Spanish-speaking examiner to get a Spanish licence?

It’s still unclear. According to the British ambassador, Spanish and British authorities have “agreed to rapidly accelerate talks next week in the hope of reaching an agreement soon as we already have in almost every other EU Member State”.

Another travel ban extension  for unvaccinated non-EU holidaymakers

The Spanish government on April 30th extended again temporary restrictions for non-essential travel from most third countries, but this time only for two weeks.

That means non-EU/Schengen adults who reside outside of the EU and haven’t been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or recently recovered from the illness cannot go on holiday to Spain until at least May 15th.

In other words, Spain continues to not accept negative Covid-19 tests from British, American, Canadian, South African or other third-country nationals who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered. 

Earlier extensions of the July 2020 regulation were usually for another month, but on Saturday April 30th 2022, Spanish health authorities announced they would only extend the restrictions on non-essential travel from outside of the bloc for just 15 days.

This suggests that it may be only a matter of weeks before Spain fully reopens to all non-EU/Schengen tourists even if they aren’t vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid-19. Whether they will have to provide a negative Covid test to be allowed to enter Spain remains to be seen.

Fiestas are back on

Many of Spain’s beloved festivals are back on this May after a two-year hiatus during the pandemic.

Seville’s famed Feria de Abril, celebrating everything to do with flamenco, horses and Andalusian culture will be held from May 1st until May 2nd, while Córdoba’s Fiesta de Los Patios will be on from May 3rd until the 15th, where visitors will be able to see inside the city’s gorgeous courtyard gardens, decorated with all manner of flowers. 

Other May celebrations taking place include the Cruces de Mayo, where floral-decorated crosses are set up in several cities across the country and Girona’s Temps de Flors flower festival. 

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PROPERTY

Why are Spanish homes so dark?

Despite being known for its year-long sunny weather, Spain is the EU country with the fewest homes with natural light, often intentionally. Why is it that when it comes to spending time at home, Spaniards seem to love being in the dark?

Why are Spanish homes so dark?

Spain – the land of sunshine. The country gets between 2,500 and 3,000 hours of sun per year on average, almost double the 1,600 hours the UK gets, for example.

You’d probably assume that finding a bright apartment in such a sunny country would be a piece of cake, but unless you’re renting or buying a modern home, it might be trickier than you realise.

More than one in ten Spaniards live in dwellings they feel are “too dark” – the highest percentage among all EU countries, according to figures from Eurostat.

As far as dark homes go, Spain is head and shoulders above the EU average of 5.9 percent, and higher than other nations with a high rate of gloomy homes such as France (9.5 percent), Malta (9.4 percent) and Hungary (7.7 percent).

At the other end of the brightly lit spectrum, it’s no surprise to see that countries with cloudier skies and darker winters such as Norway, Slovakia, Estonia, Czechia and the Netherlands have homes that let in plenty of natural light, and yet Spain’s sun-kissed Mediterranean neighbours Italy and Cyprus do make the most of the readily available light.

Dark homes are almost twice as common in Spain as the EU average. Graph: Eurostat.

So why are Spanish homes so dark?

Is it a case of hiding away from the sun, and keeping cool during the summer months? Or is it something else? 

Apartment blocks

The vast majority of Spaniards live in apartments as opposed to houses, often in tightly-packed cities with narrow streets.

In fact, in Spain 64.6 percent of the population lives in flats or apartments, second in the EU after Latvia (65.9 percent.)

By contrast the EU wide average is 46.1 percent.

By nature of apartment living, Spanish homes tend to get less sunlight.

Depending on whether they have an exterior or interior flat, they might not actually have a single window in the flat that faces the street.

If the apartment is on a lower floor, the chances of it receiving natural light are even lower. Internal patios can help to solve this to some extent, but only during the mid day and early afternoon hours. 

why are spanish homes so dark

A dark, narrow street in the centre of Palma de Mallorca. Photo: seth0s/Pixabay

Hot summers

During Spain’s scorching summer months, there’s no greater relief than stepping into a darkened apartment building lobby and feeling the temperature drop. 

In southern Spain, and in coastal regions, Spanish buildings were traditionally built to protect against the heat and hide away from the long sunny hours. White walled exteriors and dark interiors help to keep homes cool.

It’s often the case that bedrooms are put in the darkest, coolest part of the apartment, sometimes with just a box-window to allow for a breeze but no sunlight.

Spaniards’ obsession with blinds and shutters

Spain is pretty much the only country in Europe whose inhabitants still use blinds (persianas), even during the colder winter months.

In this case, rather than it just being down to keeping homes cool during the sweltering summer months, their usage is intrinsic to Spain’s Moorish past and the fact that they provide a degree of privacy from nosy neighbours. By contrast, northern Europeans with Calvinist roots such as the Dutch keep the curtains open to let in natural light and because historically speaking, keeping the inside of homes visible from the street represents not having anything to hide. But in Spain, the intimacy of one’s home is sacrosanct, especially when the neighbour in the apartment building opposite is less then ten metres away.

Keeping the blinds or shutters down also has the advantage of making it easier to have an afternoon nap (the siesta, of course) or to sleep in late after a long night out on the town. 

In any case, it seems hard to believe for some foreigners that many Spaniards are happy to live in the dark whilst spending time at home, regardless of whether they’re sleeping or not. 

A byproduct of this? Dark, gloomy homes.

why are spanish homes so dark

Spaniards aren’t fans of airing their dirty laundry, at least metaphorically speaking. Blinds have historically provided the privacy they’ve wanted from their homes. Photo: Quino Al/Unsplash

The long, dark corridors

Spanish apartments have plenty of quirks that seem odd to outsiders, from the light switches being outside of the room, the aforementioned shutters, the bottles of butane and last but not least, the never-ending corridors. 

Most Spanish homes built in the 19th and 20th century include these long pasillos running from the entrance to the end of the flat. They were meant to provide a separation between the main living spaces and the service rooms (kitchen, bathroom etc), easy access to all and better airing and light capabilities. But when the doors to the rooms are closed as often happens, these corridors become the opposite of what was intended: dark and airless.

Navigating these windowless corridors at night is akin to waking around blindfolded.

dark corridor spain

Light at the end of the tunnel? Dark corridors are a common feature of Spanish homes. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

Are Spaniards rethinking their dark homes?

Times are changing, and modern designs are experimenting with more spacious, light-filled, open-plan apartments, especially as the Covid-19 lockdown forced many Spaniards to reconsider their abodes. 

It’s also increasingly common to see property ads stressing that the property is diáfano, which means that natural light enters the home from all sides.

However, the vast majority of Spanish homes are still gloomy for the most part, often intentionally.

A combination of traditional building styles, the crowded nature of apartment block living, the use of shutters, the desire to keep homes private, and the long windowless corridors mean Spanish flats can seem dark if you’re new to the country, and with good reason.

Ultimately, it is worth remembering that Spanish society is one that largely lives its life outdoors. Living in smaller apartments, Spaniards generally spend less time at home and more time out and about in the street.

Native to a hot and sunny country as they are, Spaniards’ homes are a place of rest, relaxation and, crucially, sleep.

Spanish people have enough sunlight and heat in their lives; they like to live, therefore, in homes designed to keep cool and dark.

READ ALSO: Why are Spanish homes so cold?

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