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What Americans moving to Spain wish they’d brought with them

There’s one question that gets asked over and over again by Americans planning on moving to Spain and that’s what other Americans wish they’d brought with them when they moved. Here’s what they said, so you can be prepared.

What Americans moving to Spain wish they'd brought with them
What Americas wish they had brought to Spain. Photo: Tyler Nix / Unsplash

When you’re preparing to move to another country, particularly if it’s your first time, it can be quite stressful. Once you’ve figured out the difficult parts of the process such as visas, finances and renting out or selling your home, there’s the packing to deal with.

Whether you’re planning on shipping your personal objects ahead or you’re bringing everything with you in a couple of suitcases on the plane, space is always going to be tight and you don’t want to be spending extra money on bringing unnecessary items with you.

The general consensus is that you can get the most basic items in Spain and that it’s not worth spending a lot of money on shipping basic homeware that you can buy once you arrive.

Several Americans on social media groups in fact said what they wish they hadn’t brought – this mainly includes electrical items. One member of the Barcelona Expat Facebook group said: “Remember NOT to bring any electrical appliances”, as the voltage in Europe is different from American appliances.

Another member said: “They’ll get fried in the outlets here and the plugs aren’t the same anyways”.

Many people suggested that personal and sentimental items were the only ones worth bringing. One Facebook user in Barcelona said: “For me, it was important to bring only the sentimental things, furniture, decorations, etc. that will make you feel at home in your new place”.

However, there are certain items that many Americans said that they wish they had brought with them, either to make their lives easier or because it’s something they miss from home that they simply can’t buy here.

READ ALSO – Six hard facts Americans should be aware of before moving to Spain 

Food items

One theme that comes up again and again on forums and social media is food. While Spain is known for its tasty cuisine, there are few particular ingredients that Americans wished they’d packed in their suitcases.

One American on the Expats in Barcelona Facebook group suggested bringing “American products you love to eat, specifically spicy products, which can be hard to find”.

This sentiment was echoed by others in other Facebook groups who specifically commented that chili sauces and chili flakes were difficult to get in Spain. When searching online, this has also been mentioned by several American bloggers who moved to Spain.

Spice mixes and seasoning, in general, were also talked about as being difficult to get hold of in Spain. One blogger even suggested packing packets of ranch dressing.  

While there are some specific small Asian or Mexican stores in the larger cities like Madrid and Barcelona, where you can buy spicy products or specific spices, they are of course much more expensive than what you buy back home, and if you’re moving somewhere without a big international city nearby, it’s likely they won’t be available at all.

READ ALSO – RANKED: The ten best markets in Spain

And of course, the much-loved American spread – peanut butter also got a lot of attention. One Facebook user on an American forum summed it up perfectly by saying “The peanut butter game is not strong here”.

While peanut butter is available in Spain, it’s not usually as good as the American brands and you won’t find many different varieties or brands. It’s also quite expensive, much more so than what you’d pay back home. Bagels, coffee creamer, and macaroni and cheese mixes were other food products that many missed.

Many American brands can be found in specialised American supermarkets in the bigger cities of Madrid and Barcelona, but you’ll find that these are quite expensive, so you won’t be able to shop at them all the time.  

Baking items

Those who like to bake were also disappointed with the availability in Spain. One member of an Americans in Spain Facebook page said she brought: “Food scales and imperial measurements like cups”.

Ready-made cookie dough, tubes of icing for decorating, paper cupcake holders, and vanilla and almond essence were other items that several people said were hard to find in Spain. Even specialised baking shops may not carry the baking products you may be used to.


Medicines and vitamins were other items that were mentioned by most Americans across both social media and blogs.

READ ALSO – Reader question: Are there limits on bringing medicines into Spain?

One blogger said that she specifically brings cold and flu medicines and that the ones you can buy here are not as effective as the ones from back home and are often only available with a prescription.

One user of the American Expats in Spain group wrote: “There are some medicines that are over the counter in one country that are not in another. For prescription medication, I would bring medicine for 3 months, since it takes a while to figure out all the bureaucracy and find a doctor”.

Another user wrote that he always brings Sudafed and big containers of Advil, while another wrote: “Specific medicines (think Benadryl, etc.) and vitamins. They are much cheaper at any US Walgreens or CVS than at the local farmacias in Spain”.


Favourite brands of toiletries also seemed to be something that many Americans missed from home. Deodorants in particular seem to cause a lot of discussion both on blogs and social media groups. Many complained they couldn’t find good stick or roll-on deodorants in Spain, while others said that they found the spray deodorant brands weren’t very effective.


Comfortable pillows, nice greeting cards, and a few adaptors for when you first arrive were also mentioned several times by both bloggers, on forums, and members of Facebook groups. 

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Spain and the US to exchange more language assistants in bilingualism push    

The governments of Spain and the United States have agreed to recruit more English and Spanish-language assistants from each other’s countries as a means of bolstering bilingual education in the two nations.

Spain and the US to exchange more language assistants in bilingualism push    

Spain’s Education Minister Pilar Alegría and US ambassador to Spain Julissa Reynoso met on Wednesday to sign a memorandum of understanding which will reinforce educational cooperation between the two countries. 

The agreement had been previously signed by Miguel Cardona, the United States Secretary of Education, who tweeted: “This week, alongside [Spanish] Ambassador [Santiago] Cabañas, I signed a memorandum supporting the study of Spanish language & culture in the US, and the study of English in Spain”.

It is in fact a renewal of a memorandum between the United States and Spain which has facilitated mobility of both conversation assistants and students between the two countries in recent years.

The aim of this newest memorandum of understanding is to further strengthen student and teacher exchange programmes and promote bilingual and multicultural teaching in both educational systems.

No exact details have yet been given about how many extra language assistants will be given grants to join the programme. 

Several teacher recruitment sources suggest the current number of North American language assistants (including Canadians) heading to Spain every year is between 2,000 and 2,500. 

The Spanish government has stated that in 2023, this figure will be around 4,500, which represents a considerable increase in the number of US and Canadian citizens who can apply through the NALCAP programme, which stands for North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain. 

According to Spain’s Foreign Ministry, the following requirements must be met by US candidates in order to participate in the programme:

  • Be a U.S. citizen and have a valid passport
  • Have earned a bachelor’s degree or be currently enrolled as a sophomore, junior or a senior in a bachelor’s programme. Applicants may also have an associate degree or be a community college student in their last semester.
  • Have a native-like level of English
  • Be in good physical and mental health
  • Have a clean background check
  • Be aged 18 – 60.
  • Have at least basic knowledge of Spanish (recommended)

NALCAP recipients receive a monthly stipend of €700 to €1,000 as well as Spanish medical insurance.

Application dates for 2023 are usually announced in late November. See more information on the NALPAC programme for US nationals here

According to The Fulbright Program, one of several US cultural exchange programmes that organises the recruitment of US nationals for Spain: “English Teaching Assistants assist teaching staff at the early childhood, elementary, middle school, high school, vocational and/or university level for up to 16 hours per week, with an additional two hours for planning & coordination meetings. Responsibilities include assistant-teaching, in English, subjects such as social studies, science and technology, art, physical education, and English language.”

READ MORE: The pros and cons of being an English language assistant in Spain

There are also currently more than 1,000 Spanish teachers working as visiting teachers in the United States, Spain’s Moncloa government has said, without adding yet how many more will be recruited in 2023.

Additionally, more than 1,000 North American students now take part in the Spanish Language and Culture Groups managed by the Spanish Education Ministry’s Overseas Education Action (or Acción Educativa Exterior, AEE).  

Canadian applicants can find out more about working as language assistants in Spain by visiting the NALCAP Canada website.