Living in Spain

Living in Spain offers life in a modern country, which offers a well-developed infrastructure and a modern living environment. The pace of life is balanced and relaxed compared to other European countries and the climate is such that the outdoor resources can be enjoyed on a regular basis.

Spain offers a good mix of historical and modern architecture and is rich in culture. Approximately 90% of the population is Spanish with ethnic minority groups including Moroccans, Romanians, Ecuadorians, and Colombians.

Spain as an Expat Destination

Almost 6% of the total population living in Spain are expatriates, consisting of immigrants from North Africa and South America as well as British expatriates. Spain is an extremely popular retirement destination because of its warm climate, low house prices and high standard of living. Many other expatriates come to this country to open tourist facilities such as bars, cafes and night clubs.

Expatriate life in Spain is suited to those who seek a relaxed and laid back life. The locals are friendly and trusting and the majority of the country is family friendly. For those who are seeking a quiet life the coastal towns may be inappropriate as they attract significant numbers of tourists on an annual basis.

Cost of Living in Spain

The cost of living in Spain will very much depend upon on your lifestyle and where you live. If you seek luxury goods and fine dining you will find Spain very expensive but if you are prepared to eat and live like the locals you will find your money goes a lot further here than it does at home.

Housing costs can be very reasonable but are high in the cities and popular tourist areas. Utilities costs are high and can cost up to 20% more than the United Kingdom and the USA, especially if bottled gas is required. Food in Spain, on the other hand, is relatively cheap and provided you don’t dine out in tourist hotspots you will find the prices in restaurants reasonable.

Our guide to living in Madrid contains a comprehensive list of all the costs of living in this European city, including groceries, eating and dining out, local and private transport, schools and educations and a whole host of other living expenses.


Spain has several regional languages and dialects:

  • Catalán: is spoken in the province of Catalunya (Barcelona)
  • Valenciano is used in Valencia and is closely related to Catalán
  • Gallego, which resembles a mix of Portuguese and Castellano and is spoken in the Northwestern province of Galicia.
  • Euskera/ Vasco is the traditional language and is spoken in the País Vasco and northern Navarra.
  • Mallorquín is the principal dialect in the Balearic Islands.
  • Asturianu ( Bable) , which is quite similar to Castellano and is spoken mostly in the countryside.


Northern Atlantic coast has mild summers, relatively cold winters and large amounts of rainfall.

Inland areas have a continental climate, and the Mediterranean coastal areas to the east and south are hotter in both summer and winter.

Living in Spain: Expat Job and Career Prospects

Spain has a relatively high unemployment rate, which translates to high competition for jobs. Restrictive regulations regarding the employment of a foreign worker makes the situation worse and the employment opportunities for non-EU citizens are very limited. Even for those from the EU, a working knowledge of Spanish (Castilian) is usually required as too is a strong network, as a large percentage of jobs are found through personal connections. Job opportunities do exist however, for those who are looking for work in retail, restaurants/bars or teaching foreign languages.

There are some shortages for workers in technical posts. The latest list of shortage occupations can be found on the Instituto Nacional de Empleo (INEM) (National Employment Institute) website. Unfortunately this list is only available in Spanish.

Key Facts Every Expat Should Know About Living in Spain

  1. Every expat who lives in Spain will be required to get an “Numero Identificacion de Extranjeros” (NIE number). The NIE is an identity number issued by the area police or Foreigners’ Office and it is the law in Spain that all foreigners must register with the local authorities. Details of how to register for an NIE can be found in our city guides.
  2. Once you have chosen somewhere to live in Spain you will need to register your whole family, including your children, at the town hall (Ayuntamiento) for the “Empandronamiento”. This is crucial as it allows the local government to claim a budget for the town that relates to the number of people living there. You will be required to show your Certificate of Empadronamiento when you do basic things such as purchase a car, register for schools or use healthcare facilities.
  3. Water shortages are common in Southern Spain and restrictions on usage are sometimes imposed.
  4. It is rare for motorists to stop at pedestrian crossings, so be careful when you are using these to try and cross the road.
  5. The majority of banks in Spain are only open in the mornings.

Spanish City Guides

Expat Info Desk currently has two city guides available for Spain; Living in Barcelona and Living in Madrid. These exhaustive guides contains everything you need to know about relocating to these Spanish cities and will assist you to:

  • relocate efficiently and effectively with minimum stress.
  • settle in to your new life quickly and easily and find the help and assistance you need, when you need it.
  • identify areas to live in that suit your lifestyle and budget.
  • find the right places to meet like-minded people.
  • find schools that are suitable for your children and their learning needs.
  • ensure that your family get the most of their experiences abroad.
  • prepare for the new culture in advance and avoid any cultural traps.
  • deal with any transition challenges.
  • cut through red tape and avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.

Unlike a book, the guides are regularly reviewed and updated in order to ensure that the information is accurate and reliable and because the guides are written by real expats who live and work in Barcelona and Madrid, you can be assured that you are accessing the information that you need as written by people who really are in the know.

Your only expat guide to living in Spain; Feel at home abroad – Fast!

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