Top 5 Tips for Moving to Spain for a Year

While I don’t usually provide tips and advice, recently I have been asked several times for my top tips for moving to Spain, so today I have decided to share them with you…They range from getting clear about what is important to you and your family when choosing a location to live, organising your finances, learning the language, being prepared to go with the flow and be open to trying new experiences.

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Top 5 Tips….

  1. Choose a location in Spain that’s right for you and your family. That means getting clear about what’s most important to you.

Spain offers many different geographic locations, climatic zones, languages, dialects, cultures, large, medium small cities; and rural areas. There is so much on offer that you can become paralysed by choice so I recommend you make a list of what is most important to you.

  • What are your interests and what will you need in your daily environment to keep you content and fulfilled?
  • Are you seeking nature and space or a city and cosmopolitan life?
  • Would you be happiest by the coast or could you sacrifice the coast to live in a Spanish city?
  • Is sport, music or art important to you?
  • How about schooling for your kids?

After compiling your list, I recommend ranking the items in order of importance to you. That way you have a benchmark for testing various locations against what you are looking for and it may be easier to compromise as no one place will meet all your needs. Here is a list of questions to answer to help with your planning.

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  1. Learn as much of the language as you can before you go, or commit to intensive lessons when you arrive. Don’t forget that there are different languages and dialects throughout Spain (Castellano, Catalan, Basque, Galician)

If you are moving to Spain to learn about a different way of life, then learning the language is crucial. So much of the culture is conveyed through language, not to mention being able to listen to and get to know local people, attend events of interest and learn about your host country. The more you know before you arrive, the sooner you will be able to find your feet and your place. It will also be easier for your children to integrate and make friends if they have some basic language skills before they arrive. No problem if they don’t, just be prepared for the integration to take longer. The thing about learning a language while still in your home country is to make it as fun as possible so it doesn’t feel like a chore. There are many different free online tools like Duolingo or if you are prepared to pay for something, there is a fun product created by Languages Direct that allows you to learn Spanish while watching sitcoms.I’d say it takes 4-5 months to become confident in the language but of course each person learns at a different pace. Here is some insight into my experience of learning Spanish in Spain.

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  1. Be open to going with the flow of your new country. You’ll have to let go of a lot of the ways to which you’re accustomed. Trust that there is a lot to be gained by adapting to the local ways, it will just take time to see it.

As much as we would all like to hold on to what we know about life from our hometown, the beauty of moving country is to learn new ways of doing things and approaching life. It may seem crazy and surreal at times as you compare Spain to your home country, however, ultimate acceptance and surrender to the new ways will eventually make sense and you may even learn better ways of doing things.

Initially when we arrived in Spain, we were frustrated that no-one would make plans or commit more than a few days in advance. I found it difficult to adapt but in the end I learned to make fewer plans and be surprised by the spontaneous events that inevitably happened without the need for booking them in weeks and months ahead of time. After accepting and surrendering to this new way of life, we experienced the magic of spontaneity and going with the flow. We often didn’t know where we would end up from one day to the next which was exciting and fun. Here is a post about how we learned to live on ‘Spanish time’.euro Budget

  1. Sort out your finances and how you are going to fund your year before you go. You don’t want to be stressed about money during your adventure.

Since most people will have finite resources, deciding how to use those resources will be an ongoing conversation during a year away.

Whether you have saved for years for this adventure, you have an income source from your home country, or you plan to work in Spain, ensure you have the means to support yourself without worries. There will be so many new elements to figure out in your new home: even simple things like how the transport systems works or how to do your grocery shopping, for example, will take extra effort in a new country and language. So the last thing you want, in addition to this is to worry about whether you have enough money. Do your research and find out about the cost of living in your chosen location. Large cities, the Basque area in Northern Spain as well as popular tourist resorts like Marbella are known to be more expensive than other parts of Spain so, find out where your money will go furthest.

Don’t forget to take into account fluctuating currencies if you are earning your money in another country. When we were three months into our year away, the Australian dollar plummeted and subsequently gouged a hole in our budget. Some contingency budgeting for this would have been a good idea.  Here I have compiled some useful ideas and tips for planning your finances for a year away.

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  1. Try everything new available to you. Even if you thought you weren’t interested in flamenco dancing, horse riding, playing soccer or whatever, do it anyway…you will surprise yourself.

Train yourself to say YES during your year away. This is your chance to touch, smell, taste, hear and see as much as you can of your new country and to challenge yourself to try new things. Even if you think you are not good at something, try it anyway. When will you get another chance to learn how to cook Spanish food in Spain from the locals? learn flamenco guitar or dancing in the location of its birth? go skiing or horse riding in the Spanish mountains?

Say yes as much as you can and encourage your children to try new things too. A year away is a great way to break old limitations or fears and make new discoveries of yourself as well as your host country.

And finally, have a fun and amazing adventure through the highs and inevitable lows! You won’t regret it! Here is a reflection of our 365 days in Spain and how we learned to try new things and gain a new perspective along the way.

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3 thoughts on “Top 5 Tips for Moving to Spain for a Year

  1. So glad to see your latest post, Bianca.  Amazing timing.  Just the other day I was wondering how things were going for you!  🙂  I see you are as engaged as ever on Spain.  Fantastic. We are enjoying the burbs near Madrid (Tres Cantos), and the children are much more integrated this year and very happy in their social and sports circles, etc. If you need anything at all, just let me know.  One thing I think you might recommend to your clients, in particular women if moving to Madrid, is to join the International Newcomer´s Club.  Great group of women from all walks of life, some Spanish expat returnees, some trailing spouses, some profesional women, some moms like me, etc.  Excellent place to cultivate relationships with locals and non-spaniards alike.  Take good care, Courtney Dodson

    1. Hi Courtney! So great to read your update on life in Madrid and that all is going well. I can imagine younare all very settled now. We aim to be back in Spain for a visit in June/July. We cant wait as we miss it terribly. Enjoy your time there. B

    2. Hi Courtney. I was reading through the post and noticed you live in Tres Cantos. I’m am going to be a language and cultural assistant in a school located in Tres Cantos this upcoming September of 2016. I will be moving there with my girlfriend of 5 years, and we are both 29 years old with no kids. If you don’t mind me asking, would you recommend living in Tres Cantos near the school, or are there other places to live nearby that you would suggest? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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