I’m a dual American/Canadian citizen. As much as I love both of my home countries, I’ve been living in Spain for three years now.
I’ve lived in Barcelona, Seville and Madrid. You could say I’m a certified expat.
Why have I chosen to live in Spain?
Living in any country comes with a little good and a little bad. I firmly believe the pros of living in Spain outweigh the cons.
However, it’s crucial for any potential expat to know what they’re getting into. This way, you can decide if Spain is a good fit. Knowing what to expect can also reduce your culture shock when you arrive.
Spain may not be perfect—but it could be the perfect place for you.
Culture, Work, Life: The Pros and Cons of Living in Spain
The Pros of Living in Spain
The Pros of Spanish Culture
In general, the Spanish are very easygoing. This is annoying sometimes (more on that later), but this attitude can be a healthy change of pace for Americans, who are taught to always stay busy.
The Spanish know how to have fun. They eat meals slowly so they can enjoy the food and company. The country is known for Flamenco, beaches, hiking, bull fighting and drinking sangria.
I’m a young(ish) expat. I’ve lived in six European countries, and I must say, Spain has the best dating scene by far.
Why? Well, there’s always something to do, and even going to a restaurant can be a night in and of itself considering the unreal diversity in regional cuisines. The attitude towards non-Spanish speakers is lively and open, and everyone will want to practice their English with you. That makes dating a fun experience!
The Pros of Daily Life in Spain
Compared to nearby countries such as France, Switzerland and England, rent is shockingly low in Spain. And it’s very common for people to share apartments. That means that not only will you be able to meet people easily, you’ll also knock your rent even lower by splitting it with your roommates!
Rent isn’t the only thing that’s cheap. Cost of living overall is 21.47% lower in Spain than in the United States.
So if you’re an expat on a budget who still wants the comforts of living in Western Europe, Spain is the place to be.
If you get sick and have to go to a foreign hospital, it can be scary. Can you trust these doctors? Is this a quality hospital?
Well, Spain’s healthcare is one of the best in the world. So you’ll always feel safe.
Finally, Spain is very conveniently located. It’s bordered by Portugal, Andorra, Gibraltar and France. It’s just a hop down to Morocco if you want to explore Africa. As an added bonus, Madrid is one of the cheapest international airports to fly into on the continent!
The Pros of Working in Spain
Madrid is the cultural and financial center of Spain, and it’s the ideal city for professionals who want to work abroad. In fact, Spain as a whole is a good country for professionals. The Spanish government is known to subsidize the onboarding of qualified professionals.
The combination of low rent, great weather and fast internet make Spain a virtual paradise for digital nomads.
One of my favorite parts of working in Spain is the siesta. While hours vary, most workplaces take a break from around 2:00-4:00. Who doesn’t love a midday break for a nap or long lunch?
Looking for a detailed explanation of working in Spain? Take a look at our ultimate guide to working and traveling in Spain.
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The Cons of Living in Spain
The Cons of Spanish Culture
Something that’s present throughout Spain is the dreaded mañana (tomorrow) attitude.
You need it done today? Mañana.
You need forms signed? Mañana.
Your plane that was supposed to leave 30 minutes ago? You guessed it.
The Spanish are never in a hurry. While this attitude can be refreshing at times, when you need something done, it can feel infuriating.
The bureaucracy makes it worse. Spaniards themselves are frustrated with the bureaucracy, but as a foreigner in need, you’ll usually be last in line to get taken care of.
The Cons of Daily Life in Spain
As I mentioned above, preference is usually given to natives in numerous situations.
There is a way to get around being left in the dust: become as proficient in Spanish as you can. This way, you can secure the apartment you want and avoid being tricked into paying extra in rent just because you can’t understand your landlord.
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In Spain, it’s quite common for your rent to increase for no discernible reason when it’s time for you to renew your lease. Yep, your landlord could just decide to bump up your rent 40% because they claim the economy is bad.
Have a few backup options on hand for moments like this. I recommend creating accounts with Couchsurfing and Airbnb so you can get out of your apartment quickly if you can’t pay.
The biggest con to your day-to-day life will probably be the stifling heat, especially in summer months. Few apartments come with air conditioning, so the heat can definitely take a toll on you.
A simple fix? Go to the beach as often as possible. There are definitely worse ways to spend your time!
The Cons of Working in Spain
I know, I know, they’re in the pro column. The siesta can be a great moment in the day.
Unless you want to get anything done. It’s impossible to find food beyond the major franchises during this time. It seems like businesses in Spain open for two hours, break for two hours, then close shop after two hours.
In some cases, taking these long lunches forces people to stay at work later. This may be worth the tradeoff to you, but if you’re used to leaving work at 5:00, you could be in for a rude awakening.
People tend to bring personal matters into the workplace in Spain. Combine that with those late hours, and work environments can become hostile and borderline unprofessional.
So What’s the Verdict?
This may seem contradictory to the previous section, but I love Spain.
Sure, it has its ups and downs. Sometimes I find myself looking at tickets home after another mañana experience. But something keeps me here, and I’m glad I’ve stayed.
I’ve learned more about myself in the past three years than I would if I’d spent ten years at home.
Mitchell Grant travels the world as his job. Currently in Costa Brava, Mitchell’s preferred workplace is three feet from the ocean with a Clara in one hand, his laptop in the other. Check out his personal website, Income Armada, or follow him on Instagram @mitchell.grant.nani.
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