Moving to Spain is an exciting decision! It’s your chance to learn about a new culture, get better at speaking Spanish, and live experiences that would never otherwise be available to you.
Whether you are moving to Spain for work, study, or just an adventure, you are likely to have a number of qualms and concerns. But don’t worry — we’re here to help you make a smooth transition.
The Cost of Living in Spain
Although the cost of living in Spain has increased over the last few years, it is still an inexpensive option for expats from the U.S. In fact, housing is already far less expensive than it was in the past: on average, you can expect to pay around $600/month for an apartment with one bedroom or $900/month for two bedrooms in downtown — or even less on the outskirts of a city. Prices tend to increase with proximity to the coast.
Public transportation, including buses and rail, makes it easy to get around the country. It’s also reasonably cheap to eat out in Spain, ranging from $11 at an inexpensive restaurant to $22 for a three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant. Keep in mind that this can also vary depending on what city you’re in, with more tourist-heavy cities being more expensive. You can see some comparisons of cost of living here.
Living Expense Calculator
Use this Living Expense Calculator to determine how much you are likely to spend in Spain. You can improve the accuracy of you calculations by noting down what you normally spend in a month; for instance, how often you eat out a restaurants, what groceries you buy, and in what activities you normally partake.
What Expats Have to Say
Of course, the best advice about moving to Spain comes from those who have already made the move! Here’s what some our favorite bloggers said about their most surprising revelations after moving to Spain.
“The most unexpected or surprising thing that I learned after I moved to Spain was all of the little cultural cues and phrases Spaniards use in everyday life that you never learn in the textbook, things like greeting and saying goodbye to people in the elevator, the waiting room at the doctor’s office, or at the gym; wishing “enjoy your meal!” to complete strangers; having to say me pones… for a bartender to get you something and me cobras… for them to charge you for it; and not apologizing if you accidentally touch/bump someone on the street.
Much of this is stuff you pick up after living in Spain for a while, so it feels great when you remember what to say or do and you finally ‘fit in’ for half a second.”
– Trevor, A Texan in Spain
“One of the most surprising things to us was how welcoming, accommodating, and friendly the locals were to us. Right from the beginning we would receive a wave and a hello on the street as we passed by.
We were included in many functions by neighbors or parents of other kids at the school. The locals didn’t seem to mind that we would fumble around through their language. They accepted us, listened patiently, and were very helpful.”
“The first thing that surprised me when I first moved to Spain was the fact that people talk to each other in a much more informal way, unlike in Italy.
In English you use the pronoun ‘you’ to address to anyone, it doesn’t matter of the status. In Italian, Spanish, German, and many other languages, you have two forms, one is formal and the other one is like ‘you’ (informal). In Italy people like to have others recognizing their status; in Spain you can use ‘you’ with teachers, doctors or elderly people.
I felt quite strange doing this at the beginning, but after a while, I just love this way and I feel closer to everyone. I think in Spanish they don’t set barriers as much as they do in other languages.”
– Claudia, Coffee and Brunch BCN
“‘Siestas really do exist! Spanish cities tend to cater to tourists so you might be able to find something open in the middle of the day in a city, but smaller villages that don’t get as many tourists shut down between 2pm and 5pm. Literally everything closes; restaurants close up after lunch, shopping markets take a three-hour break, and banks and other offices close for the day at 2pm. Everyone goes inside for a nap, and Spanish villages look like ghost towns for three hours every day. Then, around 5pm, everyone starts coming back outside. It’s not at all what I expected!
Also, most Spanish people consider going to a restaurant a social event. Sometimes they don’t even eat, they just go to hang out and chat with friends. My first social outing was new and surprising to me. Our group was the only group in the restaurant but the restaurant didn’t close until we left, which was around 1 in the morning. We asked for the check, but instead of a bill we got two bottles of alcohol. Apparently in Spain, it’s normal for restaurants to thank you for your business with free ‘chupitos,’ or shots, right before they bring the bill. Who knew!”
– Alyssa, She Went to Spain
“One of the most unexpected things I learned after moving to Spain was how there is a strange coexistence of the Spaniards’ spontaneous and live-in-the-moment attitude and their adherence to a traditional daily routine revolving around meal times.
It was difficult to strike a balance between planning and organizing my days and social events while also keeping in mind that things crop up and flexibility is a necessity. My one takeaway lesson from Spain has definitely been patience in all aspects of my life!”
– Chelsea, Andalucía Bound
“The thing that surprised me most about Spain was how friendly every is! People in the south of Spain are exceptionally welcoming and hospitable; when I first moved here I was a bit suspicious of everyone… I couldn’t understand why people I had just met were willing to go out of their way to help me.
Eventually it became apparent that this is just part of their culture; most of the people I have encountered here are very open, generous, and altruistic. This is only one of the many reasons why I’ve decided to stay in Spain — it’s simply a wonderful place to live!”
– Kate, Kate’s Travel Tips
“For me the most surprising thing I learned is that Spain has this amazing food culture. I knew absolutely nothing about Spanish food before I came, so the fact that there are so many regions, each with their own (delicious) cuisine, was totally unexpected and eye-opening.”
– Daniel, The Chorizo Chronicles
“I had no idea just how difficult speaking Spanish full-time would be. I naively assumed that, having aced Spanish classes in high school, my Spanish would be fully fluent after a few weeks. Ha! Speaking a language in its native country is a whole different ball game.
The most important thing I learned is that you won’t get anywhere if you’re too afraid of making mistakes to speak. Everyone has language flubs sometimes, locals are understanding, and you won’t start improving until you just relax and practice at every chance you get!”
– Kirstie, Venga, Vale, Vamos
“You may think you know the language. You may have even taken some high school Spanish from Señora Johnson. And then you arrive in southern Spain and think to yourself ‘well that did me little good.’
The Spanish spoken in Andalusia consists of not only rapidly stringing words together, but dropping off their endings altogether. But fear not, your ear will tune it in after a while!”
– Jed, Bucking the Trend
“I think I would have to say that the most unexpected thing I learnt after moving to Spain was just how important — and incredibly delicious — food is here.
In North America we often hear about the French or the Italians and their food cultures, but Spain is very much left out of the mix. Eating good quality, fresh foods are extremely important here, and most families cook daily using seasonal ingredients. It’s flavorful and varied, and is eaten as a family unit as often as possible.
Food is without a doubt an integral part of Spanish culture.”
– Ashley, Cómo perderse en España
Readers: Are you moving to Spain, or do you have your own expat tips? Let us know about your experience in the comments!