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Tips, tricks and insider information to help your move to Spain

Moving to any “foreign” country can be equally as fantastic adventure, as it can be an absolute nightmare if you are not prepared, or if you don’t know a few of the tricks that help you get by from day to day.

I have indicated a few tips before you leave to come here, and a couple of tips to bear in mind when you arrive and start to make your life here.

All the points below are based on personal experience and I would encourage you to try out at least a couple of them to see what I mean.

Research, and then do some more!

I cannot stress enough, do your research before moving to Spain and don’t leave anything to chance. Rent before you buy, to get a good feel of the area you have chosen to live.

Remember, being on holiday in a place is very different form living there, and if you enjoy the nightlife, and move to a resort on the coast, bear in mind that during the winter these places can be like ghost towns and many shops, bars etc, close for the winter because of this so be warned!

Do not agree to buy somewhere “off plan” i.e. not built yet, you WILL lose all your money. Keep a UK bank account too, don’t totally cut yourself off, even if you do not plan on ever moving back, things can happen and times change.

beach coffee spain

Now you’re in Spain, what next?

Shops in Spain often choose their own opening hours, and always subject to last minute changes. They have a more laid back attitude to work, and to customer service, so save yourself the upset and expect the worse when you go shopping. Don’t be surprised, especially in some of the Chinese bargain shops that have sprung up everywhere, to be followed around the store like a shoplifter. Again, go out and try this for yourself, its true!

If like me, you like to go out and eat from time to time, money permitting, you will soon have found out that the Spanish are real sticklers for meal times, sometimes quite bizarrely so.

If you want to get a table in a restaurant for lunch (much longer, larger and slower than a uk lunch), here is a handy tip….

  • The Spanish, without fail, will turn up for lunch at EXACTLY 2 pm.! (Go on, go out and see for yourself, it really is true!), so if you want the best table, turn up between 1.15 and 1.30 and you will have your pick!
  • If you like a drink out, it is MUCH cheaper to buy wine and beer than it is to buy soft drinks. So it’s your round next!
  • Apart from expat resorts, Spanish don’t drink pints. The weather and humidity means that the pint is warm and flat before it gets halfway down. Drink “Terceros” (third of a litre bottles) which usually only cost about 1.50, and you will find you will waste far less beer, which as any man knows, is a crime in itself!
  • LEARN THE LANGUAGE! Your life will be easier and more rewarding if you make an effort and learn at least a bit of Spanish.

On a more important note, here’s a few other handy tips.

Get an NIE (Foreigners national insurance number) pretty soon after you arrive. In some towns its easy and some hard, but you need a bilingual “Gestor” to do this for you, and that is in fact another handy tip, a Gestor a cross between an accountant and a civil servant but employed outside the state system. his person can help you with many things, including sometimes, translation. Various companies will offer you similar services as part of relocation to Spain packages, but to get it done properly hiring a local Gestor is usual better.

Register yourself at the nearest health centre and get on the Spanish SIP (health card) system as soon as you can. If you are bringing kids to Spain, they will have to be on the health care system before they can be admitted to a school.

And finally, take your time and don’t expect everything to fall into place overnight. Moving to foreign shores is a big step, but if done right, you can sit back and enjoy your every own life in the sun!

Advice from Guy Alexander Bell