Searching for sunnier climes in Spain? Here’s what Brits must consider before moving
Spain has been a perennially popular spot for British expats since, well, forever and proves especially popular with retirees from the UK. In fact, The Guardian reported last year that the amount of over-65s in Spain has doubled in the last decade.
However, with cosmopolitan cities like Madrid and Barcelona proving appealing too, there are also plenty of youngsters, and even families, making the move.
Why move to Spain?
I mean…why not move to Spain?
It’s a country of excellent food—calamari, Spanish omelettes and churros, to name but a few of the classic Spanish dishes—and (often) even better weather, along with almost 5,000km of coastline. Even the capital has 350 sunny days per year, putting it joint first for sunny European capitals!
Plus, for the meantime, while we Brits are still in Europe, moving to Spain is (legally) as easy as moving down the street. Just pack up and go!
Popular Spanish destinations
Madrid: Not only is Madrid one of the most cosmopolitan European capitals with great drinking, dining and some of the country’s top art museums (Reina Sofía, anyone?), it’s also a hugely LGBT-friendly spot. And they host a bloody good annual Pride Parade! All that aside though, Madrid is sunny and walkable (although there is a decent metro system) and it’s pretty affordable too.
Barcelona: Barcelona is the ‘best of both worlds’ Spanish destination that will please city-slickers and beach-bums alike. Combine that with a world-renowned artsy history and some rich history and you’re onto a winner. Just remember that it’s the capital of Catalonia as well though, so you might want to brush up on your Catalan before your plane touches down!
The Basque Country: Northern Spain is often overlooked somewhat, despite it having some of the most picturesque towns and villages in Spain—take San Sebastián, which probably has the highest density of expats in the region, for example. Or there’s Bilbao, a cool city that’s home to the iconic Guggenheim Museum.
Andalucia: Southern Spain is arguably the most affordable part of the entire country…and the only place where your tapas legitimately do come free with every beer! A spot for the history buffs, you’ll be swept head over heels by the Alhambra and fall in love with the vibe of Graná (as the locals know it). Do prepare for a pretty tricky-to-get-your-head around Spanish accent though.
Hey, until Theresa May has her way, Brits are still part of the European Union! This means that British citizens can still just pack up and move to Spain without a moment’s notice. However, you ought to apply for a residency card on arrival and get a foreign identity number.
(Perhaps you could also look into finding an Irish relative somewhere down the line too, just in case things do go belly up?)
In all seriousness though, Brexit means many things are up in the air right now for expats already in Europe and for those thinking of moving there soon. The best advice for would-be peninsular Europe dwellers at the moment is to make the move sooner rather than later.
Having said that, keep your nose to the ground for further updates.
Before you escape from Blighty for good then, it’s worth taking a moment to think about the cultural differences a Brit might encounter in Spain, from the food to the language.
- Spain may be on the same continent as the UK, but they do not share the same first language and while some Spaniards will have a grasp on English (especially in popular holiday spots and at resorts), you’ll have to wrap your head (and your tongue) around castellano (for the uninitiated, that’s Castilian, or Peninsular Spanish). Don’t fall into the trap of ‘I’ll just pick it up when I arrive’ either, because life gets in the way and, well, you just won’t. Languages are a skill that must be learnt, so sign up for some classes well before the big move.
- Chill out, man. Take it eaaaaasy. While this is a gross generalisation that may not apply to the entire country, the Spanish way of life is way more laid back than the British way of life. So, get used to things taking just a touch longer.
- Forget about pints, because Spain dabbles in cañas, dobles and tubos, to name but a few of their baffling beer measures. You’ll get your head around it eventually, but here’s a more in-depth guide for those who want to do some research.
- Spaniards also love a late (and long) lunch. Don’t be surprised if stores shut down for a leisurely mid-afternoon meal only to reopen again in the evening. And get used to dining at 9pm! (Maybe stock up on the Rennies too, if you’re not used to eating before bed.)
Spain might seem like just a stone’s throw from the UK—that’s why people from the British Isles have been spending holidays there for decades, after all—but that doesn’t mean that you want to lug everything you own on the plane. Everyone knows Ryanair charges an arm and a leg for baggage anyway!
Instead, invest in an international removals company (you can compare some of the best in the business over at buzzmove), so they can get your stuff from point A to point B on your behalf.
Think about it this way: when you’re moving not just home, but countries, the last thing you need is the stress of getting everything you own through a commercial airline customs system.
Finally, healthcare for Brits in Spain is relatively easy to come by at first, as long as you have an EHIC. That will cover you for emergency care during your first three months, but after that, you’ll have to take out a private policy or pay into a scheme to get public healthcare access.
Are you ready for a move to Spain? Do you have any lingering questions you still want answering? Drop us a comment below!
The editorial unit