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Moving to Spain

Your guide to expat life in Spain. Health and wellbeing under the Iberian sun

Want to move to Spain?

The allure of Spain for expats goes beyond the weather, and they report feeling better both mentally and physically as a result of living there. Over 80 million holidaymakers visit Spain each year and the tourism industry has a lot to offer expats when it comes to career prospects. A good life awaits you in Spain, but don’t expect it to be one long holiday. You may need patience and perseverance to get settled.

It can take time to embrace the slow pace of life in Spain. You’ll need some knowledge of Spanish to get by, particularly when dealing with the bureaucracy and practicalities of daily living. The rewards are worth the effort: the country’s warm climate means you can enjoy its beaches and beautiful countryside all year round. The rich culture is a feast for the senses, with mouth-watering Mediterranean cuisine, lively flamenco music and striking Iberian architecture and art.

Despite not receiving the same plaudits for career progression and salaries as it does for its relaxed pace of life and scorching summers, Spain makes expats happier and healthier. Their aspirations are to live comfortably among beautiful surroundings.

Basic info about Spain

  • Population: About 47 million

  • Capital city: Madrid (and the largest city)

  • Main languages: Spanish (known as Castilian) is the official language. There are several regional languages, such as Catalan, and English is widely spoken and understood

  • Main religion: Catholicism. Other religions include Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and other Christian denominations

  • Political system: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy

  • Time: GMT+1 (GMT+2 from the end of March to the end of October)

  • Electricity: 220V or 225V, 50Hz. European style plugs with two round pins are used

  • Currency: Euro (EUR)

  • International dialling code: +34

  • Internet domain: .es

  • Emergency numbers: 112 (general emergencies)

  • Road traffic: Drives on the right

Weather in Spain

The moniker ‘Sunny Spain’ is by and large true, but it’s a big country with a variable climate that changes between the different regions.

The north coast is the coolest and wettest region with an average annual temperature of 14°C (57°F). The central plateau has seasonal extremes with temperatures ranging from 8°C (46°F) in winter to 23°C (73° F) in summer. The south is with the most sunshine hours. Its summers can be uncomfortably hot, but winters tend to be pleasantly mild.

Key phrases in Spanish

  • Hello ¡Hola!
  • Good evening Buenas noches
  • Goodbye Adiós
  • How are you? ¿Cómo está usted?
  • Thank you Gracias
  • Yes Si
  • No No
  • Do you speak English? ¿Habla inglés?
  • Can you help me? ¿Me podría ayudar?
  • I’m sorry Lo siento

Shipping to Spain

How you ship goods to Spain will depend on where you’re coming from. If you’re from the UK or mainland Europe, a removal van is your cheapest option. If you’re from further afield, you’ll have to choose between air and sea freight.

Customs

If you’re from outside the EU, you’ll also have to pay duty on new goods, but used items are duty free as long as you’ve owned them for at least six months. You’ll need a detailed inventory and documents such as receipts, a customs application form and your work visa.

Banned items

Spain has a duty-free allowance for tobacco and alcohol imported into the country. Restrictions also apply on certain types of antiques and artwork. To import firearms, you need a permit from the Spanish Police.

Pets

If you’re from an EU country, you can take your pet to Spain under the European Pet Travel Scheme. Animals from other countries need extra documents, including a health certificate from a vet and a rabies certificate.

Top tips for Spain

See what people responding to our Expat Explorer Survey think about living in Spain.

Be positive, don't let the bureaucratic systems get you down, don't try and do everything at once and learn the language.
Enjoy lots of regions of Spain. They're so diverse it's almost like travelling to a totally different country!
I live in Pamplona, and I really recommend living in Navarra, or Basque country. The scenery, the air and the people are just great. Love it.
Get ready for a very different schedule for meals, travel as much as you can around the country, and try local dishes- it's really fun.
Learn the language! Spanish for Spain generally, but if you are moving to an autonomous region like Catalonia, Basque Country or Galicia, try to learn the local language as well.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by expatarrivals.com, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in September 2021. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information is purely for orientation and to inspire further research, it does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you're aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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