My Experiences With Moving to Spain

The Spanish Flag - EspañaWhen I think about Spain, I think about the food, the beaches and the typically Spanish activities, such as taking a siesta when the day is at its hottest. While living here I’ve come to realize that the siesta is essential to life, especially during the summer.

Moving to another country takes you out of your comfort zone. You travel to a place you’ve never been before. Being uncomfortable the first few days or weeks is normal. Your body and mind are adjusting to the new shapes and colors around you.

I’ve always liked Spain. I don’t know why, but it’s close to my heart. This article is about my experiences with moving and living in Spain.

The Decision

The decision to move to Spain came suddenly. It was partly brought on by the high taxes in Sweden for small businesses (Sweden, you need to get this handled). In Sweden, a small business pays a 55% flat tax, and that got me thinking of moving.

While Spain isn’t a tax haven, it certainly has much lower taxes than Sweden. I was also getting fed up with the cold and darkness of northern Sweden. Our summers are short and our winters long. In December, when it is darkest, we only have a few hours of very weak sunlight per day.

Most of the day is darkness, so you can probably imagine that it isn’t that much fun. Darkness and cold isn’t a good mix, at least not for me.

I enjoy the warmth of Spain. When we arrived in January (in winter), the temperature was around 12C (53.6F for you across-the-ponders). The only problem is that it rains a lot between December and March, but I’d take rain over icy-cold weather any time, especially since I’ve lived in Sweden for pretty much my whole life.

And finally, the most important factor in my move was the feeling I had. I felt like I wanted to go live somewhere else. At first I didn’t know where, but as time passed, I started to realize that Spain was the only place I wanted to live in, so that’s where I went.

Life is so much more fun when you follow your wisdom. I have no idea where I’ll be one year from now, or what I will be doing. All I know is that I will be doing something I enjoy.

Travel Arrangements

I really dislike the way transportation works in our current day and age. I’d much rather have some kind of teleportation or anything that’s faster and more comfortable than what we have now.

We traveled with a dog (her name is Cleo), so we needed to make sure everything was go on that front. It also cost a few hundred euros extra to pay for Cleo.

She was just a tad too big to travel with us inside the plane, so she got to hang out with the luggage. We were apprehensive about this at first, but everything went fine and she came out unharmed.

Other than the pain of traveling, everything went smoothly. We traveled within the European Union, so we didn’t have to get a VISA or do any paperwork. All we had to do was book our flights and let the Swedish government know that we were leaving.

Finding a Place

Finding an apartment felt overwhelming, because there were so many options. I started by looking at common Spanish websites, but nothing felt quite right.

I kept searching and finally discovered that there were a lot of Swedish agents that helped people find apartments on the Spanish coast.

At first I thought the commissions they took would be huge, but apparently they don’t take any commissions. I don’t know how they make their money. Maybe they make some kind of affiliate commission? Perhaps someone with more knowledge can chime in here.

I finally found a website with a Swedish agent where they had listings of “their” apartments. I started looking through them and one of them stood out. It just felt right. My heart said yes, so I said okay, let’s go.

We currently live in a 1-bedroom apartment that costs us €600/month. That includes electricity, water and 24-hour reception. It’s one block away from the train and buses, so we have no problem getting around.

It’s also in the same building as a big supermarket, so getting food is easy. This strategic location was important to me as I don’t want to own a car or anything else. I want to keep my expenses as low as possible, at least for now.

Getting Settled

Moving to a new country is always scary, because you have to learn how everything works. There’s a new language, new systems and new routines.

To help everything go as smoothly as possible, I hired a Swedish accounting firm that helped me get my documents and business up. I also use them to get my accounting in order.

The first thing I had to do when I arrived in Spain was to get something called an N.I.E number. Opening a bank account or getting anything done would have been very hard without it.

Getting my N.I.E number went surprisingly fast. I went to the local police office, filled some papers (with the help of my accountant) and submitted them to the officer behind the desk. Within 5 days I got to pick up my papers.

When my brother (who also lives here) got his N.I.E, it took several weeks, so I guess they may have improved their system, or my brother just got unlucky and caught a busy period.

All in all, while getting settled was a bit disturbing since I don’t like things to be out of control, it was very painless. Within a month, everything was up and rolling.

The Language Barrier

Everything from TV-series to movies are dubbed in Spanish. The Spaniards love to dub everything. This is great if you want to learn Spanish (which is another article on its own), but not so great if you want to learn English.

I grew up in Sweden, where almost nothing is dubbed. I still remember answering the phone when I was around 9-10 years old. It was an English-speaking person asking for my brother.

I had no trouble telling him that my brother wasn’t home and that I could take a message. The reason I was able to do this was because I had been watching several hours of cartoons in English every single day (without subtitles at that time).

I’ve lived in Spain before. At that time I took an intensive 30-day course in Spanish. I didn’t learn much, because I didn’t immerse myself in the language on my own time.

Luckily, the aparthotel I am living at has an amazing staff. They have helped me get my ADSL connection. And as I mentioned earlier, I got someone to do my accounting for me, because that would have been impossible otherwise.

I knew that I wouldn’t stand a chance doing things on my own, so I found people that could help me. Most Spaniards do not speak English, especially in the less-touristy cities.

I am immersing myself in learning Spanish at the moment, so I’m loving the fact that I have to use my severely broken Spanish wherever I go ;).

The Food

I haven’t been eating out much, because my girlfriend’s cooking is just too good. And also I’ve begun to realize that the restaurants that are here don’t deliver food that’s worth it.

It seems to me that food all over Europe is becoming the same. Sure, there’s paella and other Spanish dishes here, but they don’t feel like anything special to me.

I’m sure that would change if I would go to a city that was less touristy, but at the moment I really like living in Málaga. It’s a great starting point with its 25% of foreigners, which means you can easily find Swedish, Finnish or English-speaking people if you need them.

The price of food in Spain is almost exactly the same as in Sweden. Since the euro has been adopted in Spain, all the prices have risen to a higher level. Some items are cheaper, while some are more expensive.

We currently spend around €300-400 on food on a monthly basis. That includes dog food. Note that we do not eat out more than a few times per month, and we eat a whole-food diet.

Medical Care

Spain has two options when it comes to medical care: they have a public option and a private one. My girlfriend has private health insurance, while I have public.

I’ve already got a chance to test out the public health insurance. In general, I’m very happy with the way I was treated. I went to my local health center (centro de salud) and got an appointment to see a doctor who sent me to another doctor.

People usually believe that the health care in Sweden is amazing, but I would say that Spain is right up there.

I have read many individual testimonies on the public health care system in Spain, and most people seem to really like it. The service is good and the people are nice. What more can you ask for?

The Differences

The main differences between Spain and Sweden, which apply to me, are mainly the people and the weather.

It seems like the southern coast is a place where many Britons, Scandinavians and foreigners in general come to enjoy themselves. Some come here for a quick one-week vacation, while others buy an apartment and move here permanently.

That means more people come here by choice, which usually means that people are happier, because they are where they want to be. I see more people holding hands, laughing and in general enjoying life than I saw in Sweden.

Then there’s the weather. There’s a lot of rain during winter, but the weather starts getting much better after March. The summer temperature varies between 25-35C (77-95F), which is perfect for me.

I’m sure there are a lot more differences that I haven’t experienced yet, but those are the two big ones. Everything is much more relaxed here. There aren’t as many rules and restrictions. People are generally calmer and happier.

My Future Plans

At the moment I have no idea where I will be next year. I may stay here, or I may end up in India for all I know.

I’ve followed my wisdom ever since I finished school. Making a living as an online poker player helped me practice my intuition. I didn’t have to worry about money, so I could follow my impulses at any time.

At the moment I feel great staying where I am, learning Spanish, enjoying the culture and enjoying life.

I always follow my highest excitement as best as I can. If in 6 months I feel like going back to Sweden, I will. But right now, I have no idea what will happen, so I guess you’ll have just have to stick around and find out ;).

Update

We’ve since moved back to Scandinavia. I’ve become a father. And a slew of other things happened. Or in short, life happened. You can read more about what I learned from living in Spain here.

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Comments

  1. Oscar - freestyle mind says:

    I’ll be moving to spain in August, and we’re still searching for an apartment. I’m curious to see what the tax rate is in spain. I currently own my company in Italy but I would rather open it in spain if the tax fees are lower. I’ll be staying in Madrid but I hope we can meet one day ;)

    • Sounds awesome. I’ll be in Spain for at least this year, so who knows what’ll happen! Hope you enjoy Madrid.

      I’ve only visited there briefly because of a missed flight connection I had once flying to Peru, and this was during November. It was cold!

  2. Ahmad Fauzi says:

    Hi Henri, how about travelling to Indonesia :) if you’re going to Indonesia don’t forget to visit my small town name Yogyakarta. I would be proud to guide you to enjoying our town.

  3. Great tips.

    I will definitely move abroad from Finland in the following years, at least for the winters. The reasons for moving are exactly the same as yours, so it was cool to read your thoughts, and I’m seriously thinking about moving to Spain for a few months next winter.

    I’ve been traveling quite much but still haven’t found the perfect place I would like to live in. At the moment my favorite is Sydney in Australia, but it’s maybe a little bit too far from Europe.

    Maybe for some people it is impossible to be satisfied in one place for a long time and it is better to prepare for getting the urge of moving somewhere else quite often. :)

    • I’ve actually been thinking about living in Sweden/Finland during the summer and traveling during the winter.

      That would make things somewhat easier and more flexible for me. It would also not force me to become a permanent citizen or get a longer VISA in any country, because I would only be staying for 3-6 months in one place.

      • Yeah, then you would also get the best out of Nordic summer every year, keep your roots alive, and be able to see so many interesting places around the world every winter. Quite many positive points in that option.

  4. Henry why you havan’t moved to Canary Islands?
    Taxation is a LOT less (as low as 9%) than Spain even if islands are part of Spain and nasa said that Canaries are THE BEST place to live on earth. It’s not extremely hot in summer (unlike Malaga which is hot as hell in july/august) and even in winter temp will never fall under 15° .

    In 2 hours you can fly to Madrid at ridiculous prices and from Madrid well you can fly everywhere in the world. Food is great, i love fish. Gas prices are near half of european prices, apartmens are cheap and if you already live in Spain you know how people are in general friendly and laid back. The only thing that to my knowledge isn’t quite right is that there’s not a wide choice and quality of fruits, maybe because they have to import them from the continent.

    I’ve been there 3 years ago, falled in love cause i’m a surfer dude and promised myself that one day this will be my new home.

    • That’s very interesting. I didn’t know that about the Canary Islands. I thought it was a lot warmer there during the summer.

      I will definitely take a closer look at the islands. Thanks for letting me know, Fred!

      • I thought it was warmer too but it is not,

        if you want to have an overview of the temperatures check this out: http://www.wunderground.com/global/CR.html

        The best advice i can give you is to book a cheap flight with ryanair or easyjet and book a one week holiday. If you pick Lanzarote i can suggest a great place to stay with your girlfriend, just email me if you need help. ;)

        Why i continue to call you Henry even if i know that your name is Henri? Has information overload finally fried my brain?

    • I’ve been surfing in Canary Islands (Fuerteventura) and for that reason only I could consider myself living there for a few months. :) Great waves, great climate, and great people.

  5. Nice Nice intro to Spain, my friend. So detailed. Shiiish, I must go.
    I have some Spanish friends here, and I still speak it a bit ( I used to live in Mexico). I was thinking about going to Barcelona, but my friends told it’s expensive as heck. As soon as I skyrocket my income, I’m free like a bird, reaady to go wherever I like ;)

    • I’m sure you can rock it in Barcelona if you play your cards strategically. People say Japan is expensive, but it seems to be okay if you enjoy minimalism even just a bit ;)

  6. Henri, I’ve been drawn to Spain, also. I tried to get a home exchange for this summer with a family in San Sebastian but it fell through.

    What I’d really like to do is live there for a year and work on my Spanish and explore. Then come back to my little slice of paradise here in San Clemente, CA.

    If you ever want to do a home exchange (even for just 3-4 weeks), let me know!

    • I will let you know! Have you guys ever thought about just renting a home? I guess it’s easier with a home exchange, that way you don’t have to worry about your home!

  7. Archan Mehta says:

    Henri,

    What a lovely account. I think your personal narrative style is your USP.

    You should write more about your personal and professional life. Another person who has a way with this style of writing is Maria Brophy, who is a fabulous writer as well.

    I have always been drawn to Spain. I have a friend who lives there. He had invited me to visit Malaga, where he lives, but I could never make the journey. Maybe one day I will, when the time is ripe. Keep up the good work. It is always a pleasure.

    • Thanks Archan. I definitely had fun writing this article, so you’ll be seeing more of the personal narrative in the future.

  8. Dear Henri, I am so glad you are enjoying Spain. “Latinos” (if I do say so myself:P) are always very warm people and the weather is amazing. I ‘m from Portugal, so we’re almost neighbours ;). If you ever come here, let me know, it will be a pleasure to meet you and your girlfriend and show you around :). I lived and studied in London for only four months, and eventhough it was a very rich experience, I have to tell you I missed the people and the sunshine so so much :)

    I wish all the best!
    ***
    Susana

    • I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Portuguese people, so it’s definitely a country I will want to visit sometime!

      The sunshine does get addictive, doesn’t it? ;)

  9. Very cool man. Love hearing about your thoughts about moving and experiencing a different country.

    Growing up, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to travel and I don’t plan on that changing.
    I was born in California, then lived in Louisiana, moved to Texas, then to Holland, then back to Texas, and finished my high school career in Shanghai China. Now I’m in Missouri. :)

    When living in China I didn’t embrace the language as much as I should but I just wasn’t interested at the time. But since my family still lives there I will have plenty of time to get back into it.

    Over the next few years I hope to go travel through Europe as I don’t remember much from when I was a little kid. :)

    You’re an inspiration dude.

    • That’s awesome, Bud. Chinese and Japanese are two languages that are extremely fascinating. I’m just starting to dip my toes into Japanese, just to see what it’s like.

  10. Henri: Thanks for all the great information on Spain. It is always interesting to hear about other countries and be exposed to all different types of things. I am actually on my way to Barcelona on Wednesday … just for vacation though. I am definitely looking forward to it and this post got me even more excited. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Spain and experiences. It sounds as if you are having a great time.

  11. Darren L Carter says:

    Hey Henri, I just found your blog and I really like it. I totally agree with the whole theme of your blog.

    This is a really good post too. I’ll be moving soon (from a village in Japan) and have no clue where I’ll land next so this post really connected with me. I love reading your passion. Great job with your blog!

    Peace,
    Darren L Carter

    • I just watched your intro video on your blog and I really liked the scenery, which I am assuming is from the village in Japan?

      Even villages in Japan get an internet connection, or do you have to go about it the 3G way?

  12. Joshua Noerr says:

    I grew up in California not to close to the Mexican border. I speak enough Spanish to get around there, but what I noticed when I went to Spain is that there are subtle differences in the type of Spanish spoken. It’s called castillian (sp?), and it is a more formal and proper form of the language.

    Cheers on your move though Henri, hope you enjoy yourself.

    • What I’ve noticed is that the Spanish in Spain (Castellano) is just a tad different. A few different pronunciations and words, but all in all it’s pretty much all the same, at least from what I’ve experienced.

      Thanks for commenting Joshua!

  13. Hi Henri,

    I really enjoyed this article and you provided some valuable insights into Spain and living there. It’s always been one of the places that I wanted to visit, and you are making a very convincing arguement to live there. You’re lucky that you’re part of the EU. As a Canadian, I’m not sure if I can handle the heat. I was in Rome last September and it was hot, hot, hot. I can only imagine how hot it would be in Spain!

    I’ve always wanted to do the Camino pilgrimage trail. It’s pretty high on my bucket list. Have you managed to travel around Spain much while you are there?

    • I was in Rome in August/September myself. One of the hottest periods of the year, and I can definitely say that the heat is a lot more uncomfortable than in southern Spain.

      I live on the coast, so it’s a lot cooler than inland or in the mountains. We haven’t traveled a lot, because we have a dog, but we have a plan in the works for next year that will enable us to travel a lot more. The plan will be revealed in good time ;)

  14. Wow, Henri,

    I’ve never lived outside the USA personally and I am not sure how I would take to moving out of the country. I had a hard enough time moving across town but that is because I’m not a person who likes to move a lot.

    It sounds like you’re having a great time and are really enjoying getting use to things. I’ve never learned a new language either so I hope that goes well for you.

    And something I just realized… There’s a lot I haven’t done so I need to get busy on that! Maybe that’s my passion that I have yet to follow. :)

    • I personally don’t like moving a lot, but I also don’t like staying in one place. Funny how that works.

      Keep rocking!

  15. For other people, I need to say that Spain is a peninsula and have a lot of different styles, accents, foods and even weathers in little distance.
    Try to make some hollidays and try León (interior weather, dry, more extreme heat differences) with a classical gothic french style cathedral, Asturias (very rainy, similar to Paris weather) with good beaches, Galicia (different accent even own language) with one of the best seafood in the world, and compare to southern Spain like Sevilla (very hot weather), with muslin influece architecture with a particular accent, or Barcelona, a very cosmopolitan and modern city.

    Spain is like a small continent, and really worth a visit to multiple cities and places.

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