When 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 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 heart. 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.
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.
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 ;).
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.
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 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 heart 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 ;).