-Where are you from?
-In which country and city are you living now?
-In which country and city are you living now?
-Are you living alone or with your family?
Living with a girlfriend
-How long have you been living in Spain?
Almost 10 years
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in Spain?
I was living and working in London and met a Spanish girl... The rest is history.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a work permit?
No, not at all, as long as you have an EU passport. If you have an Australian passport only you are eligible to a maximum of 3 years.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
Being fairly young when I arrived it never entered my mind. The Social Security system works better here than in most other developed countries I have been to so you just have to empadronarte at the local council office and apply for SS status. If you want private health (which is advisable to avoid long waiting lists for specialists) you can find rates as low as 25€ per month.
-How do you make your living in Spain? Do you have any type of income generated?
I work for a hotel company and have been doing so for the last 9 years. For the first year I worked as an English teacher as I didn't speak the language. That was great and it allowed me to get to know the city well and make some contacts. One day I was walking past a 5* hotel close to one of my classes, I left my CV and the following day I was serving drinks in the bar..... Being a native English speaker really helps in Spain as very few people speak it well.
-Do you speak Spanish and do you think it's important to speak the local language? Please add your thoughts on local customs and whether it's important for expats to respect/observe local customs.
When I first arrived in Spain I used to go to bars with hand-written notes that my girlfriend had prepared for me to show the people working in bars because I didn't know how to order anything. I always had to carry around large notes in my wallet because I didn't understand the price of anything so ended up most days with a pile of change in my pockets.
The ability to adapt to any culture or society is the difference between obtaining a fulfilling experience as opposed to merely surviving – I merely survived for the first 6 months but then I experienced Madrid. You have to learn the language as soon as possible. Sometimes I used to wake up in the morning and think I'll never learn this *&%$!¿ language but one day something clicks and it seems to make more sense. You've just got to stick with it. It also helps if you have a partner or group of friends native to the country which was my case. I didn't know anyone who spoke English and I avoided meeting them for the first few years. Spain is a country where you can learn the language by simply going to bars and enjoying yourself. Spaniards love English-speaking foreigners and it is very easy to make friends as people are generally curious here and will do almost anything to talk to you.
Language is an integral part of feeling a connection to any given destination. Not only is it important to learn the correct grammar but it is just as important to learn the local slang. As in most countries, if you make an effort here the locals will reciprocate.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Sometimes. I miss the space and natural beauty of Australia more than anything and of course family although I am used to seeing them only every now and then.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
Yes, I am hopefully moving to Asia in the near future as part of an expat transfer agreement with my company but this current recession is making it more difficult to predict when….
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
Yes. I bought an apartment about 6/7 years ago just before the boom. I paid a fair price for it considering and I was lucky to buy just before housing prices went through the roof. Now, prices are slowly coming down but no one has access to cash to be able to buy so there are plenty of bargains on the market. In central Madrid expect to pay approx. 4500€ per m². So a 2 bedroom apartment at around 75 m² will set you back around 350K€. Unfortunately the average wage in Spain is a long way from making it a good country for first home buyers, hence the shocking amount of 30-40 year olds still living with Mum and Dad!
-What is the cost of living in Spain?
As in most countries…some things are cheap and others aren’t. If you make 2000€ per month you’ll be ok. Anything less and you’re walking up hill. Housing, petrol, clothing and restaurants are expensive. Supermarkets, bars, cars, hotels and going out are cheap.
-What do you think about the Spaniards?
Spaniards are fantastic. They are helpful and love a good foreigner. If you make no effort to communicate in their tongue you can expect to see the worse in them. They are pacific, outgoing and passionate people so try to integrate… it’s definitely worth the effort.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Spain?
Positive – Great weather most of the year. Clear blue skies even in winter. Great food and wine. Great people. Fantastic language. No rules… This is anarchy! If you like the ‘no worries’ approach to life then you’ll love Spain.
Negative – Fairly expensive since the introduction of the €. Dense traffic jams. Lack of availability of foreign food and wine produce. Traditional hierarchical working culture. No beach in Madrid!
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Spain?
Enjoy it to the maximum… You will always find things to complain about but there are very, very few countries that can offer you the lifestyle that Spain can. Find a Spanish girl… they’re great. Go to as many bars as possible… no two are the same – try Mezquita (La Alhambra) Beer. If you are a native English speaker… take advantage of it.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Spain?