So, You Wanna Live in Spain? Here’s How.
Dreaming of basking on golden beaches in Andalucía, exploring cosmopolitan Barcelona or dining exceptionally well in Basque Country? Have you always wanted to learn Spanish and immerse yourself in a new culture? I wanted it all when I set out to find a way to move to Spain in 2009.
I remember searching the WWW high and low for someone like me, someone who’s been there, done that, whom I could ask questions from like “How did you move abroad?” and “How did you find a job in a different country?”
Before I made the move to Spain, thoughts of pursuing a life abroad consumed me , I knew there had to be a better alternative to signing up to slave away in the corporate world for the rest of my life. And though I didn’t have a guide like this, spelling out my options for me, I did find an opportunity in Spain that would change my life forever.
If you’re interested in moving to Spain, I want to help you.
Here are your options:
Go as an Au Pair
This is how I first came abroad. An Au Pair is a young man or woman (though most families prefer women) who come to live with a family and teach the children English, or whatever their native language may be. It’s a great way to experience living abroad without having to worry about paying for rent or food, as it’s all provided to you. In addition, you’re given a weekly wage that you can use to go out, travel, or however you like.
I signed up for a free account on greataupair.com* and started to communicate with families. After a few months on the site, narrowing down choices and options depending on where in the world the family was located, how many kids, what would be expected of me, etc. I found a family that seemed like a good match and made the move to southern Spain.
*You can also go through an agency, but this requires money on your part.
Apply for the North American Language and Cultural Assistants Program
This is a fantastic way to come to Spain legally with a secure job. I applied to this program in 2010, and though was given a position (in the Balearic islands!) ultimately decided to give it up, as I knew I would get island-fever, and had a good reason to return to Algeciras. :) Basically, the Spanish government gives out a couple thousand English teaching assistantship positions throughout Spain to college graduates from North America.
Though getting all of the required paperwork, background checks and visa appointments is a pain in the arse, if you apply early, your chances of getting a spot are pretty good. You’ll work just 12 hours a week for a salary of around 700 eur/month. Not bad, as you’ll find if you budget and teach private classes in your free time, you’ll have enough to get by and even travel a bit. Applications opened in November and though getting placed in the area of Spain you want may be slim, it’s not too late to try.
I am a huge advocate for studying abroad. It was single-handedly the most positive college experience I had, and if you have the opportunity to do so, what’s stopping you? If it’s money, look for scholarships that will help make your study abroad dreams a reality. If you’ve already completed your undergrad—don’t worry! Consider studying for your Master’s degree in Spain. Not only is tuition often cheaper, an international Master’s program always looks great on a resumé.
Get a work-sponsored visa
This is undoubtedly the most difficult way of coming abroad, but if you’re already working for an international company with offices in Spain, your chances of getting a work-sponsored visa may be higher. Also, contact language academies in Spain looking for professors—they may be willing to sponsor you. Do a Google search for “academias de íngles” followed by the city you’re looking to live in.
It’s not easy for someone outside of the European Union to find a way to live and work in Spain, but there are options. Just remember to really research the town/city you’re interested in before making the move—trust me! Or else you could end up in a city like Algeciras, which isn’t exactly straight out of a fairy-tale.
You Know You’ve Lived in Spain When…
- You think adding lemonade, fanta or even coke to red wine is perfectly acceptable. Especially at lunch time. The red wine+coke combo known as “Kalimotxo” from the Basque region was introduced to me early on in Spain and is now my drink of choice, even winning the affections of my friends and fam back home. Red wine+fanta limon=tinto de verano and is from the south. The secret in both is 50/50 and using cheap red wine, the cheaper the better.
- You can’t get over how early bars & clubs shut back home - surely they’re shutting just as you should be going out? Nightlife is a completely different experience in Spain. You head out around 1AM (after getting together with friends as early as 10PM) and stay out until 5,6,7…sometimes until the sun rises. Take note this isn’t limited to any age group, you’re just as inclined to see a white-haired man at a bar than a 20-year old.
- You think it’s fine to comment on everyone’s appearance. And to openly stare at strangers. One of the most uncomfortable adjustments to make as a foreigner in Spain is the fact that the Spanish are prone to stare unapologetically at you. It’s a bit unnerving when you’ve grown up in a culture that tells you that is rude to do so. Appearance is an important part of Spanish culture. Every evening after siesta, the town empties out onto the streets and people are out there essentially people-watching in their most fashionable clothes, strolling and socializing in the calle.
- Not giving every new acquaintance dos besos seems so rude. I would assume most foreigners like myself go through a culture shock, then a reverse culture shock with dos besos. Giving a kiss on each cheek is the standard greeting and feels very invasive, however going back to the States and reverting to handshakes feels so…cold?
- You forget to say please when asking for things - you implied it in your tone of voice, right? I think please and thank you is forever ingrained in me, but the Spanish language isn’t spoken with so many sugar-coated words. Saying please and thank you for everything is seen as a touch phony to the Spanish.
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