Spain Explained

Living in Spain as a foreigner: What is it like?

Perhaps you’ve always planned to retire to Spain or maybe it’s crept up on you after years of visiting on holiday. The desire to live in another country is something that many people experience, but, what is it actually like to live in Spain as a foreigner and is it right for you?   

If you are considering moving abroad, what is absolutely vital is that you do your research. It’s true that you will come across some people who happily declare that they more or less stuck a pin in a map – but they are few and far between and many of them probably lived to regret such an impulsive decision. In most cases, those living in Spain as a foreigner, have done their research.

Considerations before living in Spain as a foreigner

As a quick guide you should consider:

  • The financial implications – can your budget meet the requirements and will you have the lifestyle you hoped for?
  • The personal implications – can your family live without you close by and can you live without them?
  • The practical implications – is the timing right? Will you be able to organize it successfully? How will you manage your healthcare?

And finally, we ask the question – ‘Is it really what you want to do?’.

Financial implications

The good news is that Spain remains a relatively cheap place to live. It might be argued that since the early 2000s it has become more expensive than it used to be, but overall, you will still find good value for money here.

To begin with, property is generally much cheaper. In many areas you can buy a two-bedroomed property for around €100,000 and, in some cases, for less.

The luxury end of the market is also more affordable with a villa and pool being available at around €250,000 in the Alicante and Murcia region.

Once you have bought your property, you’ll want to feel confident that living in Spain as a foreigner is not going to leave you struggling to make ends meet.

It’s true that you can wine and dine for less here than in many other European countries. This is particularly the case if you shop around for your produce and are prepared to eat Spanish-style rather than buying in expensive imports.

The outdoor life and opportunity to picnic on the beach and dine outside means that many people find they spend less on eating out anyway. If you do want to swerve the washing up then having a menu del día will often cost you around €10 – €15 sometimes for three courses!

When it comes to utilities, you are not going to feel much better off. Electricity is relatively expensive and electrical products come in at the more expensive end of any comparison site. Secondhand cars are also relatively dear, but most people do not have the length of commute that we’ve become used to elsewhere and so, overall, it probably won’t take as much of your budget.

Personal implications

There is no doubt that living in Spain as a foreigner will make maintaining some of your close links with family and friends more difficult, unless they move here too!

However, for most Europeans, choosing a country in the same continent means that there are plenty of reasonably priced travel routes that mean you never feel too far away. And, of course, they’ll be sure to want to visit you and enjoy their low-cost holiday somewhere in the sun.

Most people, particularly of retirement age, enjoy the outdoor living and opportunity to meet with others in a great variety of societies and clubs. Many cities boast strong and vibrant communities of people who have made the choice to live abroad and find a social network that they never thought they would have again.

Whatever your sporting interest, you are likely to be able to make the most of it here and the rich variety of landscape, number of national parks and historic cities and buildings, means that just finding out more about the country itself can give you plenty to keep you busy and endless weekends away discovering more about your new home.

Practical implications

There is no doubt that it is beneficial if you can learn to speak at least some Spanish. However, many people who move here find that it is quite possible to have a full and enjoyable life living in Spain as a foreigner without speaking the language.

This is only likely to cause you difficulty if you choose to live in a rural area where foreigners have not previously chosen to settle. Of course, if you are looking for work, then being fluent in Spanish is much more important unless you are settled on working in the seasonal and vulnerable tourist industry.

Depending on your stage of life, you will want to think carefully about what you will need in the years to come.

For some people, making sure that they are close to local services and transport is a priority and Spain has a sound, modern infrastructure that should accommodate your changing and emerging need. The Renfe railway network is renowned for its speed, reliability and comfort.

Spanish healthcare is extremely well-regarded overall and whether you opt for private health care or are eligible for state healthcare you should find the care to meet your needs. Just be aware that there isn’t state support for the elderly in the same way that some other European countries provide it.

Is it what you really want to do?

Spain has so much to recommend it as an excellent permanent home. However, the decision to move abroad and the option of living in Spain as a foreigner is only something that you can decide on, once you’ve done your research, of course.

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