Tag Archives: madrid

MY TOP 5 TIPS FOR MOVING TO SPAIN – How to Survive and Thrive in Spanish Cities

Moving to Spain is an incredible adventure and the best decision I ever made. If you’re considering relocating to the country of sunshine, smiles and sangria, here are my 5 top tips to help you get the most out of your time in España!

1- Get a job

One of the most common jobs for fluent English speakers in Spain is teaching English. If you have good communication skills, enjoy being around people and like working independently then this might be a great option. While I lived in Madrid I taught English in businesses, to adults for the Cambridge exams, in private classes and to children in schools and extracurricular classes.
It’s a great job because you get to know Spanish people even if you can’t speak Spanish yet. It’s sociable and rewarding and it’s the kind of job that when you go home you can completely disconnect and enjoy your time in your new city! If you would like to teach English there is also the Auxiliar programme. In my opinion it is definitely worth getting a TEFL qualification before applying for English teaching jobs although some schools may accept native speakers without qualifications (they will pay less).
Of course there are many other options, perhaps your company already has an office there. Maybe you have an online business which allows you to work from anywhere. Perhaps you already speak Spanish, in which case you can apply for jobs directly in the Spanish job market. In any case, be prepared for your salary to be substantially lower but also know that the cost of living in Spain is also much lower. You can really enjoy your time in Spain with a very modest salary.

2 – Find an apartment

Do your research. Read about different areas of the city, find out about prices, the kinds of people who live there, the vibe of the neighbourhood. Check transport links and proximity to amenities like supermarkets, etc. Renting a place in Spanish cities is similar to most big European cites. If you have been renting before, take into consideration that your rent should be cheaper in Spain and check if bills and internet are included.
I recommend the website idealista.com especially if you are looking for just a room to rent in a shared property but also for whole apartments. It tends to be cheaper because there aren’t as many estate agents advertising on that site. You can also look at fotocasa.com. If you are renting from the landlord you will probably need one month’s rent plus a deposit (fianza) which is usually the same amount as one month’s rent. If you’re going through an estate agent you will also need to pay the administration fee.

3 – Learn the language

It is a good idea to learn at least basic Spanish before you go. The more you know, the easier it will be. Find a class, download a language app, watch films in Spanish, listen to music in Spanish. Become familiar with the sound of the language and practise as much as you can.
Once you get to Spain you can continue with classes but you also have options such as language exchanges which are free. Something I’d also recommend is to have somewhere on your phone where you can write down new words you learn throughout day so you don’t forget them. Watch the news in Spanish, it’s great because they use more formal language and speak clearly so it’s easier to understand and you have images for context.

4 – Get involved

When you move to a new city and especially a new country, it’s important to feel connected. A good way of doing this is to get involved with an activity you enjoy. It can be an existing hobby – join a sports club, find a yoga class, join a choir. It can also be a new activity – try a flamenco or salsa class, get involved with a charity. Not only will you be doing something fun but you will also meet new people.
Spanish people, in general, are very welcoming so make an effort to talk to them and make new friends. Not only will you feel more at home in your new city but it’s the best way to improve your Spanish too. You can also get local recommendations for places to eat or things to do.
It’s also nice to speak to people in English so join Facebook groups of other English speakers in your city and go to meet-ups. As much as it’s great to immerse yourself in the new culture, I know it can also be very tiring, especially if your Spanish isn’t fluent. It’s also nice to speak to people in your native language and share experiences with people who are doing something similar to you.

5 – Be open-minded

Moving to another country is a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow. Allow yourself to be open to new experiences and new ways of thinking. Just because you are used to doing things a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s better than a different way of doing things. By being open and interested towards new places and people, you’ll find you learn things about yourself that you never would have otherwise.
It is possible to live in another country and stay close-minded and stubborn in your ways of thinking but you will never get to truly enjoy the experience and grow as a person if you don’t become more open. Re-evaluation of your own lifestyle and beliefs can be hard and even realising you were wrong about certain things, but it will make you a more tolerant, understanding person. For everyone I know, living in another country has been one of the best decisions they’ve ever made. It certainly was for me and I can say with absolute certainty that it has made me a better person. Plus I met the love of my life in Spain.

Best European City to live in your 20s vs 30s

Having spent most of my twenties living in two of Europe’s capitals (London and Madrid) I now find myself at 30 re-evaluating what I look for in a city.
In my 20s I was more focused on meeting new people, surrounding myself with exciting opportunities, discovering new places to eat, cultural activities, social events. I enjoyed the vibrant night-life and buzz of a big city.
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Trafalgar Square, London. Photo by @elegantglowphotography
In London I felt like I was right in the middle of what was happening globally. I loved how cosmopolitan it was, how people instead of identifying themselves primarily by their nationality, where first and foremost – Londoners. I loved being able to eat the cuisine of any country in one city. I was lucky enough to live in London for the 2012 Olympic games. I could spend my weekends in some of the best museums in the world (Natural History Museum), had work drinks in some of the most iconic buildings in ‘the City’ and partied with some amazing people in some awesome places to incredible music (Guanabara).
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La Latina, Madrid. Photo by @pattolmo
Madrid was a completely new adventure – learning a new language and a new culture. Madrid has a very different vibe to London; more laid-back, more friendly, more homely in a way. But it is still a capital city. I wanted to completely immerse myself in la vida española. It changed me as a person more than I could have ever imagined. YOLO was my philosophy for those first few years in Madrid. I found myself living much more in the present – easier when it’s glorious sunshine and people prioritise social time. I discovered new food, places, people. I met some amazing friends who will be in my life forever and then I also met the man I plan to spend the rest of my life with.
So what’s changed? I still want culture, opportunities, somewhere which feels connected to the rest of the world. Having lived in Madrid and learned a new way of life, I would also like somewhere where people aren’t overly competitive, where there is a healthier ‘work-life’ balance, and where the sunny weather creates an outdoor culture. But I can do without hours on the underground / metro, the crazy nights out, the overly busy streets. I’d like to feel closer to nature.
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Málaga, Spain.
So what’s the answer? I know that I still need to live in a city but perhaps not a capital city. Having just spent a few days in Malaga it seems to offer many of the things I’m looking for but I still haven’t decided. I feel very different to how I felt when decided to move to Madrid. There is more riding on this decision. It’s not just about me this time, it’s about us. Not just where we’ll both be happy but also where we can imagine bringing up our own family but also feeling connected to our parents, siblings, relatives, friends. There will be some important conversations happening in the next few months and ultimately a decision but even then it doesn’t have to be final. We are so lucky to live in a time where people can move around, change their minds, try things out. I’m excited about our next step, wherever that may be.
There are so many lists of top European cities but I’m creating my own from my own experiences and tastes. As you’ll see, I tend to be drawn to the Mediterranean. Here are the places I would have liked to live in my 20s and could imagine myself living in my 30s.
20s:
London
Madrid
Barcelona
Edinburgh
Lisbon
Paris
Berlin
Rome
Geneva
Athens
30s:
Malaga
Oxford
Bristol
Biarritz
Valencia
Oporto
Florence
Cologne
Valletta
Naples