When thinking of relocating to another country, there are some serious considerations to do before packing your whole life to five suitcases and heading towards the nearest airport. We, the Two Queens, have decided to put up a short series of posts, so that you might avoid some of the pitfalls that might send you to square one.
Why Spain, you might ask. Mainly because we have recently uprooted ourselves from Finland and relocated to Spain’s Costa del Sol. This relocation has forced us to think of the same points which we are going to share with you in these posts.
You should, of course, remember that this guide isn’t all-encompassing and that it has been written from our viewpoint and based on our experiences.
So, let’s get started, or vamos:
- WHY ARE YOU RELOCATING TO SPAIN?
This is perhaps the single most important question that you have to be able to answer – to yourself. And what makes it worse – you have to be truthful to yourself.
After visiting the Costa del Sol or Costa Blanca several times you might think you know everything that you need to know about Spain and that is enough. Well, perhaps it is; you might be heading to Spain’s coastal areas in search of that holiday-kind-of lifestyle.
Or maybe you are not into the sun, sea, and sangria combination that so many seem to be keen on – that is fine too. Spain, being a big country, has countless excellent and vibrant cities, such as Málaga, Madrid, or Córdoba, which are filled with history, but at the same time retain their youthfulness and vibe and are anything but the suntanning tourist attractions.
Maybe you are after a better work-life balance, something that many of us strive for in the modern world. This is one of the main reasons why the Two Queens have decided to relocate to the Costa del Sol. Understanding the need for the daily grind in order to pay the bills is something, but valuing your time off from the daily grind is another good reason to head to the Southern Spain’s sunny coastal areas.
Or maybe it is the money question. This, however, is something that you definitely need to do your research about. Salaries in Spain tend to be lower than those in Northern Europe, so in that sense you need to cut down on the perks that you are used to back home. Of course, the living costs are lower as well, but that might be a bit of a double-edged sword, at least in the beginning when you are still thinking ass you are used to.
For instance it is easy to think that paying rent (plus bills) of about 700€ is dirt cheap, but in comparison if you are working with a monthly salary of 1200€ gross, it all becomes quite dear.
So, what ever your reason is, it is definitely a valid one, but you yourself must be clear on why are you doing the move. Relocating from a country to another is a massive undertaking that should not be done lightly and without planning.
- WHERE IN SPAIN ARE YOU RELOCATING TO?
You wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t interested in Spain, but where in Spain are you going to end up to? This is another one of the tough questions that need answering. Some might just look at the map and work their way from there, and some of us might have a clearer picture of the area and the place where they want to end up to.
Unless you have already secured a job here, or have been sent here by your company, you should consider at least the following:
- What is the job market like in your new home area?
This is an important one, as Spain is a huge country, with high income and low income areas, and as mentioned before, the salaries being considerably lower than in Northern Europe, for instance. And another word of caution; if your occupation required registration (such as nurses, doctors, etc) in Spain before you can practice your craft, start the registration process as soon as possible (hopefully even before relocating) as it can, and will, be a slow process.
- Are you setting up your own business?
Again, do your research beforehand. Before you can apply for your business permits, you need to have a NIE. You might not be able to start to trade before
you have all the permits and bank account open and starting up might take up to half a year. Or it might be done in several weeks. This again depends on the region, city, time of the year, and all the possible other variables that there are.
- Do you need a mode of transport?
This is again something that may sound ridiculous, especially if you are coming from a country with good public transportation system. But again, if you are relocating to a rural area with a public transportation link taking you to the nearest town (where your job might be located at) but the first bus goes at 8 am and your work starts at 7 am… you see what I mean. And this has definitely been one of the things to remind ourselves coming from the greater Helsinki area to everywhere where we have lived.
Used cars in Spain are relatively cheap to purchase (again, remember what we said about the way of thinking in the beginning), but you need your NIE number to be able to do so. So, that is out of the question before you have settled in and gone through the process of applying for the NIE.
- What kind of weather are you looking for?
Ah, easy, isn’t it. Sun and warmth of course. As you obviously have done your homework by now, you do know that Spain is one of the biggest countries in the continent and thus, it has different kinds of weather in different parts of the country. Roughly like this:
Northern parts of the country tend to get more rain, and the temperatures are more temperate with winters that might not see snow, but much, much more rain (and temperatures around 0 degrees Celsius).
Inland parts of Spain tend to get very warm during the summer (up to 45 degrees), and can get snow in the winter time.
Coastal areas towards the south get reasonably warm in summers (up to 35 degrees) and get some rain during the winter, but the temperatures stay at about 10 degrees.
All in all, do your background research. Don’t just trust Google and Wikipedia, check out YouTube videos, especially those who have posted a lot, and are living in Spain. Steer away from the short videos created by tourists and those heading for holidays, as you are here for a completely different journey – not for a mere holiday. If you can, ask the locals or the expats who live in the area where you are relocating to.
- WHO ARE YOU RELOCATING WITH?
If it is just yourself, it is easy. Pack your bags and go. But when you are moving with your best mate, spouse, children, pets… Then the planning plays even more important role. And, some Facebook groups might come in handy. Sometimes having a Social Media accounts is actually useful…
We tackled the move slow. We set a target about a year ago for the month when we were going to move, and as this was something that we both wanted the planning itself was a relatively easy task to do. We don’t have children, so no need to think about schools, and daycare, and so on. We have the EHIC cards, so no need to organize an insurance immediately when stepping out of the airplane.
But instead of children, we have a Miniature Poodle. And as most of the information in Spanish government’s webpages are in Spanish (a language we are not fluent in yet), it was a bit of a shaky research into things. Luckily we have been living in an EU country, which makes the pet travel so much easier. Just make sure that your pet has all the required vaccinations, de-worming, and microchipping done in due time and they are good to go!
We were, however, slightly surprised, when we had to take our dog to get his vaccinations, and the biggest vet clinic chain in Finland didn’t have any clue of the required vaccinations. Also, we had to inform them about the requirement of having a booster between 14-30 days after an initial vaccination that Spain requires at the moment.
When it comes to pet travel, do not trust websites that have information from a previous year! The Spanish government has the tendency of changing some of the requirements yearly, as they are closely monitoring illnesses, such as rabies, very closely.
If you are relocating with children, you definitely need to think of their future from the word go. Spain has a good public school system, but it requires your children to know Spanish. Of course children do pick up the language very well and fast (possibly beating you to it) but you need to register them as students there before they are accepted.
Spain also has good number of international schools available, but you might not be able to find them in all the cities and towns. These schools allow kids to learn Spanish and usually English, and might be able to pick up other languages as well. Of course the costs are higher than in public schools.
There might also be a school following your home country’s curriculum. For instance, in Fuengirola area on the Costa del Sol, there is a Finnish school, which receives its funding from the Finnish government and teaches children based on the Finnish curriculum set by the Finnish Ministry of Education.
- WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO BRING WITH YOU?
The moment when you make the final decision to relocate to another country, the mental packing starts, meaning either doing a massive garage sale or trying to fit everything in several suitcases and IKEA boxes. And all of a sudden, the Facebook Marketplace is flooded with good quality items.
We humans have a tendency of being sentimental, which in turn means multiple moments of “oh this, I want to keep it if I need it…” and “I’ve wondered where I put this photo! Now I will save it so I can reframe it in the future…”
What we did, as we had the luxury of dropping of several boxes of thing to a relative’s storage, was to take the bare necessities with us as we rented a fully furnished apartment and one of us still commutes back to Finland for work. So it is easy for us to finalise the move bit by bit.
But if you are not in that position, then we do suggest that you consider flying in on a
Business Class, as that tends to significantly increase your baggage allowance in number of pieces and also in kgs. In some cases the price of the Business Class ticket is about the same as purchasing extra suitcases on top of your Economy Class ticket. Also, Lufthansa for instance, allows 23kg suitcases for EC tickets, and 32kg suitcases for BC ticket. That is 9kgs more per suitcase, which means 9kgs more of Tetris-like arranging into the suitcases.
We, of course, cannot give you exact guidelines on what to take with you because obviously it depends on your own situation. However, one advice we would definitely give out is to remember that you are not moving into a desert island. You will have loads and loads of shops, stores, and department stores here. If you can’t fit your dining table into your suitcase, there is IKEA. Don’t have space for your face cream arsenal? Visit a local supermarket and get yourself local range of face creams. For you clothing fanatics, Zara was born in Spain.
One thing that is very important are your personal medicines. Especially if you are on continuous medication. Make sure you pack at least a 3-month supply of your required medicines with you so that you can settle down and then head to see a local doctor and ask them to renew your prescriptions locally. If you are from another EU country, you might want to pop to a local pharmacy to see if they can give out your medicines based on the prescription from your home country, or you can ask for an EU prescription from your own GP.
- TRAVELLER’S INSURANCE – IS IT NEEDED FOR RELOCATION?
This is a tricky question. Traveller’s insurance is just what it says it is. It is meant for travelers, not for relocation purposes. It does, in general, cover mishaps, but your insurance company might suddenly realise that you are actually living in Spain, instead of just having a two week holiday in an all-inclusive resort. And if you cannot provide information, such as a return ticket, you might land yourself in a hot soup.
That is why we strongly recommend that you visit your insurance company and be frank with them about your situation and ask what kinds of options there are before you can get a local insurance in Spain.
- ALL SET – LET’S GO?
Are you? Sit down for a moment and have a cup of tea, thinking it all through. Take a notepad and jot down everything mentioned on this list, and more. We base our tips on our experiences and based on our situations. Your situation and requirements are most likely different from ours.
But whilst doing your list, if you notice something that we have missed on our list that you would deem important to share with other readers, leave a comment, and we will add it here.