The Best Parts of Living in Spain

Living in Spain, and living abroad in general, is sometimes portrayed as the ultimate adventure– full of spontaneous vespa rides, delicious food and endless Instagram opportunities. But living abroad and not just vacationing. It’s easy to get jaded once the novelty of your new home wears off. The little boutiques are less cute (can I just get a Target up in here?), the cobble stone streets start to hurt your feet through your horrible choice of shoes, and just once you’d like to be able to drive to the grocery store in your sweats to buy some ice cream late on a lazy Friday night.

But even though its easy to pick up on the things that start to annoy you about living abroad, the moments that make you realize that you love it here are what really count and those moments are what keep you going. My expat home of choice is the Iberian peninsula and it’s high time I shout out for the world to hear the best parts of living in Spain, in no particular order.

1. Inexpensive beer at all hours of the day

If you’re a fan of day drinking, Spain is for you, my friend. I have seen old men sipping on sherry as early as 10 or 11:00 a.m.! One of the most beloved social activities among Spaniards is getting together for a pre-lunch beer. Meeting up in a sunny square is a cherished spring time routine and it’s one that I am a full proponent of. If I could go out every day around 1:00 p.m. and drink beer in the sun with friends, I would. And some do! Obviously this is an ideal weekend activity, and it doesn’t have to break the bank! Small beers (a.k.a. cañas) will cost you around 1.00€-1.70€ and usually come with a little tapa. This can be something light such as crispy potato chips or olives, or something a bit more substantial like some cured ham or spanish omelette on a piece of baguette. Keep it up for a few hours and you’ll be full and buzzed, not to mention sun kissed!

Beers and a tapa... and they said money can't buy happiness...

Beers and a tapa… and they said money can’t buy happiness…

2. You’re surrounded by beautiful history

Even on your bad days, it’s hard to pass by the beautiful historical monuments and not be grateful for where you are. Expats living in Europe (and many other places) are lucky to be able to experience countries each with their own long history and world heritage monuments. Spain has been occupied by humans basically since the beginning of mankind, so it’s no wonder that around each corner there’s something beautiful to see with a story behind it. Luckily, I have a boyfriend who knows pretty much every last drop of Spanish history, though unfortunately I can’t turn him off when I’m on information overload.

Merida ruins flowers

The Roman theater in Mérida, a 5 minute walk from my piso!

3. You can learn Spanish without having to try very hard

Ok, so you’ll definitely have to put in some effort to learn the basics, but everyone around you is most likely eager to help you out and teach you all about their language and culture. With the visuals and body language available during in-person social interactions, you’ll pick up on a lot more than you’d ever get from grammar exercises in a book. Even just walking down the street your ears will start to pluck out words that you recognize as you unintentionally eavesdrop on the people you pass by. Soon enough you’ll be able to laugh at the kids having a silly argument over who stole the ball from whom in the plaza as you sip your cheap beer.

4. You’ll be able to make money wherever you go in Spain

Being a native English speaker in Spain is highly coveted right now, as Spaniards are scrambling to up their English game and they need help. Moving here with a job or a grant from a program is the most secure way to ensure income, as they’ll pay you monthly and even usually give you health insurance. But you can also look for work in academies (under the table if you’re not a legal resident) or find students to tutor privately. Although teaching English in Spain is definitely not my life’s calling, for now it pays the bills and I don’t have to worry about finding a job whenever I want to move to a new city. I’ve definitely learned valuable skills from teaching that will be applicable to lots of different fields, like thinking on my feet, public speaking, and getting comfortable in my own skin (as many Spaniards won’t hesitate to stare at you for no reason).

Kids in Masks

What… this doesn’t look fun to you??

5. The cost of living is much lower

Living in Spain is much cheaper than living in the US. Although I make less than my friends with full time jobs back home, I also pay significantly less for things like rent and entertainment costs. It becomes much easier to go out and enjoy social occasions when you’re not constantly thinking about your budget. Visits home are always a little stressful now because going out to dinner means $6.00 drinks and a $15.00 meal, plus the tip. For that much, I could go out twice in my town here in Spain, so it will definitely be a rough adjustment to make if I ever move back home.

6. Life is much more relaxed

One truth that I have really learned while living in Spain is that it is so much more rewarding working to live rather than living to work. Though I don’t have much experience with the latter as I moved to Spain right after college, I feel like many people in the USA are obsessed with “success” and working their way up the ladder. I mean, obviously having money is great and makes life easier, but is it worth it to spend so many hours working for so few hours enjoying? Spaniards really get it, and those who have jobs (Spain currently has an extremely high unemployment rate) still prioritize their family, friends and enjoyment over work. Everything moves slowly because no one is in a rush to get everything done. Often, I have to tell myself to calm down when I’m in a hurry and whatever I happen to be doing is taking extremely long. I’ve realized how deeply engrained the eternal rush is in many Americans and I’ve learned to take a deep breath and remind myself that I, too, can adopt that relaxed way of life, and I might as well because everyone around me already has.

 

Soaking up the sun in the Plaza de España in Mérida

Soaking up the sun in the Plaza de España in Mérida

So what do you think the best parts of living in Spain are? Let me know in the comments below!

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15 thoughts on “The Best Parts of Living in Spain

  1. Recently I’ve been thinking more and more about this topic, as I need to decide if I’m going to stay here another year. It’s a tough decision, but top on my pro-Spain list: great public transport, a zest for life and cañas, cheap produce (ok I’m a grandma here and vegetables are right up there with the nightlife), easy access for traveling, 12-hour work weeks plus so much money to be made in private lessons, ALL TAX-FREE; and last but not least, the odd joy I get from seeing every child in Spain eating their exact same bocadillos de jamón when their parents pick them up from the bus stop after school. Can’t explain it. Just love it.

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  2. I love this list! Especially the ‘working to live, not living to work’. That’s one of the best lessons I’ve learned from working abroad in a culture where people take their free time very seriously and prioritize enjoyment of life over all other responsibilities. I can also relate to the, uh, not being able to turn off the history buff boyfriend….I’ve mastered the ‘mmhmm, I’m totally listening’ face.

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  3. Thank you Chelsea for your enthusiasm writing about Spain, it’s great! I agree with you regarding the language learning, it’s much easier learning while you live surrounded by natives because there is no choice but make yourself understood. Personally I would recommend get to know the language before arriving to Spain, for example through funny and entertaining websites. A friend of mine has a dedicated page for the Spanish language with free resources to start with Free Resources for learners of SpanishThank you for sharing Chelsea and good luck! ;D

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  4. Hi Chelsea,

    Great blog post. Having lived in Andalucia, more specifically Marbella the past 3 years, I have to agree with most of your points. My favourite parts of living in Andalucia is the tapas, sangria, olive, orange trees and palm trees. Hopefully the economy will recover and bring Andalucia back to it’s former glory of a tourist haven.

    Thanks,
    George.

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  5. I just discovered your blog, and I’m enjoying reading it. My husband and I are taking our two small children and moving to Spain for a couple of months, so posts like this are very interesting. As was “How to drink like a Spaniard”, although my husband questioned why you didn’t talk more about wine, lol. He is from south of Rochester and I went to school down out there, so we have that in common. My most pressing concern right now is what is the weather really going to be like in Andalucia in late March through early June? We are staying in a Las Alpujarras mountain village, and I’m not sure exactly what to expect, which makes me concerned about what to pack.

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    • Hey! Thanks for reading! Sorry I’m just now seeing your comment. The weather should be mild in March and by June it will be hot. I would say to expect 50s-60s during the day and cooler at night. Keep in mind that Spanish apartments typical don’t have central heating or anything, so it can be chilly in March inside. In the mountains it might be cooler as well… So you’ll have to pack quite a range of things! I honestly would rather bring too little and buy what I need than over pack… Bring layerable (not a word) clothes!

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  6. Hello, thank you for writing such a great article. I too wish to move to Spain soon and teach English. I especially enjoyed “work to live not live to work”…I’ll definitely remember that. Forgive me for asking, but as I continue my research, would know of any recruiters that help with job placement, visas, housing, etc? Does the government of Spain assist? Any information would help.

    I’ll be leaving a great job here in the US, but I feel I need to work and live abroad. There’s too much to see in life and sticking to one place for the rest of my life isn’t as interesting to me. Thanks again for your time!

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    • Hi Mike! I don’t know of any specific recruiters, but I do know two women who run a consulting company that specialize with helping Americans move to Spain. It’s called COMO Consulting… Check them out! Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond!

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  7. I am thinking of spending 1 month in the south of Spain but can’t decide which city! I love your blog, so much great advice! Which has been your favourite city in Spain so far? x

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