Ready for your new life in sunny Spain? Spare yourself the cost and embarrassment of emigrating the wrong way with our expat’s guide on how to move to Spain.
Spaniards take pride in dressing smartly for work and at the weekends. It’s considered inappropriate to wear beach attire on the streets. Flip flops are strictly for the pool or beach and it’s illegal to drive in them (or to drive barefoot). Make sure you cover bare shoulders and don’t wear shorts when entering a church, or you might be asked to leave.
Things can be pretty different in January when the beach is cold and deserted. Winter is nippy in many regions, houses are often not insulated and there’s no UK fuel benefit for pensioners. So don’t depend on Spain for year-round warmth. If you’re thinking about moving, it’s important to consider the weather outside of peak season.
What with Brexit, you are no longer assured the automatic right to live and work in Spain as a Brit. Although the exact rules are yet to be clarified, it is likely that from 2021 you will need to prove that you are able to support yourself financially before being given a residency permit.
Assuming you get the green light you will need to register on the electoral roll (empadronamiento) at the local town hall after living in Spain for four months. Registering allows you to apply for a social security number, and you’ll need to get a medical card at the local clinic. Your national identity (NIE) card lets you purchase property, open a bank account and access other services in Spain.
If you’re a pensioner planning to live in Spain, you need to be aware that the reciprocal healthcare agreement between the UK and Spain may change significantly from 2021. Currently, British expats can get public healthcare for free, but whether this continues will depend on what deal is struck between the UK and the EU after the Brexit transition period ends. Lots of expats get private medical insurance because public healthcare only covers about 70% of medical expenses.
There are two ways to move your furry pals. The most expensive is through a pet travel service. It’ll cost about £1,000 to transport a pair of cats from Manchester to Malaga. Bringing them in the car might be less stressful for your pets – and less expensive, too. It takes about 27 hours to drive from the UK to Malaga, so you’d need to stay in pet-friendly hotels. Make sure your pets have a pet passport and all their vaccinations are up to date. Also, be aware that the rules could change after the Brexit transition period ends in December 2020.
If you drive your UK-plated car for more than 30 days after applying for residency, you could be in big trouble. Insurance might not cover accidents, and the police will impound vehicles and charge huge fines if you’re caught skipping the deadline. You need to transfer your vehicle onto Spanish registration within 30 days of becoming a resident, which means getting it inspected (Spain’s equivalent of an MOT is an ITV), taxed and insured.
Lots of people hire a consultant to help them move to a new country. Many make the task seem harder than it is – so they can charge a hefty fee for their services. But if you search on forums, Facebook groups, and other websites with your questions, you’ll save a lot of money. It can also help you to make friends online – so even if you’re living in rural Spain, you won’t be isolated.
Our Spanish friends dine at different times to Brits. An early morning breakfast of churros and hot cocoa is traditional, as is a massive multi-course lunch in the afternoon. Evening meals tend to be lighter, and might not finish until midnight. Look for menu boards advertising Menu del Dia around lunchtime. You’ll get a three-course feast of the chef’s best dishes that averages only €11 per person, including wine.
Currency exchange companies like Currency Solutions specialise in saving you money when transferring your Pounds into Euros. If you’re purchasing property, your currency broker can save you money by locking in a good exchange rate with a fixed forward – or other options. You’ll have more to spend if you transfer your pension or send any regular payments through a currency exchange company, too.
Try to learn some Spanish. The locals will love it because 60% of expats don’t speak the language. Volunteering for charities is another way to get to know both locals and expats. You could also join rescue groups to help save Spain’s stray cats (there are lots of them). Or you could donate funds, walk the shelter dogs or foster kittens and puppies.
*The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing (February 2020). It could change depending on what is agreed between the UK and the EU during the 2020 transition period.
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