Moving to a new part of the world can undoubtedly present some practical challenges. If the country in question is Spain, you’ve come to the right page. We’ve put together this guide for acclimatising to this incredible place. It covers everything from pinpointing a property to some cultural norms you should be aware of to settle in Spain as an immigrant, so let’s dive in.

Living in Spain as an Immigrant

Finding a place to live

Spain is scattered with iconic cities boasting dazzling architecture, lively restaurants, and high quality of life. But whether you move to Madrid, Seville, Barcelona, or any other hub, you’ll need to find the right place to live and settle in Spain. The internet has made this far less of a hassle than it would have once been. Instead of visiting individual rental agents in person, you can use online property portals which list the latest offerings.

Idealista is an example of a property site widely used in Spain. You’ll be able to look up apartments, houses, and even rooms within shared properties. The range of filters allows you to narrow your search down to places that are in the right area and fit your budget. Other property portals to check out include Fotocasa and Habitaclia.

It’s vital to arrange in-person viewings of any properties you’re interested in. Photos may be misleading, and even virtual viewings using Zoom or Skype may not reveal potential flaws. Remember that certain official documents will be needed when renting a place in Spain. These can include proof of residency status, proof of employment, and recent bank statements. Typically, you’ll need to pay some rent in advance, plus a deposit to secure the landlord against possible damage to the property. You can find out more with our detailed guide to renting in Spain.

Setting up a bank account

If there’s one thing that can really help make you feel at home in a new country, it’s having a local bank account. There are some practical advantages, too. You’ll avoid any international banking fees that may be charged if you carry on using your original bank account in Spain. And certain transactions, like receiving your salary from your Spanish job, or paying rent, may require a Spanish bank account.

There are plenty of banks to choose from, including well-known high street institutions like Santander, CaixaBank, and BBVA. Some immigrants may prefer to create an account with banks based entirely online, like N26. Whichever you choose, you’ll have to show documents to prove your identity and address. Eligible documents may include your passport, student ID, and recent utility bill. We discuss the factors to consider when comparing banks in our detailed guide to Spanish bank accounts.

Finding a job

You may decide to change your job while living in Spain. It’s important to check whether your particular work visa sets any limits here. For example, you may have to stay within the same job sector to settle in Spain.

Recent research by professional networking site LinkedIn shows that tech is a booming sector in Spain, though other fields are popular too. According to these findings, some of the most in-demand roles are:

  • Business development professionals experienced in software like Salesforce
  • Cloud architects familiar with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure
  • Cybersecurity specialists skilled in information security and ethical hacking
  • Data engineers adept at using tools like Apache Spark and Hadoop
  • Medical specialists experienced in clinical research and oncology
  • Mortgage loan officers who’ve worked in home loans and refinancing

As with finding accommodation, the internet can be your best friend when looking for vacancies in Spain. The government runs its own job search site, Empleat, where you can search for both private and public sector roles. Other sites listing up-to-date positions include Bolsade Trabajo, Oficina Empleo, and BuscoJobs.

Remember to give your CV/résumé a polish before embarking on a job search. If your Spanish isn’t brilliant, you may want to hire a professional to translate the information. Or, at the very least, get a Spanish friend to read over it for you. It’s also wise to keep your LinkedIn profile updated, as this can allow you to forge valuable professional links in Spain.

Exploring your new home

Spain is known for many marvels, including its superlative food scene. Paella, a dish of saffron-scented rice and meats, originated in Valencia and is now iconic all over the world. You may also want to try classics like patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy sauce) and refreshing gazpacho soup. Lesser-known delicacies to discover include Cocido Madrileno, a chickpea stew from Madrid, and fideuà, a noodle dish popular in Barcelona.

You’ll be able to enjoy many traditional treats in Spain’s famous tapas bars. Many people like to try some food at one tapas bar before moving on to another over the course of a night. Some foodie quarters to explore include Madrid’s La Latina, Barcelona’s Passeig de Sant Joan, and San Sebastián’s old town.

Art is also central to Spanish culture and history. A tour of Antoni Gaudi’s ornate, organic-seeming architecture is a must-do in Barcelona. Meanwhile, the Prado Museum in Madrid has one of the top art collections in the world. Don’t worry about finding your way around, as public transport tends to be top-notch in Spain. We recommend the Citymapper app, which shows how to get between destinations in cities including Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, and Valencia. Take a look at our guide to other apps for immigrants in Spain.

How to Settle in Spain as an Immigrant

Getting used to cultural changes

As with any country, there are aspects of everyday culture that many newcomers who want to settle in Spain won’t be aware of. Take the aforementioned tapas bars, which are so vital to food culture in Spain. While the country is famous for its huge range of wines, ordering a glass is usually a very simple process. Many diners simply ask for vino tino (red) or vino blanco (white), with no need to name specific wines. Often, you’re also allowed to throw trash like used napkins, olive pits, and prawn shells on the floor. This isn’t the case at every tapas bar, so check to see if the locals are doing it before joining in!

There’s a popular misconception about the siesta in Spain. Many may assume that this traditional afternoon nap is still a widespread custom, bringing communities to an afternoon halt. However, it’s not as prevalent or formally observed as you might expect. A survey conducted back in 2017 found that almost 60% of Spaniards don’t partake in the siesta.

Your location will determine whether or not your daily activities will be affected by the siesta. The influence of the tradition is less marked in large cities, where many shops and businesses tend to remain open throughout the day. By contrast, smaller communities and rural areas can indeed become very quiet in the late afternoon.

Sending money home

Sending money to your loved ones back home can be another key consideration when settling in Spain. You may want to send money to celebrate an event like a birthday. Or, you may need to provide ongoing financial support. Either way, you’ll have a number of options when it comes to international money transfers.

You can choose to send funds through your bank, or a land-based remittance company with outlets in Spain. But bear in mind that online-only money transfer companies can offer real value. Remitly is an example, providing low transfer fees and competitive exchange rates every time you send money abroad. Multiple layers of security protect each transaction, while the Remitly app makes it easy to make transfers almost anywhere in Spain.

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover all aspects of the topics discussed herein. This publication is not a substitute for seeking advice from an applicable specialist or professional. The content in this publication does not constitute legal, tax, or other professional advice from Remitly or any of its affiliates and should not be relied upon as such. While we strive to keep our posts up to date and accurate, we cannot represent, warrant or otherwise guarantee that the content is accurate, complete or up to date.