From beaches to fiestas, and art to architecture, Spain offers a mesmerizing experience for all kinds of expatriates. Its capital city, Madrid, is full of culture and life, truly unique. With booming industries of tourism, manufacturing, and textiles, expatriates pursuing careers in Spain are offered a variety of opportunities for employment. Whether you are living in the bustling cities of Spain or on the serene coast of the country, this expat guide offers you expert advice about your employment experience abroad. In this guide everything will be covered from climate and weather to emergency situations; so that you will be prepared to start your Spanish adventure!
Population: 47.27 million
Major language: Spanish (“Castilian”)
Major religion: Roman Catholicism (73%) & Muslim (2.3%)
Currency: Euro (EUR € )
Time zone: CET (UTC+1hr) and CEST (UTC+2hr) depending on the time of year.
Emergency numbers: 112 (The European Emergency Number), 091 (Spanish Police), 080 (Spanish Fire Fighters), 092 (Local Spanish Police), 061 (Health Emergencies in Spain)
Electricity: 220 volts AC (majority) and 110 volts AC (minority). Type F Plugs are used.
Drives on the: Right
Climate and weather
Spain can be broken down into 3 main climate areas due to its vast size. These three climate regions include: Mediterranean, continental, and maritime climates.
In general, most of Spain experiences moderate weather with hot and dry summers and rainy, cool winters. During the spring and autumn months, the heaviest rainfall occurs, transitioning into wet and cold winters. Furthermore, as you travel closer towards Spain’s center, often called the “Meseta,” the winters become increasingly colder.
Locations near the mountains will experience greater precipitation rates including heavy snowfalls in the winter and more frequent rainfall in the fall and spring months.
Depending on where you will be living and working, you are advised to bring along light and medium-weight articles of clothing. (Possibly few heavy-weight pieces for the colder winter months if you are living in central Spain or around the mountains). Layering your clothes is key!
After securing yourself a position in Spain, you will need to take the necessary steps to ensure that you have the correct work permits and visas ready prior to your departure. This documentation process takes some time, so be sure to plan ahead!
To start, after accepting your position in Spain, you are required to apply for a work permit. This process is to be completed by your employer in order for you to legally work in Spain. Once your employer submits the application for a permit on your behalf, you will receive a copy of the stamped application which you must keep for your work or residence visa.
You will need to send this copy of your work permit application to the Spanish embassy or consulate. From there, your application will be processed by your regional labour office and the process for your work and residence visa will begin.
Some individuals do not need a work visa depending on their home country or employment position in Spain. Check with the Spanish Consulate to find out if you require a visa before working in Spain.
From townhouses and villas to the popular Spanish apartment complex, Spain offers an abundant source of affordable housing options for everyone.
Particularly popular in Spanish cities, apartment complexes offer a unique lifestyle for expatriate workers. Offered in a variety of studio sizes, you are bound to find excellent living conditions to accommodate all of your needs. Keep in mind that when renting an apartment in Spain you are required to respect the rules of your landlord, and you are responsible for paying management/maintenance/building fees on time.
Moving away from the cities, townhouses are frequently available in areas surrounding suburbs. This type of living situation generally is larger than renting a studio. Also, it is common for a collection of townhouses to form a square with a communal pool or garden at their center. If you are looking for tight-knit community, a Spanish townhouse may be the perfect place for you.
On the contrary, if you are looking for a quiet, more isolated home to live in, you may consider searching for a quaint villa to purchase. Villas offer the space of a townhouse, in a more secluded and personal environment. Not being attached to other houses, villas are often found near the coastlines and are often purchased by only the very wealthy in cities and the suburbs.
The Spanish education system is divided into multiple levels including nursery, primary, secondary, voluntary secondary, and voluntary college or university.
Children are required to attend primary school from the ages of 6 to 12. Each primary education lasts for 2 years accompanied by yearly examinations to help students stay on track. Students will then move along to the mandatory section of secondary education. After passing at around the age of 16, they will receive certification of secondary education and may choose to further their education through voluntary vocational secondary education. After graduating, students can chose to enter University via an examination process.
The popular romance language of Spanish, referred to as ‘Castellano’ in Spain, is one of the most popular languages of the world. The majority of Spain’s inhabitants speak Spanish, however, there are a few regional languages spoken in the country as well. Such major regional languages include Euskara, Galego, Catalan, and English.
As an expatriate worker in Spain you will find that it is difficult to conduct business in the country without a basic knowledge of the Spanish language. After all, Spanish is Spain’s main business language.
Spanish culture is heavily influenced by the family. In fact, the family is a huge structure to society in Spain. You will often notice many Spanish families celebrating or dining out together. Commonly, extended families will live in close proximity, helping to care for one another, their elders, and children.
While in Spain, should you ever be invited to a dinner party at an acquaintance’s house, you should plan to bring small gifts for the children of the household and a bottle of wine or an even number of flowers for the hosts. (Bear in mind; dahlias, chrysanthemums, or flowers in odd numbers are symbols of funerals).
In regards to greeting someone for the first time, you will be expected to shake his or her hand. As you become more familiar with the person, you may move on to small kisses on each cheek (for females to greet each other and for members of the opposite sex to greet each other). Think of these “kisses” on the cheek as small air kisses, starting with the left cheek! Two male friends may move onto greeting one another with hugs.
Be aware that the Spanish are some of the heaviest smokers in all of Europe. While recent laws have been passed to ban smoking in public places, it is not uncommon for many people to engage in smoking in front of you.
With an emphasis on the structure of family, meal times in Spain are of high importance. Members of the Spanish culture will often base their daily plans around set meal times.
Lunch, referred to as “La Comida” is the largest meal of the day. Starting at around 2 pm and ending around 4pm, la comida is followed by a period of rest (“siesta”). During this time, local businesses and entire towns will close to participate.
Due to this late afternoon meal, dinner is not often served until 10 or 11 pm. Visitors to the country will often find that restaurants seem completely empty around their usual dinner time of 7 or 8 pm. However, at 11pm, restaurants will be overflowing with families gathering for their evening meal.
Popular Spanish dishes include:
* Paella (A rice dish often accompanied by meat, seafood and a variety of vegetables)
* Gazpacho (A tomato-based soup, served cold)
* Chorizo (sausage), Jamón (ham), and longaniza (Spanish cured pork products)
* Tortilla (a potato-based omelet, served as the staple item of many dishes)
* Seafood (often served fried or with rice)
Spain is home to many unique drinks including Spanish coffee, fruit teas, iced teas, sangria, Rioja wines, and beer. Whether you are enjoying a small cup of coffee between meals or treating yourself to a glass of sweet sangria with your dinner, there is a variety of drinks for everyone’s tastes.
Getting together for drinks, whether they are coffee or alcohol, is common among the Spanish. They tend to not drink excessively. Instead, they drink casually while socializing.
It is important to note that the legal purchasing age for low-alcoholic beverages in Spain has been increased to 18 years old as of January 2014. With that being said, minors are not prohibited from drinking alcoholic beverages with their friends or family. They are only unable to purchase them.
Public holidays vary region to region in Spain. Each town or city has its own patron Saints feast days, along with the commonly recognized national holidays of the country.
There are 10 observed national holidays recognized and celebrated across Spain including the following:
* New Year’s Day
* Epiphany (a regional holiday that has been declared in all regions)
* Good Friday
* Labour Day
* Assumption Day
* Hispanic Day
* All Saints Day
* Constitution Day
* Immaculate Conception Day
* Christmas Day
On public and national holidays, stores, restaurants, and banks are closed for celebration and it is common for Spaniards to take multiple days of vacation following the holiday.
Cultural faux pas
· After eating a meal, never stretch your arms upward while seated at the table (even if you’re full!). This is considered very rude table-manners.
· If you plan to enter a church, shorts and sleeveless tops are not appropriate attire. You may be refused entry into the church… so plan accordingly!
· You are expected to eat 100% of the food you put on your plate during a meal. Failure to do so is considered rude and offensive to your host or hostess.
Avoid asking about bullfighting during small talk. The Spanish take this very seriously, and it evokes equivalent emotions to discussion of politics. Bringing up the bullfights allows for potential offense, whether you mean it or not.
Getting In Touch
The international dialing code for Spain is +34. Within the country, each region or town has its own specific area code which must be dialed prior to entering the phone number.
Be aware that Spanish telephone services charge by the minute. Furthermore, the rates fluctuate throughout the day, depending on the time you make the call.
Landlines, mobile phones (through contract of pre-paid), and public telephones are all available for your use. Be prepared to show your passport, Spanish ID card and proof of your address prior to purchasing a mobile phone.
Spain offers multiple options for your internet needs. People who rarely use the internet will find that dial-up may be the best option for them. However, they must know that while using dial-up internet, the phone line cannot be in use. Which is why dial-up may be a major setback for those who need constant access to the internet for work.
If you plan on using the internet regularly, you will need to purchase broadband access. Keep in mind that broadband access is rather expensive in Spain because of the lack of broadband facilities. Aside from paying for your broadband, you will also be required to cover the installation fees.
In some areas, satellite broadband is available through the satellite phone service. For this type of internet connection, a satellite must be placed on the property where it will be accessed. With this type of connection comes higher fees and a set limit on data being uploaded and downloaded over the connection.
Wireless internet in Spain is called “WiMax”, standing for “Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access.” This type of internet connection thrives off of a wireless connection. Unfortunately, this type of service is only available in few, select areas of the country.
The national post service of Spain is called “Correos.” With 5 digits area codes and an online search website, Correos is truly an efficient system.
International mail and parcels can be sent at your convenience. Also, Correos offers same-day telegram services across Spain and within select other countries.
The job market
As of August 2014, the unemployment rate of Spain has skyrocketed to 24.4%. Because of this high statistic, it is important that you secure a job in Spain prior to moving there.
In order to be highly considered for a position in Spain, be sure to learn Spanish. Speaking the native business language fluently will enhance your chances of being offered employment.
Aside from learning the language, it is also important that you have an ample amount of experience when applying for Spanish employment positions. Amount of work experience is regarded very highly and often 2-3 years of experience in a particular field is expected.
If you are considered a tax resident, you are required to pay an income taxes in Spain.
Tax residents include the following people:
* Those that stay in Spain for more than 183 days each tax year (Starting January 1st to December 31st).
* Business owners in Spain
* Those that have children or spouses living in Spain with no legal separation
Tax rates range between 24% and 45% (combination of the national income tax rate and the community tax rate). This rate is determined by your income and region (for community tax rates).
Business in Spain is preferred to be conducted between those who are closely familiar with one another. In most circumstances, business relationships will remain strong after they are fully established.
Spanish businessman value face-to-face conversation more than telephone calls or email messages. This form of personal communication allows for work relationships to be built.
When attending a business meeting, it is important to be prompt. Being late will send the wrong message to your co-workers. Also, be sure to dress formally, especially when meeting people for the first time. Dress to appear “smart” and when you are introducing yourself, be modest!
Since Spanish is the official business language of Spain, your business cards should be printed in Spanish. You may also offer an English translation on the back of your card, however if you do so, make sure you hand Spanish businessmen your card with the Spanish side facing them!
With its convenient location in Europe and its enjoyable climate, Spain is becoming quite an appealing destination for retirement. As an expatriate working in Spain, you may be eligible for a state pension upon retirement, depending on how many years you have paid into the Spanish social security system. With opportunities for pensions at the age of 65, the cost of retired living in Spain is becoming more affordable.
If you do plan on retiring to Spain, be sure to apply for a retirement visa. This process includes verification of identification documentation, proof of a pension or other income, and proof of ownership of any property in Spain. The Spanish government wishes to see that the retiree is able to support himself during his time in the country.
The official currency of Spain is the Euro (EUR, €). Bills can be found in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 Euros. This currency also includes coins that range from 1 cent up to 2 Euros.
Cost of living
While the unemployment rate of the country is particularly high, the cost of living in Spain is very reasonable. Food, housing, and leisure activities can be found for fairly low prices depending on location. Local grocery stores and markets offer less expensive prices for food compared to restaurants, and public transportation is affordable. By exploring your options, you can live in Spain on a fair budget.
Spain offers many different types of banks specific to the type of account you wish to open. For example, certain banks, called “bancos,” provide accounts for everyday use. On the other hands, savings banks, referred to as “cajas de ahorros” are open for long-term savings accounts.
It is important to note that banking in Spain is not free. Fees are applied when a new account is opened by residents or non-residents. They may also be charged for certain transactions, transferring of funds, or for maintaining your specific account. You must be at least 18 years of age with a valid photo identification to open a bank account in your name.
Reputable hospitals (both private and state-run) are spread across the entire country of Spain. Costa del Sol, a popular expatriate location, is known to have some of the best running hospitals in the country. The healthcare system in Spain is great; with minimal waiting time for treatment and opportunities to be treated by those who speak English.
Private Medical Insurance
While having private health insurance isn’t essential, it may be best for you to purchase your own plan while working abroad. As an expatriate in Spain, if you wish to be covered under Spanish health insurance, you are required to register for a social security ID, and your health insurance will be overseen by the region you are located.
Regardless of where you enrol in health insurance, it is crucial for you to have it. Without the proper coverage treatments, procedures, and visits to the hospital will earn you out-of-pocket expenses.
In case of an emergency while in Spain, you are encouraged to dial the Spanish Emergency Services at 112. Whether you need urgent medical care, assistance with a fire, or you need to report a crime, the emergency number is available day and night. (Please note that the 112 operators may not speak English, so do your best to communicate clearly over the phone).
If you do not have the time to call for an ambulance and need to get to the hospital immediately, you may stop a taxi. Taxis in Spain are obliged by the law to transport patients in medical emergencies. By switching on the taxi’s hazard lights and waving a white piece of cloth from the taxi window, a signal of urgency is sent to others on the road.
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