Confirmed 7 biggest mistakes when moving to Spain

Moving to Spain is a great decision for so many reasons. But don't make these 7 mistakes if you want to have a great time in your new home.


5 minute read
Updated on 25 Jul 2023

There’re lots of popular and not so obvious reasons to move to Spain. But before taking the plunge and relocating to Spain, you should also know the do’s and don’t in Spain. After all, you don’t want to regret not preparing enough or finding out you don’t like the country as much as you thought you would.

To help manage your expectations we’ll share the 7 biggest mistakes that people make when moving to Spain.

7. Moving to Spain based on popular stereotypes

One of the biggest mistakes people make when moving to Spain is not researching enough. Spain isn't just a country with ‘beaches, sun, and tapas’. There’s a lot more to consider when relocating!

Spain has 18 autonomous communities and each vastly different when it comes to language, culture, food, and weather. If you like mountains, colder weather in winter and a little rain, then the north might be for you. If you prefer warmer temperatures and beaches, then consider moving to the south.

Then, do you know what kind of environment you like to live in? If you pick the best cities in Spain, you’re more likely to find multicultural communities and be able to visit museums, go on pub crawls, shop from international brands, and dine at restaurants with diverse cuisines.

But if you pick the countryside or the suburbs, you’ll enjoy more nature, bigger houses, quieter streets, jogs in the park, weekend hikes, etc.

6. Thinking you’ll get a job easily

If you’re not from the EU, it’s a requirement to secure a job before moving to Spain to get your work visa.

It can be difficult to find a job in Spain as you either need to apply for a job that’s on the government’s job shortage list or the employer needs to prove you’re more qualified than the locals. Once you secure a job, it’s the employer who needs to apply for the work visa.

EU citizens can easily move to Spain and then find a job. But keep in mind Spain has one of the highest unemployment rates in the EU and it can take months to find a job. So make sure you’ve plenty of savings.

5. Buying a house before renting

Buying a house in Spain's one of the easiest ways to get residency in Spain as a foreigner. You could invest €500,000 in a property and get your resident permit for you and your family as part of the Golden Visa program.

But don’t be too quick to buy a house in Spain. As you know from point 7, there’s a lot of diversity in Spain when it comes to landscapes, weather, culture, and food. Some regions are also more expensive than others when it comes to buying properties.

So before buying a house, rent an apartment in the Spanish region of your choosing.

Renting before buying's better because Spain has high capital gains tax (this's tax paid on the profit and ranges from 19% to 23%). To avoid selling too quickly because of dissatisfaction with your new home, neighbourhood, or even Spain, it’s good to rent.

Renting also allows you to see your neighbourhood and meet your neighbours, assess the house you want to buy in person, wait out market fluctuations, and avoid property scams when it comes to newly built homes. If you do rent, read up on tenant rights in Spain to ensure you know your rights.

4. Not learning the language or knowing there’s more than one language

Of the many reasons to learn Spanish, 2 of the most important are that nearly 80% of the population speaks Spanish and Spain doesn’t rank high on the English proficiency index of 2021.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking everyone speaks (Castilian) Spanish. Confusing? Let’s break it down. Different regions in Spain have different languages. People speak Catalan or Valencian in the Catalonia and Andorra region, Basque in the Basque country, Galician in Galicia, and Aranese in the Val d’Aran region.

3. Embrace the culture shocks to fit in like a local

As a foreigner, you can’t expect the local cultural habits to change for you. Here’re some of the cultural shocks that you’ll likely have to accept, even if you don’t like them personally.

The laid back lifestyle: Spanish people like to enjoy life and they work to live, not the other way around. So siesta time or days off are sacred. If you come from a culture where overworking is normal, then this might be a good change for you!

On the flip side, this laid back lifestyle also means-

  • Slow bureaucracy, especially in the month of August when most of the country's enjoying their holiday.
  • Later mealtimes, especially if you want to dine with locals or at restaurants.
  • People are late, usually by 15 minutes.
  • You can’t shop at small stores between 14:00 to 17:00 as it’s siesta time. Most shops will also remain closed on Sunday.

Personal boundaries: Spaniards are warm and friendly. To save you from some awkwardness, remember that Spaniards greet each other with 2 kisses on the cheeks. You’ll also notice that they tend to be relatively loud and vocal. If you don’t speak the language, it might sound like someone's arguing or being rude by talking over someone. But that’s not actually the case.

Apart from these culture shocks, also pay attention to these unspoken rules of living in Spain if you don’t want to offend them– don’t wear swimsuits on the streets, unless you want to pay fines; don’t dine with your hands under the table or put your bread on your plate; don’t tip because it’s not customary; don’t ask others what they do for a living on your first encounter with them.

2. Ignoring finances: Budgeting, taxes, bank accounts

Budgeting: We can’t help but emphasise that Spain’s cost of living is only relatively cheaper than the UK, USA, and most European countries. And more importantly, this cheaper cost of living comes with a lower average salary.

So for those working, remember to spend wisely and save money. If you plan to move back to your home country, you’ll go back with less savings if your home’s cost of living is higher. And for those retiring, remember that costs add up and can quickly drain your monthly budget.

Taxes: Please look into Spain’s tax regulations before moving to Spain. 2 biggest mistakes expats make are not knowing that residents need to pay taxes on their worldwide income and that there’re some great tax saving schemes for foreigners in Spain. For instance, there’s dual taxation agreements, you could apply for the Beckham Law, or you could claim tax allowances if you’ve younger children or older parents living with you.

Bank accounts: Get a Spanish bank account as soon as you can! Spain is a cash-heavy country and most places will not accept your credit card. It’s also expensive to keep withdrawing money using your international debit card. Without a local bank account, you also can’t pay utility bills, purchase a house, get a Spanish SIM, pay for local health insurance, etc.

1. Not arranging paperwork immediately after arrival

Have you heard the stereotype of Spanish bureaucracy being energy and time-consuming? Well… it’s true.

It’s super important to start applying for required documents during your first 2-3 weeks in Spain because without them, you can’t set up your life abroad.

  1. Get your residence permit or TIE (Tarjeta de identidad de extranjero) to legally reside in Spain.
  2. Next, register your address at the city hall and get your empadronamiento certificate. Without this, you can’t apply for your NIE number, buy a house, get married, etc.
  3. Next, apply for NIE, your foreign tax ID number. Without this, you can’t open a bank account, get a job, or apply for healthcare.
  4. Next, if you’re working, apply for your social security number. Without this, you can’t apply for Spanish public health care. And trust us, you want this because it’s free for residents in Spain.

So swap the shopping and beach trip in your first week with written forms, long queues, and trips to the government office. And if you’re arriving in August, we wish you the patience to bear with the extra slow pace.

Bonus: Relocation checklist

Now that you know the do’s and don’t of living in Spain, you can rest easy that you’ll have a stress-free relocation. To help you further, we’ve prepared the ultimate Spanish relocation guide for you.

Please reach out to if you have any suggestions or inquiries about the content on this page.

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