If you’re thinking of moving to Spain and have read articles about the work culture or unemployment rates, perhaps you are concerned about trying to build a new life here. Though its true that there are issues regarding the economy and politics, what country doesn’t have issues? Here is an article to give you all the benefits of living in Spain and the positive things that I love about the country I have called home for the past six years:
- Safety – One of the things most mentioned by expats about the best aspects of living in Spain is safety. Though Spain may not be the safest country in the world, it’s one of the few places in the world where I have felt safe walking home as a woman at night, even at 3 or 4 in the morning, and where I have walked past a group of drunken youths in the street at night without fear of being followed, groped or worse. When I lived in the United Kingdom, in the peaceful, beautiful city of Exeter, I still felt a sense of unease walking home at night, clutching my keys between my knuckles in case I had to use them. Here the thought has never crossed my mind and I feel incredibly fortunate. Sure, sometimes there is catcalling, but nowhere near the amount of catcalling or groping that I have experienced in some other countries, Cyprus being the worst of them, where for the five years I lived there being groped, flashed and also followed home by men were regular occurrences. One of the most common crimes in Spain is pickpocketing, and I have written an article here about how to best avoid being pickpocketed and what to do if it happens to you. There are other issues that occur in Spain such as domestic violence which is a pertinent issue that occurs behind closed doors but in general, Spain is a great country to live in.
- Food – Spain has a great culture of enjoying good food with excellent ingredients and fresh food markets forming an important part of the culture. Also, with growing demand, more restaurants are springing up offering a variety of international cuisines, especially in cities like Madrid where you can experience international gourmet from Thailand, New Orleans, India, Senegal, Japan and much more. One of the things I really love is the diversity of dishes from North to South, with each region producing excellent products and flavourful offerings. You can read more about what culinary specialities Spain has to offer here.
- Culture – Spain has an incredible cultural offering, especially in the cities, where you can enjoy street music, performances, dance, theatre, film and so much more. I remember in my first years in Madrid being overwhelmed by all the things you could do every night of the week! There are also many cheap and free cultural activities, even if you’re short on cash. You can find more free activities here and cheap activities here.
- Social Life – One of the things that struck me most about living in Spain was how important the role of friends and family are in Spain. Spanish people enjoy socialising, especially outdoors. It is typical to see Spanish people enjoying afterwork drinks or going out on Thursday night (“Juernes” a cross between Jueves and Viernes) and eating out in restaurants. Sundays are usually reserved for long family lunches with “sobremesa” which means to sit and talk for hours after the meal is long over, something that I still find charming. Spanish people get great enjoyment from being with others and from being with family. In fact, as I wrote in my article about the Mediterranean Diet one of the reasons for the longevity of Spanish people is their close family and social ties which result in greater happiness and longer lives.
- Weather – Of course, weather is a great factor, especially in the South of Spain where many foreigners flock there in the winter months for some winter sunshine. In Madrid, a poet once said that they have “nueve meses de invierno y tres de infierno” (“nine months of winter and three of hell”). This reflects how surprisingly cold Madrid can get in the winter, but even on most winter days the sun is shining and the sky is a crisp blue that definitely beats the long grey days and twilight mornings and evenings that I experienced in the UK. Having great weather means more opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities, be it drinking in terraces or running and doing other sporting activities.
- Quality of Life – Though salaries can be quite poor in relation to the cost of living, you can read more about the culture of work in my article here, Spain offers a great ratio of quality of life vs cost of living. You will be sure to see people enjoying beers on terraces or eating out quite regularly for menu del dias despite having gone through a bitter crisis. People enjoy going out and socialising and especially in the summer months you will see bars, terraces and restaurants full at all times. Despite economic struggles Spanish people enjoy life a lot and enjoying a good life does not come at an impossible price.
- The Language – Spanish language is the third most spoken language in the world with an estimated total number of between 470 and 500 million Spanish speakers. What better excuse to learn a language than to come and enjoy all the benefits of Spain. Spanish people are incredibly understanding and appreciate the effort from foreigners to learn their language and are more than happy to guide you through the difficult process. One of the best ways to learn is to attend intercambios, where you speak for one hour in English and one hour in Spanish in a mutually beneficial exchange as well as attending classes in academies, reading the free newspapers such as 20 minutos and listening to podcasts. Learning the language will open a gateway to greater understanding of the people and the culture and help you feel more integrated into society.
- Nature – Spain is home to amazing landscapes and breathtaking scenery, no wonder it is one of the film locations chosen for a lot of Game of Thrones scenes. You have stunning cliffs and beaches in the North of Spain, snow-capped mountains, deserts near Almeria and Murcia and incredible coastlines all along the Mediterranean. It is a country with a rich offering of outdoor and adventure activities, from rock climbing to sea-kayaking and if you get the opportunity don’t just travel to Madrid or Barcelona, get out and explore! The AVE high-speed trains can take you to most places within a matter of hours and Spain has plenty to offer.
- Relaxed attitude to problems – Some may say it’s too relaxed, but people tend not to get as stressed about arriving to meetings late or issues that crop up at work. Some people say that the fact that Spanish people let off steam when they are angry and then get over it quickly is an advantage, whereas in some other countries people pent up their frustrations to breaking point. I remember when I lived in Thailand that people would smile and swallow their anger and frustrations until it would often manifest in a violent outburst. For me, the lack of control of emotional outbursts is not something that I would praise but its an aspect that many feel helps people offload daily stress. Mañana, mañana is a common refrain and it helps to adapt a more relaxed attitude to avoid unnecessary frustration.
What about you? What other benefits can you think of? Please leave a comment, I would love to hear your thoughts.