Spain may be paradise for many. As a country know for amazing gastronomy, perfect weather all year round and a vibrant atmosphere, there is no doubt many foreigners wish to visit (and even start living in the country). But this does not mean there aren’t plenty of doubts you would like to solve before going there.
What is the culture like? What are the usual schedules for eating out or even shopping? How do people interact with each other? What is acceptable or not?
These are just some of the questions we ask when moving or visiting a new country. But don’t you fret, we’re here to give you some answers.
In this article, you will find all you need to know as a foreigner who plans to visit Spain. We’ll give you some basic terms, explain the concept of Spanish time, and, even, talk about finding love here. Everything you should know here. Let’s get to it!
Top 7 Things to Know When Going to Spain
While there is much we could have covered, next we have gathered 7 of the most important things you must consider when visiting the Spanish territory. Even though this can work as a reliable source of information, remember that the most important learnings will come from your own experience.
So get informed and inspired, but then do not forget to take the plunge, travel to Spain and discover by yourself all the different wonders the country has to offer!
Let’s explore those 7 things to consider.
Useful Spanish Phrases and Practices
While in Spain, one of the first phrases that might catch your attention is, “No pasa nada.” No pasa nada literally means “nothing happens,” but it is used to say that everything is okay or that there is nothing to stress over. For example, you spill a glass of water at a restaurant, someone would probably reassure you by using this phrase.
For the beer enthusiasts, “Una caña” is used to asked for a glass of beer (less than a pint). When Spanish people cheers, they say, “Salud,” which literally means health.
Another term you might come across is “La sobremesa.” Spanish people enjoy good conversation and good company. So it is common to remain at the table after meals to continue talking and spending time together. No rush.
Next word is “Beso(s),” which means kiss(es). When greeting someone in Spain it is normal to give two kisses, one on each cheek. In more formal settings, a handshake is perfectly fine, too.
Finally, you will also hear the word “Vale” often. This is used to say okay or fine.
Daily Life in Spain (time perception and schedules)
You might have heard that time in Spain is more relaxed or less structured. This is not to say that people do not respect time, but arriving 30 minutes late to something isn’t viewed as a huge crime.
Moreover, the day generally starts later in Spain. Morning (mañana) is usually until 2pm, afternoon (tarde) is until 8pm, and evening (noche) is 8pm onwards. That being said, lunch happens at 2-3:30pm, and dinner is at 9-9:30pm.
Therefore, the most common booking times at a restaurant are at 2pm or 3pm for lunch; and 9pm or 10pm for dinner.
And what about shopping?
Some shops and establishments close from 2pm to 5pm, but this is more likely in smaller towns as opposed to big cities. This is called siesta (nap) hour. However, most people don’t actually sleep unless they are the elderly or toddlers.
Siesta hour coincides with lunchtime, so it is more likely that people are eating and resting at this time. The city or town usually slows down and is more quiet.
Unlike in other European capitals, shops and supermarkets close a bit later. It is completely normal to see shops open until 9pm, so relaxed and long shopping sessions are more than the norm.
On Sundays you will find that many shops, and even groceries, are closed.
Of course, that may change from city to city, specially if we are talking about the capital, Madrid, where everything is completely open on a Sunday and closing times are even later.
In terms of nightlife, people usually pre-game in a bar or house until midnight, as clubs usually start opening at 1am. Sometimes people even stay out until the metro reopens at 6am.
Bureaucracy in Spain
Dealing with Spanish bureaucracy can be… painful. In line with the more relaxed concept of time, it is true that bureaucracy in Spain moves slower.
Some legal processes can take a couple of months to be resolved.
That’s why it is important to always plan ahead and start or submit things early (as much as you can).
As a foreigner, you will be facing the Spanish bureaucracy specially during the beginning of your journey, when obtaining a residency permit (which for many can become a real and long adventure).
The good news is, with the implementation of the Entrepreneur’s Law, some permits can now be processed online. This, thankfully, results in a faster resolution. In this article, you can read all about the Entrepreneur’s Law and the permits under it.
An important thing to note, especially when paying for permit fees or the like (which you will need), is that Spanish banks are only open until 2pm, and are fully closed on weekends.
Monthly Rentals in Spain
When renting an apartment or room in Spain, the landowner will usually ask for a fianza (security deposit) on top of the monthly rent amount for the first month. This fianza should be returned to you at the end of your contract.
Moreover, rental contracts in Spain usually state either: sin gastos (without utilities) or gastos incluidos (with utilities). If the agreement is that utilities are included in the rent, you will pay a fixed amount each month. If utilities aren’t included, you will pay depending on the monthly utility bill in addition to the rent.
In that sense, when finding an apartment, as a foreigner you must make sure to always chose your preferred option just after you have visited by yourself the place and checked everything is ok. Then, you may be asked to pay 1 to 2 months in advanced, plus the (possible) agency fee in case you have relied on a real estate agency.
Some places that you can find solo or shared flats are Idealista or Fotocasa. If you would like more tips like this or even information about rental prices and legal clauses in rental contracts, we’ve got you covered here.
Upon arrival in Spain, remember that you must immediately process your empadronamiento (an official registry of your address), as this is necessary to apply for your residence permit and for many other legal procedures you MUST complete. Read how to do this here.
Working in Spain
The next thing to consider when going to Spain has to do with the activity we spend (at least) 8 hours per day doing: working:
In that sense, Spain puts a priority on work-life balance, so once you are off work, it is time to disconnect.
When working in Spain, you will hear the word puente, this generally refers to a long weekend, but literally translates to “bridge.” Sometimes, if there is a holiday on a Tuesday, for example, they will bridge Sunday and Tuesday by making Monday a no-work holiday too, thus creating a longer break.
The typical work day in Spain is usually from 9am-6pm. Lunch break is at 1pm or 2pm. So coming from a country where lunch is taken earlier, this might be a slight adjustment.
The good news is that some employers in Spain allow for shorter work days on Fridays, or give options to end earlier.
Spain’s current minimum wage is 1080 euros; even though the average salary is 25.200€ per year.
Many startups are being born in the country (especially in cities like Madrid or Barcelona, ideal to develop your own innovative projects). This is attracting more and more foreign talent, which make it easier for you to find employment in the country and be surrounded by likeminded individuals.
If you need more ideas, here you can access a complete guide on how to find a job in Spain.
But what happens with the (boring) legal part? If you would like to know more how to obtain a work permit (as you have several options available) and how feasible it is as an expat, this article has all the information you need.
Love and rights in Spain
They say that if you are open to love, it will come to you! Who knows, maybe it will be your time in Spain.
If you do fall in love, and your partner is from the European Union, great news: you can opt for pareja de hecho, which is a civil partnership. This will grant you Spanish residency for five years, and will also allow you to work. If you are in this situation, you can find all the information you need to know about pareja de hecho here.
If would like to go beyond a civil partnership and get married, don’t worry, this not uncommon in Spain neither. The process is simple and you can read about mixed marriages here.
Spain is also one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly nations in Europe. Same-sex marriage is legal and 89% of the population accepts homosexuality.
Moreover, according to the Gender Equality Index, Spain scored 74.6 points out of 100, which is 6 points above the EU’s average score. This gives a Spain a rank of 6th in the European Union.
The Different Regions in Spain
The things we’ve talked about so far in this article are general to Spain.
However, naturally, each area in the country has its own characteristics and traditions. Some regions in Spain even have their own language. Galicia has Gallego, Catalonia has Catalan, and Basque Country has Euskara.
So even though Spaniards do speak Spanish in all regions, you will see it is quite common to listen (and read) alternative languages depending on where you are visiting in Spain.
Moreover each place has its pros and cons in terms of cost of living, weather, and communities. For example, if you are interested in putting up your own business, Barcelona City is a great option as it has already has a thriving start-up ecosystem, and many co-working spaces.
Or, if you happen to be more of a rain person, the North of Spain (Galicia, Basque Country, etc.) would be perfect for you because of its Atlantic climate and rainier weather.
Then if you would like to live in a capital city close to the beach with a slower lifestyle and cheaper cost of living, Valencia City is a lovely option.
Adapting to a New Country
At the end of the day, we can read as many tips for living in Spain, but nothing will teach us more than immersing ourselves in the culture. Build relationships with locals, stay open-minded, don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn.
Of course, homesickness can always happen, so it is important to find your community and a supportive social circle. There are many communities to find on FaceBook, Instagram, or MeetUp.
Expats organize events every single week, so you won’t find it difficult to find and connect with others like you (especially given the fact that cities like Madrid or Barcelona are exponentially growing its populations when it comes to the foreign segment).
Wherever you are in the world, it really helps to have someone you can rely on. This is for personal aspects but also legal aspects, especially if you are in a new country.
So, in case you need any assistance or have doubts about legal processes in Spain, don’t forget that our lawyers have the answers and would be happy to help you out.
Book a consultation with one of our lawyers and solve all your doubts: