Expat life in Spain can be an adventure and a new start. After the initial settling in period, the novelty of life abroad may wane. When the daily routine sets in, things may seen more challenging.
From Spain Visa & Residency challenges to learning to speak the local language. Here are some of my tips after living abroad for 20 years
Hopefully some of them make you feel at home in your new location.
Even though I have adjusted well to life in Spain, I still like to enjoy a few home comforts every now and then.
Everyday Expat life
Podcasts & Radio
Listening to radio programmes on podcasts is a good way to keep up with things back home. I listen to different shows on the BBC and other channels. It´s simple to download them onto your smartphone, tablet or computer for free.
Some are even daily shows. Two of my favourites are Popmaster (Radio 2) & Scott Mills Daily on BBC Radio 1. As I do housework or travel I listen to hours of UK radio each week.
Studying in Spain
If you want to learn Spanish its the best place to do it. Being immersed in the culture makes a better way to learn. You can also Study in Barcelona different business qualifications in English language too.
If you have the motivation and time for it, studying while you are in Spain can lead to new opportunities. Being abroad also gives you another perspective on things too.
Expat Travel Insurance
Another challenge was getting travel insurance for long term travel, a gap year or even a digital nomad can be tricky. Especially as travel can be intermittent. Also your home address maybe somewhere that you dont actually visit for very long periods of time. For me Safety Wing was the best option. There are also specific Expat Policies worth looking into.
This insurance company are used to working with blogger and non location specific travellers.
Healthcare in Spain
Spain’s healthcare is among the best in the world, offering both public and private systems. I have access to both. However, if you are visiting Spain on holiday and develop a health issue or have a medical emergency and you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued by an EU member country, then you will have access to state doctors at a reduced fee.
Spain’s healthcare is among the best in the world, offering both public and private systems. If you are visiting Spain on holiday and develop a health issue like an inner ear infection that requires immediate treatment before you can return home or have a medical emergency and you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued by an EU member country, then you will have access to state doctors at a reduced fee.
If you have medical health insurance or are willing to pay upfront, you will be able to see a private doctor. Once you are a permanent resident, you can register for public healthcare and get primary care at your local health center or private doctor. Medico de Cabecera is the Spanish for GP.
Keep in touch with Parcels
Another way to keep contact with friends and family in the UK is by sending a parcel to Spain. Whether it be a birthday gift or just some letters and a few of your favourite things. It certainly cheers you up to receive things from home.
Expat life doesn´t have to be isolated. You just need to find ways to keep in touch with family back home. Sometimes for birthday or Christmas gifts I arrange subscription boxes so that they happen monthly and its a nice reminder that I am in touch when each delivery arrives.
I have never got used to watching Spanish Television even though I understand Spanish perfectly. To watch UK television in Spain you may have satellite service or a TV Box. I don´t have that I use a VPN service and watch online. I use it on my Smartphone or laptop to keep up with my favourite programmes.
British Bake Off
There is nothing like baking a batch of scones or a sponge cake. I have my BE-RO cookbook that we have passed down in my family. Every month or so I bake something from it. You can purchase Self Raising Flour in many places in Spain. If you go to large supermarkets such as Hipercor or Carrefour you can buy British brands of SR Flour. Mercadona also sell S.R Flour, called Harina de Trigo con Levadura.
You may also use plain flour and Royal baking powder which can be found easily in Spain to substitute SR Flour in a recipe. Cornflour maybe required in some recipes. In Spain this is called Maizena.
My latest favourite bake is Carrot Cake with Lime Icing
As the food in Spain is so fabulous I don´t miss UK supermarkets that much. If you do there are a few ways to get British Food in Spain. In busy expat communities like Costa del Sol, Alicante and the Islands you will find Iceland shops and English supermarkets. Some large chains stocks UK brands. Weetabix, British jams, teas and other items are easy to find. It is also worth checking the supermarket at El Corte Ingles and their Club del Gourmet for British items.
When I travel to UK I occasionally bring back things that have a long use by date or that are light in weight such as soup sachets or drinks sachets. I always manage to find some amazing English tea to bring back. You can also find suppliers online that deliver to Spain.
With Kindle and online books available there now many alternatives for international readers. They are also lighter to carry too.
If you want to buy paper books then you will find bookshops in coastal areas. International book shops and second hand bookshops are in most expat areas. In Almuñecar, 1818 books and in Nerja there is an International bookshop too.
Online there are some interesting specialist bookstores such like Cicerone Press with guidebooks in English about Spanish hiking and biking routes.
Holidays in UK
Each time I travel to the UK, I fit in time to do some tourism. I actually know Spain better than UK now. So I like to learn things about Britain when I´m there. Some of my trips have been to Leeds, York, Bath and London. I also enjoyed a winter break in Chester
Its quite a contrast from Expat life in Spain when I return to the UK but I always have a great time catching up with friends and family.
In Spain (and most other countries) it is almost impossible to purchase Greetings cards that are appropriate. Most of them seem to feature Garfield or Minnie Mouse ; ) My tip is to buy all the years greetings cards when you travel to UK. Spend an hour in the card shop and choose all the birthday cards and anniversary cards that you need for the year ahead. I also buy a couple of blank cards or generic congratulations or Thank You cards too.
This way it makes it a lot easier to send when the date comes around. Even in the age of Social Networks nothing beats a hand written card arriving with the postie.
You can also purchase greetings cards online, the only downside is that it is not so easy to handwrite the message. For online cards I have been using Moonpig for a few years now.
There is heaps of advice on line on blogs like this one. On Social Networks such as Facebook and Twitter there are groups and hashtags worth following. You can find a huge support network in your new locations. Look for groups in the area where you live or are planning to live in.
There´s sure to be someone not too far away with interesting information to share.
Not all these tips may seem useful for a new life in Spain.
Some of them certainly have helped me ´Keep calm and carry on´
I´m based in Granada now, I have previously lived in Barcelona, most of these tips are relevant for Spain although some may help people in other countries too.
Do share these expat life tips with others if you find it handy.
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