Skip to Content

Expat life in Spain – My Survival Guide & Everyday Tips

Expat life in Spain – My Survival Guide & Everyday Tips

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

Ecija Seville

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.

Tel Aviv Airport Jerusalem

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.

Organic Strawberries from Huelva Spain

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.

Paseo de Gracia Barcelona luxury

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.


Watch TV

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

Scone at Bettys Tea Room York England

English Food

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.

Cicerone Guidebook Walking Sierra Nevada Richard Hartley

English Books

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.

Walking the City Walls Chester

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.

british expat life in spain

Birthday cards

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.

Murcia Sardina 2017

Online Community

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.

 EXPAT LIFE IN SPAIN By piccavey.Save for later…

Pin this Infographic on Pinterest…Expat life in Spain – My Survival Guide & Everyday Tips

Please Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. All thoughts, feelings and opinions shared on this blog and in this post are my own
  1. Bill Dennehy says:

    Hi, what about someone who is happy in California but would like to spend say 6 months a year in Spain? I’ve visited enough not to have any delusions about Europe in general. Thanks, Bill (French and Spanish spoken)

    • Molly says:

      I´m sure you would enjoy being in Spain for 6 months of the year. It would give you a base to explore other European destinations too.

  2. Marianne Mitchell says:

    We are two Americans in their 70s looking to move to Granada in the near future. I am fluent in Spanish so that’s not a problem. But I am wondering about setting up a home there (rented apartment). Did you leave all your stuff back home? Is it possible to re-equip an apartment cheaply over there? Are there any resale shops or flea markets in Granada? What was your biggest expense in moving to Spain? Whew! So many questions! Thanks for your help!

    • Molly says:

      Hi Marianne,

      I would travel light if you can
      Re equipping a rented apartment over here can be inexpensive.
      As Granada is a student town, they are coming and going all the time

      There are several flea markets style shops along the road Camino de Ronda, at 110 and on that block a few others
      We call them Encantes or Rastro.
      There are also a few charity shops such as REMAR or Humana in town.

      Usually on a monthly basis, biggest expense is electricity bill (ai con-heating)
      Hope this helps

  3. […] via Expat Life in Spain – My Survival Guide & Everyday Tips […]

  4. Barry O Leary says:

    Great tips. I love the one about birthday cards. I was considering setting up a birthday card shop in Seville a few years back, but then remembered that the Spanish don’t tend to send cards.

    I’d also add that using Skype can help you keep in touch with people back home. Plus try and get integrated into the society as much as possible. I found getting married to a Spanish woman and having children the best option.



    • Molly says:

      Yes, I tend to buy birthday cards when I go back to the UK as here they are so hard to find

      Have a great weekend

  5. Lara Dunning says:

    These all sound like great tips for expat life in Spain. Funny that the majority of greeting cards have Garfield or Minnie Mouse. I might actually like carrot cake more with lime icing as I love lime. I will have to give that a try!

  6. Francesca says:

    As much as I think I’d like to live in a different country, I imagine it’s just as difficult to become acclimated, even after several years. I did have a good laugh over your comments about greeting cards. People still like Garfield?? 😉

  7. Carol Colborn says:

    Those are some useful tips…like the greeting cards supply in Spain that does not suit your needs! But I am envious you are able to live in Spain for 20 years!

    • Martin says:

      Great blog but I always hate the expression ex-pat when really we are immigrants.

    • Molly says:

      Yes the greetings cards drove me crazy when I first got here
      Living in Spain is fabulous I cant play it down
      Also being so well connected to other European destinations is a good bonus too

  8. Jean says:

    Great tips and tricks. As someone who is based back in their home country I forget how hard it can be being an expat.

  9. Laura says:

    Hi, I find that greetings cards are hard to find here in Spain too. But whenever I give one to my mother in law or husband (they are both from Argentina) they are really touched and fascinated by them, so I think they could be popular with locals too. I recently wrote a blog on my site about finding UK foods in Barcelona as I was always getting asked by people where to buy marmite and the like, it’s the little things I suppose! Great blog post!

  10. Peter Cleife says:

    Why is Spain predicted as sunny streets, it is a very cold country in winter. Lets see some seasonal truthful pics, snow, ice, floods, etc. UK has the Gulf Stream to keep it warm, Spain does not.

    • Kitat says:

      The climate of the Iberian Peninsula is greatly influenced by the fact that the waters of the surrounding seas are noticeably hotter than it would be due to their latitude.
      There are three different climate zones in Spain. Mediterranean climate with dry, warm summers and moderate, wet winters .
      Forest climate, with wet winters, dry summers.
      Climate, which is similar to the Mediterranean climate, but with moist conditions all year round.

    • It’s warm in Madrid, colder in Barcelona. You don’t know this because you are not Spanish.

    • Molly says:


      The photos on this post are of all seasons, I actually live in Andalusia permanently and take photos from January to December.
      The first photo on this post is April in Alcudia
      The second photo is a DECEMBER day in Ecija
      The last photo of the Sardine festival in Murcia is also in April.

      Three totally different parts of Spain and none of them taken in Summertime (or on the beach)

      Regarding floods…. we have had a severe drought for the last few years in Andalusia
      So I havent experienced that myself.

      Kind regards

  11. Ellie says:

    Brilliant article, thanks for sharing with us

  12. robin says:

    Yes, greeting cards is a funny one, isn’t it. I don’t tend to miss things – whenever I go to Ireland or England there are things I really enjoy (beer, pork pies) but I don’t crave them here. Out of sight, out of mind, and Spain has so much to offer 🙂

  13. Lucky you! It is loads harder to find products as an American, and they definitely come at a premium. The only bar that put on American football has even closed down…with the Super Bowl tonight!

  14. Cassandra says:

    I live in Madrid and also agree that it’s difficult to find stationary or greeting cards! I often buy Happy Birthday or blank cards from the Danish store Tiger, although I imagine you might not have that option in Granada. I also cut up scrapbook paper (ironically, that I also bring from home…) to make cards.

Comments are closed.