The Pros and Cons of Expat Life in Spain

Spain is a very popular destination for expats in Europe. The country has a lot to offer, with sunny weather, spectacular landscapes, and a laidback lifestyle. But like any country, Spain also has its downsides. It’s important for anyone thinking of moving to Spain to weigh up both sides before committing to moving.

Pros of Expat Life in Spain

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Spain is generally quite low, especially when compared to other European countries. Even in major cities, public transport and eating out can be quite cheap. The only exception to the low cost of living in Spain is for property in city centers, but even then expats can find that rent and property prices in Spanish cities will be cheaper than other European cities.


The weather across most of Spain will be warm all year round. Temperatures will still fall in the winter month, and northern Spain will see colder temperatures than southern Spain. However, the weather will generally be mild, and some parts of the country get around 3,000 hours of sunshine every year.


Spain has over 3,000 miles of coastline, which means many beautiful beaches to enjoy the gorgeous sunny weather. Many of these beaches are conveniently located near major cities although, predictably, some can get very busy during the summer months when they’re visited by locals and tourists.

Easy to Buy Property

It’s fairly straightforward for expats to purchase property in Spain. Nearly 80% of people in Spain own their own homes, which makes owning property in Spain a reality that might not be achievable in some other countries. Foreign investment in Spanish property has even been encouraged by the Government, with a special Visa available for expats who buy a property worth more than £500,000.

Good Healthcare

Spain is thought to have one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Spanish citizens and expats who are working in Spain or over retirement age are entitled to use the Spanish National Health System, which covers most basic and preventative care free of charge. However, many expats still choose to get private Spain health insurance to ensure short wait times for treatments.

Laidback Lifestyle

Spain is famous for its laidback lifestyle and ‘mañana’ philosophy – if something isn’t finished today, there’s always tomorrow. There is a general stress-free attitude amongst the locals and people also tend to put quality time with their loved ones as a high priority. Meal times can extend for two or three hours and most places in Spain will have a vibrant nightlife, even on weeknights.

Cons of Expat Life in Spain

High Unemployment Rates

Spain has one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe, which means the job market is very competitive. Expats could struggle to find a job in Spain and will find they’re competing for jobs with Spanish citizens who are educated to a high level. Spanish wages are also generally quite low, especially when compared with other European countries.


Bureaucratic processes can be quite drawn out in Spain, probably due to their laidback lifestyle. For expats looking to live and work in Spain, there will be numerous forms to fill out and various offices to register with. You should be prepared to wait in long queues and also o wait days or sometimes even weeks for simple processes to be completed.

Annual August Shut Down

In August, most people in Spain will go on holiday. This means that lots of businesses essentially shut down for the month, and people will have to wait a month to get things done. On the other hand, expats living in coastal towns or popular tourist areas will find that life gets much busier, with crowds of tourists, traffic, and other disruptions.

Potentially Disruptive Schedule

Whilst not as popular as it once was, many areas in Spain still implement the siesta into their working day. This means that people will work from around 9am to 2pm, have a break for a siesta for a few hours, and then finish the working day in the evening. Not only does the daily siesta result in longer working hours but it also means that lots of restaurants and shops shut for a few hours in the middle afternoon, which can be a hassle if you’re trying to find food or complete an errand.

Spaniards also typically hold a different meal schedule to what expats are used to. Locals will usually begin the day with a small breakfast and then have a more substantial meal mid-morning. Lunch will be the biggest meal of the day, with a light snack in the afternoon and a late supper. Expats may take some time adjusting to this routine if they’re used to eating three meals a day, with a large dinner in the early evening.

Language Barrier

Spanish is the official language of Spain, but there are many different local dialects, such as Catalan and Basque. Even if you’re fluent in Spanish, you could find that you face a language barrier with the varied regional dialects.

Also, English is not widely spoken in Spain. Expats that can’t speak Spanish may find that they need to have a translator with them for things like sorting bureaucratic processes and for healthcare.


If you’re moving to Spain, Expatriate Group can provide comprehensive healthcare cover. We’re experts in providing health insurance in Spain for expats – our international healthcare policy includes instant healthcare cover, 24-hour support and no out-of-pocket hospital expenses. Get a quote for your expat health insurance in Spain or contact us for more information.

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