The story of modern Spain begins in the Middle Ages as the Habsburgs unified several predecessor kingdoms. The modern form of its constitutional monarchy began in 1813, while the democratic constitution has been in place since 1979. After completing the Reconquista, the Crown used the resources of the country to start exploring the New World. This period would begin the Golden Age for the country.
There were some difficult times for Spain that lasted until the 1970s after a civil war broke out between the Nationalist and Republican factions during the trend of authoritarianism in Europe that started in the 1930s. A dictatorship led by Francisco Franco stayed in place until 1975, but the 60s and 70s were a time of rapid expansion for the country. They would eventually enter the eurozone in 1999.
Although the country was once an empire that stretched around the world, modern Spain tends to keep to itself. There are some challenges in the economy that they face, nods to the independent spirit that many of its regions still want, and a thriving spirit that loves to have a good time.
If you are thinking about living in Spain, then these are the pros and cons you will want to consider.
List of the Pros of Living in Spain
1. The food in Spain is seasonal and fresh at the local market.
You will quickly discover that Spain takes a different approach to food than the rest of Europe or North America. Almost all of the dishes are based on local, seasonal produce that has a distinctive flavor thanks to the country’s location on the Iberian Peninsula. Spanish cheeses are specifically designed to work with the products, and everything is reasonably priced since there is an emphasis on working with local formers. From freshly baked bread to seafood that was taken off of the boat that morning, the cuisine here promotes a healthy lifestyle.
2. Housing in Spain can be very reasonable if you choose the right places to live.
If you are moving to Spain from somewhere else in Europe, then you will enjoy the fact that there isn’t a council tax added to your rental costs. You can find most homes and flats are about 200 euro cheaper than in comparable locations in France, Germany, or the UK. That means you can live in the downtown area, walk to work if you want, and have the chance to save a lot of money over time.
3. There are extensive public transportation systems to use in Spain.
Most of the cities in Spain offer access to an extensive public transportation network. This system includes taxis, metros, and buses that are all priced reasonably. The country has a rather efficient high-speed train network that you can use as well. Most single fares for a bus in the city are a euro or two. Monthly travel passes can reduce this cost significantly. If you are over the age of 60, then you can receive a tarjeta dorada for six euros, giving you discounts of up to 40% on your fares based on the type of transport and the time of day.
4. You can embrace the tapas culture when living in Spain.
The cost of eating out in Spain can get to your quickly, with it not being unusual to pay 40 euros or more for a meal in an upmarket area. Even if you find a traditional sit-down place somewhere in Madrid or Barcelona, you’re going to pay 15 euros per person. Even McDonald’s charges 8 euros for a value meal. That’s why getting to know the tapas culture here can be a tremendous advantage.
It is a custom in some of the Spanish regions to offer low-priced or free small plats of food when you order a drink at an establishment. If you can find out which places are offering this approach, then you can eat while drinking for very little.
5. The weather in Spain is typically excellent throughout the year.
If you love sunshine and long summers, then Spain is the place to be. Although it can get hot during the months of July and August to the tune of 40°C, there are plenty of beaches that can help you to cool down. The coastal climate brings in a breeze that makes the air temperature feel manageable as well. If you live in the heart of the country, then the heat might feel a little oppressive. You’ll hear a lot of complaints about how it can be hot here, but there are several strategies available that can help you to manage this issue. You can even head into the mountains if you wish.
6. The people of Spain know how to throw a great party.
If you love having a great time, then you are going to love Spain. The long, hot nights are the perfect time to get outside and dance. It’s an excellent way for you to meet some new people and start making some great friends. If you are thinking about living here because you have a chance to go to school, then this advantage is something that you’re going to adore. It is not unusual for the final meal to be late in the evening here too, which means a lot of the action happens after sunset when the weather starts to cool.
7. There are parks and gardens everywhere in Spain.
The hot weather and higher levels of moisture make it very easy for tropical gardens to grown in Spain. It is not unusual for a home’s backyard to have palm trees, jasmine bushes, and even bananas growing. Most of the cities have exotic botanical gardens to visit as well. Some of them even offer free entry so that you can smell the flowers or rest in the shade. If you start living here, then make the trip to Alcazar in Seville to have a fantastic experience. When you combine the greenery with the ancient structures all around you, the vistas provide a level of beauty that is rare in the modern world.
8. The cost of living in Spain is still reasonable compared to other countries.
Mercer ranks the standard of living that you’ll find in Barcelona as being equal to London. If you decide to start living in Spain, then you’ll discover that it is 41% cheaper to live there when compared to the UK. It’s also 44% cheaper than New York City, 35% cheaper than Los Angeles, and even 8% cheaper than Brussels. Seville and Valencia provide some excellent deals with this advantage as well. If you don’t mind living in a busy urban area, then there are going to be some opportunities for you to start saving some money here.
9. Most communities in Spain are animal-friendly.
If you have a dog or cat and are thinking about living in Spain, then you should strongly consider the move. There are numerous restaurants, bars, and community places that will encourage you to bring your pet. Most people have at least one dog, with the bigger ones considered to be the better canines. You’ll see a lot of Great Danes and Rottweilers out for a walk when you start exploring your new neighborhood. There’s the occasional kitty on a leash taking a walk in the yard too.
10. There is ready access to healthcare options in Spain.
Once you register as a resident after moving to Spain, then you will gain access to the free medical care that is part of the governing system. A lot of pensioners from Europe tend to retire here because of how easy the access happens to be. That doesn’t mean that every procedure is free – there are some costs and taxes that you will need to pay depending on your situation. What you won’t need to worry about is being rejected by a doctor because your lifestyle violates their religious beliefs or the office you choose decides to drop your insurance provider because they can charge more through someone else.
11. Spain is like 17 different countries rolled into one experience.
When there are that many autonomous regions in Spain, there are going to be some cultural conflicts that occur. You are also going to get to enjoy several different approaches to life when you start living here. Madrid offers you a cosmopolitan, urban vibe if you choose that city to be home. Barcelona features an independent spirit and interesting architecture. Even Andalucia, you’ll see an emphasis on music continuing to grow. Seeing what each region has to offer after your move will give you plenty of weekend trips to enjoy.
12. The people in Spain are generally friendly and open.
You can expect to have a lot of conversations with your daily interactions when living in Spain. Everyone is up for a chat, whether that person happens to be your neighbor or the cashier at the grocery store. If someone doesn’t know you, then they are willing to ask a lot of questions to start seeing if they can get to know you. Then there’s a smile and some kind words that can leave you feeling like there’s a genuine desire to include you in the neighborhood instead of offering a superficial type of relationship
List of the Cons of Living in Spain
1. Fewer exports mean less ethnic culinary options in Spain.
Some people feel that the culinary experience in Spain gets boring after some time because there is a lack of exports available at the local stores. That means it is a challenge to find your favorite international products, including seasonings and herbs, to create something that works with your personal preferences. Because the items are seasonal, you might also need to wait an entire year before you can have some of the meals you love once again.
If you do locate a store that imports items, expect to pay heavily for the products. Items like olive oil, oranges, and anything Asian are unreasonable expensive. Expect to pay about 50% more for the food you want in total.
2. Utility costs in Spain are higher than the European average.
You’re going to save some money in rent, but the downside of that advantage is that your utility costs are going to be significantly higher. Water can be a scarce resource in Spain despite its location between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Expect to pay about 80 euros per month in the summer for your electrical needs, and then about 30% more during the winter months. Most stoves and water heating systems use natural gas, which adds another 40 euros, and then double that for your water access.
3. Public transportation costs can vary widely based on the city where you live.
If you prefer to take a taxi when living in Spain, then the cost of your fares can vary dramatically based on where you live. The costs are sometimes highly variable too. It is not unusual for this service to cost more in the smaller communities than in places like Barcelona, Seville, or Valencia. You will want to take advantage of the fare calculators that are sometimes offered with these services so that you can budget what your transportation expenses are going to be with your new home.
4. Some definitions of a “party” are laughable.
If you are not a party person, then the idea of listening to loud music until 1 am is probably not your idea of a great time. You’ll find that most get-togethers are more of the casual type, which means people are visiting with each other until deep in the night. If you live in a busy neighborhood, then those conversations can last until almost sunset, and it always seems like people are talking as loudly as they can. You’ll want to invest in a good set of noise-canceling headphones and some brown or violet noise you can play through them if you want to get some sleep with this disadvantage.
5. It can be extremely expensive to buy a home in Spain.
Although your rental costs might be cheaper in Spain, buying property is an entirely different story. The average price per square meter in Barcelona can be as high as 6,000 euros, which means you’re paying 300,000 euros for a 50 square-meter apartment. The cost in Madrid is equally high. If you want to purchase a family home in an exclusive area of one of these cities, then it might cost over 700,000 euros to complete the transaction. Living near the coast is going to raise those prices even more.
You can find some good deals if you live in Navarre, Aragon, or Estremadura. If you’re thinking about the Balearic Islands, then you’re going to need to be a millionaire to even think about moving there.
6. Pets are often left to their own devices in Spain.
Most people in Spain tend to let their pets do their own thing instead of training them to conform to specific behaviors. Dogs tend to bark freely in most cities, day or night, and you can go days before you hear someone tell them to knock it off. People like to keep chickens as well, even in the suburban areas of the cities, which means you’ll hear their sounds as well. Cleaning up after the animals is a rarity too, but at least most folks walk their dogs in the street instead of leaving the mess in your yard.
7. Many of the festivals in Spain feature animal cruelty.
Although there are plenty of ways to embrace the culture of Spain with its 17 autonomous regions, it is remarkable to see how many of the local festivals feature animal cruelty as one of the main attractions. There are almost 2,000 festivals that feature bulls in the country, leading to the injury or death of over 11,000 animals. You can even put yourself in danger thanks to events like the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona.
8. Conversations don’t turn into needed services at times.
People love to talk in Spain. If you’re checking out at the grocery store, then it is not unusual for the process to stop so the cashier can tell one of their co-workers the latest gossip that they know. If there isn’t anyone else around, then you’ll be the recipient of that news. When you walk into almost any shop, it is going to take several minutes before someone will come out to help you. There is a lot of time wasted standing in lines, which means you’ll need to start planning your days accordingly if there are errands to run.
9. Those cockroaches can be a nasty surprise if you’re not ready for them.
The cockroaches in Spain are often one of the most significant disadvantages that people mention when creating lists about the country. Many of the homes in the country have hollow walls, which makes it the perfect place for a pest to hang out. If you knock on the walls, then you can hear the insects start running. It is so common to see them in a neighborhood that they will be out on the street when walking. Most of the locals are used to their presence and pay them no mind, but there are some emergency pest control service providers available to manage any problems you might have.
10. The Spanish government is mired in bureaucracy.
If you start living in Spain and want to have an Internet connection at your home, then you’ll need a local bank account. You might need to have a local reference that will help you to put some money into that bank. It can take months for a debit card to arrive in the mail. If you forget your password, restoring it over the phone isn’t a possibility – which means spending 30-60 minutes in line at a local branch to reset your electronic account. Every level of government operates in this fashion, so get prepared for everything to take a lot longer to complete than what you’re probably used to experiencing.
Verdict on the Pros and Cons of Living in Spain
There are many pros and cons of living in Spain to consider before you make the move. Much of your experience will come down to your household situation, the needs you have, and your personality. If you want to live the coastal life or have a couple of big dogs and fewer worries, then this is the place to be. That perspective in life might not be the same for everyone.
If you can find a job in Spain and support yourself with a reasonable income, then the cost of living here is very manageable. With a 14.7% unemployment rate during the first quarter of 2019, you’ll want to secure that employment first unless you’re moving as a pensioner. It should be noted that this rate was a 10-year low for the country. In 2014, the unemployment rate was above 25%.
Spain gives you plenty of access to beaches, culture, and adventure. If you can put up with some of the eccentricities found here, then it could be a pretty amazing experience.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.