Moving to Spain
Moving to another country is a major decision and if Spain is your country of choice then we’d like to share some tips with you about moving to Spain. Some of them may seem obvious whilst some may not have occurred to you at all, but we hope they will prepare you for a few of the differences between your lifestyle in the UK and your future life in Spain.
Pensions and healthcare
Even if you’re not near pension age, research your UK pension rights because once you do reach that age, you are entitled to receive your UK state pension while living abroad. A UK Social Security office can advise you on the forms that need to be filled in and when you need to submit them. An EHIC form will cover you for emergency health care initially, but you will need to take out health insurance cover if you’re moving to Spain to live there for the long term. State health care is available in Spain, but you need to qualify for access to it. Here’s a handy guide from the Department of Health about accessing healthcare in Spain.
Get an NIE number
Obtaining an NIE number (Número de Identidad de Extranjero) is pretty much the first thing you should do when you are moving to Spain because you will need an NIE for practically everything you do. This is a personal identification number for foreigners – Spanish people also have them, but they are called NIF (Número de Identificación Fiscal). You can get one yourself by going to your nearest National Police office or pay a gestor to get it for you.
A gestor is somebody you will never encounter in the UK but in Spain you can hardly do anything without one. They are a cross between an accountant and a paralegal. A Gestor looks after any official documents you need, and can give you the best advice on your situation. They can set up your business, apply for residency, look after your car registrations, birth certificates and more. For a Gestor to get your documentations in order, you are likely to pay a fee starting from 50€ for a simple registration up to 900 for a business registration. Costs depend on how long the process is likely to take and if the government officials need to get paid too.
Never try to get your documents in order in the month of August – most government offices close for the entire month or work on minimal man power, making the process of getting your official documents even more frustrating. Even your gestor, lawyers and notaries are known to take this month off because there’s simply no point in trying!
Documents – be very prepared!
Spain’s bureaucracy loves documents and whilst you may think that turning up with one photocopy of each is enough, you’ll be wrong. Whatever you are applying for, bring at least three copies of the documents asked for. Bring copies of ones that aren’t even asked for because you may find that this is the one you really need. In Spain it is referred to as the Law of “Falta Uno” (meaning there’s always one missing) so be prepared for it. Practise patience and definitely take a Spanish-speaking friend with you if possible.
This is also where a Gestor comes in handy, they usually know someone at the town hall or notary so if there’s documents missing, they will be able to convince the official to take what you have. And of course, having a Gestor means you will never be left without the proper documentations as they will have gotten them for you in the first place!
The shops are closed?
It can be something of a shock to those nationalities used to shopping on the weekend to discover that they just can’t – shops close at 2pm on Saturday afternoon and reopen on Monday at 10am. The larger cities are exceptions to this rule and in Marbella shopping centres such as La Cañada and El Corte Ingles are open all day Saturday. Sunday shopping is reserved for the summer months and only at the bigger chains.
On the flip side, many shops stay open until 9 or even 10pm at night during the week, so any shopping you missed on Saturday afternoon can be made up for every night from Monday through to Friday!
A different timetable
Getting the hang of the Spanish definition of morning, afternoon and evening can be a something of a challenge.
- Mañana: Morning lasts until 2pm and the afternoon (la tarde) lasts until it is dark.
- La Tarde: There isn’t a word for evening in the way that British people understand it, so when a Spaniard says they will meet you for a drink in ‘la tarde’ they probably mean around 7.30pm – 8pm.
There is a similar issue around mealtimes:
- First breakfast is around 7am – 8am
- Second breakfast is between 9.30 and 11am.
- Lunch is between 2pm and 4pm, afternoon snack at 5.30pm
- Dinner is served from 9pm to 11pm. If you arrive at a traditional Spanish restaurant and hope to eat at 7pm – 8pm, it will be empty and they may not even be ready to serve. There are restaurants and bars that don’t stick rigidly to this timetable, so don’t worry.
And of course there’s the fact that in Spain, if you’re late, you’re really on time. When someone says they will meet you at 2, it is very likely they might rock up at 2;30 without even an apology! Don’t be offended, you will soon get used to this laid back way of living and enjoy it even more. Who has time for stress in soaring temperatures! There’s a reason the Spanish live longer on average than northern europeans, and not stressing about being late for a meeting is one of them! (and olive oil of course… but that for another blog!)
Finally, we’d suggest you learn some Spanish before you are moving to Spain, research banks, including the best ways to transfer money between countries and if you haven’t yet decided exactly where you’d like to live in Spain, take your time to explore your preferred areas before making the big leap. At Marbella Dream Living we can help you with advice on residential areas of Marbella and the Coast – make a list of what you must have near you and we’ll find areas and properties that tick all your boxes so moving to Spain will become a fun project as opposed to a daunting chore!