We are really happy to have found this forum, and hope that we’ll get some answers to our questions.
About us: mid-to-late 30s, Caucasians, no kids, no pets. Professions: IT (design, management, infrastructure, support engineer, experienced in consulting, languages: English, German, French, and Spanish comprehension, and over 10yrs experience in working in high-profile companies and government in both Europe as well as North-America) and teacher (mostly primary education, and focusing on French, also know English, and passable Spanish - currently employed in the public system - highest standard over here at least).
We are actually having pretty good jobs here in Canada, and are naturalized citizens, but are both born in the EU, and maintain dual citizenship, so at least from that point of view it would be very simple to settle in Spain.
Why we consider the move? We moved once, ten years ago, and now feel it’s time for yet another change. Without badmouthing Canada, we’re a little tired of the crappy food, bad weather, very expensive housing (yes in reach, but still out of proportion compared to other countries with similar incomes), far from our typical destinations (we like to travel, and also love driving and road trips - but here most of the travelling happens by plane).
So long story short, we think that we can learn the language and be functional within approximately one year tops, and are flexible in terms of employment, i.e. we consider accepting more junior positions in our respective fields.
The plan is to buy some property (prices seem reasonable now) in Barcelona.
What we’d like to know:
1. if we’d pay no mortgage or rent, approximately what’s the monthly cost of living? We are non-smokers, eat out maybe once/week, aren’t very picky when it comes to cars, and in general are quite frugal.
2. how is the medical care in Spain compared to, let’s say, other European Countries? And how can we get the services? Is there a waiting period?
3. if applying for IT/teacher jobs in Spain, do we have to speak Spanish at an interview? Are there job opportunities that only require English/German/French?
4. while we’ve looked at job sites, we’d like to know what a “pretty good” income is. What can we expect, as newcomers? In Canada for instance, a typical newcomer is paid about 66% of what he will earn doing the very same thing in 2-5 years after arrival, after gaining what they call “Canadian experience”.
OK, we hope we’ll get some answer. It would be also lovely if we would hear from somebody in an as-similar-as-possible situation (Canadian expats, European-born how have spent some time in North-America, etc.).
Fast succint answer and the best advice I can offer. Stay where you are!
No where is perfect. Unemployment is rampant in Spain (and in other European countries).
Or move elsewhere in Canada. I know for a fact there is not “bad"weather all the time in Canada, and I also know there is excellent food to be had, great sea-food, fresh produce (think West Coast). The health care system is good.
Qualified Spanish people are emigrating in droves because there is no work for them at home.
Thank you for your response. We were thinking we won’t get any.
Question: are you Canadian-born? Or have you been living in Canada? If so, for how long?
Regarding your reply: indeed, it’s a tough decision to abandon a teacher’s and a federal pension, but at the same time, we need to live our lives, and we kinda feel it’s slipping by while being here…sort of every day is like the other, no excitement, no randomness - and really not much to look forward to. Don’t get me wrong, we love Canada, it’s a great place for very many people, but we’d like to be back in Europe…living the simple(simpler) life, enjoying a good wine, good chocolate, less doublespeak, etc.
Regarding weather: we lived in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, and have visited pretty much the whole country. Overall the weather is pretty bad or at least depressing no matter where you are. The food is typically too salty (even the government knows that, but fails to do anything about it), alcohol is extremely expensive (compared to Europe) - and while we’re only social drinkers, we’d like to spend more liberally on a good beverage than buy cheapo electronics.
During our over one decade of having been in Canada, we spent overall more than one year in holidays in Europe…and we enjoyed it every time. Not saying that we weren’t somewhat happy to return to Canada (because that’s our home too) but we feel more European than North-American in spirit.
Unemployment…that’s an issue indeed, but luckily we have a bit of passive income, and also pretty inexpensive hobbies (i.e. reading, socializing, etc.) - and are not too picky, especially not craving expensive stuff. Also, unemployment figures are always relative, as are statistics. Perhaps the % is lower in Canada, but what job quality are we talking about? Part-time, minimum-wage jobs? Frankly, it’s very hard to imagine how most people live on such incomes. Obviously, many young Europeans live with their parents, but there’s a big difference: their homes are not wood shacks, and they usually inherit them from their parents, who rather do something meaningful with their accumulated wealth than spend it mindlessly on cruises when they’re too old to understand what’s around them, anyway.
The fact that qualified Spanish people emigrate isn’t surprising…because they have options. As European citizens, they at least have the right to work in many other countries. Canadians don’t emigrate because a) it’s not really in their spirit (most aren’t very flexible, or multilingual, to be honest) and b) it ain’t easy for the average Canadian to find work abroad…as a work permit is required, which is hard to get if you’re not somehow special compared with the average Joe looking for a job in your dream country.
I’m a Canadian who moved to Barcelona in the 2000s and I too worked in IT back in Canada. Unfortunately for me I did not have any real second languages (mon francais ete tres mal) nor did I have permission to live and work in the EU by virtue of citizenship.
Like you, I was sick of bad food, winters, American cultural dominance, lack of social variety, absence of ambient art/architecture, and the provincial mindset. I LOVED Spain. :D
I would say you’ll probably go out and eat out more than you did back home… count on it. That said, it’s cheap to do so. If you buy a residence in the city center (you won’t want to own a car, just rent when you need one), you can live very cheaply. I’d bet 1000€ per month, excepting travel, but travel is cheap too.
For work, I’d expect to get into freelancing and online work for you for Canadian or US companies, and for your partner expect to take a TEFL course and pick up some English teaching (not great money, but enough - go read our articles about it). You’ll be able to put together 2000€ per month at a minimum within a year I would estimate. This is decent money for Barcelona, given the cost of living. You’ll hear about the mileuristas who are the vast majority of workers in Spain who make about 1000€ per month. I believe the average annual salary is approximately 21,500€ per month across the country.
Ah yes, health care. Get private health care for now. You might be eligible for public health care, and you should pursue that option, but private health insurance is quite reasonable (about 60-120€ per month). Health care on the whole is the 2nd most effective (cost vs results) in the world.
Oh, and about learning Spanish… just go take some courses and try hard. Sounds like you have the right attitude and experience with other languages. You’ll be fine.
You really made my evening my friend! If at least 30% of Canadians were thinking like you, it would be a different society. If at least 20% of Americans were also thinking like you, it would be a different continent. But, sadly, no chance. In fact, idiocracy is growing every day. We’ve stopped watching TV soon after getting here more than a decade ago, but no matter what you do, you’re still exposed to the dumb, misleading, manipulative ads lurking everywhere: on the bus, in the printed press, on the local web, and - worse - even in the official communications of the different levels of government.
On a rational level, the saddest part is not the actual degradation of everything (which somehow makes sense given the unsustainable models employed by most of the first world), but rather the fact that the masses choose to ignore reality and - worse - to deny the facts, responding with a mindless cheerfulness and unjustified gratitude - which, in history, is usually one of the last steps before…well…a serious adjustment of some kind.
So, amigo, thanks again for the encouragement…I hope we can stay in touch for when (later this year) we’ll make the move…actually we’re very excited about it…and are quite certain that it’ll contribute to our…antifragility…I’ll let you search the term online
I told this before in another thread, and i think it is pretty fitting to reiterate it here.
In online places like elance.com, there are ALL kinds of work available - for contract, short term, long term, hourly ; ranging from design/programming jobs to content creation, to technical manual writing to legal counsel to even manufacturing design.
I very much think, people who are living expat lives, or with an expat mindset, should be looking into these more. the main reason for this, is it liberates you from location.
unity100 - thank you! Indeed, careful risk management suggests not laying all eggs in one basket. I have considered freelancing, as well as running a small family business…
BTW, has somebody had a minute to check out the real estate link I have posted? Is that offer legit? It seems extremely inexpensive, even compared with Eastern-European markets…am I missing anything here?
Well in the midst of all this jubilant optimism all I can say is “make haste slowly” Los Mascos.
I love Spain too, (lived here practically all my life and my husband is Spanish). However, I am not blind (being a realist) to the current difficult situation, and I would be very remiss if I were to advise anyone that it is all wine and roses. I love other European countries too. I am I think a true European and therefore can see it as it is. No less, no more.
I/we are fortunate to have a foot in both countries (my home country of Ireland, and Spain).
When I look in on this (or other) forums I am dismayed at this “teaching English” thing. The place is awash with soi-disant English teachers: the good, the bad and the indifferent. Unless you get private “grinds” the money is NOT good.
I have been approached on different occasions to teach English (perish the thought) privately to businessmen/lawyers. But it is not my thing.
I feel one must think things through before taking the leap of faith.
We also have very stupid advertising over here in the old world, T.V. is awash with mind-numbing soap-operas and reality shows. There are dumbed-down people everywhere, Los Mascos, unfortunately. Oh yes, there is bad food to be had everywhere too. The fast-food boys are everywhere in Spain, and doing rather well, believe it or not.
And then of course, there is that great truism “wherever you go there you are”. Over the years I have dealt with many many people who made a move for the wrong reasons, and ended up either stuck or going back to wherever. So you have this largish unhappy band who go in for tiresome Spain-bashing any chance they get.
Spain is not for everyone, that is all I am saying.
My god-father lives in Canada and has done so for 50 years. A cousin of mine and his wife (and children) were in Canada for two or three years on a contract. They were actually quite keen to stay, but were perhaps just influenced by the fact that their parents lvie here in Europe. They are all intelligent people, not given to fast food, dumb advertising watching or any such pernicious trends…..
Let me begin by saying that we agree with everything you wrote. As indicated earlier, we have moved quite a few times after arriving in Canada, and know that each move comes with its own cost/stress.
Festina lente…yes. Always. Very good concept. I guess we sounded a little impatient in our first message, but that’s not really the case.
Jobs…actually most of the time(s) we moved, we did so without a job offer. Unlike many people, who go where they perceive the jobs are (generally in what’s thought to be a boom region), we go somewhere we think we’d like to live, and expect us to be able to make a living where we got. I know it sounds somewhat counter-intuitive, but so far it has worked pretty good.
Teaching English…I wouldn’t actually expect this activity to be very financially rewarding, i.e. it’s not enough to “know something really well” for being able to teach and to share knowledge. We are not English natives, so that wouldn’t put us in a competitive position, so we’ll likely not go that venue. And agreed, “Teach ESL” banners are promising every Canadian college grad with tons of accumulated debt and unable to get a job better than retail or McDonalds “an inspiring and life-changing experience abroad”. We have met a few who went and taught, but in the end it has not pushed them forward in any way. Some have returned to Canada on their own, and keep dreaming about “life in the other place”, while others have found a spouse there and stayed there, not thinking often about Canada.
Media: we are sure that there are ALSO stupid shows, ads, newspapers. But we’re watching as much European media online as we can and have time to, and the average is of much better quality (at least that’s what we think, anyway).
Bashing the new country: we try to stay away from that. When we move somewhere, we expect us to adjust to the new place, and not the opposite. But on the other hand, we reserve the right to leave if we’re not happy. And some constructive criticism is nothing but the right way to evolution.
Living in Canada: indeed, an opportunity for many, no argument here. I think your relative who has been here for >50yrs has experienced the other Canada, with a way lower cost of living, fewer rules, less PC, less BS. Again, maybe we’re wrong about that, and perhaps we’ll dearly regret the move. And those who come on a contract, that’s different too. Like Europeans moving temporarily from one country to another, they are mostly enjoying the trip, but without the troubles one has to go through when time comes to actually start belonging to a place.
Last but not least: what’s your opinion about The Expatriator’s experiences? He’s Canadian, and has described in pretty much our words what made him leave his native land.
P.S. Still no opinions about the place for sale we have asked about :(
It’s a bit late over here, but anyway just a quick word about property acquisition. It would be advisable IMO to rent a place at first, maybe for six months (longer!). Keep away from online stuff. Once you are in the country (Spain) and when you have a moment, get a car and drive around (a lot, lol) until you see something you like/want. Try if possible to deal directly with the vendor and you will get a better price. Next step: engage a lawyer. Despite the generalized hysteria about all lawyers in Spain being somehow crooked, this is indeed not the case, at all.
Costs involved in purchasing a property (tax, notary’s fees, lawyers fees, etc. ) will come to around 10% of the price of the property. That is in broad outline. A good lawyer will provide you with a breakdown of your costs in advance, in writing.
I agree with you about constructive criticism, and its evolutionary advantages, not to mention how the “criticism” is presented. However, “constructive” is not a feature of most forums, although sincerely I think Spainexapt is quite a good forum.
What makes each one leave their native land is very subjective, I am sure. I am in no position to comment on the Expatriator’s motives, or his thoughts. I don’t even know him.
When I first came to Spain, as a single girl, I came over to study post-graduate at the University of Granada. I actually did not intend to remain in Spain, but things turned out differently. I had no gripe with my home country, Ireland. Then again, and unusually for the time when I was at secondary school, my parents packed me off to France, on my own, and also to Spain the following year. So, I suppose from early on I became quite pragmatic.
I am a very open-minded person, and I do not beat about the bush. Long ago I learned that it is very unacceptable, and in my opinion, even insulting, to tell people what they want to hear. So you won’t get any of that from me.
My sentiments exactly - it’s horrible to tell somebody what they want to hear, and yet that’s exactly what life over here is all about. Tell people something different, and they suddenly become defensive and/or start avoiding you and badmouthing you. That’s not to say that life should be a long argument, but if one disagrees with another’s opinion, he is she might better be ready to defend her own point of view. But that’s not how it’s done here, where we all have to smile and agree, without employing any critical thinking, ever. But enough about that.
Thank you for the RE advice. In fact, I didn’t think buying online, but rather wanted somebody’s informed opinion about a property such as that one, because the price seems incredibly low. And it was on the Remax site, so there’s at least some presumption of professionalism.
About forums: I know what you mean, I have been on a few expat forums, and my findings are that the truth is sort of the medium/average of what’s being published. But overall information is highly polarized, so an average is required for getting something somewhat resembling the truth of the matter
About the property - it’s cheap because it’s basically tenement housing. Okay, not exactly, but it’s not going to offer much in the way of comforts, style, or investment opportunity. Terrassa is on the outskirts (suburbs) and you will probably not find what you are looking for way out there IMO. Stick to Barcelona and expect to pay at least 150k€ for a small 1 bedroom in a decent building. Prices continue to decline, gradually, and folks have told me they should start to bottom out by the end of this year (they aren’t in the know, but are also quietly hunting for opportunities).
Patricia is a sensible, wise person whose opinion and presence is greatly valued around the forum. From her European perspective it’s probably more true than mine for her people. Then again you are coming from an enterprising, entrepreneurial environment where honest ingenuity and innovation are valued, and those attributes are, frankly, hard to find in Spain. If you add determination and patience to the mix, I think you’ll do just fine.
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