Mistakes to avoid when moving to Spain

The key to a successful move to Spain lies in meticulous planning. Devoting plenty of time to organise all aspects beforehand significantly streamlines the transition.

Avoid underestimating the cost of living and the time required for paperwork processes. Essential steps such as opening a Spanish bank account, registering with local authorities, immersing yourself in the local culture and embracing the language are crucial for a smoother integration.

Underestimating the cost of living.

Spain excels in work-life balance, health, social connections, and safety according to the Better Life Index but lags in jobs, education, and life satisfaction. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Spaniards provided an average score of 6.5, slightly below the OECD average of 6.7.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Spain, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is less than the OECD average. This is primarily attributed to notably low salaries relative to inflation. Spain’s minimum wage and average salaries remain comparatively low when compared to certain other European nations.

Despite these economic challenges, living in Madrid proves to be cost-effective, with expenses being 53% lower than in New York, 43% lower than in London, 40% lower than in Los Angeles, 27% lower than in Munich, and 16% lower than in Brussels.

When relocating to Spain, it’s crucial to consider the diverse cost of living across its regions.

Overlooking language barriers.

In numerous regions of Spain, especially those with sizable expat communities, English is widely used, allowing for a comfortable lifestyle without the need for Spanish proficiency. However, acquiring a basic knowledge of Spanish can significantly enhance your experience. While approximately 56% of the population can communicate in English to some extent, fluency levels vary, making English less prevalent. The southern regions and main tourist areas tend to have a higher incidence of English speakers.

To navigate language barriers effectively, consider improving language skills, incorporating cultural understanding into your learning, exploring alternative communication methods, using straightforward language, and embracing the learning process without fear of making mistakes.

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Not opening a Spanish bank account.

While living in Spain doesn’t imply needing a bank account, having one can simplify various aspects of life. For instance, managing finances remotely or seeking assistance while abroad becomes more convenient with a local bank.

There are many situations in which you will need to open a bank account in Spain, such as:

If you decide to buy a property in Spain (property conveyancing in Spain).
In relation to taxes, if you decide to rent out your property in Spain.
Due to the use of your property in Spain, you will have to pay the Non-Resident Tax.
If you have fallen in love with Spain and decide to reside permanently, you will need to declare your worldwide income through the Personal Income Tax

Opt for a bank with excellent customer service, preferably one that accommodates English or other foreign languages for seamless communication, especially for addressing concerns over the phone.

Select a bank offering favourable exchange rates for currency services like “cambio” (exchange). This ensures that converting money into euros, whether at an airport kiosk or a local bank branch, doesn’t incur unnecessary costs due to subpar rates, making it worthwhile to explore alternatives such as Travelex or Moneycorp.

Consider a bank with competitive interest rates on savings accounts. Regardless of the savings amount, even a modest €1 saved monthly can accrue significant interest over time, potentially leading to substantial gains when managed wisely.


Resist the urge to overpack when making the move. Carrying excess baggage can weigh you down during the journey and lead to unnecessary expenses. Instead, focus on packing only the essentials and contemplate acquiring larger items upon your arrival.

While the temptation may be strong to bring everything when relocating to Spain, shipping costs can be steep, and not everything may find a place in your new home.

Take the opportunity to declutter, bringing only items with sentimental value or those challenging to replace. Consider options like selling, donating, or storing the non-essential items. This approach not only saves money but also streamlines the moving process.

We want to take this opportunity to inform the reader that if they decide to reside in Spain through a Temporary Residency as Non-EU citizens and wish to relocate their furniture, personal belongings, or vehicles to Spain, the tariff rates and procedures may vary depending on the country of origin. Therefore, to avoid unpleasant surprises, we advise you, prior to the move, to contact a specialised customs tax company where they can provide information on the requirements, deadlines, and, if applicable, the taxes to be paid.

Failing to grasp the intricacies of bureaucracy.

A common oversight when relocating to Spain is underestimating the intricacies of the bureaucracy. Renowned for its sluggish pace, the Spanish bureaucratic process often extends over months, and in some cases, even years.

For instance, obtaining a TIE card as a non-EU citizen may entail a wait of six months or more.

Mistakes that foreigners make in Spain

Navigating through Spanish bureaucracy can be challenging, as the government doesn’t streamline processes for in-person or online transactions. Patience and persistence are paramount for expediting tasks. While bureaucracy might be time-consuming, it’s advisable not to let it hinder your pursuits, such as job applications, while awaiting approvals.

Based on our experience at Tejada Solicitors, we recommend that certain visas, such as the Golden Visa or Digital Nomad Visa in Spain, be processed from within Spain, as the procedure is more efficient and at a lower cost.

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Neglecting to obtain your empadronamiento.

If you’re relocating to Spain, it’s essential to grasp the concept of empadronamiento or padron and the steps involved in obtaining it.

Empadronamiento, translated as “registration,” differs from the standard registration process in one’s home country. In Spain, it involves registering with the local town hall. While the process is relatively straightforward, some expats overlook it, either assuming it’s unnecessary or being uncertain about its requirement based on their visa status.

For EU nationals, if you decide to reside in Spain, registration is mandatory; however, European citizens with non-resident status in Spain do not need to register. Non-EU citizens fall into two categories: those requiring a visa (including residence permits, such as Non Lucrative Visa ) and those exempt (such as students).

biggest mistakes when moving to Spain

Not joining local social networks.

Immersing yourself in the local community, both with fellow expats and locals, is a valuable strategy for understanding the culture and gaining practical insights into daily life in your new home.

In Spain, building connections often revolves around shared meals and beverages, making coffee outings or trying the ‘menú del día’ at a local restaurant.

Engaging with expats who have prior experience in the country provides essential insights into expat basics, such as opening a bank account or navigating the healthcare system. Nevertheless, true integration into your new life abroad is best achieved by connecting with the locals. Consider joining a sports club, making friends at work, exploring co-working spaces, and enjoying a coffee at the local cafe as effective avenues to foster these connections.

Moving to a different country doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your identity and preferences. It’s essential to strike a balance between staying true to yourself and embracing new experiences. Integrating aspects of the new culture into your life, even in small ways, can enrich your overall experience.

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