Why does Spanish culture attract so many expats each year?

Why does Spanish culture attract so many expats each year?
Culture in Spain

Are you looking for a change of pace? Do you want to find new, exciting experiences to enjoy, or perhaps a nice place to settle down and start a family?

Whether you’re after great weather, comfortable work/life balance or affordable living, you might find yourself as one of the millions of expats residing in Spain. British expats are the 3rd largest demographic of Spanish immigrants in 2022.

Work Opportunities in Spain

Work opportunities are varied for expats in Spain

Spain has a thriving economy, and while it hasn’t escaped some of the recent issues affecting the EU, its job market is still accessible. The country has excellent opportunities for gainful work, particularly for those looking for work in IT, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, chemical engineering, and tourism.

Most expats tend to take up jobs in the tourism sector. Fluency in English is a great asset in Spain, even more so if you’re fluent in both English and Spanish. The ability to speak multiple languages (not just English) will benefit anyone who wants to work in tourism, retail, or hospitality.

Most young expats who move to Spain opt to teach English as a second language during the first few years of their stay. There is, of course, always the option of more technical roles like legal underwriting, technical writing or translating for those trained in such disciplines.

If you’re looking for work in Spain, don’t forget that most employment sites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, or LinkedIn are international platforms, equally useful no matter where you go. Don’t forget to see what jobs multinational companies have to offer. You might find that some have branches in Spain and your home country. Finding a job prior to your move is a great way to ensure your financial security.

Culture in Spain

Spanish culture is very rich

Spain has a fascinating, culturally rich history reflected in its people, architecture, and cuisine. Here are some highlights visitors to Spain can enjoy:

Art culture in Spain

Spain has a long history of art and culture. The Spanish government supports all forms of art and humanities, sponsoring museums, universities and professional academies. Thanks to this, you can still see many elements of Spain’s heritage and history preserved in modern Spanish culture, and expressed in music, theatre, food and architecture.

Some prominent sights, sounds and artists in Spain include:

  • Antoni Gaudi, the architect who designed distinctive and eclectic structures all around Barcelona. He is most well known for the famous basilica La Sagrada Familia.
  • Picasso, Dali, Goya, Velázquez are the names of just a few famous Spanish artists whose work you can see in museums around the world today.
  • Flamenco guitar – You can hear the iconic sound of the Spanish Flamenco guitar in music played at celebrations and festivals across the country.

Visitors to Spain will find an endless selection of galleries, museums, festivals and celebrations to enjoy. You won’t have to look far, either. Spain is renowned for its beautiful public murals, statues and mosaics which you’ll find spread liberally across all its cities.

Food culture in Spain

Spanish cuisine is typically Mediterranean. Local dishes make generous use of olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, and seafood.

Typical Spanish dishes include gazpacho, tortillas and paella. Of course, tapas are a national favourite. They are not just served as bar snacks anymore, many restaurants offer larger dishes to share. Spaniards love tapas so much they invented a word for it – tapear – ‘to eat tapas.’

Every town, city and region has its own unique style of food, with hundreds of variations of cultural classics. You could eat out every day of the year and still be hard-pressed to experience every dish Spain has to offer!

Education in Spain

Students can access great education in Spain

For expats with children, finding the best schools, colleges and universities is a major consideration. Most consider Spain’s school system to be very good. It has both public and private, as well as semi-private schools. Private schools might offer education in multiple languages, but most public and semi-private schools only teach their curriculum in Spanish.

For those with younger children, enrolling them in a Spanish-speaking school can be a great way to help them develop critical language skills at a young age. However, if your child speaks only one language and you’re concerned that a Spanish curriculum might inhibit their education, don’t worry; Spain also has many international schools. Families with young children should note that Spain’s daycare and preschool capacity is limited. If your child is between 3 and 6, you might need to invest in private childcare (or work from home).

What is the difference between Spain’s public and private schools?

Most private schools in Spain are Catholic institutions. Parents agree that they offer a very high standard of education. You can find private bilingual English-Spanish schools, English-only schools and schools that teach in other foreign languages such as French, German or Italian. On the other hand, most public schools only teach in Spanish.

Spain’s private schools generally have smaller class sizes and wider choices of subjects. They may also offer more varied extra-curricular activities in comparison to public schools. Lunch hours and after-school activities will also vary from school to school.

What are the best universities in Spain?

If your child would like to study abroad at a Spanish university, you’ll be glad to know that Spain has 53 tertiary institutions listed in the World University Rankings.

Spain is popular among international students because not only is it cheap to live in Spain, but the cost of tuition is relatively affordable compared to other top-ranking universities worldwide.

One of the major reasons students choose to study abroad is the opportunity to learn another language. But, if language is a concern, several courses are taught in English at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

As of 2022, the top 3 universities in Spain are:

  1. Pompeu Fabra University

Named after famous linguist Pompeu Fabra, PFU has three campuses located in Barcelona. The university is known for its degrees in the social sciences, humanities, health, life sciences, communication and ICT.

  1. Autonomous University of Barcelona

AUB has 13 faculties and offers an outstanding choice of 87 bachelor’s degrees, 315 master’s degrees, and 68 PhD programmes. It is best known for its bioscience, communication, arts, humanities, and medicine degrees. The university offers a handful of courses taught only in English and many other degrees available in English or Spanish, attracting international students worldwide.

  1. University of Barcelona

The University of Barcelona is one of the biggest universities in Spain. It offers 73 undergraduate courses, over 140 master’s degree courses, and 400 courses only offered by the University of Barcelona. The university also has a large expat population due to its size and reputation. 15% of new students enrolled at UB each year are foreign.

Cost of Living in Spain

The cost of living in Spain is low

San Sebastián, Barcelona, and Madrid may be the most expensive places to live in Spain. Still, even there, living costs are cheaper than in most European and American capitals.

Food is cheap, as is transport, rent and entertainment. Foreign migrants who earn enough to live comfortably in a city like London or Berlin will be able to eat out more, travel more and live in nicer homes than they ever hoped!

Cheap living is why Spain is so appealing to retirees, workers and students. The average British pension is enough for most couples to live comfortably along the coast, and students won’t have to worry about accruing large debts while pursuing their education.

Retire in Spain

Spain is an ideal place to retire

Retirees flood to Spain each year to find a cosy beach-front house and spend their golden years in the sun. Spain is one of the EU’s most popular retirement destinations thanks to its excellent healthcare, public transport, and civil services.

There are several reasons why expats choose to retire in Spain over other Mediterranean destinations:

  • Moving to Spain is easy. Spain offers migrants the chance to buy entry to the country through a ‘golden visa’ scheme. Expats can become permanent residents by purchasing property or investing in one of Spain’s many industries.
  • Spain has great infrastructure. Popular retirement destinations often aren’t far from state-of-the-art medical facilities. In addition, public transport in most cities can help those too old to drive easily get around.
  • Spain has some of the best weather in Europe. The coastal city of Marbella is one of the sunniest cities in the world and enjoys almost 320 days of great weather each year!

Spain’s cities, towns, locales and vistas are diverse and unique. No matter your preferred lifestyle, Spain has something to suit your dream retirement.

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Matthew Swaile


Florence Couëdel