Deciding to move to Spain was definitely one of the best decisions we’ve ever made, and we haven’t looked back. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have some worries (a lot!) about moving abroad. Some of the most common fears about moving to Spain were definitely on our mind for months before we made the move, but luckily the good has far outweighed the bad.
If moving to Spain is your dream, don’t let your fears put you off from taking the leap. Being prepared and doing your research on how to cope with moving to a new country will make things a lot easier on the whole family.
If you want to move overseas but have some niggling worries holding you back, we’ve put together a list of some of the most common fears when moving to Spain and how to overcome them…
Missing family and friends
Not surprisingly this is a really big worry for most people thinking about taking the plunge and leaving home for another country, it’s probably the biggest thing that stops people from doing it. If you’re close to your family and have friends you see all the time, you’re obviously going to miss them a lot. We’re very lucky that my parents moved to Spain around the same time we did, but we’ve still left a lot of loved ones back in the UK. As of right now we haven’t seen them for 18 months (thanks Covid) which is much longer than we’d ever expected to spend away from them.
You’re bound to get homesick at some point, but luckily there are so many great ways to stay in touch such as video calls, WhatsApp messages, and sharing photos on social media. Video calls especially can help kids a lot when they’re missing friends and family..
Luckily Spain isn’t too far from the UK either so you’ll probably have people travelling over to see you in your new home for a holiday as well.
And don’t forget you’ll make new friends. They won’t replace those you’ve left behind but you won’t be lonely for long if you put an effort in to meeting new people.
The language barrier
A big worry for us about moving to Spain was the language. I got good exam results in my GCSE Spanish but that was over 20 years ago and apart from a bit of holiday Spanish here and there I hadn’t used it much since. I was using the Babble and DuoLingo language apps for a while before we moved, and we had a tutor for Holly for around 9 months, but it’s not the same as having to speak Spanish to real Spanish people. Especially when the conversations you need to have are about school applications, opening bank accounts, and buying cars rather than the text book phrases you learn about how many siblings you have or what you like to do at the weekend!
You just have to be brave and throw yourself in at the deep end. Swot up as much as you can, study in your spare time, and prepare the phrases you need before you go to an appointment – write them down if necessary. If all else fails, Google Translate is a life saver. I’m by no means fluent in Spanish now but I can just about get by and so far haven’t made any embarrassing mistakes…that I know of!
Check out some more tips on learning Spanish here.
This was the one that kept me awake at night the most. I worried a lot about whether we were making a mistake and expecting too much from an 8 year old. Moving schools is always scary but moving countries and being plonked in a school where all the kids speak a different language is a big deal!
I joined expat groups, spoke to lots of other families who had done the same, and every single one of them told us to put her straight into a local Spanish school rather than into an English speaking International school.
I’m not going to say it’s been a walk in the park, she struggled to communicate with the other kids at first and for us the homework and talking to the teachers can be difficult. But she loves school here, it’s so relaxed compared to England and it’s crazy rules, and she says she wouldn’t want to go to school in England or wear uniform again!
Do a lot of research on school in Spain, and take time to consider whether a Spanish school or International school will be the best option for your kids. Our school have been great, there’s a lot of non-Spanish kids for such a small school (British, French, Belgian, Dutch) and they put on additional Spanish lessons for the extranjeros (foreigners). When there’s a meeting we’ll take a translator with us to make sure we understand everything being said.
Your situation will be different depending on where you’re moving to, the abilities of your kids, and how old they are, but it might not be as bad as you think. Holly could hardly speaking any Spanish when she started but 18 months on has just received top marks in most subjects.
We’d recommend getting a tutor as soon as possible, as well as more tips you can read here.
One of the most common fears about moving to Spain is money. Unless you’re moving abroad because you’ve won the lottery or received a large inheritance, you’re bound to have some worries about finances and how you’ll cope living and working abroad. You now need to prove you have enough money to support your family when you apply for a visa, but this could be money that you plan to spend on a property further down the line.
On the whole the cost of living in Spain as a family is about the same as the UK on a day to day basis, although some things such as council tax (there is none!) or going out is slightly cheaper.
If you need to spend less money when you move to Spain you can cut back on things you don’t really need such as loans for new cars, gym subscriptions and TV packages until you find your feet and get used to the cost of living in Spain.
If you have plenty of time to prepare for your big move, we’d definitely recommend having money saved for at least 6 months rent/mortgage if you can – if anything happens you might not find it as easy to get a job as you would back home.
If you’re applying for a work visa it now looks as though you’ll need to sort out jobs before you move. This could mean you need to make a few trips back and forth to get everything sorted beforehand. Having work arranged, even if they’re not your ideal jobs, will make moving to Spain as a family a lot less stressful as unemployment in Spain is high. There is more information on working in Spain here.
We speak to so many people who moved to Spain but now can’t find jobs to support themselves or are trying to support a family of 4 on a few shifts in a bar. In Spain right now there aren’t enough jobs for the Spanish let alone expats who don’t speak the language so many people struggle. If you’ll need to find a job in Spain, take a look at some of our tips on finding work.
Personally I think the best idea is to work online. The application fee for a self-employed visa is higher than an employment visa but if you can provide all the necessary documentation then it will make life easier than job hunting in Spain.
Set yourself up as a freelancer in the UK in whatever area your skills lie, then when you move you can take your existing clients with you. You can set up as autonomo (self-employed) in Spain, work from home, and you won’t need to worry about the language barrier quite as much.
Another great option is to work online as a TEFL teacher – find out more here.
I can honestly say there’s nothing from the UK that we desperately miss. In terms of food, you can buy most things in Spain anyway – we have Iceland, Waitrose and Tesco stocked shops near us!
When you move to Spain you can take whatever possessions you like with you, but it’s very expensive to have things shipped over so you’ll probably need to have a massive de-clutter. The cheapest way to move to Spain would be not to take anything with you, but when you have a family that’s just not realistic. We got rid of everything except summer clothes, photo albums, toys and a few bits of furniture, and it still cost us almost £2000 to get everything shipped from the UK to Spain.
Have a think about what you’ll realistically need in your new home. Are you renting a furnished home or is furniture cheaper to buy in Spain than to ship over? Will your style of furniture go in your new Spanish home? Will you actually miss those knick-knacks that are gathering dust or have been pushed to the back of a cupboard? Speak to other expats and find out what they brought over that they didn’t need, and what they wished they’d brought with them. We’ve put together a list of things to take and things to leave which might help.
At the end of the day it’s all just ‘stuff’ and shouldn’t be the reason you have second thoughts about moving abroad. There’s not really anything we’ve missed that we got rid of, though I do wish I’d brought more jumpers as winter in Spain is colder than I’d expected!
This wasn’t something that really crossed my mind initially but a lot of people commented about us leaving behind the amazing NHS when we spoke about moving to Spain. So far we haven’t had to visit a doctor in Spain but as long as you pay into the system, healthcare in Spain is free for expats. If you have a job, pay social security through your self-employed taxes, or have a pension then you’re entitled to register for free healthcare for you and your family.
The Spanish health care system is also ranked one of the best in the world and from what I’ve heard the waiting times for appointments and operations are really short so you’re probably better off here anyway.
You can also buy things like asthma inhalers for €2.50 over the counter without a prescription, though a pack of Ibuprofen will set you back around €3 rather than 35p! (something we ask people to bring over for us!)
It’s a good idea to do your research on healthcare and prescription costs before you move, especially if you have any existing illnesses or regular prescriptions, but with the quality and cost of the healthcare in Spain it’s not something you need to worry about.
If you’re dreaming of moving abroad but put off by your worries, we hope some of these common fears about moving to Spain and how to overcome them have put your mind at rest a little bit!
Pin for later: