Girl in a viewpoint with a mountain and river view

The Ultimate Guide For Living In Spain As An American Expat

I remember when I found out that my old Spanish tutor had lived in Spain, I had all these questions for him. The biggest and most pressing of them were “How did you do it?” and “Could I do it too?”

Before this, I had always dreamt of living in Europe but figured it was an unattainable goal. The legit opportunity to move to Spain to teach English was a game-changer for me. 

Now four years later, I’m so in love with the country (and also a particular Spanish guy), that I basically never want to leave. I’ve lived in both the South and the North, and have traveled extensively throughout the country.

I have my circle of friends that includes both locals and other expats like myself. Some days are tough, but overall I feel quite settled in my small Spanish city called Logroño.

In this blog post, I am going to tell you about the reasons to move to Spain, what it is like living in Spain as an American expat and some tips that will help you adapt quicker.

Living In Spain As An American Expat

P.S. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and purchase something, I receive a small commission of the price at no extra cost to you. This helps me to keep the content up to date and make other improvements to the blog.


Living In Spain As An American Expat

If you are wondering why I chose Spain…

My first trip to Spain was five years ago in June 2015. I spent two weeks visiting cities such as Málaga, Sevilla, San Sebastian and Valencia. I tried to practice the Spanish I was learning at the time. I tried paella and tortilla de patatas. Whether to travel or to live, I knew I would be back.

I fell in love with the culture, the idea of being immersed in Spanish and being able to really travel through Europe. In short, I chose Spain because of the language and culture. I absolutely love speaking Spanish, so the opportunity to speak it every day was very exciting to me.

I had also started my blog about a year before making the move. I wanted to be able to turn it into a travel blog while not breaking the bank. Traveling, especially internationally, can be really expensive to do from the US. 

However, from Spain, it’s totally different. I’ve flown to many cities for less than 50€ and stayed in many hostels for less than 20€ a night. Since moving to Spain from the US four years ago, I’ve visited over 10 new countries.

Life as an expat in Spain

Once you arrive in your city, my advice is to start with Facebook groups. Search for groups for expats, finding housing and language exchanges.

If you’re going to be a teacher, you can also find Facebook groups for English teachers in your region. You can meet people, find housing and find out about events in your city through these groups.

One thing that I always found to be easy was making friends with other English speakers. Everyone is in the same boat and looking to meet up.

Furthermore, it’s easier to build a friendship with someone in your native language. What I found to be a bit more of a challenge was to befriend locals. Some expats are perfectly happy with an English-speaking friend group. I, however, have never been one of those people. 

If you want to really immerse yourself in the culture, my first tip is to find Spanish roommates. I used websites like Roomgo and Idealista to search for open rooms in flats in my city.

When you live with Spaniards, you ensure that you’ll have daily opportunities to speak the language. Furthermore, if you hit it off with them they’ll likely invite you out with their friends and you’ll make friends with more locals. 

Another way I’ve befriended locals is through language exchanges. In Logroño (the city I currently live in), we have a weekly intercambio (language exchange) where Spanish, English and French speakers regularly attend.

It takes place in a bar and is simply a few hours of conversation. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people at this meet-up, including a few people who have become friends of mine. 

Joining activities is another great way to get connected with people. One of my fellow expat friends met some of her closest Spanish friends in a pole-dancing class. My old Spanish tutor met his group of friends playing football. A shared interest and regular time spent with the same people guarantees at least a few new friends.

Girls having fun in a house party

Pros And Cons Of Living In Spain As An American Expat

Pros of living in Spain

Spain is a great country to live in for so many reasons. The ones that come to mind are the low cost of living, rich culture, nice people and comfortable way of life. 

Low cost of living

In my four years here, I’ve never paid more than 300€ for a room in a shared flat (this can be a bit more expensive in cities like Madrid and Barcelona … I’ve never lived in either of those cities). 

Coffee is cheap, wine is cheap and groceries are cheap. I’ve always been able to comfortably live on what I make each month. 

Rich culture

Spain is also a fun country with a rich culture. There are all kinds of fun festivals such as Las Fallas in Valencia, San Mateo in Logroño and all the Ferias (fairs) in Andalucía.

 The food is delicious as well. There is so much history to explore as well, in both bigger cities and small towns. Even after four years, I still have places I need to visit. 

Comfortable way of life

In general, I feel comfortable living in Spain. The cost of living is low, so I always have enough money to pay my bills and have fun. 

I have a good group of friends in my city that includes both expats and locals. I can speak the language fluently, which I will definitely admit adds a lot to my quality of life here. Overall, I feel at home in Logroño most days.

Related post: 12 Cheapest Countries to Live in Europe

Cons of living in Spain

The concept of personal space

Spaniards and Americans have many similarities and differences. One of the biggest differences I’ve found is the concept of personal space.

In the United States, we love our imaginary bubble. Here in Spain, however, that space often is smaller or doesn’t exist. People in public often bump into you and say nothing.

Friends can be a bit more touchy and you give people two kisses when you greet them. The only thing that really bothers me is when people bump into me without saying anything. 

Paperwork and disorganized things

Another thing that bothers all of us from time to time is how disorganized things can be with the government. Doing paperwork can be a headache when everyone gives you a different answer or tells you to come back tomorrow. 

In general, it’s helpful to just adopt the attitude of no pasa nada (no worries in Spanish). In the end, it all typically works out.

Eating schedule 

Other differences (but not exactly culture shocks) would be the eating schedule. Lunch is eaten around 2:30 or 3 p.m. and dinner is eaten at 9.

In many parts of Spain, shops and businesses shut down during the siesta (2-5 p.m.). So if you need to go to the bank, make sure you go in the morning. 

Also, most businesses except for restaurants are closed on Sundays. So make sure to go to the supermarket on Saturday!


Moving to Spain planning checklists banner

Tips For Living In Spain As An American Expat

Learn Spanish

The biggest thing expats need to know is how important Spanish will be.

If you’re like me and love speaking Spanish, you’ll love all the opportunities you’ll get to speak it. On the other hand, if you don’t know much Spanish, adjusting to life in Spain could be very difficult for you.

Save for Madrid Barcelona and a few other tourist spots, the English level is quite low. You’ll have to find a flat, open a bank account and sort out your visa paperwork all in Spanish. I would suggest you study Spanish before moving to Spain.

Get a visa

The second thing you need to be aware of is getting a visa. If you’re from the European Union, a move to Spain will be easy since you already have the right to work in the country.

Although you should still be aware that Spain is coming out of an economic crisis and jobs can be hard to come by depending on your field. 

If you’re an English speaker and are open to teaching, this is the easiest way to move to Spain. While the actual English level is low, interest in learning the language is quite high.

Most families who can afford it have their kids take private English classes or send them to an English academy. There are also several programs that hire language assistants to work in schools.

The program I’ve been working with since I moved to Spain is called Auxiliares de Conversación. The requirements are to be a native speaker in the language you’ll be teaching and have a college degree.

The program accepts people from countries such as the United States, Canada, Ireland, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and India. 

Another two ways people move to Spain is through a self-employed visa and through a non-lucrative visa.

The self-employed visa consists of presenting a business plan with clients. I have known English teachers to switch to this visa. Since the demand to learn English is high, it’s easy to prove that you have interested clients.

On the other hand, the non-lucrative visa is for people who receive income from their country. This can be for people who work remotely or are retired.

Apart from the legal things, Spain has an overall low cost of living.

The culture can vary a lot between the regions. The food is delicious, but a lot of expats complain that it’s not spicy enough. If you go out with a group of Spaniards, you could be out until 6 a.m. 

Visiting La Rioja

Girl having a glass of wine in a winery in La Rioja Spain

I live in the smallest autonomous region (similar to a state or province) of Spain. La Rioja may be small, but it has a lot of character. It’s definitely worth at least a few days of your time.

The first thing that puts La Rioja on the map is the wine. This region has hundreds of wineries and vineyards. This means that the wine is cheap. A glass of wine at the bar can cost anywhere between 0,80€ to 2,5€ depending on how long it has been in the bottle and barrel. A glass of wine in the US would cost you around $6. 

If you’re interested in learning about the winemaking process, you can also tour a lot of the wineries. These typically cost between 12-25€ depending on the winery and you get to try a few wines at the end. They last an hour to an hour and a half, and they walk you through the winery.

Tours in English are definitely available at a lot of them, but not every day. You’d have to do some look at each bodega’s website. Also if you don’t see English available, don’t hesitate to email the bodega. 

Oftentimes they might not advertise it, but they would do English or French tours on request. I have visited quite a few bodegas in my time living here. I would recommend Muga, Bodegas Riojanas and Campo Viejo.

Another thing you have to do when in La Rioja is eat pinchos. Pinchos are small plates of food. In my city Logroño, you can go out on Calle del Laurel or Calle de San Juan in city center to try different pinchos. You go from bar to bar trying a different pincho at each one.

Apart from food and wine, the Camino de Santiago is another thing that puts La Rioja on the map. The camino is a pilgrimage you can do across Spain and parts of France. Logroño and a few other La Rioja towns such as Nájera and Santo Domingo de La Calzada are along the camino. 

It’s not uncommon to see people walking through La Rioja with big backpacks, walking sticks and hiking gear.

Sunset city view of Logroño, Spain

Overall, it is a wonderful country to spend a few years in or live in long-term.

I love that each part of Spain offers a different experience. The weather is hot in the South and it can be rainy in the North.

It’s an excellent country if you want to learn and practice your Spanish. With friendly people, a low cost of living, good food and many historical places to explore, I really cannot complain about my life in Spain.

If you’ve made your decision to move to Spain, have a look at my Moving to Spain Planning Checklist, a checklist that will help you organise your move to Spain.

Also, when moving abroad, it’s worth getting good expat health and life insurance.

If you want to know more about living in Spain, you can reach me by email. I’ll be happy to help you plan your expat journey!

Pin it for later

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Girl in a viewpoint with a mountain and river view

Hi! My name is Nina, and I’m a travel blogger and English living in Northern Spain.

I’m originally from the United States, but I made the move to Europe four years ago. I love to travel and wear dresses! You can read my blog aworldofdresses.com or follow me on Instagram at @aworldofdresses

FAQ about moving to Spain and living in Spain as an American expat

Can you move to Spain without a job?

If you’re from the European Union, you don’t need a residence permit or visa to live and work in Spain. So you can move to Spain and look for a job once you’re there. 

If you are a non-EU national, you need a work and residence visa in order to work in Spain. If you’re wondering how you get these two visas, you’ll need a job offer or contract with a Spanish employer.

What is the average rent in Spain?

The average price for renting an apartment with one bedroom in the city centre is 650 euros.

However, the rent prices vary from city to city, and if you live just outside the city you can find cheaper options.

What are the disadvantages of living in Spain?

The main disadvantage of living in Spain is the high unemployment. Finding a job in Spain can be difficult, so it’s better to come with a job offer, work as a freelancer or work for an international company.

Other disadvantages can be the laid back approach, especially with paperwork, the high temperatures in Southern Spain during the summer, and the concept of personal space.

What do I need to know before moving to Spain?

Here are some of the things you need to know before moving to Spain:

  • You will need to learn Spanish. 
  • The local currency is the euro.
  • The eating schedule is different from other countries. Meals are served late.
  • It can be an affordable place to live, especially if you avoid big cities like Madrid and Barcelona.
  • There is more than one language in Spain such as Catalan and Galician. 
  • It isn’t warm in all the regions.
  • You can find a good diversity of landscapes.
  • Football is the main sport in Spain.

Other useful articles and resources for moving to Spain

The best websites to find accommodation: Roomgo and Idealista

A useful website to check the average cost of living in Spain: Numbeo

The best tool to find the right Expat health and life insurance: Savesavvi

Avoid making mistakes as an expat in Spain by reading this guide: The 7 Biggest Mistakes When Moving to Spain & Other Tips

Are you moving to Spain from the UK? Then this is the perfect guide for you: The Ultimate Guide for Moving to Spain from UK

Similar Posts

22 Comments

  1. This sounds like a dream! We have small kids, but even then we talk about picking up and going to another country for a while to really get some great experiences.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Moving abroad is a unique experience for sure! I think kids would learn so much too 🙂

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      You’re welcome 🙂 I hope you go back to Spain sometime soon.

  2. Great post! It’s surprising that the cost of living is low. I always think of Europe as expensive. Just goes to show, there are inexpensive places all over the world.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed reading Nina’s post! I am originally from Spain but I live in the UK now, and I agree with the fact that the cost of living in Spain is low, which is amazing.

  3. This is great information! I’m definitely considering Spain!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thanks! That’s amazing 🙂

  4. As an American who has been living in Croatia for the past several years, I can totally relate! It seems as though the lack of personal space and disorganized government are two things our countries have in common 🙂 but aside from those minor inconveniences, it sounds like life in Spain would be wonderful!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      It’s interesting to hear that! As Nina said, life in Spain is great (although I’m a bit biased as Spain is my home country) 🙂

  5. This is so inspiring! I really commend you for taking the leap and moving to a new country. I always thought I would like to do something like that but I was too chicken to pull the trigger! What an amazing life experience! It helps the cost of living is low, too!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I always admire people who moved abroad, and Nina was very brave! 🙂 I hope you find a way to do it one day, it would be a unique experience.

  6. Amazing! I love Spain, it really does seem like such a great place to live. I would love to live abroad one day too and Spain is definitely on my radar!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      It’s great to hear that 🙂 Living abroad is a beautiful experience.

  7. Francesca says:

    This is some great information! It makes me want to move to Spain now. I love that you list pros and cons too.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I’m glad you’ve found the list useful!

  8. I would love to be an expat in Italy, but I could also see myself living in Spain too. That is so awesome you are living the Spanish lifestyle. It is such a dream. Also great tips! 🙂

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Italy sounds like a dream!! I am glad you’ve found Nina’s tips useful, and I hope you can live abroad one day 🙂

  9. I’m actually thinking of moving to Spain so this was a really interesting and helpful article for me – thanks for sharing!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I’m happy to hear you’ve found it useful!

  10. Interesting post! I’m British but I’ve lived in Spain for 30 years. I’m totally into the eating schedule and am always surprised at how early people eat when I travel to the US (or UK).
    I’m not a touchy feely person though and am still, after all these years, uncomfortable with the kissing (my only positive thing about COVID!!)

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I’m glad you’ve found Nina’s post interesting 🙂 I live in the UK, but I’m originally from Spain, so I agree with you on the eating schedule! It took me a while to adapt to 5 pm dinners.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.