The Many Joys of Living in Spain
If you are considering whether or not you want to live in Spain, it is probably a good idea to first make a long-term rental so that you can experience living in Spain without making a full commitment. For long-term rentals, you usually need a deposit the equivalent of one or two month’s rent, and letters from an employer or bank showing proof of your ability to pay. If you use an agent, their commission is normally one month’s rent. Madrid excepted, rents for a two-bedroom apartment in a city can be $600 to $850 per month, while a three-bedroom house can be around $1,600 per month. But, like along Portugal’s Algarve, many rental properties on the Costas serve as vacation rentals rather than catering to people seeking a long-term stay. That said, you shouldn’t find it too difficult to get a long-term winter rental.
Away from the popular Costas, English isn’t as widely spoken as you might expect. Realtors will happily give you listings, but with rock-solid local interest, they can afford to ignore the language skills needed to attract international clients wanting to live in Spain. Further complicating matters, most people in Catalonia use Catalan rather than standard Spanish. Signs don’t point to la playa (the beach). Here it’s la platja. Milky coffee isn’t café con leche, it’s café amb llet. And a street isn’t a calle–it’s a carrer. The same applies to the Basque country on Spain’s northern Atlantic coast where many people speak Basque.
To get the most out of Spain, you’ll probably need to make some changes to your lifestyle. Outside of the big cities, shops close for three-hour afternoon siestas, and restaurants rarely cater for early eaters. In fact, Spaniards don’t usually have lunch until 2 p.m. or dinner before 9.30 p.m. Household goods are duty free if you’re moving to Spain to live permanently, but if it’s a second residence, non-EU citizens are subject to a 12% duty on the value of the goods.
Cost of Living in Spain
Living costs in Spain are fairly low, even in the cities. Leaving aside rent or mortgage payments–and depending on your lifestyle–a couple could easily live on $13,000 to $15,000 per year and still eat out regularly. Once you know where to go, a meal for two with wine can cost as little as $20. For the best value, choose the lunchtime menu del dia (the menu of the day). Although the food is likely to be more filling than fancy, there’s normally a choice of dishes on the three-course lunchtime menu.
In most places, the menu del dia usually costs between $7.50 and $10. A local beer and a tapa (a little snack that can be anything from a couple of rings of fried squid to a slice of ham topped with an olive) costs around $1.40. Even dining in classier restaurants isn’t overly costly. For a couple, the bill is usually somewhere between $45 and $70–wine included. Obviously, grocery bills are hard to estimate, but the typical spend per person is $70 weekly. You can go to the cinema for $5.40 and get a mid-range seat in the shade at Madrid’s bullfighting arena for $3.80 ($3.50 for a seat high up in the sun).
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