Shit just got real. My writing might come off like a joke sometimes but I hope people always understand the intention behind My Expatations. Of course, I wanna make you laugh. It really is true – laughter is the best medicine. Especially if you’ve been suffering from expat depression or burnout and your doctor tells you he ain’t renewing your prescription for Valium because, “it’s been long enough”. Behind the jokes though, my goal is to tell it like it is. So, let’s launch right into lesson #1 on becoming resident in Spain. DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE.
Expat life in Spain can be harder than Captain America’s ass (only occasionally harder though cause that ass is FINE) but nobody ever really wants to admit it. Well, I don’t have a problem talking about the ups and downs because a) this is not a travel blog b) I’m not recommending bullshit through affiliate links and c) I’m a truthaholic.
Yes, living abroad is culturally enriching and can give you a new perspective on life. Learning a new language is friggin’ cool. Escaping the living hell of winter in Canada has definitely been life changing for me. I could wax on about how it feels when the sunshine gently kisses my face every day but it ain’t all sunshine and lollipops. Once you figure out your visa/entry requirements, the ‘real fun’ begins.
Warning of Hazards Ahead
When I was researching expat life in Spain, there were no blogs or websites warning me about the implications of becoming tax resident. All I came across were stories of visiting hidden beaches, cultural festivals, wine tasting and the best places to eat paella.
People think Spain is a cheap place to live, and in many ways it is, but you open up a pandora’s box when you become resident. There is gift tax, inheritance tax, wealth tax, gigantic fees when buying and selling real estate, capital gains tax on ANY GAINS. If you plan on working online or want to run your own business, you’ll probably have to pay a huge self-employment fee (autónomo) whether you make a profit or not.
If you’re one of the lucky citizens of countries that have a reciprocal agreement with Spain, you can simply exchange your driver’s license. Unfortunately, citizens of Canada and the U.S. (there are many more) have to go through the suckiness that is getting your carnet de conducir. It’s difficult and expensive.
Money, Money, Money
If contributing to investments or a private pension is high on your list of needs, make sure you can still do it after you change your country of residence. Spain is not a country that is blessed with a plethora of low cost (and transparent) investment options.
Since we are on the topic of money and investments, be prepared to tell Mother Spain all about it. When you become a permanent resident you have to fill out modelo 720; declaring all WORLDWIDE assets you hold. It ain’t no joke either. If you don’t declare and they find out, get ready for a world of hurt. Fines can run you into the €€€€€€€€€€. Shit feel real now?
Rents are steadily on the rise in Spain. If you are self employed, and don’t have a traditional work contract or pay stub (nómina), you may have to pay a deposit and several months of rent upfront before anyone will even think of renting to you (it’s illegal but happens all the time). You really have to know what you’re getting yourself into before you make the leap.
One thing I will say for living in Valencia is that I feel safe. Besides the odd pickpocket, I can walk down the street, day or night, with a genuine feeling of safety. Not like in London, where every teenager looks like they’re gonna stab me. Plus, there’s no mass shootings here.
Another added bonus to living in Spain is the work to live mentality. Maybe it might take the waiter an extra 20/30/45 minutes to bring you another beer but that laid back attitude helps you slow down too. You can enjoy the many things there are to do in Spain because you actually have the time (and the weather) to do it.
All I’m saying is don’t be a stupid head like I was. If you do your research and prepare yourself for the realities of being a long-term expat, a good quality of life in Spain is within your reach. Just don’t believe in rainbows and unicorns people are selling you online and you won’t find yourself up shit creek without a Valium.
If this article hasn’t scared you off, check out this website for the nitty gritty on becoming resident in Spain. (no pay-per-click or affiliate link associated with this recommendation)
My Expatations: Spain is a cheap place to live.
Reality: Money can’t buy happiness but it’ll help you pay your taxes.