After enjoying a short but sweet break back a home over Christmas, it has now been over one month since I touched down in Madrid to embark upon the second part of my year abroad, where I will be teaching English for the next 6 months.
However, as much as I would love to focus on all the positives la Vida Española has brought me this past month (don’t get me started on the sangria, tapas and crystal clear January skies, which I will fill you in on very soon). I firstly feel obliged to warn you about the difficulties Spanish bureaucracy can throw at you when moving to Spain, in the hope you can avoid a few of these issues!
Let’s just say, Spanish government offices are renown for being very slow, unorganised and unhelpful, and as much as I tried to keep an open mind-set when I arrived, I soon realised this is definitely true. There seems to be a general consensus amongst every other student I have spoken to in agreement with this. What should be the simplest of tasks such as opening a bank account can turn into the most complicated job with endless forms and documents to be filled in. After a month ,I am only just finishing off organising all these bureaucratic details, which quite frankly speaks for itself.
So here are my top tips for moving to Spain:
One major issue I found when moving to Spain was my Spanish! Sounds silly, but after having lived in Italy for the past 5 months, I completely underestimated how difficult I would find the transition from one language to another, not being helped by how similar my two languages are. I felt like I was in year 7 when I arrived at the airport, stuttering at the most simplest of sentences. I had spent time over Christmas attempting to revise some Spanish to get back into it, but it doesn’t quite prepare you for being thrown in at the deep end. Rest assured however, have patience and it will come back to you. After a few weeks I was soon back into the Spanish swing of things.
In order to be able to start work in Spain, I had 3 jobs I needed to do (only 3!), don’t be fooled by this mere number, 4 weeks later and they are just about finished! The jobs were; to obtain an NIE (Spanish Identity Number), get a social security number and open a Spanish bank account. Yet you would be surprised by the copious amounts of paperwork these entail, thus I highly recommend printing off EVERYTHING before you fly. Bring copies of everything and every possible document you may need (I had to print every single page of my passport) just to cover your every corner. Also, it is worth getting a good amount of passport photos printed before you fly as these are asked for a lot.
3) Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask!
The difficulty I encountered with these documents was the complete variation of information available on the internet about how to obtain these documents, there seemed to be no correspondence in which way was the correct way to go about it. And no matter how many people I asked, they all had different stories and different approaches. This might not make it seem any easier, but do ask people, as you learn something everytime and after all, if they did it, so can you!
4) Give yourself plenty of time
One mistake I made was only arriving 3 days before my placement was due to start. However, from experience, I would definitely recommend flying at least a week out before if possible. Government offices in Spain only open Monday to Friday 9-2 and with queues all the time – to exemplify this, to obtain my NIE I arrived at 6am and they were only giving out 10 a day and these people had been sleeping out all night in 0 degree temperatures. Often you will need to go back day after day, so if you have plenty of time time, it will take the pressure off getting the tasks done asap.
5) Be patient and smile
Last but not least, be patient and be friendly! Truth be told, I always believe in the phrase ‘a smile speaks a thousand words’- now I'm not saying to just smile your way through the social security offices, but I do believe that if you are polite and friendly, this can help you. After all, I am sure they understand how frustrating this must be for us and it is their job to help, so be persistent with your ‘puedes repetir, por favour’ and you will get sorted!
Thanks for reading,