Living and culture
Below you will find information about:
Cost of living
Where to live?
The Spanish are renowned for both their relaxed attitude to life and their exuberant social personalities. It is common in Spain to be interrupted while speaking, which in contrast to the English way, is a sign of interest. The Spanish tend to be unhurried in their activities, and do not readily hurry for anyone else’s urgency.
There are many places that still observe the siesta, which is a long break between 2pm and 5pm in which many people sleep or return home for lunch. For restaurants and other members of the service industry the siesta, if taken, runs at a different time. Larger cities, such as Madrid and Barcelona, tend not to observe the siesta as the Spanish businessmen cannot afford to take this time off, and many workers find that a shorter lunch gives them more time to spend with their families in the evening.
Politeness in Spain often does not rely on the "pleases" and "thank you's" that the English world is used to. Expect to be spoken to with short and sharp requests for either action or information. For most purposes the Spanish word for please, 'por favour', is either overly formal or a sign of exasperation. Spanish shopkeepers will acknowledge one with little more than a quick 'Si?' and an expectant facial expression.
The major cities are essentially modern, but rural Spain still holds onto some of its patriarchal thinking. Staring and commenting on passing women is something of a national past-time for many groups of men. While times are changing, it’s not for nothing that the word Machismo originated in the Spanish-speaking world. However, there are few legal, educational or even cultural impediments to female advancement in the workplace and the law protects female equality.
The Spanish are a Roman Catholic nation. While the church is not state backed, the evidence of its reach can be seen everywhere. In many towns the largest building is the church, and the cathedrals and shrines of Spain are not to be missed when site seeing. Condoms can only be bought on request and are not sold openly as they are elsewhere in the world. Abortions can only be carried out for rapes and for maternal health concerns. That said, Spain has set a liberal standard for itself, legalising homosexual marriage in 2005.
The Spanish regions:
The structure of the Spanish government means that a high degree of autonomy is given to each of its 17 political regions. This means that both laws and culture can vary extensively from one part of Spain to another.
The bureaucracy in Spain is particularly painful. This is a reflection of the Spanish attitudes to contracts. The Spanish will take a lot of time negotiating any deal, running over each section until it is clear that both sides understand what is required of them, and once signed it is expected that the contract is carried out to the letter.
Cost of living
The cost of living in Spain is highly variable. Rural Spain can be very inexpensive which makes holidaying a lot more fun. Barcelona is considered the most expensive city in the country, with Madrid a close second and Seville and Valencia following after. When renting accommodation with an agency, you will have to pay a month's rent in fees. Furnished apartments are available in many places, but the Spanish have a habit of leaving furniture out on the street for others to take, so keep a watch out. Long-term rentals are always cheaper than short-term. After the first year in a property you have the right to extend for another 5 years, unless the landlord needs to move into the apartment. After those 5 years the landlord is no longer obligated to retain his tenants.
The financial crisis has changed things, and if you have any money to invest, it might be the right time to buy. If you want to buy property in Spain it is highly advisable that you use an agent, because the law in Spain can be complex and it often requires an expert to sort out transfer issues.
Electricity is expensive in Spain, especially as most apartments do not have central heating and cooling. The houses are not designed to resist the cold, so a winter in a cold part of Spain can feel colder than a winter in northern Europe.
The dominant language of the country is Castilian (which you would think of as Spanish), but the use of Catalan, Basque and Galician all define important social groupings. The Basque region has such a distinct national identity that part of its population wants the region to form an independent state.