Thursday, 10 July 2014

Country in review: Spain

Spain has long been a hotspot for expats, with many flocking there each year to bask in warm temperatures and enjoy the Mediterranean diet. But there’s more to expat life in Spain… here’s our rundown of the other things you don’t want to miss while you’re there!

City vs. country
Spain is often characterised by its buzzing metropolitan cities, with Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville among some of the country’s most popular places for expats and tourists alike. But it’s also a haven for those who crave a bit of peace and quiet. Venturing into the countryside, you’ll find rolling hills and lots of open space. Perhaps most famous is the 500 mile stretch known as the Camino de Santiago, or ‘Way of St James’ - to complete the whole thing will take you just over a month, but the good news is that it’s easy to do smaller sections. Just make sure you’ve got your walking shoes with you! Along the way you’ll find beautiful views, delicious food and, inevitably, other walkers enjoying the same scenery. It’s the perfect way to fill a weekend – that is, if you’re not too busy exploring the rest of Spain!

Nurture the travel bug
There’s no better way to catch the travel bug than relocating abroad. In our 2013 Expat Explorer survey, more than half of the expats that we spoke to who lived in Spain agreed that they were travelling more than they did before they moving abroad. And it’s a brilliant location to make the most of other gems within Europe too – be it Portugal, France, Germany, the UK… or wherever! For those expats looking to get away from it all, be sure to hop on a flight or boat to the Canary Islands for  Ibiza might cut it as a best beach but I don’t think that can be said of the Canary Islands. our favourites are Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife and Puerto Naos in La Palma. 

Image source: Creative Commons/Ignacio García

Find a fiesta
Fiestas and carnivals are at the forefront of life in Spain, often taking over cities for days at a time as locals and tourists mingle among professional dancers, singers and performance artists. You’re spoilt for choice as there are plenty taking place all year round. Perhaps one of the most famous is the Bienal de Flamenco in Seville, which celebrates the authentic dance which is so often seen as one of the national emblems of Spain. Don your Spanish attire, take your castanets and get involved in the party! In Valencia, Las Fallas is one the biggest and most popular.

A spectacular soiree with historic roots, it usually takes place at the beginning of each March. Its origins lie in the historic burning of pieces of wood, tied together by local artisans to resemble a human form (known as ‘Ninots’) and placed upon pedestals, signifying rebirth. Each afternoon, between the 1st and 19th of March, gunpowder explosions or ‘mascletà’ echo around the city’s Plaza del Ayuntamiento, meaning that no one can ignore the presence of the fiesta! If your tastes are more modern, you might enjoy Sónar in Barcelona – also known as the International Festival of Advanced Music and New Media Art - as it’s one of Europe’s largest electronic music festivals. 

Image source: Creative Commons/Brendan

Live like a local
Expat life is definitely a different kettle of fish to being on holiday – and there’s a lot to get used to. It can feel overwhelming but the best way to get to grips with everything that Spain has to offer is to jump straight in! Food is at the heart of day-to-day life for many Spaniards and local markets abound with fresh, regionally produced produce. Some of the best and oldest markets to visit in Spain’s bigger cities include the 100+ year old Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid and the Mercado de la Boquería in Barcelona. Whether it’s meat, cheese, wine or sweet pastries that you’re after – these markets, or even one that’s local to you, promise to be an Aladdin’s cave of tempting treats for any palette. A visit to the market is the perfect place to have a stab at speaking the language: although picking it up can be tricky initially, there’s no substitute for practice. A bustling market can be a daunting prospect for your first go at mastering the lingo, but you’re more likely to gain kudos from the locals for having a go… Good luck!

What’s your experience of expat life in Spain? Share your best travel insights with other expats using our Hints + Tips tool

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