I’m in Spain again, much to my delight, for our first-ever Live And Invest In Spain Conference.
Some sunshine, seafood, and catching up with our local friends and colleagues in Iberia is just the antidote to a drizzly autumn in Paris…
I’m reminded of all the things I love about “The Bull Skin” (the nickname bestowed upon the country by Greek geographer Strabo who noticed their similarities in shape)…
1. The Sunshine
Who could deny that one of the top things we seek in a new life overseas is a more pleasant climate—whatever that means for you.
After living in Panama for seven years, I couldn’t wait to come to a place with four seasons again. I missed winter and the transitional seasons—during which I get to wear some of my favorite clothing items!—and I find that even after five years here in Paris, I eagerly await autumn and the coziness of cold weather.
But the grass is always greener…! After a few weeks of shortened daylight hours and gray skies, I find myself yearning for some vitamin D.
Being such a massive country with such varied topography, you can easily customize the climate you’d like in your new life in Spain.
Valencia, perhaps, represents one of the ideal global climates… while it gets hot in the summer, no doubt, winters are mild yet significantly cooler. You won’t see any snow here, but you’ll never lack for sunshine, even in January and February.
Head even farther south for more consistently warm temperatures… or farther north along the southern coast for more annual change. The northern coast is famous for its completely different climate, with much more precipitation and wind.
I’m not the biggest beach lover, but for those seeking sand, Spain’s got miles upon miles of it, and the weather to appreciate it year-round.
2. The Party Vibes
You don’t have to be a nightclubber to enjoy Spain’s version of a party (I’m certainly not!).
Spaniards simply love to celebrate and embrace joy… especially Catalans (those living in Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the heart).
Whatever the event, big or small, it’s worth some fanfare in Spain. I love the wild abandon and sheer delight you see at every turn here.
3. The Easygoing Culture
Aside from a party, not much is taken too seriously here…
People are casual, friendly, and neighborly. Folks here are friendly and everyone is ready to chat.
Of course, this can work both ways… it’s the source of the famous “mañana attitude” that’s so common.
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4. Traditional Schedules
One of the things I’ve come to love most about living in Europe is a return to traditional schedules that put an emphasis on personal and family time.
This comes out in a few different ways…
First, the “siesta hour.” Throughout most of Spain (and much of Europe), business hours aren’t as regular as they are in North America. Most things open in the morning and close for several hours from noon until 4 or 5 p.m., hearkening back to times before climate control, when it was simply too hot to do much when the sun was at its peak.
Likewise, Sundays are for rest. It’s rare to find businesses that will open on a Sunday anywhere in Europe, though some have modernized and transferred the day off to Monday to take advantage of higher weekend traffic.
Second, meal times (again, this isn’t particular to Spain). People eat at regular hours in Europe, and meal times are taken seriously as times away from work and as a chance to connect with people, be they family or friends.
Throughout most of Spain, you’ll only be able to get lunch between noon and 2 p.m., and dinner is rarely served before 9 p.m. Luckily for us foreigners, tapas hour is between 5 and 7 p.m., and is your chance for an early meal or a snack to tide you over until dinner.
Sure, in tourist areas, you’ll see places that serve at all hours, but it’s nothing you can rely on in general and definitely won’t be offered in smaller towns or rural areas.
5. The Language
Many Americans have some kind of a foundation of Spanish… but it’s nothing like Castilian, the original form of Spanish that is spoken here.
It takes some getting used to, but once you do, I think you’ll find it to be as charming as I do.
If you’d like to begin getting an ear for Castilian, I recommend watching the uber-popular Netflix series, “Casa de Papel” (“Money Heist” in English). Read the subtitles as you listen to the Castilian spoken and you’ll instantly hear the strong difference between Spain’s Spanish and that which you might be familiar with in Latin America.
Note that there are several other regional languages spoken in Spain, aside from Castilian. In Catalonia, Catalan is spoken; in Valencia, Valencian; in Galicia, Galician (also called Gallego); in Basque, Basque. While these aren’t nationally recognized as official languages, they may as well be, and if you move to one of these regions you’ll see them everywhere and would do well to learn a few words of them.
In Catalonia especially, people are fiercely proud of Catalan and it’s often the first language used on menus, for example. It’s also taught in regional schools, as is Valencian in their local schools, which is something to consider if you’re thinking of putting your kids in the local educational system.
6. The History
Perhaps the thing I love most about living in Europe is that your day-to-day life is full of reminders of the past, whether in architecture, traditional customs, art, or even the layout of a city.
I’m an art history nerd with a love of the ancient, and I am reminded of these things every day as I go about my life in Europe.
In Spain, which was once well populated by Romans, you’ll find no shortage of archaeological sites to visit—even in the heart of its most modern cities—as well as much more recent treasures to appreciate.
A crossroads of culture, with many nationalities and ethnicities making their mark on this giant country, Spain is a cultural minefield, full of wonders from all ages.
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7. The Importance Of Family
In France, children are best seen and not heard… but in Spain, children are embraced in all their beautiful chaos. I love that when I come to Spain with my family, people are as eager for my toddler’s company as for ours.
Don’t be surprised if you have restauranteurs offering to take your kid off your hands while you enjoy your dinner.
Likewise—and this may be an adjustment for some North Americans—get used to your child being treated like community property—in the best way possible, it takes a village, after all, and that’s an adage taken seriously here. People here aren’t likely to ask before they touch, hug, kiss, pick up, or give treats to your child. Personally, I love this attitude… but I recognize that it can feel like an invasion to those who are used to more cultural boundaries.
8. The Proximity To Everything Else
If you base yourself in the mountains, it won’t take you long to get to the coast, and vice versa…
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