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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Expat Life in Spain: Sun, Sea, and Family

Spain achieves its highest-ever overall rank in 2019, moving up three places to number five. Expats are particularly happy with the leisure options and the quality of medical care available.
  • Nearly all expats (97%) enjoy the Spanish climate and weather.
  • Spain achieves its best-ever rank in the Family Life Index (5th).
  • Over half the expats (52%) rate the quality of medical care very highly.
  • Spain ranks among the top 5 in the Quality of Life Index for the fourth year in a row (2nd out of 64).
  • Close to three in ten expats (29%) are disappointed with their career prospects.
  • 79% say moving abroad has made them happier (vs. 61% globally).

The Best Leisure Options Worldwide

Spain continues to reign supreme in the Leisure Options subcategory, finishing number one for the third year in a row. Expats are particularly satisfied with Spain’s Mediterranean climate: Nearly all respondents (97%) rate this positively, 36 percentage points above the global average (61%). Everyone seems to enjoy the warm weather, and one Hungarian expat exclaims: “I love living next to the sea and enjoying the sun nearly every day of the year!”

What is more, Spain also offers a wealth of leisure activities as over nine in ten expats (92%) are happy with the options available, compared to three-quarters (75%) worldwide — 59% even give it the best possible rating (vs. 36% globally). The country also boasts excellent socializing opportunities, with 81% of expats satisfied with their leisure and socializing activities, 16 percentage points above the global average (65%).

Fun for the Whole Family

An excellent location to raise a family, Spain has risen eight ranks to fifth place in the 2019 Family Life Index. With a staggering share of over nine in ten expat parents (92%) being satisfied with family life in general (vs. 79% globally), it is hardly surprising that one British expat admits “the culture for bringing up a young family is much better than in the UK”. In fact, only Finland boasts a higher share of expat parents (93%) who are satisfied with their family life in general.

The culture for bringing up a young family is much better than in the UK.

Families appear to be welcomed in Spain with open arms: Over nine in ten expat parents (93%) are pleased with the friendly attitude towards their children, twelve percentage points above the global average (81%). Additionally, Spain boasts the second-highest percentage worldwide of parents who are very pleased with the attitude towards families with children (65%), beaten only by Bahrain (67%). The country has seen great improvements for children’s general well-being, climbing seven ranks to second place, only behind Finland. This might be linked, among other things, to an improvement in the leisure activities available for children, which exactly nine in ten expat parents (90%) are now satisfied with, compared to 75% globally.

Improving Job Security but Few Career Prospects

Spain’s disappointing finish among the bottom 10 for job security in 2018 (59th out of 68) seems a distant memory as the country has climbed an impressive 21 places to rank 38th in 2019. Expats continue to enjoy their work-life balance, with close to seven in ten (69%) pleased with this factor, compared to 60% globally. One Dutch expat appreciates that “work-life balance is excellent, and there is lots of flexibility”.

You can’t do much if you don’t speak the language.

Despite the positives, expats seem to struggle with a lack of career opportunities: Nearly three in ten expats (29%) are disappointed with their career prospects in Spain (vs. 24% globally). One Canadian expat bemoans that “there is a lack of career opportunities — you can’t do much if you don’t speak the language”. The shortage of career opportunities could partly be due to the poor Spanish economy; just over half the expats (53%) are satisfied with the economy’s current state, compared to 63% globally.

Easy to Feel at Home

Spain has ranked in the top 10 in the Feeling at Home subcategory in the last six years of the Expat Insider survey, and it’s business as usual in 2019, with the destination moving up another two spots to third place. Additionally, two in five expats who are happy with their new life in Spain (40%) cite not experiencing any culture shock as one of the main reasons for their satisfaction.

Surprisingly, respondents in 2019 seem to find it more difficult to make friends in Spain as the country has fallen four places to ranking 19th out of 64 in the Finding Friends subcategory. One British expat admits “it’s difficult to find friends and hard to integrate with the locals, even though I speak the language”. However, despite this decline, Spain still ranks 16 percentage points above the global average for the ease of making new friends (70% vs. 54%).

All Time High for Personal Finance

Another success story for Spain in 2019 can be found in the Personal Finance Index, where the country has moved up sixteen places to 23rd — claiming its best result ever in the process. Expats are particularly happy with their financial situation abroad, with close to seven in ten (68%) satisfied with their current finances.

The cost of living in Spain seems to be becoming more affordable as the destination has climbed three places to rank among the top 10 in this index (9th). Over eight in ten expats (81%) are pleased with the cost of living in Spain in general, 34 percentage points above the global average (47%). It comes as no surprise that an Australian expat names the “low cost of living” as one of his favorite things about life in Spain, as over one in three expats (34%) even say the cost of living could not be any better.

Quality Healthcare at an Affordable Price

For expats looking for affordable healthcare, Spain comes out as an excellent location as 82% are pleased with the services on offer, 27 percentage points above the worldwide average (55%). In fact, only in Israel (84%) and Taiwan (89%) are expats even satisfied with the affordability of healthcare.

Healthcare in Spain is not only affordable but also of very high quality. The country has moved up five ranks to second place for the high standard of its medical care, only behind Taiwan. Over half the expats in Spain (52%) even say the quality of medical care could not be any better, noticeably above the global average (29%).

Further Reading