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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Spain: A Great Place to Live — But Not to Work

Spain lands in the bottom 10 for working abroad, but expats are delighted by the local leisure options, friendly people, as well as a great climate.

Top Findings

  • Spain (16th) ranks in the top 20 of the Expat Insider 2021 survey overall.
  • 85% of respondents are happy with the local leisure options (vs. 72% globally).
  • The majority (80%) agrees that it is easy to get used to the local culture (vs. 65% globally).
  • But Spain falls short in the Career Prospects & Satisfaction subcategory (51st).
  • Only about half the expats (53%) are currently working full or part time (vs. 67% globally).

The Best Leisure Options Worldwide

Spain ranks in the top 20 of the Expat Insider 2021 survey overall, placing 16th out of 59 countries. Achieving a good eighth place in the Quality of Life Index, it seems the perfect destination for expats seeking greener pastures. Nearly six in seven survey respondents in Spain (85%) are happy with the local leisure options (vs. 72% globally), and 46% even very much so (vs. 30% globally). Nearly three out of five expats (59%) give the local climate and weather the best possible rating, compared to just 27% globally. And 80% of respondents are happy with their socializing and leisure activities (vs. 67% globally). With these results, it comes as no surprise that Spain lands in first place worldwide in the Leisure Options subcategory. “I like the lifestyle, the way most Spaniards find time to socialize over a coffee, wine, or beer. I also like the climate,” says an Argentinian expat.

I like the lifestyle in Spain.

Expats Feel at Home in Spain

Spain ranks fourth in the Feeling at Home subcategory of the Ease of Settling In Index. In fact, 79% of expats feel at home in the Spanish culture (vs. 63% globally) — and 31% very much so. Moreover, four in five expats in Spain (80%) agree that it is easy to get used to the local culture (vs. 65% globally), and 76% find it easy to settle down in this country (vs. 62% globally). As a survey respondent from the USA puts it: “I love the culture, food, the warm, friendly people, and the interesting places to see.” And a British expat shares: “I like that locals are friendly towards foreigners, even when they struggle with the local language.” Most expats in Spain (76%) agree that the population is generally friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 67% globally), and 62% find it easy to learn the local language (vs. 39% globally). Perhaps this is why only 3% of survey respondents in Spain do not speak the local language at all (vs. 13% globally), while 58% speak it fairly well or very well, compared to just 47% globally.

Very Low Job Satisfaction among Expats

On the other hand, Spain performs poorly when it comes to expats’ working life. Ranking in the bottom 10 of the Working Abroad Index (51st), Spain particularly falls short in the Career Prospects & Satisfaction subcategory (51st). “It is difficult to find a good job — there are a lot of lousy jobs with low salaries,” says an expat from Austria. Just over half the respondents in Spain (53%) are currently working full time or part time, 14 percentage points below the global average (67%), while close to a quarter (23%) are already retired (vs. 11% globally). And more than two out of nine survey respondents in Spain (23%) rate their overall job satisfaction negatively, seven percentage points more than the global average (16%). The job security also does not spark joy among expats: more than three out of ten (31%) are unhappy with this factor (vs. 20% globally).

It is difficult to find a good job.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Expat Life

According to expats in Spain, the COVID-19 pandemic has had the biggest impact on their social life and personal travel — 25% and 29% say so, respectively. However, it has not affected the relocation plans of the survey respondents as drastically. Only 17% say that they have decided not to move back home in the near future due to the pandemic, about the same as the global average (18%), and just 4% have decided to move home sooner than planned (vs. 5% globally). When it comes to moving abroad or changing their plans of moving to another country, 6% respectively say that this applies to them (vs. 6% and 8% globally). In Spain, 57% of expats follow the local news to stay up to date about COVID-19 and related regulations, compared to just 47% globally.

Further Reading