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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Spain: More Than a Mediterranean Retirement Haven

In 2017, Spain makes it back into the top 10 thanks to an excellent quality of life, a friendly population, low costs, and a slowly improving economy.
  • Worst ranking with regard to work
  • Nearly a quarter of respondents are retirees
  • Nine in ten happy with leisure activities
  • In top 10 for Quality of Life, Family Life, and Cost of Living
  • Below-average satisfaction with finances
  • Spanish considered generally easy to learn

Limited Career Options Paired with Limited Demand

Spain receives its worst rating of 2017 in the Working Abroad Index, ranking 52nd out of 65 countries. However, this still shows some improvement from its 2015 low when it barely escaped the bottom 5, ranking 59th out of 64 destinations. Despite three years of economic growth and pre-crisis GDP levels expected in 2017, expats in Spain continue to be dissatisfied with the local economy: only around a third (34%) give it a favorable rating.  

The salary level and job opportunities are very low, with few or no career prospects.

Despite economic growth on the horizon, unemployment in Spain remains high at around 18% at the time of writing. “The salary level and job opportunities are very low,” one French respondent remarks, “with few or no career prospects.” Close to a third (32%) agree, also rating their career prospects in Spain negatively.

Luckily, there is a large portion of expatriates in Spain who no longer have to worry about their careers: close to a quarter (24%) say they are a retiree. A similar percentage of expats (21%) reveal that retiring in Spain was at least one of their motivations for moving. This also explains the higher than average age of expats in Spain (48.7 years vs a global average of 43.5) to some extent.  

Back on the Podium for Quality of Life

When you look at the main reason for relocating to Spain, a better quality of life is the clear winner: 26%, more than three times the global average (8%), cite this factor. And Spain does not disappoint; nine in ten expats (90%) are satisfied with their life in Spain, twelve percentage points more than the global average. It’s a consistently strong area for Spain: across all four years of Expat Insider, the country has always been in the top 10 of the Quality of Life Index, ranking third in 2017.

There are many reasons for this: around nine in ten respondents are overall happy with travel opportunities (90%), their personal safety (91%), and available leisure activities (89%). One British respondent puts it very simply: “We love Spain. The climate and the lifestyle suit us perfectly.” An impressive 96% only have good things to say about Spain’s weather and climate, which close to two-thirds (66%) even consider excellent! More details on Spain’s performance in the Quality of Life Index can be found in the article A Place in the Sun? Where Expats Enjoy the Quality of Life.  

Child-Friendly and Affordable for Families

Respondents’ satisfaction also extends to available leisure activities for kids: 89% of expat parents are happy with this factor, with more than half (51%) even considering it excellent. With good results across the board, Spain manages to score 8th place out of 45 countries in the Family Life Index in 2017, a vast improvement on its 26th rank in 2016. Parents are particularly satisfied with the availability and costs of childcare and education, ranking Spain fourth and eighth in these aspects. The quality of education, however, is seen less positively, with a fifth of parents (20%) voicing at least some dissatisfaction.

Spain is safe and child-friendly, and there is a general goodwill among people.

The vast majority of expat parents in Spain thinks the country is good for their children’s health (84%) and safety (91%), and that Spaniards are friendly towards families with kids (91%). One British respondent appreciates that “it's safe and child-friendly and there is a general goodwill among people”.

Settling In in No Time

Friendliness simply seems to be a part of Spanish life: at least four in five respondents agree that there’s a friendly attitude in general (85%) as well as toward foreign residents in particular (80%). “I love the openness and friendly demeanor [of the people]. They have made this experience an incredible one so far and I can't wait to see what the future holds!”, a US American says.

Over four-fifths of expats (81%) also think it’s easy to get used to the local culture, helping Spain reach sixth place in the Feeling Welcome subcategory of the Ease of Settling In Index. Three in ten respondents even felt at home in Spain nearly straight away. With language being an integral part of culture, local language skills can make it easier for expats to connect with the local population. Fortunately, close to three in five respondents in Spain (58%) generally agree that Spanish is easy to learn; only a third of respondents globally (33%) say the same about the local language(s) of their respective country of residence.

Low Costs — and Slow Gains in Finances

Prior to relocating to Spain, close to seven in ten respondents (68%) considered the cost of living a potential benefit of their move. After moving, this favorable opinion hasn’t changed much: only 19%, less than half the global average of 40%, consider housing to be expensive. Over four in five (82%) rate the cost of living positively in general, and more than double the global average (15%) even consider it to be very affordable (33%). Thanks to such stellar results, Spain is featured in the top 10 of the Cost of Living Index in 2017.

However, low costs might be a necessity for expats in Spain: over two in five (43%) report annual household incomes of less than 25,000 USD, and a quarter say their disposable household income is not enough to cover daily expenses. Despite these results, Spain has managed to improve its ranking in the Personal Finance Index over the years, to take 41st place out of 65 countries in 2017, compared to 58th out of 64 countries in 2015.

Further Reading