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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Avoiding the Spanish Economy

Spanish expats are keen on language learning and mostly move abroad for work. They are also highly educated and more than content with their salaries.
  • Almost half have postgraduate or master’s degree
  • Only 15% plan on staying forever
  • Typically get higher salaries than at home
  • Nearly four-fifths (78%) generally happy with life abroad

Seeking Jobs Elsewhere

Spanish expats generally move abroad for work: 19% found a job on their own and 16% were sent abroad by their employer. Close to two-thirds of Spanish expats (66%) say they saw the economy and/or labor market of their future host country as a potential benefit before relocating — most likely due to Spain’s slowly recovering economy and still high unemployment rates.

Half of working Spanish expats are either employees (35%) or managers (15%), and the most common sectors are IT (11%), education (10%), and finance (10%). Almost three-fifths of expats from Spain (59%) are happy with their career prospects, compared to a global average of 53%. Spaniards abroad are generally highly educated: almost half (49%) have a postgraduate or master’s degree, while a further 7% have a PhD.

For most Spanish expats, the move abroad paid off: over three-fifths (62%) earn more than they would in a similar job back home, and half say their current disposable household income is more than enough to cover their expenses. With 42.8 hours, full-time working hours for Spanish expats are also below the global average — a typical workweek is 44.3 hours.

A Temporary Move

Spanish expats are not planning to stay long in their host country: while close to three in ten of all respondents (29%) plan to stay abroad forever, only 15% of Spanish expats feel the same way. Moreover, only 7% have acquired the citizenship of their current host country, compared to 12% worldwide. Knowing that their stay is only temporary could explain why Spanish expats take so long to feel comfortable: one-fifth say they don’t feel at home yet, and 12% think they will never feel at home.

When looking at the global share of respondents that have previously lived abroad, only a quarter have already lived in three or more foreign countries, compared to 35% of Spaniards. Despite this expat experience, over two-fifths (44%) think it’s very likely that they will return to Spain at one point — eleven percentage points more than their global counterparts.

The most popular country to relocate to among Spanish expats is the UK (13%), followed by the USA (9%), and Germany (9%). Eight out of the ten most common destinations are in Europe, explaining why 40% say they considered the distance to their home country a potential benefit prior to relocating. Moving away from the Mediterranean, however, also means that 41% saw the climate and weather of their future home as a potential drawback.

Foreign Language? No Hay Problema

The Spanish seem to love speaking other languages — 16% say that one of the reasons for moving abroad was to improve their language skills, and 51% considered language a potential benefit prior to their move. Once abroad, more than half of Spanish respondents (51%) say they speak the local language(s) of their host country fairly or very well; a further 14% say it’s the same as their mother tongue. It’s lucky they have these linguistic abilities — almost half of respondents (49%) say it would be difficult to live in their host country without speaking the local language. A Spanish expat in Sweden, for example, states, “if you're serious about staying you should prioritize learning Swedish”.

Barely Bursting the Expat Bubble

Over half of Spanish expats (54%) are generally happy with making new friends abroad, although just under a third (32%) consider it easy to make local friends. In fact, over two in five Spaniards (42%) say their social circle is mostly other expats, compared to a third globally. They find that the main barriers to making local friends are cultural issues (45%) and being surrounded mostly by other expats at work (41%).

However, this does not mean that Spanish expats only stick together: almost two-fifths of those in a relationship (38%) have a partner from their host country. In general, Spanish expats are more likely to move abroad without being in a relationship: 32% only met their partner after arriving in their current country of residence and 42% are currently single, compared to a 35% globally.

Further Reading