6 Things I Wish I Had Known on My First Month in Spain


This time last month I was in London saying goodbye to my closest friends ahead of my much-anticipated move to Spain. As I am writing this, this already feels like a distant memory. It’s crazy how quickly we can adapt to change, but whilst memories do sometimes fade, the way we felt at a given moment in time stays with us forever.

I remember feeling anxious and unsure about my decision. I remember wondering if I had made the wrong choice and whether I should crawl back to my old company to ask for my job back. I remember also feeling excited at the same time about the possibilities and opportunities this new adventure would bring.

A month in and it already feels like I am slowly starting to find my feet and create my own routine. Now that I have sorted out all the small things like getting a new gym membership, setting my new my bank account and getting all my Spanish paper works in order I feel like I can finally start slowly navigating through life again without feeling completely out of my depth every time I step out of the house. Of course, there are still millions more things for me to do before I finally feel home in Spain, and obviously the language is a priority but for now I am celebrating the first small wins in my adventure.

For anyone else about the start on a new journey in Spain, here’s a few small things – which I wish I had known before - that might help make the first few days into your new adventure that little bit easier.  

The Practical stuff

1.       Book your meeting to get your NIE number before moving to Spain

As you settle down in Spain, you will quickly realise that you can’t do anything without this number. Basically, you need your NIE number to start work, to get a social security number, and to open a bank account. So, without it you are basically stuck! Because I had found a job before moving to Spain – as I explained in one of my previous posts – my company had booked the meeting for me. However, I heard stories of people having to wait months to get a meeting booked (especially during the Summer), meaning they couldn’t start working for while – which as we all know can be tricky if you have little savings.

2.       Make sure to get a tenancy agreement under your name

Whilst the health system is pretty good in Spain, you will only be able to register to your local GP once you register to your local Ayuntamiento – which is basically your council – as a resident. You will then get a paper – once you’ve shown your NIE number and tenancy contract - which will enable you to access your local GP for free. If you are not in a position to get a tenancy contract under your name – which often happens when renting a room, you will need to pay for a private health insurance which can cost up to 50 euros a month.

3.       Be mindful with who you set up your bank account

In Spain, banks charge you a fee every time you withdraw money from a bank which isn’t yours. When choosing a bank, make sure it’s one that you can easily find near your house, and the city in general.

The More random stuff

4.       Get used to old people staring at you – especially if you happen to be, you know … black

Don’t get me wrong Barcelona is a fairly diverse city, however I did notice how sometimes older white men stared at me a little bit longer than what I am comfortable with. The first couple of days it did kind of bothered me, but then I moved on and just accepted the fact that some people will stare – and that’s ok. As mentioned before, I am done trying to second guess what people who – I will most likely never see again in my life – think of me.

5.       Get used to people referring to you as “Morenita” (If you are black) which essentially means “Black girl”

I kind of knew that before I moved to Spain, since I have been here several times before and had heard people referring to me as “Morenita” or even “Negrita”, but still I don’t think I will ever get used to it. No matter how many time people have explained to me how nice these nicknames are supposed to be it still pains me to hear it. However, moving to a new country not only means adapting to a new culture but it also requires some level of openness, so I am trying to keep an open mind and resist the urge of slapping anyone who calls me this.

6.       Forget the tube etiquette – especially if you live in Barcelona

One thing that utterly shocked me – especially after living in London where people are the most well-behaved tube passengers I have ever seen – is taking the tube in Barcelona. Not only people do not seem to want to let you get off the tube before they enter, but there seem to be a general understanding that it’s ok to just push people as you see fit in order to make your way to the top of the train. I must admit that the first few days on the tube were challenging but once you understand that the survival of the fittest applies in the tube – you are going to be just fine!