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What Is Being An Expat From The Eyes Of An English Teacher

You are in Spain now but you are not Spanish. You left your country and came here attracted by the beauty of this land, the wonderful food, the nice weather, the amazing culture, the welcoming people or maybe for just for love! Whatever your reason is, brand new opportunities are opened before you, but how does it feel to be an expat in Spain? Did you know it would be that way before you packed your bag?


What I really love about Oxinity is the diversity of cultures, accents and experiences we have. In our teaching community we’ve had teachers from the 5 continents and I personally can't help but acknowledge how much I’ve learnt by interacting with all of them. 

No matter where we come from, what we have in common is that all of us one day decided to make of the biggest changes in our lives: move to a foreign country and start a new life. 

Our motivations are different -from moving for love to finding a better weather, new individual challenges or career change- and so are our personal goals but we all have undergone a process that has made us more open-minded, respectful, tolerant and understanding. We've learnt a new culture, a new language, we've blended with the local society without leaving our own personality behind. We are expats in Spain and enjoying it!

In order to help other people make the right decision for them about whether or not consider Spain their final destination, we've had an interesting discussion with people from England, Scotland, the USA and Slovakia. Different as we may seem at first sight, we've all made our way to Spain and are now successfully working here and enjoying local life. 

We hope the experiences we've shared help you in your decision. Being an expat and teaching English is Spain is a great opportunity for life growth. It worked for us, it can work for you!


We asked our teachers about their expat experience and this is what they shared

1. What was most difficult about moving abroad?


Jake (Australia): Definitely getting the visa. As I'm not from the EU and don't have a passport, the visa was difficult to get.

Julie (USA), Aife (Ireland), Paul (England): The language barrier

Ashley (Ireland): Finding my footing

Autumn (USA): The most difficult thing about moving aboard is, I'm not sure if I could pick just one thing. 

  • Leaving! Everything I know ( family, friends, job security, culture and a certain lifestyle I'm used to) to move to another country on the other side of the ocean. I was taking a huge risk just to leave my comfort zone and start a new life in a new city and country. It wasn't just a short vacation to Mexico or the Caribbean, I was actually leaving the country and not even sure when or if I wanted to return home. Unless, you are flying to NYC or Boston tickets to the US are not cheap :'( . 
  • The language barrier! I am fortunate enough to be born in a country where English is spoken daily and whenever I travelled, I never thought about whether or not I needed to study another language because I was always going to find someone who spoke the language. However, the more I travelled the more I realized that I need to learn another language to communicate with people more. Luckily, I studied Spanish in high school, college and I even did an exchange program in Granada. Nothing could prepare me for my move here. I thought I knew Spanish but Boy Was I wrong! In, the USA the Spanish is similar to Latin America and my first few month I had trouble because some the of the expressions/words aren't the same here which is similar to British and American. 
  • The culture! Spanish culture is so different and even though you laugh when people say "Spain is different", you they are saying the truth. I had to get use to the food schedule (I still haven't got used to it but I don't eat at 7ish). The work culture, the environment how everyone goes out for drinks and take 2hr lunches and there is always time for a coffee break(never say no to a coffee break). The food is amazing I think I've eaten more vegetables here than I have back home in the US. SPANISH BUREAUCRACY!!! is a big one ( I still don't get it, took me 4 months to get my visa I'm happy I have it but still) need I say more! 
  • Being an ambassador for your country! No matter where you go people always ask you "where are you from". Once people find out I'm American the questions about Trump, gun control, etc, always come up. Some people can't understand how these things keep happening and want me to explain it to them but I have no idea why. Sometimes there are no answers to the questions people ask you.


Tor (Norway): To actually move. Easy to talk about it, but action takes courage. Also the uncertainty about everything - If I would get a job, if I would get friends, if something happenes etc.


2. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you now give to you before moving here? 


Jake: Be open to trying new professions, I did and I'm loving the change!

Aife: Have a larger amount of savings built up and be cautious when renting apartments.

Julie: Be patient! The bureaucracy in Spain is strong so the paperwork is long and tedious but a necessity.

Autumn: Google is your friend! I would do more research about the different auxiliary programs and ask more people about their opinions. I would have joined more Facebook groups and get a feel how everything is. If I could afford I would try to take a trip and check out the city just to make sure.

Ash, Paulina, Tor: Try and get the NIE organised before coming to Spain

Miroslava (Slovakia) 

1. Do the research, connect with people who live here and ask questions. I visited estate agents finding out what are some good areas to live amd which ones to avoid.. (raval, roquetes)

2. Your NIE green card can be done in Terrasa much faster. Book an appointment with them and you have it done in 5minutes.

3. If you are from one of the special countries that give you hard time with your paperwork - dont be afraid to reach for a lawyer - for relatively cheap price they can do everything for u and save you a headache and some time.



3. What advice would you give to someone who thinks of moving to Spain?


Jake: Don't wait, it's a great place to live!

Julie: Practice your Spanish as much as you can!

Autumn: These are the two most important things: Are you able to be away from your family for long periods of time? A lot of people go home around Christmas because they are homesick, This experience isn't for everyone so they should know first hand what they are getting into. Can you be opened minded and not compare everything to the USA? I've read a lot of complaints about Americans saying how Spain isn't like the US and well it isn't. In my opinion if you go to another country you must be opened-minded to new experiences.

Mirka: Depends on the place, but re Barcelona - dont expect cheap fresh fish on every corner, mulled wine on the streets during Xmas and bare in mind that they speak Catalan, here!


4. Do you have any funny story from when you first came to Spain?


Julie: It was difficult to get used to kissing two cheeks in the beginning.

Louisa (The Netherlands): I spoke French to everyone and once i started learning Spanish i lost my French

Tor: comparing Norway (cold and boring) to Spain which has everything you need and more for half of the money, you have taken a recipe for a fun life in general, well so far that's my case (LOVE Madrid).

Paul: The “púente” if there is a single day between a day off and weekend blows my mind.

Autumn: When I first arrived I was told to get the entry stamp on my student visa. So, I was waiting in line and it was finally my turn and the immigration officer asked for my passport. I had it opened to the page and he looked at my name and was trying to say my name but couldn't. Then he asked his partner how to pronounce my name and he told him. Then he asked me what does it mean and I told him otono in Spanish. Then he starts making jokes about my name how it's Summer still and Autumn is far away. Like, they were the same jokes I heard in English my whole life and now I had to hear them in Spanish . Then he stamped my passport and it wasn't on the student visa and I told him that I needed on the visa and he told me " ah don't worry espain is different guapa"

Harvie (UK): I wanted to buy bananas on the first day but I bought plantain instead. Knowing that banana is translated as ‘plátano’, that is what I bought but they ended up to be plantain. So i had to think of many recipes using plátano and from now on I buy bananas as bananas.


5. Do you have any horror story from when you came to Spain?

Julie: Honestly, I do not have any horror stories. Maybe a cautionary tale would be to do your research regarding accommodations.

Ash: Trying to find accommodation was a horror story in itself at times haha

Mirka: The whole paperwork process for my Mexican partner was a horror story - the things we had to go through.. and it took us good 6 months of meetings with lawyers, making appointments and all kind of papers to actually be able to legally start looking for a job. They all seem to have devil-may-care attitude in the offices.



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Radmila Gurkova

Oxinity.com Co-Founder