Working in Spain – an expat’s job guide (of sorts)
Thinking about working in Spain?
A lot of people write me asking for advice about moving to Spain and starting a new life.
Most of them want to work.
So can you work in Spain?
Well, first things first: you’ll probably need a visa. Salaries aren’t up to US or northern European standards. And the work culture is a bit different.
If you can handle that, then sure: working in Spain can be fun. Depending, of course, on what you’re doing.
First question I get asked all the time…
Can I work in Spain without a visa?
Long story short: maybe.
I wouldn’t recommend it, but a lot of people do – or at least did, back when I was in the game.
It’s quite limiting: if you’re an English-speaking expat without a work visa you’ll probably be stuck working in an Irish bar or teaching English.
In any case, it’s a much better idea to get a visa before coming.
A lot of younger people come with the Auxiliares de Conversación program, which makes you legal to work as a teacher’s assistant in schools. You can check out Sam and Veren’s blog Alternative Travelers for more info about that.
After your Auxiliar visa runs out, though, if you want to change over to a regular work visa, prepare yourself for some fun with bureaucracy.
If you’re looking for some other type of visa to apply for, there are a few:
- You can go “no lucrativo” if you’ve got a lot of money in the bank (or some large source of passive income). However, you can’t work on a no-lucrativo. It’s residence only.
- You can get an entrepreneur visa if you’re planning on starting a business and (potentially) employing some Spanish people.
- You can try to get a company to sponsor you for the visa before you come – I think this works better if you’re “highly qualified” and doing some job that not many Spanish people are qualified to do.
- Finally, you can come without the visa, hang out for a few years, and then apply for “arraigo social”.
You should probably consult a lawyer about those options – I’m barely qualified to answer even the most basic of legal questions.
Here’s another thing you should take into account before deciding to pick up and move to Spain…
How to find a job in Spain
Here’s the big thing about finding a job in Spain: people are used to doing things the old way.
That means they probably won’t hire you (at least in a Spanish company) without an in-person interview. Maybe you can do the preliminary interviews on Skype or over the phone, but at some point, they’re gonna want to see your smiling visage.
All that can make it difficult to find a job with a company in Spain while staying home – although you can try.
You can also poke around on Linkedin, or check out some relevant expat groups on Facebook (just search for them – every big city has one).
Spain’s work culture might not be what you’re used to
Morena tells me that at her office, one of her coworkers has given up.
He wants to be fired, so he can get his severance package and spend a while on unemployment.
But that’s the key word: fired.
He can’t just quit. He’d lose his juicy 6.000€ in severance money, as well as whatever “paro” he’s entitled to.
So he went to HR to ask to be fired.
No way, José!
(The guy’s name isn’t really José. It’s a figure of speech.)
So now, frustrated with his job and HR’s refusal to sign the papers, he’s sitting at his desk, barely working, watching YouTube videos and otherwise just wasting company time.
It occurs to me that there might be millions of people in Spain doing the same thing right now… working the bare minimum, and hoping to get canned and walk away with a few Gs.
In fact, back when I worked at the cheapest language school in Madrid, we had several people who were doing exactly that.
They’d roll in late, or drunk, or both. Take way more sick days than anyone could possibly need. Doze off in the middle of classes, while their students were doing exercises. All in hopes of being fired and walking off with a big fat severance check.
Some of them had been doing this long enough that in the meantime they’d been promoted to head of department. They were incompetent AF…
But after 20 years, the owners just couldn’t afford to fire them.
If every Spanish company has a few workers doing the same – and they might – I suspect it’s bad for national productivity as a whole.
But hey: that’s what European-style labor laws get you.
Anyway, that’s just one thing that comes to mind when I think “Spanish work culture”. The other is the customer service.
And then there are the horror stories my friends tell, of bosses who’re still using 19th-century management techniques that basically amount to “I’m the boss, so just shut up and do what I say.”
To be fair, I’m sure it’s not all bad – maybe I just don’t know too many people who are ecstatic about their jobs.
Is working in Spain a good idea?
I haven’t mentioned the salaries you earn from working in Spain much, because it varies.
In any case, they’re probably lower than what you’re used to if you’re coming from the US, the UK, or something similar.
If you have a lot of student loans back home, it can be tough to pay them off while simultaneously renting a flat (or room) and feeding yourself in Madrid or Barcelona.
And if you live in a smaller city, the salary will probably be even lower.
On the other hand, if you can keep your expenses under control, life in basically any Spanish city is pretty great. You’ll be eating good food, enjoying beautiful weather, and paying very little to drink some of the world’s best wine.
(I’m secretly convinced that people earning 80,000€ a year in London or New York would envy the life you can have in Spain for 20,000€ or less – if only they knew.)
If your dream is to leave it all behind to come and work in Spain, go for it! Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
It just might be pretty different than what you’re used to back home.
For some of us, of course, that’s a great thing.
P.S. I’ve got a lot more about working in Spain, living in Spain, dating in Spain and more, here on the blog. Check out, for example: cost of living in Madrid, pros and cons of Barcelona, or dating a foreigner.