Spain is one of my favorite countries. It’s both a fascinating destination to visit and a great place to live (and I’ve done both). So when people ask me what’s so great about Spain, I can list a lot of advantages off the top of my head. But to get you started, here are my top five reasons why Spain is a great place to live:
#1: The lifestyle
I could really stop with this one. Spain’s gracious lifestyle is a huge attraction, especially if you come from frenetic North America. In Spain, life is savored, with time taken to enjoy life’s pleasures. People stroll the streets in the evenings, enjoying the long evenings and chatting with neighbors. Charming outdoor café, where you can while away the hours, are everywhere.
Families are close, and many still eat most meals together. (Remember when we used to do that in the U.S.?) And that long mid-day siesta—which some other countries see as inefficient—provides the ideal time to connect with friends and family and to savor good food. (And the food in Spain can be very good.)
That’s not to say that day-to-day life is never hectic—tapas-bar hopping takes stamina, after all…
#2: The weather
Those long evening strolls and the many outdoor cafés? You can thank Spain’s warm weather for making them possible. Sunny weather is the norm in much of the country. Temperatures may soar in the south in summertime, but sea breezes cool you off. And winters in the south? Shirt-sleeve weather. In much of the north, where Spain does have four proper seasons, winters are still pretty mild: The temperature range year-round can be from about 40 F up to about 75 F. Not bad at all.
And let’s not forget the long summer evenings. Spain sits at the far-western edge of its time zone, so in high summer it’s still light outside at 10 p.m. So stay at the beach until 8 p.m. if you want—you’ll have time to spare for watching the sunset from a sidewalk café.
#3: The diversity
Any way you look at it, Spain is amazingly diverse. Beaches; mountains; vast plains; year-round mild weather or four distinct seasons: Spain has it all. Pick whatever climate you like, and unless your favorite is year-round snow, you’ll likely find it in Spain.
The culture is very diverse, too. Today’s Spain was formed from several separate kingdoms, and those regional differences are alive and well today. Cataluña, the Basque Country, Galicia, Valencia…they all feel delightfully different, and they each have their own language and customs (though Spanish is spoken everywhere). Visiting any of them can practically feel like visiting another country.
The food varies regionally, as well. Basque and Catalan cooking may be the most renowned in Spain. But Galicia’s seafood is to die for, and you’ve never had paella until you’ve had it in Valencia (aficionados say the key is Valencia’s water… I know at least one restaurant in Madrid that allegedly brings water from Valencia just to use for making paellas.)
#4: The people
The Spanish people are a lot of fun. Reserved, yet often exuberant. Friendly, yet sometimes cantankerous. Gracious, expansive, and often slightly stroppy, they’re a great reason to live in Spain. It’s easy to strike up conversations with friendly locals…but it’s only when you’re invited into a Spaniard’s home that you know you’ve “arrived.” Once that happens, you may be treated like family: Brace yourself to be loved—and chastised and nagged—accordingly. And did I mention they’re loud? The decibel level in Spanish restaurants is not to be believed. It’s all part of the exuberant give-and-take of daily life.
#5: The cost of living
And finally, let’s get practical: This great lifestyle is very affordable. Spain is one of the least-expensive countries in Western Europe. And that’s particularly true today, in Spain’s recession-battered economy. In many Spanish cities, you can find nice, furnished apartment rentals for as little as €400 a month—that’s only about $535. In smaller towns you can pay even less. In many areas you’ll have little or no heating costs, thanks to the warm climate. And excellent public transportation means you don’t need a car. Get excellent private health care—or, if you get a residence visa, access the free, public health care system after a waiting period.
Bottom line: A couple can live a comfortable, cultured, eminently First-World lifestyle in many parts of Spain for around $2,000 a month.
So what are you waiting for?
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