Moving abroad was always going to be bit of a challenge. I had spent so much time worrying about how I would cope with the language and missing my friends and family back home since submitting my application in December 2015 that by the time I had managed to squeeze a year of my life into two small suitcases (ok, three), board a flight to Madrid and then make the two and a half hour drive to Tomelloso alongside my mum, I was left thinking – what now?
I realised I was left with a whole set of – what should be – pretty mundane admin chores in order to establish myself officially as an expat in Spain. Fine, except what I hadn’t accounted for was the relaxed pace of life here in sunny Spain and the fact that one thing needs to be accomplished before you can even begin to think about the next. As a result, I have now been here for almost two weeks and have only just today ticked off the second item on my list, which is as follows:
- Find a flat – you need an address in Spain for any official paperwork.
- Get an NIE number, el numero de identificación extranjero (pronounced nyee-ay). This is like the equivalent of a National Insurance number and necessary for any foreign person living and working in Spain for more than three months – you need this to be able to open a bank account.
- Open a bank account, another tricky one as most Spanish banks seem to charge if you withdraw money from any ATM that isn’t attached to one of their branches so it is important to choose carefully!
- Buy a Spanish sim card. I understand that for most people this would be top of the list however I am lucky enough to enjoy Three’s Feel at Home package which charges the exact same amount for calls, texts and data as it does in the UK, however this only lasts for three months and you can only call British numbers so a Spanish sim is vital! As a self confessed social media addict I have struggled to find a network that offers as much data as in the UK however I have been recommended a network called Simyo, which seems to be similar to Giffgaff and offers flexible, cheap tariffs. The catch is that you need a Spanish bank account to order this and so it is last on my list.
As frustrating as all that may sound, I really can’t complain as I found a flat within two days of arriving in Tomelloso with another Brit abroad, a young English girl who is working in a local language school. Although I had originally hoped to live with Spaniards in order to practice and perfect my Spanish, the truth is that the flat is far nicer than anywhere I had expected to find and I got on with my new flatmate right away. And honestly, barely a word of English is spoken anywhere in this town so really it’s nice to come home to a familiar language after a long day of trying to make yourself understood.
All in all, my experience so far has been pretty smooth, and I have to say that preparation is key. As someone who is generally pretty terrible for leaving things to the last minute, often resulting in a lot of unnecessary stress, I have surprised myself with organisational skills I didn’t know I had. Taking the time before I arrived to contact anyone I could in the town and to research and prepare all the documents necessary for various applications has already paid off hugely.
Fingers crossed that the rest of the year continues without hiccups!