15 August 2017

Penelope Cain - Expat in Barcelona, Spain

Penelope Cain - Expat in Barcelona, Spain

We’ve had the chance to talk to Penelope Cain, 29, a British expat who has moved to Spain with her partner. Ms. Cain who has been living there for seven years, now works in marketing. 

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: United Kingdom.


Q: What made you move out of the UK?

A: Wanting to learn something new.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: Barcelona, Spain. I’d spent time in France and wanted to learn Spanish, too.


Q: How long have you been living in Spain?

A: Seven years. It’s gone fast!


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I live with my Spanish partner.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: After seven years, I’ve built up quite a solid home and “family” here. It would be nicer to be able to see my UK family for shorter periods of time – sometimes it can be a bit all or nothing. We are all quite independent people, though. And relatively speaking, we could be a lot further.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: It all depends on the person in question.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Spain? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: It was easy to initially meet people, but I found it took a while to find people I really had a lot in common with. I describe my friends as either well-integrated expats or open-minded locals, who I’ve met through previous jobs, activities, and friends of friends.


Q: How does the cost of living in Spain compare to your home?

A: I’d say it’s cheaper.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: 1, 30€.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: 20€.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: 35€ (by my definition of “expensive”).

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Around 5-10€ for a basic but reasonable bottle of wine. (I don’t smoke so not sure about cigarettes)


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Spain?

A: Check how much you will be charged for international transfers – it can vary widely.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: Being an EU citizen, visas and work permits weren’t necessary. I used to work for myself though, and the paperwork was a nightmare – time-consuming and with a real lack of clear communication from the government about what was needed. You can see more about it in my blog (I’ve added a link below).


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Spain is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: Yes. I’ve used both private and public systems and both have worked well. Private healthcare tends to be a little friendlier. And Spanish dentists are very good.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in the UK or Spain?  What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: I have a mutual (health insurance) with work. I’d always look for something that offers dental and optical care, as well as prescriptions to avoid costs adding up.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Spain? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: I’d just left university and took everything in a backpack. What I remember now is how much paperwork and books I brought with me – now, I’d try to “carry” those things things electronically.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: When I first moved here and the Spanish economy went down. I always managed to find work but it was a dark moment for the whole country.

For a while after I got here I also went through a sort of identity crisis – I didn’t feel like I fit in either country anymore. I came out the other side when I realised fitting in is overrated anyway.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Spain?

A: I have a very comfortable lifestyle – there’s lots of beautiful natural areas close by and small luxuries such as food, coffee and outdoor concerts are cheap and good. On the downside, the work opportunities are perhaps less varied. But I tend to be too work-focused and wanted to learn to prioritise other areas of life.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: There is an infinite amount to see and do here for all tastes, and plenty of information on the web. I’m quite out of touch with what the trendy venues are these days, so I am probably not the best person to give recommendations. I will say that butxaca.com has been invaluable for finding concerts to go to.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: No. I am pretty comfortable here and it would take quite a lot to move me. I don’t rule it out though.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Avoid making negative generalisations – there’s always some of everything everywhere and going out and looking for what you want is more constructive.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Spain?

A: Is it shameless to include my own here (selfemployedinspain.com – info and advice about setting up business in Barcelona)?

I am also a big fan of TimeOut. I’m sure they have a much bigger team than most publications but they still seem to manage to cover the city very well.