Moving to Spain
Archived Q&A and Reviews
We are thinking about going to Spain or Chile with our kids for a year. They will be in 7th and 5th grade when we go. We need to be in a city large enough to have a university or institute. We have been considering Barcelona or Santiago and maybe enrolling them in an international school. If anyone has ideas, thoughts, suggestions or recommendations we are all ears. My older child is not thrilled about this idea at the moment even though it is some time away. Has anyone taken kids this age away for a year? Thanks. Tracey
Either Santiago or Barcelona would be wonderful for your kids. The main recommendation I have: DON'T enroll them in an international school. It is far more valuable to have exposure to the culture and language of your host country, and to do that you want them to be the only English speaker in the school. One year of US academics missed won't matter much, because there's so much repetition. But coming home speaking Spanish like a native, with a native accent, will be something that stays with your kids for their lifetimes. Plus, they will learn so much about another culture -- another extraordinarily valuable trait.
I spent a year in another country in 10th grade. Although it wasn't always easy, I learned more that year academically, linguistically, socially, and personally than I did any other years. I just joined a regular public school in my host country where I was the only foreigner. So I was forced to learn to speak their language all the time. As a result, by the end of the year I was mistaken for a native (even though everyone had previously said 15 years old was too old to learn to speak a language with the correct accent). I did miss a bit of the US academic sequence (I took a correspondence course in US History as recommended by my high school), but it didn't end up mattering.
Wish I could provide that opportunity to my kids!
I have friends who moved to Madrid. They seem to love it; have two elementary-age kids in an apartment. If you'd like further info, please contact me and I'll put you in touch. Alana
Good for you. I think your kids will thank you (someday) and that either could be great! We lived in Barcelona when I was in 6th grade (and my sister in 9th) for 8 months and I attended a public elementary school (and had classes in both Spanish and Catalan) and my sister attended a private high school. While at the time I didn't want to go, it was a wonderful and truly formative experience for me. In college I did a year abroad in in Santiago and a few years ago, spent 9 months in Argentina. Both Barcelona and Santiago have their pros and cons, depending on your needs. I would be happy to talk to you about it. rachelagold
My husband, a web designer, was laid off 15 months ago. We've been cobbling together a life of sorts with freelancing here, but each month we go a little into the hole, and our equity in our home is going down as we dip into it to cover expenses. My husband is Venezuelan and has relatives in Barcelona. We're reaching out to them too, but I wanted to ask this list about Americans moving to Spain to work. I have an Irish passport and am therefore an EU citizen and we're about halfway through the process of getting my husband his Italian citizenship. I'm curious about the employment situation there (I have writing, editing, and nonprofit experience), housing (both buying and renting), the best way to explore such things, any wisdom out there on Barcelona for families, education, quality of life, etc. I know I'm asking for a great deal here. Any impressions or information at all on starting a life in Barcelona would be appreciated greatly. Christy
We have friends who moved to Barcelona a little over a year ago under circumstances very similar to yours. She carries an Irish passport. He has a US passport, but grew up in Bolivia. Both speak spanish fluently. They don't have children, but wanted to move to Barcelona because they weren't happy with what was going in the Bay Area and the USA. We just learned that they will be moving back here in January. I don't know all of the details of their decision, but if you would like for me to put you in touch with them, send me your email address. One comment I have heard about living in Barcelona is that it can be hard to make friends. The people are very friendly, but establishing close friendships as an outsider can be tough. Katharine
My husband and I twice spent time living and working in Barcelona (the first time for four months, the second time for seven months). Staying permanently wasn't an easy option because we don't have EU passports. I loved it there and we did make close friends. It's important to know that Spanish is not the first language there. Everyone speaks it (with the exception of a few radical separatists who refuse) and you can certainly use Spanish to do errands, etc., but if you really want to become part of the place you'll have to learn to speak Catalan -- another romance language that's as different from Spanish as French or Italian is. That's the language of friendship for almost everyone there. Barcelona and the surrounding area are quite different from the rest of Spain not only in language but in character. The people there say they are not Spanish -- they are European, and it really does feel that way. If you travel in the rest of Spain, you'll find it very different. Barcelona is a beautiful place with a rich culture. Families have been there for hundreds of years. One friend who grew up in a small mountain town in the region lived in a house that had been in her family for 1,000 years -- they still had the documents that gave her ancestor (a surf) his freedom and the property. I recommend visiting the North American Institute in Barcelona. Has a library of American books that you can join for a reasonable annual fee. And you can post and ad for an exchange with someone who wants to learn English and will in return teach you Catalan (or Spanish). I made two warm, wonderful friends that way. Best of luck making your decision. -- Dana