Embarking on a life-changing journey is quite a feat. You’ve made it to Spain, but what now? We’re going to discuss five must-dos upon arrival.
Perhaps you’ve already arranged to stay with a host family or rented a room in a shared flat (that’s a shared apartment for us yankees). If this isn’t the case, you’ll need to sort something out. If you don’t have any personal contacts, the best place to look is the Internet. Websites such as Idealista, Segunda Mano, and Loquo are great places to look. Regardless of the area of Madrid you choose to live in, make sure that your apartment has heat! Many older buildings in the city center do not, making for an uncomfortable winter – all nine months of it. You’ll most likely have to leave a deposit of one or more months’ rent, but don’t be alarmed if you’re not offered a written contract. After all, “Spain is different.”
If you have an EU passport or have come with a student/working visa, make sure to get your documents taken care of as soon as you arrive. This is usually a long process, so you better get started! Any doubts you may have are best solved via the Internet or by a lawyer. The website parainmigrantes.info has a wealth of information. Free immigration lawyers are also available at the Community of Madrid’s CEPIs. Find the one closest to you and make an appointment.
3. Registering at your new address (empadronamiento)
If you are going to stay for a long time in Spain you’ll need to officially register (empadronarte) at the address where you’ll be residing. This step will be necessary for just about any trámite (paperwork) you do. Take the time to do this even if you’re planning on overstaying a tourist visa. The only case in which you shouldn’t is if you plan on returning to your country to apply for a Spanish visa in the near future. First talk to your landlord/host family to discuss the possibility of you doing so at their address; if they are not up for it, then consider moving or registering at a friend’s place. You can make an appointment at the corresponding junta municipal and present the paperwork. More information: parainmigrantes.info.
4. Opening a bank account
Usually students come to Spain for some weeks or months. Assuming you’ll be in Spain for any length of time, it’s a necessity to open a Spanish bank account. After all, paying ATM fees every time you withdraw money from a foreign account or having a wad of cash under your mattress gets old really quickly. Go to the bank you desire to open an account at and find out what’s necessary. It often changes depending on the financial entity, but keep in mind that banks have these hours in Spain: from Monday through Friday from 8am-14pm.
5. Signing up for language classes
Although we’ve left this until last, it is in no less important than the other items. Whether you’ve studied Spanish for years, have a Hispanic background, or are a complete beginner, speaking and understanding Spanish will be the key to your success in-country, whatever your goals may be. You certainly don’t want to be in Spain for any length of time without having at least some command of the language. Go to a language school and find out about classes. Taking an entrance exam is usually free of charge and non-binding, so don’t put it off. Upon signing up, you´ll be asked to pay a registration fee (matrícula) and then the monthly payments (mensualidad). In these schools you´ll study a Spanish course but also you´ll meet a lot of interesting people from all over the world and you´ll know the Spanish culture. They usually organize interesting trips and rounds around the city.
Of course the most important thing of all is to enjoy yourself. Once you get settled, find a terraza at which you can enjoy a nice, cool beverage, take a seat, and just take it all in. After all, you can start to worry about all of these things mañana…