Is this a near impossible task - to find a job and move here?

Hi there my name is Diana.  I am a teacher in Toronto,  Canada.  I am currently visiting Barcelona but  ever since I came here 11 years ago I knew I had to live here one day.   As a North American,  is this a near  impossible task - to find a job and move here?

Hello there Dianaf,

Welcome on board  :)

A new thread has been created from your post on the Barcelona forum so that you may easily get some feedbacks.

All the best,

Hi Diana,
I thought I'd try and assist you by replying to your post because no one else has so far. I don't specifically know employment situation in Barcelona, but I can provide some general information about working in Spain as a foreigner.

I am currently going through the process of moving to Spain and I can share some of my experience and what I know with you.
The answer to your question is, it's close to impossible but it's not impossible. 1 in 4 people are unemployed in Spain. I was indirectly told that due to this high figure, the Spanish local government employment agencies are not granting foreigners work permission. But if the requirements are very specific and no Spanish people can fit the job requirements, then they can give the job to a foreigner. They need to look after Spaniards and EU citizens first. The other important update about the employment situation is, due to the financial crisis, the wages are extremely low with high taxes and high contributions to health insurance/ social security. It's a very romantic idea to live in Spain but you have to be prepared for reality of this change in your life. What you don't gain in wages, you gain in life experience and living somewhere you really love. So you have to be absolutely sure about what you are giving up in Canada by moving to Spain. As I've just said, it's not impossible to get the foreigner work visa but I must say, it involves a bit of luck and an employer who knows how to "technically" secure your visa .

You need to have flexibility with your future plans, and to be sure it's what you really want because if you secure a job, you will need a lot of patience waiting for a visa. You will reach this "limbo" time when you don't know when you'll be leaving Canada and when you will be starting your life in Spain. While you go through that struggle, you will question why you are moving there at all.
I am learning, in Spain there is a lot of bureaucracy, red tape and inefficiency in government agencies. No one does anything in a hurry, especially when it comes to securing a foreign work visa. I have been waiting close to 9 months for my visa and the work permission certificate apparently only just came through last week after much chasing.

If you really want to live in Barcelona, my advice to you is to visit Barcelona for as long as you can get away from Canada. 4 weeks is ideal for researching and networking. Maybe during your school holiday break do a Spanish course? Use the time to talk to schools and businesses personally. This is the way I secured my employment. I spoke to a language school in a very small city within the Valencia Communidad, and we kept in touch when I went back to Australia. I came back after 6 months without a work visa to spend time with my boyfriend, who is Spanish, and to sort out the work visa in person.
There are many English speaking foreigners in Barcelona, so you will have a lot more competition when you apply for jobs there. Competition is a factor.

If you want to work as a school teacher in Spain you will have to check the exact requirements for working as a school teacher. The teachers have to sit exams and the Spanish teachers have to have to have a certain level of English. (Obviously you will pass the English language requirements). If you work for a government school there are additional requirements. If you work for a Catholic school, I'm fairly certain their teachers to have completed some studies in theology (apparently), or it's an advantage to getting employed. I know a couple of teachers and I can ask them about the requirements if you would like. Just let me know.
If it helps your employment prospects, you may want to take a graduate diploma in theology to help broaden your employment prospects. Spain is a Catholic country and locals tend to think that Catholic education is a little bit better than the public school education.

Additional advice,
1) If you really want to live in Spain, and if you do not already speak Spanish, do not defer learning Spanish until you move to Spain. If it's your long term goal start as soon as you can. Even the English schools that teach English prefer their teachers to know a little Spanish.

2) You should also follow the news in Spain and know that there is some chance in the future Catalunya will claim independence and if you prefer to have a Spanish work visa, this would be affected by the claim to independence. This is a controversial statement, but there is talk that Catalunya will become another Greece (economically) if it claims independence. A lot of the banks and industry might leave. It's not a dead issue because as of a few weeks ago, the Cataluyan leader tried to pass a bill in the Spanish government to claim independence and the Spanish President had to declare that it's unconstitutional. It's the first time the President attempted to block it in parliament. Catalunyans have been talking about this issue forever and some say they will keep talking, but from what I saw in the news, there is some traction. The Spaniards are saying it won't happen tomorrow but it could happen in the future. 

3) Keep an open mind and be flexible:
It could be, that if it's not possible to find employment in Barcelona, that you look for work in smaller cities with less foreigners (less competition), work there a year or two and then move to Barcelona when things in the economy improves or when you have networked and found a suitable job opening. One plus point about not living in Barcelona is that it's a little cheaper to live away from Barcelona and just visit it on weekends (if you have friends you can stay with). I found Barcelona to be extremely extremely expensive compared to other cities. Yet the wages are exactly the same.
Maybe reassess fixed ideas about living in Barcelona, and put it into long term plans if you really want to live in Spain.

Hope this is of help. Good luck!

I would order that question the other way around - move here and find a job, because you won't find one before moving here!

Here is some encouragement. As a fellow North American, I can offer attest that your North American view to work--finding it, making it, doing it--will be an asset to you.

I moved here the very end of 2008, sight unseen (I'd never been here before) and within 2 weeks I had a job. Think outside the box, network, and keep your eyes open. There are jobs to be had and as a native English speaker, you WILL be able to find work. Because you know how to hustle, and most people here do not.

Don't wait, come over with enough to live on for a couple of months and see what happens.

How does that work though?

By all means come over on a visitors visa for as long as you can to search out work and if you do happen to find work great, but you still need to go back to Canada or the US to apply for your work visa from the nearest embassy in your country of residence, otherwise you will be staying illegally in Spain and working on the black.

Basically even still once you start the work visa application  they are obliged to find a EU citizen who can do that job first and this is why they don't hand out work visas easily as you and the employer have to prove there is nobody in the EU that can do that actual job so it will help if you have a specialist area or something.

SuperAlbeee, your reply has to be one of the most complete and insightful I've ever seen on any forum! Very useful for many people, I would think, myself included.

Thanks Tch1ca. I tried to provide as much info as I could because I myself have encountered much frustration during the process of securing the foreign work visa. I read on some forums it's a very long process (a year more than a year - ridiculous), but when you read about the visa process itself or speak with your home country Spanish Embassy, it doesn't seem that long. Technically it can take a minimum 1-2 months for the employer's part of the application process. But it's just not that simple and I want other fellow foreigners to be aware of the realistic process and details involved in moving to Spain. There are not many recent forums with up to date detailed information. There also doesn't seem to be any up to date realistic perspectives on the pros and cons of moving to Spain- specifically related to the economic crisis, wages, political issues and the decision making process.

In this post I want to share some detailed information about austerity in Spain.

All Spaniards are living in austerity. There are some wealthy ones who are not entirely doing it hard. But I think it's safe to say that most people are doing it tougher than they were 5 years ago. Plenty of people have been unemployed long term, have left in search of a better life and higher wages. Some people are not even able to continue their long standing careers. I have a friend who has been an architect for 19 years and has more or less had to accept his career is over. He lives in Seville. Andalusia is broke. There are hardly any construction projects and the Spanish government is propping up that province to keep it alive- much to the disapproval of Catalunyan people who complain their taxes are saving Andalusia and they receive nothing in return (Controversial issue and statement).  I know people in all of these situations. I know locals who are taking any jobs they can get well below what they are qualified to do and even for minimal hours (not even full time).

As foreigners from relatively well performing economies with higher wages, the low salary is a shock. I had my employer and boyfriend explain "brutal wage" to me and all the romantic ideas of being in Spain suddenly went out the window. Not only is the wage already low, but about 41% of it is deducted for the social security, health insurance and tax contribution. When you are faced with that reality, then you realise you're going to be doing it tough like the rest of the Spaniards. You're not immune from austerity just because you're foreign from a wealthy country with a strong economy.
They are doing it tougher than most other Europeans (with the exception of Portuguese and Greek). But in my opinion they are much more cheerful people. It's been so interesting trying to figure out how and why people who are unemployed, or earning next to nothing can still be so cheerful compared to people in other much wealthier countries like China and Australia. I have insight into both and I have been asking myself 'where on earth do they get their resilience from?' I think I have to write a post on this another day.

In Australia, people are not dealing with staggering unemployment, they're earning much much higher wages and yet their stress levels in the bigger cities are particularly high because of high property prices/ mortgages. The average mortgage is around $450,000 to $600,000. For that price you live very very far from the city center. In euros its around 300-400,000 euros.
Australians have a reputation for being more relaxed than other English speaking countries, but in my opinion that is changing and life is darn stressful for a number of reasons. Although people have very high wages, they are slaves to their mortgages (extremely high property prices), high cost of living for paying taxes, bills, rates and this creates pressure and stress.  A lot of affordable housing is extremely far from city centers where their jobs are. It's completely normal to spend 2 maybe even more hours in your car (return trip) or on public transport. There is also the incredibly high cost of child care. The rebate from the government it's $70 per day ($350 AUD per week). But by the end of the week, people are actually out of pocket $700. They have to wait for the rebate to be received. Some people have to work 2 jobs (with both spouses already working) just to pay for childcare. Australia also has a culture where the grandparents don't really assist with childcare at all. Having a family in Australia is incredibly expensive for this reason. I know a couple earning approximately $140K combined income- a middle class family and they are maxed out with living and childcare expenses. Whereas in Spain it's very normal for children to be looked after the grandparents or other family members while parents work. Families help each other much more. Cultural differences have an effect on the cost of living. 

The property prices people are paying in Australia will make Spanish people faint. Some people can buy 3-4... maybe even 5 houses for the price of just one Australian house. Also the expectations and standards that the average Australian has for essential material things they must have, is higher. It's quite normal for families to have 2 reasonably nice cars or newer furniture. But this is also thanks to finance and mortgage. Australians are living with a damn lot of debt and it's causing stress.
My sister is a financial analysis and said that most aussies are actually living off their credit card, which is becoming dangerous (similar to the US and Spain before the GFC). So really when you compare.... Spain could well be a realistic snap shot of what life is really like without the false pretensions of wealth and success that you can have when you own a credit card or if the bank lends you lots of money.

It leaves me thinking, does happiness really have to do with living in a country with a powerful economy and high wages? I completely polar example is China. I'm currently writing this post from Shanghai, China. I'm staying with my sister who lives here and stopped here for a little before I go back to Australia in a couple of days for Christmas. In Shanghai the wealth that you see is phenomenal. As I write this, there is a bright yellow Lamborghini parked downstairs in the apartment car park. Most women I know have design high end handbags (who knows how on earth they can afford it) and a cup of coffee can cost around $7 to $10. (In Spain it's 1 -2 euros). For these new rich Chinese generation, I ask... "are they happy?" Most of people will say no for so many reasons. It's a blog topic for another day.

Of course having a job and owning a house is great. Stability and security is important. But I think it's deeper than that. As mentioned earlier, local people in Spain are doing life pretty tough. Even business owners have to be frugal in their operations in order for their businesses to survive.
How are Spanish people able to do life tough and remain cheerful, despite all of the so called doom and gloom around them? Is it really all about the money? My belief is it's not about money. In my opinion Spanish people are positive people. They tend not to invest in negative conversation. Family & close friends are the core of Spanish society. Being with those you love brings joy, especially being with family. The other helpful cultural aspect is that they love to have a good laugh. Spanish people are incredibly funny. The Spaniards might not be rich with money in their pocket but they are certainly rich in love and laughter.

As a side note, it's not all doom and gloom in Spain's economy- the good news is, I read the paper last month that Spain's economy is slowly slowly growing faster than the German and US economy. People are still hopeful and optimistic, even though it may take a whole generation to see a major transformation. It's not all total doom and gloom in Spain as people outside of Spain are saying.

It may seem like a significant sacrifice moving to Spain, only to earn a lower wage and go into an 'austerity lifestyle', but it certainly makes you re-evaluate what you absolutely need in life to be happy. How do you define quality of life? How do you define happiness? What's important to you?

For me, I see value in things like:
1) Being able to walk just 2 minutes to work
2) Not being stuck in heavy traffic for 2 hours (return) each day
3) Not being squished on public transport
4) Not walking home in the dark in winter (after the 1 hour commute)
5) Gaining a slower less stressful lifestyle
6) Living by the beach and having many beautiful small beaches to choose from close by
7) Enjoying some traditional aspects of life which still exists in smaller cities, where people who pass by still say hello and goodbye- even if you don't know each other.
8) Quality of fresh local produce; fruit vegetables, olive oil, seafood.
9) Reduced stress levels
10) Clean air
11) Proximity to other beautiful cities/ villages
12) Learning a new language
13) Being in a country and city in a community with strong family values
14) Making new friends
15) More realistic and affordable property prices
16) Seeing more community life in neighbourhood square
17) More connection with the community

When I look at these things, I realise that the salary figure (brutal wage) doesn't reflect all that you gain.
These are qualities of life which have disappeared from the high earning big cities in other countries. In the city I'm moving to, if you want organic fruit and vegies, ask your neighbour. No need to go to some hipster grossly expensive boutique organic grocery store. Get back to basics. But in turn you also have to give up on some luxuries. I've identified some through my observations spending time in Spain and through my conversations with local people:

1) Travel - Spaniards tend to travel within Spain for vacations because they are on a tight budget. They tend not to travel as often to other European countries or other exotic Asian places. Travel is  luxury not all Spaniards have. But they're not unhappy about it, nor do they feel as though they are missing out. Spain is beautiful and diverse. It's has a strong internal market for tourism and people genuinely really love making vacation within their own country. It's large, it's diverse in terrain and landscape. It has coast, mountains, fashion modern cities, slow rural style life. A high percentage of Spaniards don't speak English, so travel within Spain is more practical. 

2) Shopping - when you're on a budget you have to reduce buying clothes, technology gadgets and learn to be a little more frugal. Notably, I saw that not a lot of Spaniards are using iPhones, Apple tablets or notebooks. The wealthier ones have them. Everyone I know uses Android phones, tablets - Chinese and Spanish brands. (Bq is the Spanish brand). The brands are still equally good in performance, but just more affordable. These are little things you notice after you spend time there and compare countries.

3) Going out - people on lower wages in Spain tend to eat at home with their families. Or in some cases like in Barcelona where it's really expensive to go out - people have drinks at home before they go out.  It's a more economical way to live and a way for people to spend time with their family. It's how they make their monthly wages last. If you're a person that loves wining and dining regularly and going out to restaurants, you would soon discover it's not sustainable. Whereas in big cities like my home city, people tend to eat out very regularly and it's not a big deal.

4) Standard of housing- depends on what you are used to back in your home city and depends on the city you move to (rental prices). Generally in my opinion, rental prices are much lower than Australia which is great. With the brutal wage you can understand why. Fixtures and fittings in Spain can be quite dated compared to Germany. I kind of feel like Spain is a little stuck in the 90s still when it comes to decor. Of course there are some more modern refurbished apartments, but I come from an architectural background and this is my observation. Unless you have a job which has connections to IT or finance (with German), you're probably not going to have an extremely extremely modern apartment. If you're fussy about the standard of your apartment or home, and love super modern, you have to re-adjust your expectations a little. If you are renting.
If you are in a financial position to buy an apartment, you would also find most of the fittings tend to be a bit dated and you either renovate or you put up with those fittings (and furniture)

5) Cars- It's expensive to own one and run one full stop. Parking is so limited in most cities and it's very normal to be driving around for some time searching for a park if your apartment doesn't have a car park, or if you want to go out for the evening. The actual cost to own a car and to service it is pretty high as well. It doesn't matter what make and model. Local Seats, VW, cheaper Korean makes... all expensive to service. So if you're used to your nice newer model car in your home city and you move to Spain, you will have to take this information on board when planning your new life. It may well be that you start out with no car. Live near your work and walk, use a bicycle or use public transport. Depends on the city you decide to start out in. Or it might be that you buy an older car. 

I know this is very detailed information and are probably some people who disagree with the insight I have on Spain but please feel free to comment. Agree or disagree.
Thanks for reading.

Personally I think there are a couple of really good forums(this one included) with members that give out great and factual information. It's just quite often the information given isn't what people want to hear/read.
There is certainly a lot of extremely false information being handed out especially when it comes to non-EU citizens so people have to tread carefully.

In regards to austerity it is most definitely a thing but some areas are worse off then others, not everyone is in poverty and around here at least there is little sign of it, 2 hours down the road and things can be entirely different.
Even in times of boom the employment rate in Spain was high and Spain has one of the largest black economies in Europe, many many people take advantage of this and  are all things that need to be considered.
Yes there are lower wages for the less qualified and I can imagine that makes life tougher but the cost of living in Spain is much lower too, yet if you have good transferable qualifications in work like IT, admin or law you will be much better off.
Why everyone that wants to come over and take the lowest paid jobs around is somewhat of a mystery to me, trust me it's no easier and probably harder than the low paid job you are running from except there is little to no benefits system to fall back on when things get tough.

Also Apple products have done extremely well in Spain when sales worldwide have been decreasing, Spain is actually right up there in terms of adopting new tech which is surprising since the infrastructure can be so poor at times.

As for comparisons to Oz, well the housing bubble has not only mirrored Spains boom before the crisis but completely dwarfed the bubble that caused the Spanish crash. I'd like to think a similar burst is on the way for Australia but I wont hold my breathe.
Making those sort of comparisons aren't overly helpful and trust me the longer you are here the longer you make those comparisons, things can get baffling pretty quickly if you start thinking that is not what I'm used to.

Just a last point too on your last paragraph about cars, for most non EU citizens, Australians, US, Canada etc... you will have to sit the Spanish driving exam all over the same as any teenager, it's expensive and frankly something we shouldn't have to do, but you do if you want to drive in Spain.

Anyway, I wish you luck SuperAlbee, you have an optimistic and positive attitude and seem to be on your way.
Good luck.

Any updates on moving to Barcelona?

New topic