My first steps living in Spain: banking, NIE, housing…

7 September 2017 0 Comments Category: James Logue, Just Landed


I’ll soon be moving into my third year of living in Madrid, my “Madriversary” if you will, and despite being up to speed now on how things work here, that wasn’t always the case. Regardless of where you choose to be your new expat home, you’ll no doubt be inundated with a series of predicaments ranging from language barriers and bureaucratic blunders to the dreaded house-hunt. Here’s how I managed to navigate my own experience of this minefield – hopefully these tips and snippets of insight will ease you into your new expat home.

First things first, accommodation… I think we automatically assume that Madrid, being the capital and whatnot, will have a huge selection of apartments up for grabs, with all mod cons and close to major transport links. Think again. Yes, you can normally find what you’re looking for, but it takes a lot of research, countless disappointing viewings and maybe even a price war or two with other interested tenants.

So, the main websites to look for your new home are and, but be aware that these offer advertisements from both individuals and agencies, and the latter tend to charge 1 or 2 months’ rent for their finder fee. Then there’s the issue that a lot of properties in the capital are lacking a renovation, i.e., fittings and furnishings seemed to have remained in the 70s/80s, but this is a matter of personal taste more than anything.

In my case, after visiting many properties with my husband, through an estate agent and via individual homeowners, we found a perfect apartment that ticked most of our boxes and because it was a private rental, we managed to negotiate the price until it met our budget.

Another key factor to consider when searching for a new house in Madrid is the time of year. The end of August/start of September sees a huge influx of auxiliares de conversación from the USA, and the search becomes hectic to say the least. Beat them to it and bag your home earlier on in the summer, and remember to always view the place before wiring any money (scam adverts are common and unfortunately the ones who are caught tend to foreigners).

Another hurdle to jump over when moving to Spain, and probably the most challenging, is attempting to grasp the language. This issue paired with the number of administrative procedures to juggle is pretty terrifying, but fret not, help is always at hand. Even though I studied Spanish at uni before moving here, I still felt overwhelmed on numerous occasions. It helps to make a glossary of terms needed for each formality you need to carry out, such as opening a bank account, obtaining a NIE, signing a contract, etc., and bringing this with you to your appointment.

If you’re a complete novice and want to get stuck in to learning the language, I recommend taking advantage of the countless language exchanges available in bars and cafes and almost every night. A simple Google search will show you what’s on offer. On top of these group exchanges, try putting an ad on for a private language exchange – you’ll find that many Spaniards want to improve their English as desperately as you want to learn Spanish. And most importantly, seize every opportunity to learn, whether it be reading leaflets/newspapers that are left behind on the metro, to registering on courses, time permitting of course.

From my experience of upping and leaving my old stomping ground in Manchester and moving to another country, I would recommend to do your research, be patient (and vigilant of scams), don’t be afraid to negotiate, and take advantage of all available resources, whether linguistic or someone just generally willing to lend a hand.



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