It’s been a while since I posted here but I’m happy to see a lot of the content is still finding its audience. I could have pulled the plug a few weeks ago when my hosting package was about to expire, but still the emails pour in from readers eager to learn more about moving to Spain, and still my heart strings clutch firmly on to this now rather aged blog. So on it lives.
Even though I now live in the UK (sometimes it takes days to remember why), I find great pleasure and satisfaction in helping these people, with what knowledge I developed over my five years living in Spain.
Recently, I received three different emails from readers worried about what items they should take with them to Spain; which are essential and which are not; which little things did I miss the most, etc.
And so, ever the opportunist, I thought I should write my answer in blog post form, to help future readers and also because it really has been far too long…
1. Warm clothes
Yes, Spain is a lovely sunny country but don’t be fooled like I was. Back in the very early days of this blog I shared my tips on how to survive a Spanish winter, which, despite what you may think, isn’t just a mild UK summer. It gets cold in Spain too, particularly in high altitude places like Granada and the surrounding towns.
Homes equipped with central heating are far fewer in Spain than in northern Europe – something you soon begin to resent as the nights spent shivering under three blankets while a bright red electric heater scalds your toes increase rapidly at some point during late November. That being said, I was still living like a student at the time so I opted for cheap-as-chips lodgings.
In any case, take a warm winter coat, gloves, a hat and scarf. Trust me, you will need them.
2. Language aids
A few years ago I’d have settled for ‘pocket dictionary’ here, but let’s face it – with all this modern technology at our fingertips who the heck is going to carry one of those bulky books around with them?
No, the everyday language learning process is exclusively smartphone based these days, and you need to make sure yours is stocked with the best Apps in the industry. In 2015 I posted about ten of the best language learning Apps on the market, having downloaded and tested them all myself. The list included well-known players like Babbel and DuoLingo through to rising examples like Busuu and Memrise. The latter I found to be especially helpful for memorising new vocabulary, while the others are great for practical language building.
WordReference is also an invaluable dictionary resource which includes its own language community. Not only do you get direct translations but also a helpful contrast of contextualised examples, unlike Google Translate.
3. A decent laptop and phone
Arguably this one should go without saying, but people often bring near-obsolete electronics with them to Spain, of the opinion that they will be easily replaceable whenever the time comes. This is not the case.
It’s better to invest in these items back home before moving to Spain. Though the general cost of living is much lower than in the USA, UK and other European countries, high-ticket electronic products like laptops and smartphones are more expensive. These are essential items for work and keeping in touch with friends and family, so you’ll need to make sure yours can be relied upon. Besides, any laptop you buy in Spain will come with a Spanish keyboard, which is annoying if most of your typing will be in another language. You can pick up a refurbished Macbook Air on Amazon for about £500 or a brand new Dell Inspiron for less than that.
If you’d rather not buy a new phone, consider getting your existing one unlocked, so you only need to pop a Spanish SIM in when you get to Spain. You might have a great EU Data roaming plan back home but inevitably that data will run out quickly.
4. An eReader
You’ll need to be pretty ruthless when it comes to packing, so that means doing away with great hulking books that take up precious weight and space. Instead, invest in a slim and lightweight eReader that you can download most books onto – English, Spanish or otherwise!
Admittedly, using an eReader does take away the sentimental value of reading an actual book – as well as that strangely pleasurable “new book smell” – but living abroad does unfortunately also mean we have to make sacrifices. And let’s be honest, an e-Reader is a pretty cool substitute. Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite E-reader has a great back-light so you can read on your terrace or the beach unbothered by the glare of the sun.
5. A variety of footwear
Spain is a wonderfully varied country, both in terms of climate and landscape, which means you’ll need an equally varied footwear collection.
I’ve already mentioned the biting Spanish winters and need for warm clothes – this includes a sturdy, weatherproof pair of boots. It may not rain a great deal but when it does, trust me, it pours. You’ll need something even sturdier for all that walking and hill-climbing come springtime, and something light and casual for those balmy summer nights. Needless to say, a decent pair of flip-flops is absolutely crucial for beach days out.
6. Home comforts
No matter how much you love living in Spain, there will inevitably be certain products you simply can’t live without. For me, this was Yorkshire Tea and Cadbury’s Dairy Milk – standard British “must-haves”, particularly the former if you’re from the north. Nowhere in Granada sold either, so unless I went to Malaga (where there is an abundance of imported British goods) to stock up, I’d have had to go without. Since this wasn’t an option, I’d make sure I packed a fresh box of teabags and a chocolate bar or two each time I returned to Spain.
Spain is also a bit thin on the ground when it comes to chili powders and hot sauces. There are substitutes but these are mostly inadequate, and the good ones are hard to find. If you’ve a favourite brand of curry paste or hot sauce at home – and you love making (and eating) curries – bring them along and save yourself the effort.
And if you do forget anything you need?
Fret not. You can always get dear old Mum (or any willing friend or family member) to send out your beloved slippers, dressing gown or giant chocolate bar using delivery companies like TNT. Most offer doorstep delivery for sizable packages at surprisingly low rates – all you (or Mum) need to do is enter the weight and measurements of the package and you’ll get an instant quote.
Do you live abroad? What else would you include on this list? Leave a comment below, or share on Twitter if you liked this article!