Moving to Spain
If you're moving to Spain
, study two things: Its colorful history, and the best beaches -- this country is rich in both.
Spain's history involves Roman rule in the second century BC through seventh century AD, as well as the Visigoths and then Arab rule which followed. Roman culture is apparent throughout Spain, as is the Muslim culture brought which is prominent in the south of the country. Also still strongly evident is the North African Moors' wealth which can be seen in the remaining Moorish architecture. The Romans set the stage for the laws practiced in today's Spain, as well as religion and language.
From being a dominant power in Europe during the 16th century, Spain's decline in power was a result of costly wars and revolts, and arguments about succession to the throne which overcame the country in the 18th century. Most of the 19th century was consumed by armed clashes, which eventually brought independence to many of Spain's colonies in the Western Hemisphere. Political unrest led to the outburst of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. The Civil War had long-lasting negative results for the economy of Spain. In addition, although Spain had not actively participated in World War II, it had supported the Axis powers and found itself isolated in world economic affairs after the war. In 1975 General Franco died and Prince Juan Carlos ascended the throne, renewing the state of monarchy which had governed Spain prior to the Civil War. Adolpho Suarez became Prime Minister and under his leadership a new democratic constitution was drawn up and ratified. Spain today is a Parliamentary monarchy with King Juan Carlos I the Chief of State and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero the current Prime Minister.
Geography and Climate
Spain is part of the Iberian Peninsula in Southwest Europe and it shares the peninsula with Portugal and Gibraltar. Spain's bordering neighbors are Andorra, France, Gibraltar, Portugal, Morocco and Morocco.
Spain's landscapes are diverse, from the desert-like region of Almeria in the south-east to the north-western regions which have 20 days monthly on average of rainfall during winter. Most of this country is 500m to over a kilometer above sea level. One of the most mountainous countries in Europe, The Pyrenees mountains create the natural border between France and Spain and the Sierra Nevada mountains which are situated in Andalusia, Spain.
Spain’s inland is hot during the summer and cold in winter, and along the coast the conditions are cloudy in summer and partly cloudy and cool during winter.
The year in Spain begins cold, especially around the elevated cities such as Madrid and Toledo; though, Madrid can also experience a "heatwave" in the first two months of the year.
Andulusia is still quite warm at the beginning of the year, while the north-west, Galicia for example, has a lot of rainfall during the winter.
Winter brings snow in certain parts of Spain and you can expect snow in the mountainous regions. However, along the north coast it is rare to have snow due to its' warmish temperatures, but will be quite rainy. When it does snow here it is not unusual for an enormous quantity to fall.
Spring and fall temperatures are pleasant and are even warm enough for catching a tan on the beach. Easter is a spring holiday and many Spaniards like to travel during this time. Though the weather is warm, coolish spells do occur, especially in Madrid. It is hard to predict the weather at this time of year, Madrid in particular, and only from June onwards can one expect good weather without a doubt.
Summer has arrived and the inner cities, Madrid and Seville in particular, get extremely hot during this season. During this very hot period, most locals prefer to spend time along the coast, and visitors may find many café's and businesses closed as a result. Popular Spanish coasts full of tourists and Spaniards are the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca, Galicia, Oviedo.
People and Culture
The July 2007 est. population count in Spain was 40,448,191, of them 94% are Roman Catholic and 6% - other.
Spanish (castellano in Spain, or Castillian Spanish) is Spain's official language. Of the autonomous communities around Spain, six regions have chosen to elect each a co-language which are recognized as official languages. They are "Catalan" in the Catalonia and Balaeric Islands, "Valencian" in Valencia, "Basque" in the Basque Country and Navarra, and "Galician" in Galicia. A few unofficial languages are also spoken in Spain, such as "Aragonese", spoken in the province of Huesca in Aragon. English and Arabic are spoken by large immigrant communities.
The Spanish culture is very colorful and much less formal than the rest of Europe. Bullfighting is an important part of the culture, and is considered more of a ritual than an actual sport. It used to be practiced with riders on horseback fighting the bulls, but over the centuries has evolved into bullfighting as we know it today, with matadors alone against the bulls. Among the many thousands of festivities celebrated annually throughout Spain, is the famous San Fermin festival in Pamplona with the Running of the Bulls, which lasts an entire week.
The two most popular team sports in Spain are football and basketball. The football season runs between September through May, and every week hundreds of thousands of football fans gather at the many stadia across Spain to watch league football games. The basketball season begins September through to June, and many of the teams in the Spanish national league are linked to the big football clubs such as Barcelona and Real Madrid.
The official currency in Spain is the Euro.
When the voters went to the polls to elect a new president in March 2008, the subject uppermost in their minds was the state of the economy. Spain had experienced a number of years of steady economic growth, but recently, partly in response to the world economic slowdown and partly due to its particular problems, it is facing the possibility of an economic crisis. The outstanding problem has been the collapse of the real estate market. This has impacted on many sectors of the economy, particularly the labor market. It is also troubling that the expansion of the E.U. has included countries where the wage-scale of the work force is considerably lower than in Spain and the influx of workers from these countries threaten to affect the Spanish work force.
Official February unemployment figures show a rise in unemployment from over 1.9 million in mid 2007 to over 2.5 million beginning February 2008.
Transportation / Infrastructure
In order to keep Spain's already very sophisticated transport infrastructure up-to-date and to meet many growing demands, a long-term project has been launched by the Spanish Government at a cost of at least US$ 126,011 million. This elaborate project includes capacity increase of airports, extension of roads and rails, including the existing high-speed AVE rail network. Another aim is to better connect the roads with the trans-European network and have easier and faster access to and between the various Spanish regions. Spain's ports and airports are also being targeted in this project, in an effort to deal with the growing traffic of commuters.
Communications and Media
Spain's internet domain: .es
Spain's international dialing code: +34
Banks in Spain
The Bank of Spain (Banco de Espana) controls all the banking activity in Spain. It's central office is situated in Madrid and has branches all over Spain. Banco de Andalucia, Banco Atlantico and Banco Zaragozano are also important banks, and you will find at least one branch of each located in the large towns; cities will have more than one branch of each. Spain's clearing banks - BSCH (Banco de Santander y Central Hispano) and BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria), are the result of a merger of several smaller banks. Saving banks, known as Cajas de ahorro, are commonly found in Spain. These banks also invest part of their earnings in social and cultural involvements. Most of the foreign banks are situated along the coastal resort areas and large cities. British banks are represented by Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Solbank; the American banks are Citibank and Chase Manhattan; others are Deutsch Bank and some Arab and Scandinavian banks.
Famous People of Spanish Origin
Antoni Gaudi Spanish Architect born into a family with four generations of metalworkers. He was the first to step outside of the family's artisan tradition. In 1873 he enrolled in the Provincial School of Architecture in Barcelona. Among his famous architectural achievements are the Casa Batllo (1905-1907) and the Casa Mila (1905-1910), Park Guell, and the unfinished Church the Sagrada Familia. He died in 1926.
Julio Iglesias Singer born September 1943 in Madrid. While recovering in hospital, after being involved in a nearly fatal car accident in 1963, he was given a guitar by the nurse taking care of him and spent hours writing poems and listening to the radio. He got his start in 1968 when he won the Benidorm Music Festival with the song La vida sigue igual, and thereafter signed up with Columbia Discos. From then on his singing career was on the up and up and is the best-selling Spanish singer of all time.
Living Locations / Key Cities
Madrid is the capital of Spain and is biggest by population, and though far from other major cities it is well connected by different means of transportation, such as trains, buses and air. This bustling city is a great urban center and has a sizzling nightlife to offer. It is important to point out that Madrid is also a very expensive place to live. If you are looking to live near the center of a big city, yet want relative quiet around you, the suburbs surrounding Madrid could be a solution worth checking out. Madrid during August and September is extremely hot, but the humidity is low. The heat and the fact that Madrid does not have a beach, causes Madrilenos to seek alternatives outside their city during these months. Therefore, at this time Madrid is quiet, yet cafes and restaurants are closed. Madrid winters are cold, yet not very rainy, and clear days with sunshine are common.
Barcelona, capital of Catalonia (Catalonia - an autonomous community of the Kingdom of Spain, bordering France and Andorra to the north, Aragon to the west, the Valencian community to the south and the Mediterranean Sea to the east)). Barcelona is another big city in Spain offering the best of city life, night and day. An internationally orientated city, with a large number of expatriates whom have chosen to make their home here. In Barcelona you will find many international schools and parks, making it an option to consider for families. With a beach not far from the city and mountains surrounding it, you can also enjoy nature and relaxation. After Madrid, Barcelona is the next most expensive city in Spain.
The Costa Brava, northeast of Barcelona, is the coastal region of Catalonia. This is a perfect choice for retirees and anyone wishing to live a quiet and comfortable life in style. The cost of living in The Costa Brava is quite reasonable, and this region is full of history and not far from the urban center. Catalonia has excellent motorways and railways, and the A7 motorway is always easily accessible which connects to the French network. For those who are looking for a great ski vacation, the Pyrenees are not too far away. The weather in The Costa Brava is Mediterranean, with long hottish summers, though less sunny than in the other Costas further south; the winters here are relatively short and mild in temperatures. The Costa Brava is renowned as a golfing destination and the many golf courses offer world class standards.
Andalusia in the south of Spain is tranquil, with green countryside, rich in Moorish and Roman culture and is an autonomous community of the Kingdom of Spain. It's capital and largest city is Seville, a traditional city and the center of bullfighting and flamenco. July and August temperatures reach a scorching 50ºC (120ºF), winters are mild, and the rainy season begins October through December, though a lot of rain is uncommon. Granada, the capital of the Spanish province of the same name, is at the foot of the Sierre Nevada mountains and not far off is the Mediterranean Sea. One of the architectural wonders of the world, the Alhambra Palace where the Arab Sultans resided in the 13th century. This city has an informal feel to it and draws to it a young population.
Education in Spain
To enroll your child in school, the first thing is to find out at the local area town hall which paperwork is needed. It is recommended you take with you:
- Child's birth certificate or passport
- Official translation of Parent's passports.
- Proof of immunizations
- Proof of residence
- Two passport photographs.
For enrollment into a Spanish state secondary school you should obtain the necessary forms from the Dept. of Education in Madrid before you arrive in Spain. Find out exactly what you need to send to them in addition to the filled-out forms, and expect the process to take up to six months.
Foreign pupils in Spanish state schools will need a document called "empadronamiento" and will require registration at the local town hall. For this you will need your passport, proof of address and your Spanish bank account.
The stages of education are:
- Nursery – 3-6 years of age
- Primary – 6-12 years of age
- Secondary – 12-16/18 years of age
There are three types of schools in Spain:
- Free Public (State) schools, with the exception of books and extra curricular activities which are paid for by the Parents.
- Spanish private schools; at some teaching is in Spainsh only and others are bilingual, focusing on English. The fees at these schools differ.
- Foreign schools for expatriates or a mixture of Spaniards and foreigners. The fees at these schools differ.
Interesting and Fun Facts
The Basques in northeast Spain invented the beret.
The voyage of Christopher Columbus to America was financed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, then rulers of Castille and Aragon in Spain.
Traveling to Spain
Official Information about Spain