Relocation story

Claire’s move to Malaga during the Pandemic

Last updated on 1 Sep 2023

Claire and Sean are a lovely international couple, each with their own expat experiences. They decided to move together to Malaga just before the end of 2020, right in the midst of the Pandemic. Read their story based on Claire answering our questions and sharing her insights on the relocation experience.

Where are you from and why did you decide to move to Spain?

I’m from the UK and Sean is from New Zealand. We met in our 40s when I was living in Switzerland and Sean in the UK. We wanted to make our lives in a country that appealed to both of us and Spain fit the bill – friendly people, great food, fascinating culture and fabulous weather! I had also lived in Spain in the 1990s and I speak fluent Spanish.

When did you move & where in Spain did you settle? Did you move on your own or as a family? Describe in a few words

We moved from Switzerland (Sean came out to join me there) in October 2020 during the pandemic. We decided to live in Malaga, as we had both loved the city when we had visited. It turned out to be a great decision

Did you use professional help for the immigration procedures (visas, permits, any admin paperwork) and/or any relocation services (property search, schools, etc)? Tell us your experience

Initially, I decided I would do all the paperwork for us. However, with all the move to sort out at the same time, it became a bit overwhelming. We had already found Irina’s website and had used it to research a few things, and then I emailed her to arrange a telephone consultation. We were so impressed by Irina’s friendly, professional manner and knowledge of all things bureaucratic that we decided to “hire” her on the spot to help us get all our papers together. She took away all of our stress and gave us great advice to make our move easier. She sorted out our “padron” (registration on the civil register) and our residency application, and we got our acceptation letter within a month. Wow!

How difficult was it to find your first home and do you still live in the same place? If you moved – tell us why

As we were moving during the pandemic, we couldn’t go and visit flats in person. We used Idealista, a Spanish property website, and started looking a year before we moved to get an idea of areas and price. We were lucky to find a great flat in the city (we were shown it in a video call with the agency and the owner) and we are still living here today! It was a fairly simple process but you do need to provide lots of documentation so just be prepared. It also helps to have a good idea of the different “barrios” or neighbourhoods, to find the one best suited to your needs.

What is your occupation in Spain – tell us a few words. Has it changed compared to what you did in your home country?

I am a translator and Sean is a musician and life coach. Sean left his career as an IT program/project manager to pursue his true passions and has never looked back. I’m a freelance translator and my work is very portable, so I had no problems carrying it over to Spain. 

How integrated do you feel into the local community and lifestyle? 

Very. We both love the Spanish lifestyle (who wouldn’t?) and have met some lovely people who are now good friends. In our particular case, the local gym was a great way of meeting people, and of course neighbours who you might bump into every day. But everyone in Malaga is friendly and generally happy to talk to you. If you don’t know Spanish already, the best investment you can make is to learn it as fast as you can – you will feel much more at home and it obviously helps you to integrate. The Spanish are always happy when someone makes an effort to speak their language – however rudimentary!

Do you have any regrets about the move to Spain and/or miss anything from your home country? If yes – tell us what

No, we are both delighted with the move and feel it was a great decision at this time in our lives. We miss the greenery and hiking trails in Switzerland and New Zealand – although here too, there are some wonderful places to trek once you know about them. And we obviously miss our families, but Malaga offers so many regular direct flights to the UK that it’s easy to get back.

What was the main advantage and the main challenge you experienced with moving to Spain?

The main advantage has to be the cost of living. Coming from Switzerland, it is 50% cheaper – and that’s a conservative estimate. It’s great to be able to go for coffee or tapas and not leave behind a week’s salary! 
The main challenge has to be the bureaucracy and getting all your papers in order – residency, “empadronamiento”, driving licence, etc. It can be exhausting.

Any advice you would like to give to those considering or in the process of moving to Spain?

Moving is stressful enough without having to struggle getting all the paperwork together – particularly if you don’t speak Spanish. If you can, hire a “gestor” to take the stress away and do all the paperwork for you. You honestly won’t regret it.
Also: learn Spanish – it’s a great way of meeting people and you’ll set yourself up for a happy, fulfilling life.

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