It’s been already a year since we moved to Spain, and I already wrote about the overall experience. In today’s article I want to focus on a specific area of the expat lifestyle, namely remote working in Spain. Spoiler: it’s better than you would expect, but with a few caveats. These caveats are turning to be quite important, hence the small note at the end of each section.
Remote Working In Spain versus Working In Spain
For starters, without even touching too deep on the legal aspects, I would say that if you have a decent remote job in USA, UK, or some other developed European country, like Germany or France, you would be above the average Spanish income. I’m talking just about basic stuff, like financial compensation, salary, or revenue per hour, or whatever is the metric you use to evaluate your work. Just from the top of my head, the average salary in Spain for a programmer (my job for the last three years) is about 1,200 EUR / month, whereas in UK might be well above 2,000 EUR.
Caveat: average cost of living in Spain is significantly lower than the cost of living in those developed countries. Usually, for the rent you pay in a shared room in London, you can get a nice, spacious apartment in cities like Valencia or Alicante, or a decent apartment in an average area in Madrid or Barcelona. As you would expect, in bigger cities, the cost of life is higher, but even at those levels, overall, you’d be better off remote working in Spain than working and living for the same salary in cities like London, Paris or Berlin.
European Citizens Working Spain
One significant advantage of being a European Union citizen is the “right to free movement and work within the EU borders”. So if you’re citizen of the EU, working in Spain is basically a right you already have, provided that you obey local laws too. I won’t go into all the nitty-gritty, because it will take too much space and, in this article, I’m touching on this only tangentially, but I encourage you to do your homework and read carefully all the laws pertaining to this. In my case, being a citizen of a country which is a EU member, Romania, things are simpler: I can work here, provided I solve all my tax status (see below, in the caveat). The other case would be if you’re a citizen of a country outside of EU, like US (or, soon, like United Kingdom). In this case, you should get a working visa in order to work in Spain and that’s a completely different route, one which is more time consuming and significantly more complex.
Caveat: once you live in Spain for more than half a year per year, you became a Spain fiscal resident automatically and you are due to pay taxes here. The good news is that many countries, especially those in EU, have double taxation treaties that will ease the burden. The not so good news is that you have to navigate a rather complex web of laws. If you’re serious about long term remote working in Spain, then I’d suggest to talk to a local accountant (gestor) and do all your things right from the beginning.
Working Conditions: Office Space and Internet
If you’re working remote, you would need at least two basic ingredients: a space from where you do your work and internet. I would start with the internet and note that things are not even close to the quality and the price we have in Romania (which is probably one of the top 5 countries in the world when it comes to this), but things seem to go in the right direction. A 100MB symmetric fiber optic connection, for home, will cost you about 35 EUR/month (more or less, depending on the provider, your location and wether or not you will get a phone sim for this, a strategy that many are implementing, although I’m not very comfortable with it). So, the cost is relatively decent, but there is room for improvement.
As for the office space, things are looking way better. If you work from home, you would be able to deduct a part of your rent – again, you should consult with a gestor first. Working from coffee shops is also a solid option (I already wrote a primer about working from coffee shops, if you’re interested). But the most popular option lately is to work from a co-working space. This phenomenon is in full swing in Spain, which is good news. But prices are also going up quite fast: for a shared post in a co-working space you should pay at least 150 EUR.
Caveat: working from coffee shops is my preferred way, not because of the comfort of work – you would probably get a more silent and productive place in a co-working space – but because of the social benefits: meeting new people, learning Spanish and attending a lot of interesting events. The average cost of working from a coffee-shop is between 5-7 EUR/day, which is more or less similar with the price of a shared office in a co-working space.
To Much Of A Good Thing Can Be A Bad Thing
The fantastic climate of Spain, the vibrant lifestyle, the good food and the nice people, all this are extremely good things. But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. What do I mean by that? Well, there is this vibe of “dolce farninente” pervading everything, especially during siesta times (in the afternoon). And this vibe can make you quite unproductive. It may seem like a “good problem” to have, but, in my experience, this can be a real drag, especially if you work for yourself and must keep motivated all day long. Sometimes, going to the beach and hang around, instead of finishing that project can be simply impossible to resist.
Caveat: having clear timelines and doing all you can to maintain them is paramount. Surprisingly, you will need to be way more organized in Spain, specifically because the context is not. You have been warned!
Remote Working In Spain: Is It Worth It?
The short answer: if you’re a digital nomad working remote, yes, it’s worth it.
The long answer: it depends on your citizenship, the type of work you do, your revenue, your expectations in terms of social life and your ability to stay organized. Don’t get too hyped by those nice (and yes, very real) pictures of relaxed people, enjoying some good time on the never ending beaches of Spain. It takes some discipline and hard work to get there. But if you have what it takes, then yes, we do really enjoy our relaxed time at the beach here, (almost) all year round.
Image source: Cullera beaches, personal collection