We’ve been in Valencia for a few weeks now and are sloooooowly (at a super relaxed, non-rushed, Spanish-style pace) adjusting to life here. Bouncing between feeling excited, overwhelmed, capable, and lost has been a bit exhausting; especially with all the wine, 10pm dinners, and such. But every night, when we go to bed at 1am (or later), we think about all the things we’ve learned so far. Here’s a complete list of our first attempts...
A first attempt at Siesta
The siesta is real. Even in Spain’s third largest city, everything shuts down between 2pm - 5pm-ish every day. Seriously, the city becomes zombie apocalypse level empty. Luckily, we found a grocery store that stays open during this time resulting in the best, most relaxed shopping experience of. all. time. It’s like going to Safeway at 4am… completely deserted.
With the exception of one afternoon when Megan was in a fever-induced flu-like daze, we have yet to sleep during siesta. We’re trying to adjust, but American cultural tendencies are still too deeply rooted in us. We just think about all the things we can get done while everyone else is sleeping and eating. Anyway, we’re hoping to adjust to the slow pace at some point. Either that, or we’ll be the most productive expats Spain has ever seen.
An attempt to open a Spanish bank account
One would think that, with currency in hand, we could open a bank account... right? Wrong. Evidently we need official residency first (and an ID number), information that we learned through a very painful conversation with a bank teller in front of a line of half a dozen annoyed Spaniards. The problem is, we need a bank account to…
...rent a flat
With limited success from our online apartment hunt, we switched up our strategy. Now we just bust in the door of the rental agency, throw out some broken Spanish indicating we have money and need an apartment, and hope for the best.
Renting is different in Spain. Like, way different. Rental agencies charge a fee (one month’s rent!) to both the property owner and renter (!!!), and it’s rare to find an apartment rented without an agency. We’ve seen about ten apartments and have narrowed it down to two top contenders. Unfortunately, neither is available until the end of June, so we’re stuck in AirBnB purgatory for the time being.
Many of the flats we’ve liked won’t rent to us without a Spanish nomina (aka paycheck, which we can’t get until we have residency) even though we’ve offered to pay the whole year up front. One of them required an “Aval Bancario” (Bank Guarantee) on top of a deposit. We would have had to put another year’s worth of rent into an account and pay quarterly interest on top of our rent, just to guarantee the owner we won’t up and leave. Um, no thanks.
The good news… apartments are dirt cheap. Sorry San Francisco friends, but a 1,000 square foot, two bedroom flat in Valencia is less than $750 a month. Hopefully worth the wait.
Getting residency & the infamous NIE
Megan’s EU citizenship means that we both (Ryan through our upcoming matrimony) can be granted Spanish residency. The magic NIE (Numero Identidad de Extranjeria) number will make us employable, able to pay taxes, and therefore also reap the benefits of social health care, education, and more. Oh, and open a bank account to rent a flat.
On our fourth day here, we arrived at the foreigner’s office and attempted to explain our situation, only to be dismissed and told we needed to visit a different office across town. By the time we reached the next office, we were informed that we can’t do anything without an appointment (strange, because we didn’t see anything about an appointment on the website). Pointing to a piece of paper on the door, an officer showed us a mysterious URL which apparently is only available to those who first visit the office in person. Let’s just say Henry Ford wouldn’t be happy with Spanish efficiency.
Bottom line, sometime in June we may get residency. Maybe.
Oh, and the Padron
The padron is some sort of city registration system, that’s apparently commonplace throughout Spain. We’ve read that we’ll need to have this in order to get our NIE, but we’re not sure if we can get one without residency… Somewhere in the distance Mos Def is rapping, “Why do I need ID to get ID? If I had ID I wouldn’t need ID.”
The Nomina (Spanish paycheck)
What we need to rent an apartment. Unattainable without an NIE, which may be unattainable without a padron, which may be unattainable without residency.
Yes, we are just as confused as you are.
Finally, making friends
A few days after arriving we attended an expat “mixer,” hoping to get some local tips and maybe make a couple friends. To better understand the mixer, think of a mandatory networking event for work, where everyone there is that strange old guy who’s been with the company for three decades and wants to tell you every single thing he’s learned over the years.
So, evidently there are a lot of Europeans that have retired in Valencia. They hang out at the beach, enjoying the sun and mild climate. They’re all friends and they were definitely all at this event. As newbies, we struggled to find our place, eventually zeroing in on the half dozen or so attendees under 40. We enjoyed some strained, awkward conversation before deciding to ditch the place for a bar across the street.
Needless to say, we didn’t walk away with any new friends. We agreed to stay open minded and not completely disregard this expat group. That being said, we’ll probably give it a month or so before signing up for our second round of social torture.
We’re excited to say goodbye to AirBnB and find a permanent place to live! We’ll be enrolling in Spanish lessons soon (there are very few English speakers in Valencia) and have our eyes set on some part-time jobs. In the meantime, we’re coping with the challenges of moving to a foreign country by drinking too much sangria, going to the beach on weekday afternoons, and eating tons of tortilla espanola! Not bad.