Thursday, 27 November 2014

Expat issues: How to look for a job in Spain

There are generally two reasons why people move to Spain: work or love. Work is a fairly straightforward one: you got offered a tempting transfer or a great new opportunity abroad. The 'love' category is a bit more complicated: you could be in love with someone who lives in Spain, a partner who's found a new professional opportunity there, or even the country itself. But whatever your situation, if you're planning a move to Spain and don't yet have a job set up, read on. Please bear in mind that as I'm English, this post is written with EU citizens in mind, but may still be helpful to those from outside Europe.

If only it was that easy. From

1) Decide what you're willing to do

If you want to pursue your current career in Spain, it's worth getting your Spanish up to scratch before you move. While there are plenty of international companies in Madrid and Barcelona who may claim that their working language is English, it'll really help your cause if you can communicate with colleagues easily in castellano. A rough guide for a minimum level to work (reasonably) comfortably in another language is B2 level. If you can get this certified, so much the better: it shows a willingness to learn and that you're taking your move seriously. You can take the official Spanish exams, the Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera, at Instituto Cervantes centres around the world. The exams cover all four skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) and are offered at all CEFR levels, although A2, B2 and C2 are the most common. It's worth looking into a specific preparation course to increase your chances of passing, or you can find mock exams here if you'd rather go it alone.

Unless you've avoided all contact with the news over the past few years, you'll know that Spain's in a rather unhealthy financial situation and unemployment is high, so it's important to be realistic when job hunting, and to know that you may not be able to find exactly the same type of position as you had back home, or at the same level. The Local's list of top jobs for expats in Spain suggests that the industries with the most demand are customer services, digital marketing, engineering, IT, finance and English teaching.

If you just want to find a job quickly and relatively easily and aren't too concerned about what you do, play to your strength as a native English speaker and become an English teacher. I'm not suggesting that teaching is an easy option or a career you can coast in, but for many expats (especially those with minimal Spanish) it's a realistic way of earning a living. You need to get yourself some training and a qualification: the CELTA is the gold standard of the TEFL world, and is highly regarded by all teaching centres. It's more expensive than many TEFL courses, sure – but it's the only one that's certified by Cambridge University. Anyone can offer a TEFL course: after all, the acronym just means teaching English as a foreign language. While standards obviously vary, some courses are definitely not worth the money in terms of the preparation they give you. And when you're standing up in front of an expectant classroom, you'll want to be prepared. The Trinity TEFL certificate is certified by Trinity College London and is also well regarded. It includes a section focusing on young learners, so if you want to teach kids this course is worth considering. As to whether to take your TEFL course before you move or whether to do it on arrival, there are pros and cons. In England the courses are cheaper due to a government limit on the price for short courses, but if you do your course locally you get to meet fellow expats (I'm still friends with several people from my course) and there's a chance you'll find work through the language school where you study.

And if you fancy yourself as an entrepreneur? Be prepared for an uphill struggle. Setting up your own business or going freelance is by no means impossible, but Spain doesn't make it easy. There is plenty of bureaucracy involved, and to work freelance you'll have to pay monthly autónomo fees (in addition to tax). If you're thinking about starting a business, take a look at Lauren of Madrid Food Tour's experience. I'll be looking more at being autónomo in a future posts.

Well, it's one option. From

2) Prepare your CV & Linkedin profile

Once you've identified the area you're going to aim for, get yourself good CVs in both English and Spanish. If your Spanish is shaky, it's worth getting a translator to help you. CVs in Spain are short: ideally just one page, and never more than two. Nobody needs to know that you once had a summer job at the supermarket: keep it relevant and highlight all your skills and experience that relate to the field you're aiming at. Spanish CVs also typically include a photo, and you should include your passport number or NIE. Age is a valid selection criteria in Spain (yes, you can advertise for a certain age of employee), so you can also provide this on your CV (or else you may be asked at interview).

Recruitment in Spain is increasingly done through Linkedin, especially for international companies. Create yourself a profile either in English or a bilingual one: the type of employers who hire through Linkedin are probably more concerned with checking your English than your Spanish, but make sure to showcase your language skills in the relevant section, and don't forget to include that DELE qualification if you've got it. Even if you're camera-shy, it's worth including a photo: profiles with photos get a lot more views than those without (and a lot of connection requests from Indian men, in my case). Make sure the photo is work-appropriate: don't use a photo of yourself on a night out, it just doesn't give the right impression.

It may also be worth creating a profile on Infojobs, one of Spain's main job ad sites. Create this profile in Spanish if possible.

As you're preparing to start your search, you also need to prepare yourself practically by getting a NIE and a social security number, as both are needed to work legally in Spain.


3) Know where to look

Thursday, 20 November 2014

I'm a Praktik Hotels Ambassador

As of this week, I'm an 'ambassador' for Praktik Hotels. What does that mean? Well, this cool and affordable little hotel chain is working with bloggers based in Barcelona and Madrid to share experiences and tips about the cities on their blog.

The comfiest hotel bed I've ever stayed in: Praktik Vinoteca

Praktik caught my eye on Instagram a few months ago with their gorgeous images of their hotels and their eye for great design (and of course, the incredible concept that is the Bakery Hotel). After recently staying at the newly-opened Praktik Vinoteca, a wine-themed hotel in Barcelona complete with sommelier, I was excited to get involved with their ambassador initiative. At the moment, there are 11 of us, living in either Barcelona and Madrid. Almost everyone blogs already, so if you're looking for new reading material on these cities, check out the ambassadors' profiles. With Praktik's motto being 'Collect experiences not things', we're here to share our insights into the cities we call home.

Why collaborate with Praktik? Blogging on Oh hello, Spain keeps me busy enough. Well, this may be true, but I'm excited to write different posts about Madrid and share them with a wider audience, in addition to keeping up my regular blogging here. And Praktik's ethos is one that really appeals to me, with an emphasis on quality, comfort and style on a budget. Prices at their hotels start at under €100 for a double room, and with impeccably designed facilities, you can't get much better. As a traveller who appreciates stylish surroundings for a reasonable price, I agree with Praktik's aim. And it's not just the price, it's the details: at the Vinoteca I was greeted with a free glass of cava on arrival, and guests can also enjoy free wine tastings. With different initiatives on offer in each of the hotels, Praktik has got the little things right.

My first post on the Praktik blog, about swapping the traditional tourist Prado + Retiro combo for the trendier, less-crowded Matadero + Madrid Rio, is here. Over on the blog, you can find my ideas and many more tips on Madrid and Barcelona.

Monday, 17 November 2014

(Drink) dates for your diary: La Vermutería pop-up, Ruta del Carajillo & Madrid Beer Week

If you're fond of a tipple or two, you're bound to love the variety of well-priced booze that Spain has to offer. Fine wine at a fraction of the price we pay in the UK, a range of draft and craft beers, Catalan cava and of course, sherry. There are also a few lesser-known drinks to taste test: newly-trendy vermouth and carajillo, a brandy-laced coffee for those who like their winter warmers with a kick. You can obviously order these drinks at most bars around the country, but if you're in Madrid over the next few weeks, you might want to check out some of these events.

La Vermutería pop-up

The bar at a La Vermuteria event

Since getting the hipsters' seal of approval, the traditional Spanish aperitif vermut (vermouth) is popping up again in bars around the country. There are particularly big vermouth scenes in Barcelona and Madrid, where you'll find more than just bearded fixie-bike owners sipping on a neat vermut on the rocks before tucking into their Sunday lunches. Fusing the vermouth trend with the fashion for pop-up events, La Vermutería pop-up takes over bars around Madrid on Sunday afternoons, serving a different brand of vermouth each time. There are tastings in the early afternoon, followed by several hours of vermouth-sipping to the soundtrack of a DJ. A couple of different tapas are also available to munch on. It's a fun and inexpensive way to spend a Sunday afternoon catching up with friends: a glass of vermut is just €2 a pop. Negronis are also on offer for the cocktail lovers out there. All brands of vermouth on offer are artesanal and haven't yet gone mainstream: perfect for those who enjoy getting a piece of the action before the general public. So that'll be why it's so popular with hipsters, then...

A glass of the good stuff

When: Most Sundays – for upcoming dates check their website. If you want to check it out this year, you're in luck: the next event runs from 21 November–24 December at Christmas pop-up The Hovse (no, that's not a typo) on Calle General Arrando 40.
Where: Bars around Madrid, and occasionally other cities. Previous venues have included Muy Placer en Conserva in Conde Duque and Stop Madrid on Calle Hortaleza.

La Ruta del Carajillo

Every winter, Brandy Magno offers a 'Ruta del Carajillo' around a selection of Spanish cities (A Coruña, Albacete, Girona, Madrid, Murcia and Valencia). During the event, certain bars around the city offer a carajillo (brandy-infused coffee) for the price of a normal coffee. The venues that form the route tend to be cosy, boho cafés ideal for curling up in away from the cold. Participating bars give out a 'Pasaporte Carajillo Magno' with details of all the spots on the route, and you can ask for your 'passport' to be stamped to be in with a chance of winning a trip to Prague. Even if you aren't a big carajillo fan, it's worth checking out the list of bars online or picking up a passport – you're bound to find a few new favourite cafés. Bars on the Madrid route include Café Manuela, Vacaciones and Populart.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Visiting Spain: Renting a casa rural

If you're looking for a plan for the December puente or just a different place to stay outside the city, consider renting a casa rural. With the growing popularity of local travel, these country cottages offer an opportunity to see somewhere different, get a bit closer to a community and to enjoy more freedom than you'd get at a hotel. And while Airbnb is great for Spanish city stays, it's yet to catch on in towns and the countryside, so you're better off using homegrown booking sites.

So, what exactly is a casa rural? They're self-catering houses, cottages or even apartments in small towns or villages, usually located in the countryside. Sounds pretty picturesque, doesn't it? Well, they usually are.

How to rent a casa rural

The choice of casas rurales is so vast that it really helps to have an idea of the area you want to visit. There seem to be slightly more north of Madrid than to the south, but wherever you want to go, you should have a choice of places to stay. 

The main listing and booking sites for casas rurales and apartments in off-the-beaten-track towns are Toprural and Escapada Rural. There's also Niumba, which is linked to TripAdvisor and offers a variety of types of property around Spain. I've used Toprural as a search engine, but booked direct with the owner: many Toprural listings contain links to each casa's own website. Some properties also offer booking through Toprural, but it's mostly a 'shop window', as is Escapada Rural, while Niumba offers secure reservations. Alternatively you can just use a search engine to look for casas rurales in your chosen area, but it's less time-consuming to let one of these sites do the work for you, as you can filter by property size and facilities. They also show user reviews to help you narrow down your search.

Casas rurales sleep from two to over twenty people, so they're ideal for couples and groups of friends or family. From simple mountain lodges to some luxe-looking properties with hot tubs, they vary wildly in style. Prices are generally low, starting from around €10 per person per night for a large property. They also depend on season, and a lot of places have a minimum stay over Spanish holidays, so it's worth checking fiesta dates when you're booking. You can check prices and a bookings calendar either on the listings sites or the property's website.

Given the rural nature of these properties, you usually need a car to reach them. However, some are in (small) town centres and can be accessed by public transport.

My casa rural experience

For the December puente a few years ago, a couple of friends and I decided to rent a casa rural. We were surprised by the choice on offer: from luxury barn conversions decorated in boutique style, to rustic lodgings, to cute cottages and places big enough to sleep over twenty people.

Rural enough for you? View of Cerveruela

We finally decided on Casa Larrueda in the tiny village of Cerveruela in southern Aragón. It was exactly what we were looking for on a winter weekend: a very photogenic, well-decorated cottage with a wood-burning fire and a supply of board games. When we arrived in Cerveruela, we realised that travel didn't get much more local than this – the village was so small that it didn't even have a shop. In true Spanish style, there was a bar though, frequented in the evenings by elderly gents playing dominos.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Madrid Monday: Dealz brings Poundland to Madrid

In my office, the working day begins with a hot beverage: coffee for the Spaniards, tea for the expats (and the occasional cultural crossover). It was over my morning cuppa last week that I was sounded out on my feelings for cheap UK chainstore Poundland. When I confessed to being partial to its bargain branded goods, my friend could barely contain her excitement: the first Madrid branch of Dealz, the Spanish name for Poundland, was opening that day. And even better, it was within walking distance of our office (and my house).

Every expat has their foibles, their must-have goods that they scramble to stock up on every time they fly back home. Mine are Twining's Earl Grey, Batiste Blonde Dry Shampoo and Dettol Antibacterial Spray. Yes, really. So imagine my reaction when, after our 'power-walk to Poundland' (OK, Dealz), I found a shelf bursting with bottles of my favourite cleaning product. I actually jumped in the air. Even better, like everything else in the store, it was only €1.50.

Dear friends, you will no longer be asked to bring this over in your cases

Dealz opened on 30 October at 192 Bravo Murillo, near Metro Estrecho. On opening day, it was packed with shoppers stuffing their cestas with cut-price goods, many of them from brands more commonly available in the UK than Spain. It wasn't just the price that excited us expats, it was the fact we could easily stock up on Cadbury's chocolate, Kellogg's cereal, Nairn's oatcakes, Discos, Quavers, Heinz Baked Beans, Johnson & Johnson branded shampoos and shower gels, Jane Asher bakeware and more. Dealz sells a whole host of everyday essentials, from food to toiletries to cleaning products to kitchenware. It's also a great place to stock up on Christmas cards and decorations (we didn't spot any crackers, but we're hopeful some will pop up by December). Everything is €1.50, which is a little more pricey than £1 in the UK, but we can't really complain given the import costs.

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