Expat survey: Spain rates high for lifestyle, low for business

HSBC global survey suggests old clichés about Spain are proving hard to shake off

Spanish comedian Alfredo Landa playing the Latin lover.
Spanish comedian Alfredo Landa playing the Latin lover.

Spain is still the home of the siesta. The Spanish are poor timekeepers, and can appear rude. Red tape can make life impossible, and this is a patriarchal society that can be hard for women coming here for the first time to adapt to. Ah, and men still love to catcall.

At least that’s what a selection of expats interviewed for HSBC’s latest Expat Explorer Survey have said.

The survey of 26,871 expats living in 190 countries asked respondents about everything from quality of life and personal relationships to the local economy and the nature of the workplace. It found the most attractive country overall for expats is Singapore, followed by New Zealand and Canada. For Spain, however, which came in 16thplace overall, the news is decidedly mixed.

The HSBC survey describes Spain as a place that hasn’t managed to shake off its ‘mañana’ image

First the good news: Spain is doing better in the ‘family’ category, moving up to seventh place in the ranking with particularly high scores for state education, public healthcare and the public transport system, though it was pointed out that parking is a problem in the big cities.

In even better news, Spain rated second behind only New Zealand among 190 countries in the ‘Experience’ category, which includes factors such as making friends, culture, integration and quality of life. An overwhelming 73% of expats living in Spain said they were happily integrated into Spanish society. Aspects that were praised were the Mediterranean diet, flamenco, architecture, art and the climate, with the only hint of negativity being the time it takes “to get used to the pace of Spanish life.”

On the economic front, however, Spain rated rather less well, coming 45th in the HSBC rankings, with particularly low scores for entrepreneurship (42nd) and wage growth (45th).

According to Spain’s resulting country guide: “Spain was seriously affected by the global financial crisis several years ago but the situation is steadily improving,” although, “the country is still grappling with high unemployment rates and, until recently, recession.”

Spanish business culture is also tackled and summed up with the words: “Social status and personality often carry as much weight as an individual's skills and experience.” And: “The Spanish prefer to do business with people they know and trust.”

Expats in Spain love the lifestyle but says the pace of life takes time to get used to

Old clichés persist

The guide describes Spain as a place that still hasn’t managed to shake off its ‘mañana’ image. There is a particular section on the siesta, which reports that Spaniards “eat, rest and recharge their batteries” between 2pm and 5pm, though they do add: “This practice is starting to die out in some cities, but it’s still common in the suburbs and smaller towns and villages.”

It also suggests that Spaniards are not too bothered about punctuality and can be rather abrupt, though foreigners are reminded that the lack of a please or thank you, does not mean they are being rude.

In terms of red tape, the guide maintains, “Spanish bureaucracy can cause long delays, particularly when local laws and culture differ from one region to another.” Spain is also described as “patriarchal” and a country where “women can have a difficult time adjusting,” while “staring and catcalling is something of a national pastime for many men, especially in rural areas.”

English version by Heather Galloway.


More information

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS