Granada, Spain Report of what it's like to live there - 10/30/08
Personal Experiences from Granada, Spain
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
2. How long have you lived here?
3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
Granada's airport is small; Ryanair flies there from a couple of its European hubs. Málaga (1.5hr away) and Madrid (4-5 hrs) are the most convenient airports for coming to Granada.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Typically apartments. Choose one as high up as possible, since the ones on lower floors are usually dark and noisy. Spaniards love tiled floors, which get really cold in winter. Furniture is usually flimsy. Many expats tried to find a place in the old Moorish quarter (the Albaicín), but remember that most places there are small, dark, damp and expensive.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Same as in most of Europe. The price difference between local and imported goods is quite big, so watch out what you buy. If you shop prudently it's cheap, but then don't expect to find your personal favourite brands.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
My duvet, since nights get surprisingly cold! Good socks, for the same reason... Detergent, since I got a terrible rash from Spanish washing powder.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Great tapas everywhere, plenty of (sometimes grotty) little bars. Good restaurants on the Campo del Príncipe. Fast-food joints are concentrated in the shopping malls. Not a lot of ethnic food, although I had great Lebanese and Chinese.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Some cable channels (CNN, BBC World). Spanish TV dubs all foreign-language programs and movies. News stands offer several English-language newspapers.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
A lot: Spaniards hardly speak anything but Spanish. Some make an effort, but their English teachers obviously don"t speak the language themselves so it"s easier to learn some Spanish yourself! Be aware of the strong Andalucían accent. A good option is an "intercambio" with a Spanish student, so you can both pick up each other"s language.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Cobble-stoned streets, very narrow sidewalks. Public buildings do have ramps, and there are buses with low floors (piso bajo).
1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?
2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
The city bus network is fine and offers very affordable multi-trip tickets, which you can buy at the Tabacos.
3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
In the city itself, a car is useless: traffic is heavy, streets are narrow, drivers are crazy and parking space is very limited. A small car is useful for trips to the countryside. Roads are good, gasoline is the cheapest in Western Europe. Renting is OK if you manage a deal for a couple of days.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
It is, at about €30 per month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Everybody has one; Vodafone is a good company.
3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?
Landlines are expensive because there"s little competition. Skype is a good alternative.
1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
It's basically limited to teaching English and working in the tourist industry. Otherwise, only if your Spanish is impeccable.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Formal: people are very dressy.
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
Moderate; mostly traffic fumes that get stuck in the narrow streets.
2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
None really; some pickpockets, some hustlers who think you're a tourist.
3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The water tastes foul, but apart from that nothing big. Pharmacies sell medication without prescription that would take down an elephant, but in my experience pharmacists are very knowledgeable.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Lots of sunshine, which makes even the coolest days very agreeable. It does rain quite a lot in winter, and be prepared for very cold nights. Summer is scorching during the day, and pleasant when the sun goes down.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Surprisingly large: lots of foreign students and quite a few others, more "mature" foreigners.
2. Morale among expats:
Quite high: you do have to know what to expect. Students make their own fun. Other expats usually came for the "real Spanish experience", and Granada certainly offers that. Downers were the limited work opportunities, and sometimes a feeling of isolation.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
As mentioned above, be aware of the Spanish social circles. Spaniards rarely entertain at home, so there are great opportunities for socializing in restaurants, bars and clubs. Spaniards dine late (usually after 9 PM)
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I'd call it decent for anyone. Granada is smallish (250,000 people) so it"s not a major metropolis, but it has one of Spain's largest universities and is very popular with foreign exchange students. Therefor there are plenty of activities to keep you busy: good restaurants and bars, plenty of nightlife and high-brow culture. Of course, Granada is one of Spain"s main tourist towns and it is indeed a unique and extremely atmospheric place. Spanish culture is very centered around circles of family and old friends. For families this means that everyone will adore your kids. For singles and young couples, it can be hard to break into a circle. This is especially true in Granada, since granadinos have a reputation among Spaniards of being conservative and aloof. I had lots of fun, but a lot of it was with fellow foreign students. Once you do make Spanish friends, they're a great bunch.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Spain is very accepting and you can be open about your orientation. Granada is no Madrid or Barcelona however; it's a provincial town. So don't expect a big gay scene: I personally know of only one bar. I guess that if you make gay Spanish friends you"ll find more though.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Nothing major; many Spaniards have quite strong opinions about gitanos (Roma) and Moroccans, but I didn"t see any overt hostility. There's a functioning mosque in the middle of the Albaicín, which I find very befitting for the capital of Europe"s last Arab kingdom! Do remember that Spaniards love to stare, so I (blond Northern European guy) got lots of attention. Women experience the same, and probably a degree more. I never heard anyone who found it threatening; just annoying.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Granada is one of Spain's (if not Europe's) most beautiful and unique cities, chock-full of great sights. You'll never be bored admiring the greatness of the Alhambra, the atmosphere of the Albaicín, the fabulous mountain setting of the city and the lovely "Christian" city centre. Go to the gipsy quarter of Sacromonte, and to the wonderful Baños Árabes. As mentioned above, plenty of good food and drink, cinemas, classical music at the Auditorio Manuel de Falla, pop concerts at the Palacio de Deportes. Outside of the city, go skiing in the Sierra Nevada (45 min. by bus) or hiking in the Alpujarras. The beach is 1 hr away. Andalucía as a whole is terrific for travelling.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Great food and wine, cinema tickets, concerts, dancing lessons, travelling, Ketama CDs, and your very own flamenco outfit.
9. Can you save money?
You could probably, but I wouldn't try too hard. There's just too much to do.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes; it was a great experience and Granada is a unique place. If you want a big-city feel, then I"d suggest Madrid over Granada.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Bike, it's useless because of the hills and the drivers.
3. But don't forget your:
Hiking boots, skis, sunglasses, sunscreen, foreign-language books (since the choice here is very limited).
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Anything by Federico García LorcaTales of the Alhambra, by Washington Irving.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Anything by Federico García LorcaTales of the Alhambra, by Washington Irving.