If you dream of paella, fiesta, and playa, you are in for a treat. We discuss everything about Spain with Elaina from Calgary. She did a Working Holiday Visa (WHV) in Spain, where she spent more than a year travelling and working. She was able to make a living while exploring multiple cities in Spain, as well as Portugal and Belgium. She also happened to find love… on the third day!
She fills us in on the application process, the culture, and what she loved most about her experience. Hopefully, this will inspire you to travel and work in Spain after the pandemic!
What Type of Visa Did You Have and How Long Did You Stay in Spain?
“I had a Working Holiday Visa (WHV) that allowed me to travel and work in Spain for up to 12 months. I stayed there for two years, travelling for fun before the visa kicked in and for many months after it expired (without working).”
Where Did You Travel During Your WHV? And What Were Your Favourite Places?
“The beauty of the Working Holiday Visa is that you can enter and leave as many European countries as you’d like. We visited Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, Ronda, and Malaga, not to mention some of the islands too, like Majorca. Of course, we were right next to Portugal, so we took a lot of trips there. And we went to Belgium because flights were so cheap.”
What Steps Did You Take to Find a Job in Spain?
“There are tons of groups on Facebook posting new job opportunities. I ended up living with a Spanish family in Sevilla, teaching English to their kids. I didn’t have a teaching background, but it worked out perfectly. The opportunities are endless for English speakers. It was challenging at the beginning, of course, but spending time with locals is the best way to learn the language. You’ll pick up Spanish quicker than you might think. When I first moved there, I spoke zero Spanish, zero.”
Did You Have Any Savings Before Going to Spain?
“I did have some, not a lot. To get the Working Holiday Visa, you just need enough money to cover expenses for the first few months. For Spain, it was a little over $2000. Some countries also make you show proof of funds for a return ticket. Life in Spain is very affordable, especially for someone coming from a place with a higher cost of living like Calgary. But it depends on the city. In Madrid and Barcelona, for instance, the rent is super high.”
Would You Say That the Money You Earned During Your WHV Was Enough to Cover Your Daily Expenses in Spain?
“Yes. I was never stressed out about that. It balanced itself out. I was still earning enough to be able to comfortably travel, go out for meals multiple times a week, and take little trips on the weekends.”
What Are the Main Differences Between Living in Spain and Living in Canada? Did You Have to Adapt?
“Yes, lots of adjusting. Spain and Canada aren’t even on the same level. In Canada, it’s go, go, go all the time. In Spain, everything seems to be at a much slower pace. No one’s ever in a rush, you can sleep in. Everyone’s outside, enjoying a coffee, staying up late.
In Spain, we would typically eat lunch around 2 o’clock to 3 o’clock in the afternoon and have dinner around 11 o’clock at night. And then breakfast time was more like brunch. Even little things like having coffee happened later. I’m used to having a cup of coffee in the morning, maybe one in the afternoon, but in Spain, I would also have a cortado (a little cup of coffee) after dinner, close to midnight.
It was different at first, but after a few weeks I was loving it and taking a siesta every day.”
Do You Think the Weather in Spain Plays a Role in the Culture?
“Yes, totally. In Canada, people buy big houses and are inside all the time. In Spain, the homes are much older, smaller, and more traditional. Spanish people spend very little time inside the house. Life takes place outside on the streets. You have breakfast at a little cafe and then you’re out all night long.
It does get cool in the wintertime. Not anything like Calgary cold. I noticed the chill because the homes don’t have heating. It gets to around 10 degrees Celsius in December and January and it’s a wet cold. I needed to buy a winter jacket. The best time to visit Spain is in September. Fall in Spain is just gorgeous and there are not many tourists around”
What Is the Cost of Living in Spain Compared to Canada?
“It’s a lot cheaper. Especially in Seville, in the south of Spain. If you’re on a budget in one of the major cities, you will really need to find the local spots. My advice is to never eat somewhere that has an English menu.
Just to give you an idea, my parents came to visit us in Seville and we took them to our favourite Tapas place, Duo Tapas. We had a round of beers, a bottle of wine, and about 15 Tapas, followed by coffee and dessert. We all took turns at the end of the meal to guess how much the bill was. We were shocked! It was only 40 euros for the four of us, including the bottle of wine. And every single dish was incredible.”
What Did You Miss Most About Canada When You Were in Spain?
“I missed my family and my friends. And the mountains. I live an hour from Banff and I’m used to seeing them pretty much every weekend. For this reason, it was a long time to be away.
I also missed seeing friendly faces. Don’t get me wrong, people are friendly in Spain, but Canadians have a certain thing about them. They’re always smiling, they hold the door for you, they say ‘sorry’ if you accidentally bump into them.”
What Advice Would You Give to Someone Who Would Like to Do a WHV in Spain?
“Just go for it. Don’t get intimidated by the visa application process. There’s a lot of steps to go through, but it’s so worth it. The Working Holiday Visa will probably be the most rewarding thing that you can do.
And try not to be afraid. Stay positive. Be open to the new culture and find ways to meet new people. You never know who you might run into. I met my now fiancé on my third day in Seville!”
It’s your turn!
Besides travel and work in Spain, Elaina got a lot of good things from her Working Holiday Visa! She explored multiple countries, learned a new language, and found love! Your personal travel experience awaits!
If you’re a Canadian between 18 and 35 and would like to learn more about travel and work opportunities after the pandemic, visit the International Experience Canada website for all the details. There are over 30 destinations to choose from like New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Germany, and more!
To hear more stories from Canadians who have experienced a WHV, check out our #NomadTALKS playlist on YouTube.
You can follow Elaina (and see her amazing photos!) on Instagram.
You would also like: All You Need to Know if You Want to Travel and Work in Ireland (Post-COVID)
The original interview was conducted by Emilie Robichaud and compiled by Britney Claveau.