So far I’ve been publishing stories of people who came to Spain from far away: Russia, India – non-EU citizens. But for EU citizens it is far too different to settle down in another country, who belong to the European Union. First of all, they don’t need to get a TIE card. Let’s get to know a story of Aleksandra, from Riga, Latvia, a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. She arrived in Spain in 2015 for the first time.

Hello, Aleksandra! When and under what circumstances did you arrive to Spain for the first time?

It was in 2015 and I arrived in Barcelona for work. Like many other young people from Europe I guess, I was fascinated by this city. It was a seasonal job, in a hotel in Cambrils, Salou and sadly I had to go back to Latvia after that summer. My love for Barcelona has started from that moment I think.

When did you decide that you would like to move to Spain? Have you had any plan?

When I was at high school I became a big fan of the Argentinian TV Show Rebelde Way. I was charmed by the Spanish language. When in 2015 I graduated from University, I asked myself “And now what?” When you’re in your twenties, you feel like the whole world at your feet. Then I remembered that I love Spain, why not to try to go there and accomplish something great in a country where an official language is my beloved Spanish? And I became obsessed, you know when you can think only about that. I found a job in a hotel, as I commented before, but it was for a seasonal job. I could be in Spain only for a limited time.

Aleksandra and Bunkers del Carmel (Barcelona, 2015)

Then I went back to my hometown – Riga. “Whatever. It’s not a problem”, I thought. I can find a job from there, I have the Internet, I can send my CV from there. If I only knew how things, in reality, will turn out. I was applying for different jobs and trying to call companies, but no one even wanted to respond to a foreign number. I assume it was because of a high unemployment rate within people under 25. That year the unemployment rate in Spain was 16.4 percent. But that wasn’t an issue either and I thought, it’s OK, I can try to save up some money and will try to find a better job next year. And I stayed in Latvia for one year more, working in a bank there. 

And what happened after that year?  

In 2016 I decided to apply for a Master’s degree at Business School. It had been a busy year at work and I decided to take a break and get a master’s degree in Barcelona. I was thinking, if I will be able to find a job when I am already there, it will be a sign from the Universe that everything goes well for me. I got enrolled in Business School and while studying I was looking for a job. By graduating I found a job, it took me 7 months, but it was a perfect match. I got my diploma in a Master’s Degree in International Business Innovation and started working for an International company. 

Master’s Program at Business School, Barcelona 2016

You will not believe it. It was a big challenge for me to open a bank account here. I needed it because I started working and it needed for payrolls, but I never thought it would be so difficult. I mean the whole process of opening an account is the same as in other countries I guess, but I was surprised how irresponsible the staff is in banks here. Maybe I’m so sensitive to it, because I used to work in a bank as well, but I was just disappointed by it. For instance, they can easily lose your card when you are waiting to receive it. They can refuse to close your bank account, block your account without any notification or ask you to leave an office if you are asking to talk to the manager. There will be a million excuses to not call the manager. Things like that. It was only with one bank so far, but since then I am very picky with banks. 

What was the hardest part for you? 

What other challenges did you face with the documents? 

I wouldn’t highlight any challenges with the documents. The company’s staff where I worked helped me a lot with it. I even didn’t have to do anything, such as waiting for a Cita Previa or something like that. I know you guys, non-EU citizens ,have other procedures and it wasn’t like that for me. I needed to get an NIE, it is a green paper document with a number that is registered in everything here in Barcelona, and a Social Security number. The company I worked for did everything, I only provided my pictures, passport, and diploma. It was in Spanish, even easier. Social Security number is crucial here, and you can get it by yourself, you only need a document from your work that confirms that you are going to work for that company. It should be in Spanish. It is for CatSalut, but if you are from the EU and going to stay here for 3 months only, then you should get a card EVAK in the country of origin. It is free and works as CatSalut in the whole of Europe. 

What difficulties did you face with a job search during those 7 months? 

An enormous high level of competition. By the time I finally found a job I had sent my CV 500 times! Also, I noticed that if there are 3 candidates for the same job position and one of them is a Catalan or Spaniard, that person will get a job. I don’t want to point anything out, but it’s just a hint why it might be so difficult to find a job. For instance, in December-January I was finishing working for one project and was looking for another job, and just out of curiosity I was applying for jobs in other countries, worldwide. I was getting immediate replies and interview invitations from companies in the US. Meanwhile, in Spain, the response rate was still too low. This is interesting because the unemployment rate in Spain in 2019-2020 was around 14%, and almost the same rate in the US, 14% in New York particularly

Aleksandra and her friend

Can you name 5 main differences between Spain and your country? 

  1. I forced myself to be less punctual. Here is no one on time. Everyone is always late. Even you and you are not a Spaniard! (laughs).
  2. I am not used to paying for myself at birthday parties and birthday parties without gifts. This was something new for me, but I break this rule sometimes and buy birthday gifts anyways. 
  3. To be more smiling and smile at everyone, even though we are not good friends. I am from North Europe and we are not so easygoing with new people. I wasn’t used to talking with a cashier about my life, but good things become habits pretty fast.
  4. Live in a shared apartment. No comments. The situation with prices for rents is just too huge.
  5. Late dinner schedule.

How long have you been living here so far? Do you think you are fully socially integrated?

I’ve been living in Barcelona for 4 years now. Of course, there are pros and cons when you live abroad. The first wave of sadness comes after 3 months more or less, when you already tried the newest things, met tons of new people, and created a circle of acquaintances, friends. You start missing home, your country, especially when your family still lives there. After 2-3 years you already consider yourself as a local and know basic social rules, how this city functions let’s say. And this is the moment when you start seeing all pros and cons of this country that matter for you. It is another critical moment when many people decide to come back to their countries or to move to another one. I have many friends who moved to other countries, and some of them came back to their countries of origin. I still haven’t found cons that would convince me to move out of Spain.  

OK. What are main pros of living in Spain you found for yourself?

They are a lot. The first thing that crosses my mind is friendship. I found many good friends here, which I appreciate. I am convinced it is a huge luck. I know people are always complaining how difficult it is to find good friends when you are living abroad. I met good people, got to know their families, we traveled together, I brought them to my country. They became a part of my family. This is something that you can’t buy for money. So, even if you have a job with a good income, but you don’t have good friends to hang out with, then it is nothing. I appreciate the connections I developed here with a lot of wonderful people. 

Thank you for your answers!