When you decide to live in Spain, whether you already have a residence permit or not, it is a must to register yourself in the Barrio where you live. This certificate of registration is called empadronamiento which should be updated every time you change address. Another similar document which is padron, should be renewed every two years until you get your permanent residence permit, now called residencia de larga duración. Empadronamiento is a very important document as some government agencies may ask you to show it when you avail of government services. To those who are in an irregular administrative situation and would like to apply for a residence permit, one of the requirements is 2-3 years of residence, which can be proved by one’s empadronamiento.
2. Language Classes
The level of English in Spain is relatively low compared to other European countries. Don’t expect college graduates to speak good English. Their medium of instruction may be Spanish or the language spoken in the region. They may appreciate you for speaking English with them so they can practice their English, but it is not good that you let years pass without knowing how to conjugate. You need to know Spanish as soon as you set foot on Spain as all signboards, product labels, important documents, everything is in Spanish. There are many associations, Filipinos and non-Filipinos, which give very cheap language classes. The government has adult schools and the famous Escuela Oficial de Idiomas. If you want to be really serious in learning español, Escuela Oficial de Idiomas is a good option. It is relatively cheap and offers quality teaching.
3. Work in Spain
The current employment situation is not really inviting for those who want to pursue their career in Spain. Spaniards are starting to migrate to nearby European countries or explore far-flung countries in Asia and the Americas to look for work. In Spain, most Filipinos work in the service sector, restaurant, hotel or domestic work. To work legally, one has to have residence permit or NIE (Número de Identidad de Extranjero). To get a NIE, one has to be hired from the country of origin (oferta de trabajo) or live in Spain for a certain number of years and fulfill the different requirements for arraigo social, laboral or familiar.
Most Europeans envy Spain because of the really good weather she has. Some of them come all the way from colder countries just to enjoy Spain’s beaches and warmer climate. In summer, a Pinay or a Pinoy won’t be homesick because the temperature is tropical.
Aside from the beaches, museums are also for free. In Barcelona, every first Sunday of the month, art fans can appreciate the works of Picasso, Dali, Miro and many other artists for free.
Books, CDs, DVDs are also free for borrowing from the local libraries. You don’t have to pay anything for the library card, just show any form of identification, passport, NIE or DNI.
5. Health card
Another free of charge in Spain is the access to health care. If one has a residence permit, health care in Spain is universal. Filipinos with residence permit don’t have to pay for medical services provided by public hospitals, may it be a medical consultation or a surgical operation. One can apply for a health card by just going to their respective local health centers and present their residence permit. Recently, amendments in health care law were implemented restricting access to immigrants without residence permit. However, in Catalonia, they can still avail of health services depending on the urgency of the health problem, length of stay and economic situation of the individual.
6. Social Services
The image Filipinos abroad has back home is overrated, always a success story, an endless source of money and has a very comfortable life. Some Filipinos in Spain, due to economic crisis, have lost their jobs, about to lose their home or sometimes are in financial difficulty to the point of asking food from the government. It’s good that in Spain, there are Social Welfare offices which can provide assistance regardless of one’s administrative situation. One just has to go there, present any form of identification and ask for help.
7. Place of worship
Catholicism is one of the propellers of Spanish colonization so most Filipinos won’t have any problem looking for a place of worship in Spain. The increasing number of Filipinos in Spain has urged some of the Spanish dioceses to allot a permanent place of worship for Filipinos, to have a Filipino mass held by a Filipino priest. One good example of this is the Iglesia de San Agustin in the barrio or Raval in Barcelona. More than 1000 Filipinos flock the Filipino mass every Sunday. If you’re not Catholic, Spain respect all types of religious denominations so you are also expected to respect other religious teachings may it be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu and others which are present in Spain.
8. Pinoy Food
Every time we travel or stay abroad, we always look for rice or anything that has rice on it. Some Spanish food has rice on it, paella and arroz a la cubana. Spanish food has many similarities to Filipino cuisine so adjustments won’t be that drastic. Pescadito frito, cocido, ensaimada, etc. are nothing new to Filipino palate. If you are really craving for adobo or sinigang, as always if there is a big number of Filipinos living together, there are always Pinoy restaurants. If you want to save up and cook the way you like it, there are many stores selling Pinoy ingredients. Don’t be shocked and start converting the price from euro to peso of seasoning mix.
The transport system is good. If you’re in big Spanish cities like Madrid, Valencia or Barcelona, subway trains and buses are a good way of moving around the city. Bikes and trams can also be an option in some places. The transport fare varies from one city to another but there’s always an option to buy a transport card good for a certain number of days or frequency of use.
10. Where to live?
If you want to save up, you can rent a room from our kababayan or from the locals, just ask around. But if you want to have your own space and privacy, you can rent from private housing agencies. Most of the time, they require job contract, deposit and advanced payments. If you’re planning to buy, you can buy from private housing agencies or visit a local government agency which can offer you relatively good prices.
11. Culture Shock
For newcomers, some might be culture shocked by Spanish or Europeans in general for their public display of affection or public display of anything. It may be something new for us but don’t be shocked nor be so Asian to take pictures while they are doing it. There are many nudist beaches in Spain and one can appreciate the view without being so excited about it. There are things that they do on their own way, like we have our own way of doing things back home. Never impose your own values and standards on them. Conflict and even wars that cost millions of lives have occurred because of this. Learn to adapt to their culture. Respect. There are many ordinances that if you don’t know might earn you the ire of your neighbor or cost you fines from the police. Karaoke is only allowed until 10 p.m. as people work and need to sleep so they can work again. People celebrate but they also need to sleep so they can work again. You should know simple things like when and where to throw garbage and that it is prohibited to sell and drink alcoholic beverages in the streets. However, if conflict arises just because you’re Filipino, you also have the right to file a complaint for racism and there are existing associations in the likes of SOS Racisme and government offices which address problems of discrimination.
Citizens of ex-Spanish colonies like the Philippines can apply for citizenship (nacionalidad) after two years of residence. Requirements, procedures may vary depending on your case, and processing time may take longer than expected.
13. Correct Information
Don’t depend on hearsays when it comes to information on administrative procedures especially when they concern your residence permit. As immigration law changes from time to time so as the procedures, and one’s kababayan’s situation might be different from yours. It is also important to seek help from a person who is expert in these procedures or a lawyer who knows the intricacies of the immigration law. The government also has various information agencies which can give you services free of charge and has interpreters so you won’t be lost in translation, like the office Servicio de Atención a los Inmigrantes, Extranjeros y Refugiados (SAIER) of Barcelona which has lawyers and personnel who are experts in immigration law and knowledgeable in various services from validating your Philippine college degree to language classes.
Daniel Infante Tuano has been living in Spain for eight years and recently acquired his Spanish citizenship. He is very active in the Filipino community in Barcelona where he gives free Spanish lessons to kababayans. He is also Barcelona’s correspondent for ABS-CBN Europe. He is one of the editors of Ang Bagong Pilipino, an online magazine for Filipinos in Spain.