Healthy Living in Spain

Living in Spain and Moving abroad can be hard, even more so if you have kids.

What if they struggle to adjust?

To ease these worries, this article offers helpful advice, guidance, and tips to make the transition as smooth as possible.
From exciting activities to healthy local cuisine, it provides useful information to help families enjoy a healthy lifestyle in Spain.


Healthcare in Spain is highly rated, and not just among expats. The Lancet’s Healthcare Access and Quality Index ranked Spain in the top ten globally.

Per capita spending on healthcare here is among the highest in the world. As an expat resident in Spain, you’ll be able to access public healthcare and hospital treatment if you need it, though you may have to wait. Waiting times for appointments and treatment can be long, and staff shortages can slow things down.

Many expats choose to take out expat health insurance because it’s a good way to cut down on waiting times for non-emergency procedures and future-proof your family’s healthcare provision, whatever happens and wherever you are.

You may also like this post on tips for the health conscious

Tenerife Food Market Stall

Food and drink

Granted, Spanish cuisine doesn’t have the same cachet as that of France or Italy, but it does have great wine, local markets selling fresh, seasonal produce, and an
abundance of regional specialities. You’ll find the usual temptation of fast-food outlets in cities and larger towns, and the sweet-toothed expat will enjoy exploring a huge
variety of postres (desserts).

But thankfully, it’s both cheap and easy to enjoy a healthy diet at home and when you dine out.

Vegetarians take note: it can be a pretty meaty diet too and you may have your work cut out when it comes to explaining what you mean by sin carne (no meat),
especially in rural Spain.

Brush up on your food vocabulary – you could end up listing every meat you don’t eat!

Autumn dishes in Granada Seasonal Spanish food

Long Lunch

In many regions, the main event is lunch, a slow, convivial two or three-hour affair that takes up much of the afternoon. Supper is late and it’s not unusual to find whole families at the table at 9pm or even later.

When it comes to stocking your shelves, you’re likely to find foods and ingredients familiar to you in supermarkets, especially in the larger chains in and around towns. Local shops will often have a shelf or two given over to the sort of exotica favoured by UK expats (think tea bags and baked beans).

The best way to start settling into your new life in Spain is to eat your way into it, slowly, socially, season by season.

Beach on Costa Ballena

Family Living in Spain

Over 90% of those surveyed in Internations’ Quality of Life survey (2017) agree that Spain is one of the most family-friendly countries in the world. It’s a culture that genuinely adores children and welcomes them into pretty much all spheres of social life.

There’s a massive difference in expectations of behaviour

explains Yasmin, a UK expat currently living in Spain with her four-year- old twins.

“So, the sort of rules you might have laid down in the UK don’t really apply in Spain. Children are expected to be children. There’s a huge upside to this. Because there’s little separation between children’s social life and that of adults, you’re more or less fast-tracked into the local community.

Parents unaccustomed to the happy babble of children scampering around at 11pm may find adjusting to this new mode of family living a challenge, especially when
hard-won sleep patterns are disrupted. Try to tick to the rhythms of local families. If it feels like an uphill struggle at first, don’t worry. Sooner or later, your family clock will reset itself.

Alhambra Granada with Children

Social Life

There are a host of reasons why Spain was top of the rankings for social life in HSBC’s 2017 Expat Explorer Survey. For a start, the climate means that life is lived on the outside for much of the year, with plenty of opportunities to get out, meet people and join in. Social isolation needn’t be a problem living in Spain, even in the remotest communities.

Joining in really does mean getting out; the northern European tradition of dinner parties and entertaining indoors doesn’t really figure in Spain. It’s rare to be invited into someone’s home, especially in rural areas, and locals will be nonplussed by an invitation into yours.  Gatherings are usually held outside, in gardens, on terraces, and in bars.

There are a few things you can do to find your way into the local scene. Keep your eyes peeled for advertised local events and make time to go along. Even in the smallest villages, there’s usually a community noticeboard or flyers pinned to a tree trunk, and they’re usually up to date. If they’re not, your neighbours will be. Once you’re there, avoid hovering on the periphery of the action waiting for an invitation to join in – it’s assumed you’re there because you’re ready to be part of whatever’s going on.

Ocean Golf Costa Ballena Living in Spain


Slowing down, Speaking up

There are bound to be a few pinch points when you move from one country to another, so here’s a few stress-busting tips that may come in handy…

Adjusting to a slower pace of life sounds easy, but it can be frustrating at first. Time is elastic when it comes to appointments, and three or four people ahead of you in a  queue could mean a very long wait before it’s your turn.

Plan ahead, accept that what you hoped to do today may have to wait until tomorrow. Don’t even attempt to call out a plumber/electrician/mechanic on a Sunday. Another challenge for expats, especially for northern Europeans looking to retire, is learning to be more vocal and dispensing with all those pleases, thank-yous and would-you- minds.

It isn’t that the Spanish are bad-mannered, it’s just that if you want something, you’re expected simply to ask for it. In fact, the first thing you’ll hear on the phone or behind a counter is “¡Digame!” – literally, talk to me. It takes some getting used to, but life is immeasurably easier once you adopt the Spanish way of life and you’ll never be ignored by waiters and bar staff again.