Christine Job, founder of Flourish in the Foreign, shares her experience building a life in spain and building a community of expats abroad.
“When I decided I definitely wanted to move to Spain, I joined many different Facebook groups for Americans in Spain and entrepreneurs in Spain and started networking. By the time I actually moved to Spain I had “virtually” met several people.“
Christine Job, Age: 33
Your Name Your age Let’s start at the beginning: Where are you originally from? When did you move abroad and where did you move abroad to?
I’m from Atlanta and I moved to La Rioja, Spain in 2017.
How were you able to migrate? (Job, Visa, Spouse, Family or another channel?)
I originally moved to Spain to teach English and now I have transitioned back into working for myself. I came to Spain with the North American Language Assistant program which provides a student visa, and stipend (£700-1000 depending on which region you are placed) and health insurance (the coverage is dependent on the region you are placed).
Why did you decide to move and did you know anyone there?
I’ve always wanted to live abroad so I decided to just take the leap. I was fairly familiar with Spain, I had traveled to the country many times, studied abroad in Valencia and walked the Camino de Santiago. When I decided I definitely wanted to move to Spain, I joined many different Facebook groups for Americans in Spain and entrepreneurs in Spain and started networking. By the time I actually moved to Spain I had “virtually” met several people.
How did you find the job searching process? Was there anything about working overseas that surprised you?
Although when I first came to Spain I had a contract as a language assistant, because I began networking way before I moved to the country, I actually landed a phone interview with a firm in Madrid. Nothing came of it, but that experience really emphasized the need to be proactive and “go get” what you want. As soon as I was settled in La Rioja, I began networking and pitching myself around town. Although I didn’t have any takers, I learned so much about the Spanish work culture, work visas, and in general the way they conduct business. When my contract ended I moved to Barcelona and I began freelance writing for a boutique web development firm in DC. I got the gig through networking with a fellow American (and friend) I met in La Rioja. I then got a position with the firm as a Marketing/Sales Manager & Business Strategist. I worked completely remotely from Barcelona and around the world when I traveled. When I decided to move on from that position, I was considering working for myself again. I had a Business Development consultancy in Atlanta that I put on hold to take a “sabbatical” and move to Spain. While I was in the process of restarting my consultancy, a position became available with an interesting company in Barcelona. The position was super cool and the people were really great, but ultimately I walked away from the offer due to the compensation
How was the experience finding a new home?
When I moved to La Rioja, I unfortunately didn’t do my research and tried to go apartment hunting in the middle of a major festival in the region. However, I got quite lucky and found a gorgeous 3 bedroom, 2 bath apartment for £560/month. When I first moved to Barcelona, I moved in with my ex-partner so that was easy lol. However, looking for my own place in Barcelona was super tricky. It is definitely not as cheap as other parts of Spain and the rental market is super competitive. Be prepared to put down a “reserva” to signal interest in a place and so that the agent will take it off the market. The fee varies and can be as much as 1 month’s rent. Also, you have to be prepared to put down 4 months of rent at signing (1 month to enter, 1 month to the agent, 2 months as a deposit). However, if you put down a reserva, that amount is counted toward the overall signing amount. Depending on the neighborhood in Barcelona, a 1 bedroom can range from (£800-1200).
How is the social scene? What was your experience making friends?
Barcelona is very international and cosmopolitan, you can probably find a group of people to engage with regardless of your interests. I made friends through social outings, women entrepreneur meetups and some Black expat groups.
Did you date overseas? If so, what was that experience like? Any memorable stories you can share?
Yes, I met and dated my ex in Barcelona. I think people should be aware that intercultural misunderstandings are real. It’s super important to voice expectations and never assume someone is on the same page as you. In my experience, if you choose to date a Spaniard make sure they have lived abroad before. I think it may be easier to find someone that shares your worldview in that they have actually gone and seen the world.
Do you feel your race impacted your experience? If so, how?
Of course, there are varying degrees of anti-Black sentiment all over the world. Several Black women I know (and myself included) have been propositioned as prostitutes by older white Spanish men. It doesn’t happen regularly, but it has happened. Also, in Spain, passport privilege is real. As a Black American I’m sometimes treated differently (i.e. rich foreigner, cool foreigner, exotic foreigner).
What has been the most challenging thing about moving abroad?
In Barcelona, both Catalan & Spanish are spoken. Also, a large majority of the population speak fairly decent English, so I find myself not being able to practice my Spanish and also being expected to speak Catalan lol.
What has been the most rewarding?
I love living in a society that prioritizes rest and community. It’s like a good kind of societal pressure that makes me not take myself soo seriously and to enjoy life more. This type of mentality has allowed my business to take off and gave me the mental space to launch my podcast, “Flourish In The Foreign“, which elevates & affirms the voices & stories of Black women living & thriving abroad. Through this podcast, I have expanded my network to include so many phenomenal Black women doing the DAMN thing abroad. Definitely check it out at www.flourishintheforeign.com and across all major streaming platforms.
Tips and advice for the Her Expatise Community
What in your experience would you say is the minimum monthly cost of living?
Any advice on the visa/migrating process that could help someone else’s process go smoother?
Spanish bureaucracy is slow, so be super prepared and have plenty of paper copies of everything. Also, apply for your long stay Visa from your country of origin (if you’re from outside the EU).
Any insider tips on a place you enjoy going to or an activity you enjoy doing?
The beaches outside of Barcelona are better than the ones inside the city. So hop on the train and explore the Catalan coast.
Finally, If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice before you got on that plane to move abroad, what would it be?
I would tell myself to relax and be patient, because everything takes longer than you think it should lol.