Emigrating to Spain

My wife Pilar and I have decided to move to my wife’s home town of Seville in the south of Spain next year. This is a decision we have been wrestling with for some time now but this summer’s lack of sun tipped the decision.

We are going to wait until the end of the school year before moving to minimise disruption for our elder son Tomás.

The move will be quite a change.

The biggest challenge, for me at least, will be securing employment in Spain. My Spanish language skills are less than rudimentary! In Ireland I do a considerable amount of consulting to local companies evangelising web 2.0 technologies. This won’t be possible after the move unless the local companies speak English (and very few companies in the South of Spain speak English).

If anyone knows of any good resources for becoming fluent in Spanish in 24 hours (!) I’d love to hear about them. Also, any/all tips or intros to employers in that region would be gratefully accepted.

62 thoughts on “Emigrating to Spain”

  1. How about start speaking with Pilar in Spanish instead of whatever language you use in the People’s Republic of Cork? (LOL) Seriously, it’s the best way.

  2. I moved to Argentina three years ago with very basic knowledge of Spanish — it was tough, but I’m now fluent. There are lots of online resources I have found helpful: Lomastv.com is a site where you can watch different show in Spanish with or without subtitles in English. You can control the speed, etc. Try to speak with your wife in Spanish — it’s hard to make that switch, but having a partner to speak with speeds up the process tremendously. You might consider taking lessons too (over Skype, maybe?). I have a recommendation of someone very good if you are interested.

  3. Hi Tom,

    My folks moved out there permanently about a year ago (sold business and house without a word of spanish). They both work (the Auld man works for an art gallery (two days a week) and has learned very little but doesn’t seem to mind. The Ma did a two month intensive course in Rhonda and is near fluent now – teaching others now.

    I can pass on a number if ya want some contacts for when you get there, they’re based outside Rhonda so not too far away.

  4. On the language, the immersion once there will help immensely, but three tips I’d share are:

    – Stay away from English-language ex-pat and read all news you can in Spanish (try international news and tech pages, where you’ll be familiar with the topics anyway and you’ll make the connection easier because of similar vocabularies);

    – Start ahead of time reading as many Spanish-language social media and tech blogs and sites as you can — again, you’ll see similarities in the vocabularity and the familiarity will help you to fill in all the rest of the grammar and etc); and,

    – Children … when you’re at friends’ or relatives’ homes talk to the children in Spanish as much as possible, as they won’t laugh at your funny accent or strange grammar and will put you at ease as you speak basic pidgeon Spanish with them. Even have them teach you their favorite nursery rhymes or read children’s books with them. It really helped me improve my Spanish many years ago in Mexico.

    Best of luck in your move and saludos to Pilar!

  5. Don’y worry, we will try to help you. Your spanish is not rudimentary, it’s very funny 😉


    No te preocupes, intentaremos ayudarte. Tu castellano no es rudimentario, es muy gracioso 😉

  6. Firstly, Ireland is going to miss you Tom. I hope you’ll be visiting a few times a year for all those events you’ve added to.

    On the Spanish front, I’d give Enterprise Ireland a call. They have a decent base in Spain and they know many IT companies in the area. They will probably know who speaks english and who doesn’t. Maybe you could consult for them and in time become a link between Spain and Ireland Web 2.0 🙂

  7. hey Tom

    will miss seeing you around – but great for you as a family to experience a different culture.

    Cannot help you on your practical issues regretably 🙂


  8. I have to agree with Michael, straight in at the deep end will help. Ex-pats will make you lazy when it comes to learning the language. And talking to children definitely helps, don’t laugh at learning the nursery rhymes, it worked for us when we learned English as children.

  9. Wow, Tom! Best of luck! I’m sure it’ll be a good decision for you and your family.

    Reading a recent blog post of yours, it struck me that aspects of your work are increasingly bringing you to Europe anyway. If this is primarily a “quality of life” decision for you, I hope it will also bring bigger and better opportunities for your career. Can’t see a little thing like language fluency being much of an obstacle to you for long! 😉

  10. Tom,
    Best of luck with the move. You have plenty of time to plan and even make a move on the language. The best resource you could possibly have is your Spanish wife who will be able to answer your questions as you ask them. For a very good online resource (which will accelerate the natural process that will take place when you get there) check out SpanishSense. This is run by the same guys who have very successfully managed ChinesePod over the last few years.

  11. Tom-

    What a great move. You will love Sevilla. I have lot’s of friends there — talk with Maqi at Egondi Artes Graficas S.a. (C/ A (Pol. Ind. Store) 3, Sevilla +34 954 431 770.

    As for Spanish, step 1 is to go there, and step 2 is to STOP speaking english. Don Quijote offers rapid learning classes (I’ve taken them). The key is speaking…practicing. Always. No English. You;ll know you are getting there when you start dreaming in Spanish (takes about three weeks of immersion).

    Buenviaje. 😉

  12. man! I’m shocked. But I wish you all the very best. Hope whatever happens you keep in touch with us all. Don’t want to miss you too much, do we?

  13. Tom,

    I’m speaking at Blogosfero in Seville on Nov. 22. You should come. Paula will be there and we would love to see Pilar and the kids. It could be lots offun and would help you meet the Spanish blogging community.

  14. First of all, I’m sorry lads that you loose Tom, but I’m grateful that Spain wins a great professional! 🙂

    About Spanish, I’m afraid there isn’t any trick, just practice and practice. No English if you can and don’t worry, you’ll get it fairly quickly. We tend to use many English words 😉

    Someone of the comments had a great idea. Maybe you oath to start reading some tech blogs in Spanish.

    You can probably start with: Microsiervos, Genbeta, Barrapunto, El blog de Enrique Dans, among others.

    I really hope you stop by Madrid some day and I can get you some beer 🙂 And I do hope you’ll start some IT focus groups in Sevilla or why not, around Spain 😀

    Take care Tom!

  15. Hey Tom, best of luck with the move. For learning Spanish you could try the Michel Thomas 8 CD course. I’ve used the german set and found it quite good.

  16. Hey Tom,

    How could you leave that beautiful house in Cork? But then again I’ve been to Seville. Good choice! You’ll be fine, blogging is global.

    Can’t help you with Spanish personally, but I believe the BBC website has some excellent spanish language courses.

    all the best,


  17. Hi Tom,

    Will be sorry to see you leave. Don’t forget to start an Open Coffee over in Seville, we can all fly over some Friday morning.

    All the Best.

  18. Tom,

    Like I said before, jump in with both feet (like plenty above say also).

    About the language, again, yes speak with Pilar. She isn’t going to laugh.

    From experience, it will be hard at the beginning (it took me a few hours to have a conversation that would take a few minutes!).

    But imagine what it will be like after a few weeks.

    Again, going is the biggest step. You’ll be amazed how quickly you learn when _you_have_to_.

    Regarding Spanish lessons, I have listened to the coffeebreak spanish podcast but to be honest I didn’t like it. Too much English.

    The best I found was a guy called who does Notes From Spain, and Notes in Spanish.

    This guy Ben moved there almost 2/3 years ago. I have been listening since he started.

    I would suggest you sub to both podcasts, and start from the beginning:


    He has increased the amount of Spanish and decreased the English as they progressed. Its very interesting and educational also.

    You’ll love it Tom. Just keep us informed…we might be following you in a few years.

    buena suerte

  19. I love the south of Spain, the place where I have spent most of my Mediterranean moments. So I hope you Casa Raftery is filled with warmth that spills over to us left behind.

    Thinking about that, would your new location mean you are Tom And Pilar Associates.es (tapa.es)? If so, we like the crab tapas the best.

  20. The Pimsleur audio courses are very good (although not cheap) – highly recommended.

  21. Woh Tom – can’t believe you’re off. But Seville is lovely, we visited there last year, the orange trees on the streets are a sight to behold.

    Hope all goes well with the preparation, and we will have to have a Web 2.0 going away party before you leave!!!

  22. I must say you should look up Michel Thomas, I started using it a few weeks ago about 10 mins a day or so and in about an hour in total i was stringing sentences together.

    Some testimonial from celebrities he thought say they were able to speak other languages in three days.
    Truly amazing.


  23. Hi Tom,

    As a lurker-type reader-but-not-commenter of your blog, I hope you’ll appreciate my wishes for the best of luck for you and the family.

    As Rob says above, Michel Thomas is definitely a good place to start.

    I moved to Spain in August. I got the opportunity to come over and work for an English Company operating from Spain, and so am currently down at Sotogrande, near enough to Gibraltar and a 40 minute drive (on Spanish motorways) from Malaga, so a bit more southerly than yourself.

    My biggest hurdles were two-fold. Language (I didn’t even have a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish!) and the unfortunate mañana attitude. Telefonica (the Eircom in more ways than one over here) have a very laissez faire attitude about installations, internet access and so on, so I still find myself in the office quite late, reading blogs, posting links and answering emails… Getting used to “the bus will come when it comes”, rural facilities and the siesta opening hours was fun too!

    Any effort with the language though is appreciated – point and smile is a great method of communication.

    The good things though – the food is fantastic, the wine is great, the prices cheap, the weather good and the history and scenery you’re surrounded by, especially in Andalucia is amazing. Take time to have a look at http://www.andalucia.com/ – a very good resource.

    BTW, in Andalucia – the ‘s’ at the end of Adios and Gracias are silent 🙂

    Best of luck again – hope it all works out!!

  24. I didn’t have any spanish when I moved there many years ago but I picked it up fairly quickly – you’ll be surprised at how quickly you learn when you’re totally immersed in it. I envy you – I love Spain. I’ve only been to seville a couple of times – Isla Magica is great for the kids. Unless you get really lucky, you will need to have at least conversational spanish to work in IT. I worked at Ibermatica (it was a long time ago: 1992 – 1993) which have offices in Seville ( http://www.ibermatica.com/ibermatica/grupoibermatica/dondeestamos ).
    You’ll be a big loss to the Cork IT community.

  25. Wow – thanks everyone for all the great advice and the kind words.

    Pilar will obviously be my first port of call for Spanish lessons but I think immersion and some of the podcasts and courses mentioned in these comments will also be very helpful getting my Spanish up-to-speed.

    The job prospects, I imagine will be bleak until I am fairly fluent.

    In the meantime, if you see a red head flipping burgers in Seville, ask him for his rss feed!

  26. Hey Tom, try the equivalent of EI in spain. They will obviously need some help getting local companies to “get with 2.0”. Seems to me their are ready-to-go introductions that can be made here. You might also advance call some of the marketing departments at the Uni’s there (post your UCC experience!). Teaching social media marketing/strategy on MBA progammes is a great way to build local cred, and local contacts. Bernie Goldbach might be of some help to you there (i.e. course building, materials, ethos, online resources). Hope some of that is of use.

  27. Well I do know some tech companies in Sevilla (like my current ISP), but right now the tech scene is boiling in Malaga. They are trying to build a Spanish “Silicon Valley” (please note the quotes :P) there. So maybe you can consult for some of the firms there (Telefonica, Cisco, Oracle, etc.).

    Just an extra tip 🙂

    Oh, and just for the record, Darragh I must tell you that in Madrid, Barcelona, etc we don’t have the problems you talk about 😉 (But we do have all the good stuff you mention hehe)

  28. Good call moving to sunny Spain. My sister lived there for awhile and loved it. Good luck with the move when the time comes.

  29. Good for you Tom! I’m a long time listener of your podcast and spoke to you once about trying to use your podcasts as content for English learners on our language learning site. At that time we only taught English but we have since launched our new site at http://www.lingq.com teaching multiple languages.

    Of course, we think our method is the best way to learn languages!:) However, I invite you to be the judge. You can sign up for a free account and take a look around. Then, if you’re interested in trying our tutored services send me an email and we’ll set you up.

    Our system will take you a lot further in your Spanish than most other systems out there. We still have some work to do in generating Spanish content on LingQ but, in the meantime, you can import any content you find on the web, including many of the great resources mentioned above, and use this imported content with our vocabulary tools.

    We won’t have you fluent in 24 hours but we can certainly get you fluent!

  30. Tom – what a tremendous move. With the world of the web I am sure you could still consult with some clients from overseas. Do get your phone lines connected and broadband asap – we are still waiting almost 3 years later for our fast connection in Spain.

    As to learning Spanish why not take a look at Spanglish (http://www.spanglish.ie/) – they have pocasts and blogs in Spanish.

  31. I’ve been living in Germany for the last 3 years , and I am almost fluent if I say so myself.

    I’ve tried different ways to help me learn the language, had the German girlfriend, tried the classes, kept a notebook with me to write down words I didn’t understand and looked them up in a dictionary afterwards. It is much easier to learn when you are there, but it will helpful if you have a basic understanding and have learned some grammar rules.

    All the best with the move !

  32. Tom & Family – best of luck with the move – and no doubt a queue of European companies will need your guidance on social media again and again….

    Talk soon

  33. Tom, out of the country and just read the link to this on Mulley.net (FeedReader is over 5,000, so will get through that soon!). Best of luck with the big move- this will mark a huge change. You’ve made a massive contribution to the Irish IT scene in recent years, I hope you will continue to keep an eye on things in this part of the world. Good luck!

  34. Good luck Tom!

    I think you wouldn’t need to work too hard to be seen as a European social media guru and if I am right this area will just get hotter in 2008 onwards…

    In my case I was a mono-lingual in Brussels (not proud of this by the way) and just see that the company is based here but clientele as European (UK, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany etc.)

    All the best,

  35. I’ve been meaning to go along to one of the Soho-solo meetings in Cork Tom but unfortunately haven’t made it yet. AFAIK Conor O’Neill has though. Their website is pretty vague on what the whole project is about but seeing as they have bases in both Cork and Cadiz (I know, not exactly Seville) it might be worth looking into (if you haven’t already).


  36. Congratulations on the decision. I moved to Colombia last year with my Colombian wife and continue to serve Irish and US clients from here and steadily picking up some local business. I have never met most clients but my niche (SEO) may be more suited than your type of consulting.

    In terms of learning Spanish… I’ve picked it up over the years (10) and found one of the most enjoyable ways to absorb it is by watching movies with subtitles: here’s a favorite: http://cineforoteorema.wordpress.com/2007/11/03/la-cienaga-nov-9/

    I’ve also heard great things about the Michel Thomas CD course.

    Suerte – JoC

  37. I would love to do what you are doing but failed knee(s) surgery at present has put life on hold at home let alone my dreams of a move to Spain.There are some excellent CDS out now and they really are good for picking up proper pronunciation etc.You wont be fluent but you will be able to speak and understand quite alot of sentences.Plus you will learn certain rules that will enable you to learn new words without knowing them!i RECOMMEND spanish by MICHEL thomas.Good luck and go for it.The weather,people,wine,food,etc will compensate for anything you should miss back home.Bernie

  38. Good luck with the move Tom. I think you maybe underestimating your employment potential though. I moved out to Russia 3yrs ago, to a town 300km north of Moscow.

    I soon set up an office using Skype to talk to clients and found them completely confortable with the idea. Once I had a couple of Russian speakers working with me (who also spoke English) we were dealing with the local companies there. Knowing the language is a huge advantage but you’re not unemployable without it.

  39. Tom,

    I´m coming late to this thread but I´ve moved to Madrid 4 years ago and I don’t miss Cork atall atall, boy.

    You will have conversational Spanish in no time at all. To be another Ian Gibson takes a lot of work but Spanish has overlap with English and no case structures. You are not dealing Hungarian or Finnish (or in the case of writing with Arabic or Russian).

    And with a Spanish wife, you can overcome the administrative hassles (the hard part of moving is dealing with Telefonicia, openg a bank account and getting your identity card (DNI)

    Jobwise InMadrid, Madrid’s number one English-language magazine are starting up in Serville and there are probably journo opportunities to get you out of the house by day.

    The equivalent of EI is http://www.icex.es/ and I was at an event recently whihc was really well done about learning to export.

    There is a very interesting company called AnaFocus based in Seville which was named Finalist for Red Herring’s 100 Most Innovative Companies Award

    Then there is this guy; Jorge Lopez Ceballos (Seville, Spain) – The serial entrepreneur founder of Mastercom, Hergos Sistemas, Interfinancial, Interaffinity, Medianna, and Urbitas says, “I’d get bored if I weren’t starting new companies.”

    I would also recommend that you start to read El Pais in English. It’s just 8 pages each day and living in a country is not just the language. You can of course read El Pais in Spanish as well.

    Blogs such as Enrique Dans have been mentioned but also read Martin Varsavsky and http://meneame.net/

    And then the on line stuff … http://sevilla.jobs.com/ and http://www.hays.es/

    I´m on LinkedIn, if you have any ceistanna or if you come to Madrid.


    BTW Tim O´Reilly and his lawyers will find you wherever you go.

  40. I’ve been living in the north of spain for 6 years now running my own IT company.

    As soon as you get there sign up for one to one classes with a language school. Don’t waste time with night classes. Its a bit expensive but worth the money to get the basics right.

    As to getting work – you’re going to find it a nightmare. The job market in Spain is a disaster. Selection companies hardly figure at all and those that exist act as if they are doing you a huge favour in answering the phone. Finding work is a case of hoping your friends and familiy keep their ears open. Firing off CVs is close to useless. I do know someone who simply walked into the offices of a few banks in madrid and managed to get work… very lucky.

    Also, you’ll have to drop your salary expectations… *a lot*. A very good programmer with 10 years of experience will pull down 30k eur if they’re lucky enough to find a company willing to pay that much. Salaries in IT are generally 25-30% of what you could earn in the uk.

  41. Tons of excellent advice here Tom – the language thing is the no.1 priority but having some sort of self sufficiency thing going in advance makes a huge difference.

  42. Dear Tom

    Learning Spanish in 24 hours will be very very very difficult I think! You may find the following information interesting.

    I just spent 3 weeks in Seville to improve my Spanish. I work in the import-export industry and we have an increasing number of Spanish clients so speaking the language is definitely a plus!

    I applied through this agency called ‘estudio hispanico’ and thanks to them, I got the type of intensive course I wanted with the right amount of hours and lessons. I can assure you that my Spanish has greatly improved and I feel a lot more confident when speaking the language. The school is located right in the historic centre of Seville, just a short walk from the cathedral, in a completely refurbished yet beautifully preserved nobleman’s house.

    If you have time, check the website. http://www.estudiohispanico.com.

    Good luck with everything!

  43. I left a few replies to you with contacts to Irish in Seville – but most contacts are from the Irish scene there – are Irish music and irish pubs – although they were looking to stasrt a GAA club there a few years ago too, so bring your boots…
    Not too good for the spanish, although a number of the musicians are Spanish with little English.
    Best of luck.

  44. Hi Tom, it´s the first time that I read your blog. (It was a coincidence, I was looking for information about a company). I live in Seville. If you need some information about the city, the jobmarket or about enterpreunership you can write me.

    No worry about your spanish, you only need a bit time and any shame to speak. (Look at me, I don´t speak good english and here I am…)

    Good luck and hasta luego.

  45. Hi guys I’m a peruvian italian bloke living in UK for many years I’m thinking on emigrating to Spain I’d like to hear some advise the language is not an issue for me and my family but as parent I’d like to know more about jobs prospects etc etc particularly I would like to put a business among british residents. Any advise?

    1. Go to the Costas if you want to work with British ex-pats. Unemployment here is 17.4% atm though so best advice would be to wait a while!!!

  46. Hi Tom,
    I hope you are settling in to Spain. My wife and I are acually considering a simular move. Except in our case it we are looking to move to Mexico. I notices that somebody above recommended classes on verbal planet. Did you do so, and how did it go?
    We have a friend taking some lessons with http://www.spanish-lessons-online.com and we just wanted to compare our options.


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