Categorized | Money, Work

Salaries in Spain

Posted on 26 July 2014 by American expat!

Salaries in Spain and How People Live on Them

I’ve talked about this topic before more or less in my Cost of Living in Barcelona post, but in this post I’ve interviewed another American expat for a little different perspective (though it turns out it is not so different than mine).

My interviewee makes about 2K a month by teaching private English lessons. That’s a decent wage here. She works about 20-25 hours a week, not including travel and prep time. She will work out of people’s homes or set up meetings in cafes.

I started the interview by bringing up a well known fact: Many people in Spain and in Barcelona live on 1000 -1500 Euros a month salaries (salaries are monthly here and they receive 14 of them – a double payment in August and in December). My interviewee took it from there:

“Yep, 14 thousand bucks a year people are living on. Can you live comfortably at 1100 or 1200 Euros a month? Yes…comfortably means you are going to share a flat, eat moderately–Euro style, not American style–meaning eat at home most days, or else go for cheap tapas places, and you’re going to know all the places that are 5 euros and under, and you’ll still have a nice social life.”

I asked about what kinds of activities one would be able to do, and what would need to be to scaled back.

“If you make 1200 a month, you’ll still do stuff, but again, you’ll eat moderately, not American style, because its more expensive here and the portions are smaller. You’ll take your lunch or go home to eat lunch or even dinner. You’ll buy food a the grocery store and prepare it at home. When shopping, it’s different and can be cheaper because things are not pre made for you already like in the US. So you don’t pay for all this packaging and pre-chopped or separated stuff. You buy mostly fresh, and it’s all local so it’s quite cheap.”

For your leisure time…You’ll have some cheap drinks before you go to the club…then you just do some budgeting to take some travel or other leisure time. You could say that it’s the equivalent to the US standard of a University student standard of living. But that’s how Europeans live-they live in smaller spaces, they are on top of each other, and it’s OK. Europeans live smaller in every way, but their social lives are much richer for it, because you just walk out into the street and pay to be entertained: Picnics with friends, free concerts, free movies, neighborhood celebrations and events, free everything. There are a tons of free city sponsored events, especially in summer, and Europeans take advantage of it.”

“In terms of space…everything is like 50 percent smaller, or even more. No one has dryers…So, because of this, you can live a comfortable Euro style life and on 1200 a month you’re basically fine. And if you are making 1500 or 1600, you are golden.”

My next question was one that I imagine my readers would ask: What about if you don’t want a “University student lifestyle” and want your own space?

“If you want your own space, you better have a decent job, like in technology or a US company that has an office here (HP is a big one in Barcelona) because rent will be like 700 to 800 Euro or more for a one or two bedroom space. And then you still have to pay electric and gas–if you even have gas [Note: many places don’t]. And you’ll need money down. One month’s commission to the agency, because you will use an agency, and then two months rent deposit. You’ll need a NIE to get your own place most likely. An agency wants to see your income, they need to secure as much money down as possible. As a language teacher, not unless you work for an academy that is giving you a long term contract with a salary, you won’t find an agency that will give you your own place. And then you are going to end up renting a room.”

So what’s the cheapest room a person can find? And would you want to live there?

I’ve seen some rooms that go for as little as 300–that can’t be good place though. That’s an interior room with no window, and it will be a closet. And you’ll be sharing a bathroom with 4 other people. And everything else. But a place in the center, or a desirable part of town [near the Parc Ciutadella, Gracia, Eixample Izquierda], or with your own bathroom and/or balcony or terrace…You’ll  pay 400-500 on average. Depending on how nice the place is and if it has natural light, a lift, has been renovated, is big, is full of other people, it can go up or down from there.

I hope this interview has shed some light on what you can expect to find in Barcelona and the other big cities in Spain. Rent takes up a big portion of people’s salaries, which is why you will find 35 year old’s still living with their parents. Of course, outside the city, property values and thus rents are much lower, with a few exceptions.  But then…you are outside of the city.


9 Comments For This Post

  1. Oxi Says:

    I agree in everything that that person says except for the rent prices. For $800 euros you have a pretty big decent apartment unless you are in Gracia or El Born where the prices are set up for German or English standards. I would say you can get a decent flat for $500 in Barcelona.

  2. American expat! Says:

    Oxi, yeah like in Guinardo or Besos, sure (But expats don’t want to live there). Decent flat in Eixample for 500? No way. Poblenou? nope. Gotico? mmm nope again.

  3. Julia Says:

    Hello, I am considering an offer for a job in Barcelona and appreciate your answering of a few questions.
    Where do expats from California would want to live in Barcelona? Or it depends on income?
    Where do professionals of middle age w/o kids would prefer to live? And where local professionals prefer to live?
    Do you know nice and quiet places to rent in new buildings? I heard they built a lot in Barcelona recently. I need quiet nights. On my recent visit to Barcelona I realized that people there live too close to each other and they also do not take care (don’t they? I asked a receptionist in the hotel and he said we cannot lock a sick man even if we know that he disturbs the neighborhood every night; well I wouldn’t want to go crazy in Spain) about sick homeless on the streets as I could not sleep at nights because of a man shouting and crying on the street all night.
    I would prefer to rent in a complex not from an owner (what I always did in CA). Do they have complexes in Barcelona and how to find them?
    Will I need an AC? I live in the northern San Diego nearby the ocean with a balcony open year around with no heater and AC, but my windows face north. Would I survive in Barcelona w/o AC and should I think about north-faced windows as a must? or it is not that hot and sunny as in San Diego (I read you are from CA and know San Diego, correct?).

    Should I consider a must to learn Spanish or Catalan or both? Do you know if it is possible to learn both simultaneously? Would it be the best approach?

    Thank you,

  4. American expat! Says:

    Anywhere near the center of BCN is fine for expats. Local professionals gravitate toward Eixample.

    You will need a piso with heat more than you will need AC-I haven’t had AC for three years but heating is a must. It is hotter in summer and colder in winter than San Diego, and much more humid. Learn Spanish, for sure. Catalan you can do without. The direction of your windows will be the least of your worries when you start looking for a flat here. New places will be equipped with elevators, heat, and double glazed windows, but in an older place you will give up SOMETHING – light, heat, space, elevator, quiet…there will be a trade off. The tradeoff you will have in a newer place is location. They all seem to be on the edges of Barcelona: Diagonal Mar, la Sagrera, La Salut…I find that the noise in these areas tends to be from children instead of people on the street (which for me is worse. Children are freaking loud here and parents let them run wild and scream their little heads off). There are quite a few new buildings in Poble Nou and Diagonal Mar (quiet neighborhood for sure). They are corporate owned, all of them. Check out and, you can search for new builds on both I think.

  5. Sophia Says:

    Your friend is one lucky gal if she makes 2 K (net?) a month for wrking 25 hours. I make 1,5 K for 40 + and belong to the people who make most among my friends (we are all around 27-30). It is not easy to combine the high rents and living costs with the low salaries. Thats also why Spanish people like to live with their family until they’re 30 or even older. That, and culture which encourages the whole family thing.

    Regards from a German Expat living in BCN

  6. D.R. Says:

    I’m married to a Catalan citizen, I’m an actor in L.A., CA. If I have residual income from a commercial, how do I get my money? I’ve heard that due to the new laws there that opening a bank account has become a nightmare for Americans or people from other countries because they consider us a s “high maintenance,” expensive clients. USA, is forcing banks to release Spanish spouses bank information, which my partner doesn’t feel comfortable about. I’ve learned that this has forced Americans to either divorce or renounce their citizenship of the USA to remain with their Spanish spouses. I’m planning to return to BCN early 2015. Do you know the easiest way for me to receive my residual checks in Spain so I can cash them? There will be no one here to make bank deposits of my checks to a bank here in Los Angeles. How does anyone work this???

  7. D.R. Says:

    I just read your section under MONEY, andI see how you’re sending money to yourself using online transfers, paypal, Trans, etc. But what if you can’t get a direct deposit set-up here in the U.S. or someone to deposit your checks into your account that’s attached to these online transfer companies? So far my only solution is to have my agency send my checks to Spain directly, but that does me no good. It’s a hassle to get checks cashed here even if you have a bank account or my partner has one. I don’t want to deposit large sums into their account for obvious reasons. How do you get your US money into a bank here and transfer it to there? Direct deposit?

  8. American expat! Says:

    Direct deposit when I have the opportunity, or I have someone deposit it for me OR I get paid via Paypal.

  9. saadi Says:

    i need info about income in spain in different professions and about cost of life for a couple one being house wife…if someone can help me then pleasecontact me at

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