What sort of client uses a relocation agency?
Most of our clients are companies bringing executives from all over the world to work in their company offices in Madrid. However we increasingly see self-employed people asking for assistance – both from the EU and from outside the EU
Have you found that the type of clients has changed over the past few years?
There was a period where most people being relocated were middle management – however this now seems to have been reversed and we are getting more top management again. (also see above)
Has there been an increase or decrease of foreigners moving to Madrid?
This fluctuates slightly – but overall is stable.
In your experience what is the main reason people move to Madrid? Is it a lifestyle choice or for work commitments?
In the case of company moves – the choice is usually not made by the person relocating – it is based on company requirements. For those coming without work /self-employed it is a life-style choice / a wish to experience life in Europe (e.g kids have the opportunity to learn Spanish) and generally because Madrid is a great place to live !
In your experience what's the average time people stay in Madrid? Are there many families that settle for good?
Business people average 2 years. Very few people settle permanently. Executives move on to another job elsewhere. The “free-lance” person sees the move as an “experience” usually staying about 12 months.
Do you get many instances of families who are unhappy in Madrid and return to their home countries? If yes what is the cause of this?
No, this is very unusual. The job of a relocation company is to liaise with the HR department and to make sure that there are no “misconceptions” about the job/ the conditions etc. We always try to do this either during the “Orientation Visit” – if there is one – or on the phone before arrival. This avoids disappointment on arrival. We also offer a “dual- career” programme, the objective of which is to inform the spouse about their options and if there are job possibilities, to assist the spouse in a search.
Do you find that Expats who move to Madrid tend to integrate with the local community?
In general no. Expats tend to live in areas where there are other foreigners or meet other foreigners from the office. Most arrive with relatively little Spanish which obviously limits contact – but I think it is fair to say that Spain is a family centered society and it is not easy to integrate. That does not mean that Spanish neighbours will not be extremely helpful if the new arrival needs anything.
Do you find there is a difference in attitude with people relocating from different countries?
I think it depends on the individual rather than the country. Some people’s priority is to start to learn Spanish – others maybe here 2 years and learn very little. Cultural background obviously influences the attitudes – Americans and Europeans are generally more open to contact – and of course will find some Spaniards who speak English – this may be more difficult for arrivals from Asia for example.
How do you help with integrating the family into life in Madrid?
Integration frequently take place through the children and therefore the play-group/kindergarten or school. We also provide introductions to language schools, local sports clubs / gyms, other international clubs and give information on local magazines in English, English (or other language) speaking doctors, shopping, entertainment etc etc.
How child friendly would you say Madrid is?
Very. Like all Spanish cities, children are usually with the family – in bars restaurants, shopping etc etc – consequently no one is bothered by their presence. There are a lot of play groups etc for a wide range of languages in addition to Spanish. The metro is not particularly “push-chair friendly – but the buses are much easier to negotiate.
How do families go about finding the ideal property in Madrid?
All relocation agencies use estate agents – this allows us to offer the widest range of properties. Before arrival we send the individual / family a form with a considerable number of questions re their requirements in Madrid and also about their previous accommodation. Obviously the main influencing factor is the budget – but the time of year is also important – as at some period (mainly summer) there are many change-overs and properties disappear even more quickly than usual off the market. We usually send our clients some sample properties from websites such as Idealista – although most of these are with estate agencies anyway – however it helps for the family to see what they can expect for their budget. The first days after their arrival are spent on the house search – looking at 6 to 8 houses each day – depending on availability of course.
Aside from finding somewhere to live, what other aspects of relocation are important to families?
The single most important factor is schooling, if children are involved. This in turn influences where the family will search for properties. Where the office is located is clearly also important. The direct result of this choice is travel time.
How do you help finding schools for children of families relocating to Madrid?
We need to have details asap. It is often difficult to find places in the “best” international schools. We initially send information on a wide range of schools in and near Madrid – but clearly in some cases there is only one obvious choice – for example if the family is French, they will probably want their children to go to the Lycée. After initial phone calls to check on availability of places, we usually arrange for families to visit 2 or 3 schools – have an interview with the director, and in most cases we accompany them. A few families wish their children to go to Spanish schools – this is not usually a problem in the case of private education, but it is more complicated to get children into “state” schools – in part because many people arrive mid-term.
What are the main concerns of parents with regards to schooling in Madrid?
Clearly language is the main limiting factor – and in some cases cost. Parents usual look for a similar type of school to the one that the children attended last. In general it is more a good “feeling” during a visit to the school in the case of younger children. For older children the school results are important and the type of examinations the school offers GCSE / Baccalaureat etc. as this will influence where they study later.
Do most of your clients opt for international schools or local schools?
Do your clients find a big difference between schooling in their home country and in Spain? How do they overcome this?
Many of our clients have already experienced more than one international posting – so they are quite used to this type of issue and it does not bother them. In general children have already attended international schools – so the differences are not great.
What if any paperwork do people have to complete when they move to Spain and how easy is it do this paperwork if they dont speak the language?
For EU citizens it is relatively simply to get a NIE / residence permit. A phone call gives you an appointment (currently 3 months ahead) and at that appointment you will receive the necessary fiscal number and document. There are no longer residence cards. It is then possible to get a Social Security card, change your driving license etc etc. You do need Spanish for most of this and we usually make the appointments and accompany people. In the case of non-EU citizens it is much more complicated and the process in the country of origen can take 6 months or more, before you can get an entry visa. If you already have a job offer in Madrid this makes things slightly easier, but it is still a time-consuming and frustrating process. It is not possible to change a tourist visa to a residence/work visa, without returning to your home country to deal with the paperwork there.
How easy is it for people to "set themselves up" at home i.e. get phone lines, electricity connections, water etc if they dont speak the language?
Not easy at all ! Telefónica do have English speaking staff – but the other utilities do not. Usually the services are already connected and it is a question of changing the invoicing details – but unless you are a fluent Spanish speaker, the risk of a mistake being made is simply not worth trying to do it yourself. It is always part of the service that we offer.
What would you say were the main advantages and disadvantages for members of the international community living in Madrid?
Madrid is a relatively small city – easy to get around and with a wide variety of museums, exhibitions etc – on a par with any other major European city. It is rather more “Spanish” - less international – than Barcelona – but as with every other Spanish city the weather is wonderful and the food and wine a delight. Many places of interest are within a day’s visit – Toledo, Aranjuez, Segovia, Salamanca to name but a few. The mountains are easily accessible – for skiing in the winter. Basically as Madrid is the geographical centre of the country it is a relatively short journey to just about anywhere ! There are also flights from Madrid (including low-cost )to just about everywhere. Disadvantages ? Perhaps the lack of English – but fortunately Spanish is an easy language to learn ! Driving is a skill that many Spaniards have not yet learned – you do need to be careful on the roads ! There is little serious crime, but pick-pockets abound – you should hang on to your wallet/bag at all times – especially when in the centre or on the metro or a bus.
Do you have any tips or advice for people looking to move to Madrid? What can they do before they move?
Whenever you are moving to a new county, spend as much time as possible learning about it before arrival – and start to learn Spanish if possible. We offer a Cultural Awareness course – part of which is aimed at business contacts. There is always a transition period, everyone needs time to adjust and recover from the departure from the previous posting. An Orientation Visit is a very good idea – this should take place a month or 2 before arrival – it gives people a chance to get a feel for the city and an overview of the property market – so that there are no disappointments on arrival – Spain is no longer a cheap option !
Could you tell us a little about your company and the services you offer?
We are a team of multilingual professionals who have been providing relocation services in Madrid since 2000. Many of us relocated to Spain ourselves, and our personal experience has shown us exactly what services should be offered to ensure a trouble-free relocation. Individual support and competence are the core values of our company philosophy. Our team has in-depth specialized knowledge of Madrid and many years of experience in relocation. Our counsellors have excellent problem-solving skills, are good at communicating, thorough, flexible and above all are motivated to serve our clients. The best way to have a look at all the services we offer is to go to www.madridrelocation.com . We offer relocation “packages” of a certain number of hours, which the client can use according to their personal priorities – this is a rather more economical option than contracting individual services by the hour. The house-search is included in 99% of any relocation process. The school search is perhaps the next most important service if there are children. Finding a house leads to signing the contract, which has to be very carefully checked and either the necessary bank-guarantee or a letter of guarantee from the employing company must be provided – in many cases it is therefore necessary to open a bank account asap. The utilities have to be contracted or the payment details changed (see above) and the administrative details dealt with – the NIE. Sometimes people wish to import a car – this again is a complicated and frustrating process – but it can be done ! Once the move has been completed we offer an “On-Going Support programme” – for those moments when the lights have failed and you don’t know an English speaking electrician ! We also office an office premises search and setup, a Cultural Awareness Programme, a Dual Career Programme and finally Departure Assistance.
Interview by: Yvonne Sandiford of Madrid Relocation Services, Calle Ortega y Gasset 92, 5º, Dcha. Ext. 28006 Madrid (+34) 627794390
Members of EURA - European Relocation Association