Staying sane in Spain requires a sense of humour

2 Oct 2015

Expect to encounter mindnumbing levels of pointless bureaucracy at some point

It happens to all of us, even those who passionately love the good things here in Spain: at some point we will encounter the unmovable obstacle of Spanish bureaucracy.

In some aspects, great steps forward have been made since the onset of the economic crisis and digitalisation is helping to remove some of the bureaucratic obstacles which occupy so many public servants, but Spain is still bogged down by many inexplicably ponderous procedures and protocol which require patience, determination, and above all, a sense of humour to navigate successfully.

Those planning to run businesses will require additional levels of fortitude in order to traverse the obstacles laid in their way by employment law, planning law, local authorities, licencing departments and the countless bureaucratic procedures and pieces of paper which will be required on the perilous pathway to comercial success, but fortunately the expat community itself is a valuable resource, and most of us who have been brought to our knees in the past have done the same thing as you are now attempting to do and will be more than happy to offer advice based on our own experiences. Those moving to Spain as retirees will find the same bank of expats with a different set of experiences willing to help and share their knowledge, so joining local voluntary groups, getting involved with charities or social groups is invaluable, and provides a vast bank of sound advice for newcomers.

As long-term residents, who have encountered the highs and lows on frequent occasions, there are two top tips the team here would venture to offer: maintain a sense of humour and photocopy everything in triplicate as well as digitalising every document on cloud storage in case your hard-drive is lost.

New arrivals are advised to always carry every scrap of documentation relating to who you are and where you live in at least triplicate when attempting to undertake any type of bureaucratic process, and keep EVERYTHING, as receipts of proof of purchase will be required if you attempt to return faulty goods, copies of phone bills will be required if you are caught up in a court case and have to prove you have actually spoken to somebody, notarised photographs of properties in their current condition before you begin renovations are invaluable when fighting a court case brought by a neighbour who claims you caused damage which existed before you even started work, and receipts from anyone paid to do work for you are an absolute must in order to protect yourself from that one situation in which a piece of paper cannot be produced as evidence of payment.

And yes, that includes legal professionals, as many expats have handed over money thinking they could trust the word of a solicitor and found themselves in legal battles years later.

But at least frustrations about the difficulties of navigating Spanish bureaucracy are not limited to foreigners and the Spanish themselves face the same battles as this humorous video showing a determined female attempting to register as a self-employed businesswoman clearly shows. The video was made in 2011, but is still relevant years later.

Carry everything in triplicate and keep a sense of humour are our top tips if you want to remain sane in Spain.


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Responsable del tratamiento: Vincent Properties Group S.L., Finalidad del tratamiento: Gestión y control de los servicios ofrecidos a través de la página Web de Servicios inmobiliarios, Envío de información a traves de newsletter y otros, Legitimación: Por consentimiento, Destinatarios: No se cederan los datos, salvo para elaborar contabilidad, Derechos de las personas interesadas: Acceder, rectificar y suprimir los datos, solicitar la portabilidad de los mismos, oponerse altratamiento y solicitar la limitación de éste, Procedencia de los datos: El Propio interesado, Información Adicional: Puede consultarse la información adicional y detallada sobre protección de datos Aquí.
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