I moved to Spain and it's plunged me deep into debt... here's why

Spain's job market is just really difficult. And the salaries are low. Even if I got a job with a permanent contract, I'd struggle with the salary because it's just me. I'd need to be living with family or a partner to survive on a 'normal' Spanish salary.

Phillippa Koushk-Jalali

I moved to Spain from the UK and it's plunging me deeper and deeper into debt. Now I want to come back but starting over costs money. Don't even know how I'm paying rent next month.

Tell me a bit about you and your life

I moved to the UK from a country in the Caribbean when I was a teenager. I'm 38, single, with no kids.

What inspired the move to Spain in the first place?

I never fully fell in love with the UK. Maybe it's because of the area I lived in. I don't know. I decided I didn't want to spend the rest of my life there. Got my degree at 27 because having one makes starting over somewhere new easier. I then drew up a shortlist of countries, decided on Spain, then came for a visit and fell in love.

What went wrong financially?

The easiest job to get here as a native English speaker is as a language assistant. But you only get paid for the duration of the academic year. So the past few summers, I've either had help paying rent or I've relied on my UK credit cards and overdraft which are now all maxed. I have a side hustle but the loss of my main income in the summer is a problem. I must admit that I've probably made things harder on myself by insisting on living alone instead of in shared accommodation.

I'd also like to add that the job market in Spain is SUPER difficult. Even for the locals. So for me (with intermediate Spanish skills), it's harder. And if you do manage to get a job, a lot of jobs here pay an average of €1200 to €1300 a month. My rent alone is €725.

What was it about the UK in particular that you didn't enjoy?

It used to be kind of hard to put my finger on it. But I think (now that I'm out of the environment) being in a predominantly white neighbourhood was a big part of it. I'm black. And although some of my closest friends are white and I love them dearly, I now think having easy access to the food, music, and culture would've made a difference. Also, living in an area with more beauty (be it natural or architectural) would've definitely helped. I only know this now from being in Madrid and being in love with the beauty here.

What are your next steps?

My next steps are to get things in order to move back to the UK. Spain fills a spot in my soul that the UK doesn't. But life here is too hard. I'd be better off in the UK where I can at least pay my bills. I'm thinking about a tech bootcamp so I can land a well-paid job when I move back. My professional experience so far has been finance and customer service. Anything I get in the UK would likely be entry-level and things would be tight.

Thinking about race and culture, how has Spain compared?

I can only speak for Madrid. It's predominantly white, but there are neighbourhoods which have more minorities. Similar to the UK. Unfortunately, the black Africans here seriously struggle to get work because Spain is inherently racist, even though many Spaniards say otherwise. I don't see any people of colour in suits going to offices. Even my white nail tech (she's British) said that. If you do see a person of colour working, it's usually manual labour. This includes the Latinos. But I am closer in proximity to people of colour here than I was in the UK. And that's what helped me realise this is what was missing in the UK. But race aside, Spain itself is culturally richer than the UK.

What are the downsides of living in Spain?

Taking race out of it for a second, Spain's job market is just really difficult. And the salaries are low. Even if I got a job with a permanent contract (leaving the language assistant thing behind), I'd struggle with the salary because it's just me. I'd need to be living with family or a partner to survive on a 'normal' Spanish salary.

What’s your hope for the future?

My hope for the future is to be financially secure and emotionally content. The UK gives me the former and Spain gives me the latter. If you know where I can get both together, I'm all ears! Lol.

But seriously, the hope for the future is to just have a job I don't hate while earning enough to pay bills and have the occasional holiday.