What’s it like living in Spain…

What’s it like living in Spain…

I’ve got to follow up on my recent post, Expat Coffee Talk – these are the days of our L.I.V.E.S. mainly because I promised you I would. But you have to read the post above, otherwise you won’t get any of what I’m about to share with you.

So what I can tell you is that the style of life in Spain is pretty much a completely different experience than that of Canada. I’m going to throw in the United States of America just because. I also happen to like the US (minus a few things to obvious to mention); it’s our sister nation so I don’t want to leave it out.

Before I continue, let me just say that I’ve been assumed to be American too many a time because people here me speaking English here. Because of that, too, I’ll be including the US in this post as well.

I’d also like to say that when I’m talking about Spain in this post, it’s always going to be about Madrid the city, unless I say otherwise. I live in Madrid, so I figure it makes sense.

One thing that pretty much differentiates Spain from Canada and most American cities are the beautiful palm trees. Need I continue? I could stop right there because that’s a big difference in alone. I live in a city, a pretty big one, and there are actual palm trees here. It’s so nice to see them. I, as a “cold” Canadian, think it’s pretty cool.

Sun. Say the word out loud, nay, merely think it, and you’ll have the sun at the back of your hands for days on end. You know what the even cooler thing is? That I’m not even talking about summer. In winter there is sun for what seems forever, day after day after day. Why call the season winter even, when my cold Canadian heart knows what real winter means in Canada? You want to talk about sun in the summer in Spain? Please, brace yourself because what I’m about to say is going to make you want to drop everything in North America and come here: The sun is around for weeks, weeks, and weeks on end. What does that look like? Come 8am, say good morning to the sun and expect it to stick around until the wee hours of night. I feel like it’s 5pm, as I’m originally from Halifax, but when I look at my watch it’s actually 10:30pm Spain time. It makes me feel like there’s something wrong with that picture. Let’s give it up for the Spanish dictator “_______” for doing something interesting in a positive way. You know what they about sun: less seasonal depression in Spain because we see the sun all year round. I just made that up, but it’s got to be true.

The list goes on, quite well, I may add. Stay tuned.

Palm trees and sunny days. This is the Spanish craze.

Signing off-

Shamim Sobhani

 

 

 

How I found a job in Spain in 5 steps

How I found a job in Spain in 5 steps

As an expat, I´ve been asked how I managed to find a permanent job as a teacher in Madrid. It´s tough landing a job if you´re not from any of the countries that belong to the European Union.

Many people come over from North America through an exchange program. Here´s how I did it:

  1. I wanted to move to Spain to receive more education, so I applied to a Master´s program at a University in Spain.
  2. After I was accepted I applied for a student visa (this was mandatory).
  3. I realized I didn´t want to move out of Spain after I would finish my Master´s, so halfway through the program I applied to an exchange program to teach English at a private bilingual school. As I already possessed a student visa, I didn´t need to return to Canada and apply again.
  4. My exchange program was a maximum commitment of two years. Halfway through the year, the school I worked at expressed interest and asked me to work for the them full-time after my two years would be concluded.
  5. My residency status changed from ¨student¨ to ¨married to a Spaniard¨ because I got married at this point, so I was granted a residency permit. If I had not gotten married my school would have sponsored me to get a work visa.

A timeline of the steps goes like this:

Master´s program was 1 year long.

Teaching exchange program was 2 years long.

I was hired by the same school right after that. I´ve been teaching there for a total of 5 years so far.

While it´s usually not difficult to get accepted into an exchange program to teach, you should like teaching or have the desire to teach, otherwise, you´ll be doing something you don´t like doing.

Signing off –

Shamim Sobhani

Photo courtesy of photo-nic.co.uk nic

How to validate a foreigner’s Spanish driver´s license in 9 steps

How to validate a foreigner’s Spanish driver´s license in 9 steps

Are you Canadian, or better yet, Nova Scotian? Even if you´re not, believe me, this post will be useful to you to some extent. If you are from somewhere in the world and you live in Spain, keep reading. This is a sequel to my last post, “10 steps to make the process of obtaining a Spanish driver’s license easier for foreigners”.

After acquiring your Spanish driver’s license, you now have the option of validating it. What does that mean and why would you want to do that? A validated license recognizes and respects that you already have a driver’s license from your home country. If you do not validate it, the government recognizes you as a novice driver. So, if you want to avoid excessive insurance prices when you purchase a car, or you want to rent a car within the first three years of having your new license, you must validate your Spanish license. This process can only be done after obtaining your Spanish driver´s license (going through the written and driving tests).

Step 1: You will have to contact the Canadian Embassy by email which is on its website here. The embassy is located a 2 minute walk from Begoña metro (Madrid). This link will direct you the “consular services” fees for the services I outline below. Before you email the embassy, read the rest of the steps below to see what you’re getting yourself into.

Step 2: The embassy will tell you to request a “driving abstract“, or otherwise known as a “client record abstract” from your province, which outlines your driving history. It costs 18.65 Canadian dollars. Note: Specifically request that the letter date the day, month and year that you obtained your Canadian license (not when you renewed it), because that’s the whole point of giving that letter to DGT, which is equivalent to the Registry of Motor Vehicles in Canada. DGT wants to know the day you obtained your Canadian license (the day you passed your driving test). The embassy will write up a letter for you explaining the classification of the vehicle(s) which you are permitted to drive. The embassy will need your Canadian license to attach it to the back of the letter as an annex. They will also write another letter. These two documents are for the DGT.

Step 3: The embassy will issue two letters for you: a “statuary declaration”and a “statement letter”. The former is a statuary declaration regarding your Canadian license, and the latter explains the information indicated on that license, which is the classification of the vehicles which you are permitted to drive. DGT needs to see these two letters in order to validate your license. I got away with not obtaining a client record abstract. Instead, I just gave my current Nova Scotian license (yes, the actual card and no, not a photocopy of it) to the embassy, which attached it to both its letters as an annex. My Nova Scotian license was going to expire 5 months and I was heading back to Nova Scotia the following month anyway.

Step 4: Pay around 100 Euros to the Embassy for the issuance of those two letters. Refer to the embassy website again.

Step 5: You must get both embassy-issued letters and your driver’s license (or the client record abstract), translated into Spanish, which costs around 115 Euros. The company I used has not given me the best service (that’s an understatement, service was terrible), but they work for the ministry of justice department in Spain and they got the translation done, even if it took them longer than anticipated. This is why I will not disclose the translation company name here. Working for the ministry of justice means that the translation company can officially translate legal documents and you would not need to have the translated documents certified by the ministry of justice. If you don´t understand this gibberish, it just means that it boils down to less work for you to do.

Step 6: As I mentioned earlier, the Canadian embassy initially told me that I needed to request for and receive the driving abstract in the mail from my province, which is Nova Scotia. I would have needed to take the abstract to the embassy myself and make a sworn declaration. I telephoned Access NS and they had no idea what I was talking about. I didn’t know that I was really supposed to ask for a document to show my track record driving history, so they printed out something else. It was a waste of $20. Besides, someone had to go physically on my behalf and pick it up for me, send it to me (another $20 through registered mail). In the end, the document from the Registry of Motor Vehicles which had printed out for me made no sense and was a bunch of numbers all over the place. As I explained earlier, the other option is to use your current Canadian driver’s license and the Canadian embassy attaches it to the two letters it issues. This was the most convenient and economical option for me, personally. When I gave those documents, including my newly obtained Spanish driver’s license, to DGT in Spain, it was sufficient. Spain loves seeing official and authorized Canadian stamps on papers handed into them. I thought DGT would keep that license for their records, but surprise, surprise, they gave it back. There’s no way I could guarantee they would do the same to you, so be prepared to be detached (emotionally) from your license.

Here’s the “client record abstract” I requested looks like so you know NOT to ask for it:

Driver's abstract touched up

I went to great lengths to hide my height as I touched up on it in the picture above. Aside from that, as you can see there’s not much going on in this document. It does not state the day I actually got my license. It’s very…abstract.

Step 7: Three weeks later you will receive a brand new Spanish license in the mail with the only difference being a code in tiny print on the back. When you rent or purchase a car that code is what will open up your options as opposed to the original Spanish license you received when you passed your driving test.

Step 8: Meanwhile, make the appointment with DGT online here, because it the dates are usually booked up a couple of weeks in advance. On the website, in the drop-down button choose “Madrid” as the city and in the second button click on “Renovación de premises de conducción (solo UE/EEE)”. See box below. Book the appointment.

screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-11-02-16-pm

Step 9: With the original (English) and translated documents, go to DGT, which is at this address: Calle de Arturo Soria, 125, 28043 Madrid, and fork over 25 Euros by credit or debit card only. No cash. Aside from the documents from the Embassy, you will need to show your NIE (ID card) and its photocopy and your Canadian driver’s license as well as its photocopy. In three weeks’ time you should receive your new Spanish driver’s license in the mail!

Question: Will you get your Canadian license back from DGT? I did, but there´s no guarantee that everyone will. From first and second-hand experience, the way bureaucracy works in Spain is that there is no hard and fast rule. On the contrary, it usually depends on who the person working behind the desk is. Unfortunately.

The quote below from our distinguished Scottish philosopher, Thomas Carlyle, sums it up for me:

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak

I wouldn’t say I have a strong soul now, and I admit, perhaps it’s a little dramatic considering that I’m talking about something as mundane as a driver’s license, but it’s more than that. It’s about putting in a whole lot of dedication, time and patience to figure it all out while running around in a big city, communicating in a language and culture that isn’t mine. It would have been less of a headache if I had steps like the ones listed above to serve as my guide. I now have a Spanish driver´s licence and its validation to show for what I went through.

Signing off –

Shamim Sobhani