Living abroad for a year

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by PLF, 26 March 2013.

  1. PLF

    PLF Legend

    2 August 2004
    Hey guy,

    I know that we have a pretty diverse group here on evo-web and the vast majority have travelled a lot more than I have. Sp I was hoping to pick your brains for suggestions and opinions on different locations. Wifey and I are currently considering living abroad for a year (or more if we like it) before you get tied down with kids and trying new things and living abroad is tougher.

    Here's what you need to know before suggesting places about my particular situation and my parameters.

    1) I run my own online company and so looking for a job is not something I need to do.

    2) We prefer a coastal city or one that's at least close to water within an hour drive.

    3) I don't need to live in the biggest city or the capital one but would prefer it to be fairly big and decent size. Genoa and Valencia for example are preferred to Alicante or Amalfi coast.

    4) Money and cost of living expense (rent, etc.) is not a big factor. In fact I would prefer a more posh place.

    5) Ideally it's either English speaking or Spanish one. But French and Italian language are okay as well.

    6) WEATHER! This is the #1 reason we're getting out of our beloved hometown of Toronto and want to live elsewhere for a year or so.

    Ideally England seems a great place to live for many reasons for me (The English speaking part, love for Football) but one thing that turns me off is lots of rain/cloud and lack of sun. But is every place in England like that? Surely they have a certain part that is MORE sunny and warmer than rest of the country?

    At the moment, having some sone research and talked to some friends, here are a few cities we are most keen on which is why I wanna travel there this summer to see first hand how I like it.

    #1: Valencia (Seems like the best option so far)
    #2: San Sebastian (Posh, beautiful, coastal and my girlfriend already lived there and loved it, GREAT food!)

    #3: Genoa? I need Italian friends' thoughts on this.

    #4: Nice, France.

    Outside of Europe, I'm also considering Costa Rica which I've heard very good things about (Lots of rain there too apparently) and the Nice parts of Mexico. I'm taking a trip to Puerto Vallarta this May as a vacation but also to scout the place a bit. Mexico is great for many reasons but I heard CAN be dangerous because of drugs/cartel but I bet they have their posh and safer places as well. Obviously safety is probably the #1 most important thing.

    If anyone has other suggestions or has more information on the cities mentioned above that you think it'd be useful for me to know, please share.

  2. gerd

    gerd Retired Footballer

    8 January 2002
    Over the moon
    KRC Genk, Spurs
    Biarritz in France is fantastic Sina...
    It's the other side of the Pyrenees from San Sebastian (also a very nice city).
    Biarritz is considered as Europe's capital for surfers which gives it something very hip. And Biarritz isz close to South-West France which is my favourite region in France (Toulouse, Montauban, Cahors, Albi, Carcassone, Perpignan, all very special cities).

    If you are in France, you should also visit Belgium's most hip city: Gent.

    Genoa is also a fantastic city.

    Good luck.
  3. #71

    #71 Champions League

    18 May 2006
    SL Benfica
    I could suggest you Lisbon, Portugal. Coastal city with white sand beaches.. you could choose Cascais, for example, just 30 mins from Lisbon city center. If you speak spanish, you won't have problems with portuguese, they are very similar and most people speak english. About the weather, it's hard to find a better one, as Lisbon has in average 300 sunny days/year and it's known for its nice weather.
    Friendly place, and you can always follow Benfica ;)

    Nice project, good luck!
  4. amineken22

    amineken22 *****

    9 November 2010
    I'd suggest Brisbane, I lived there for 6 months with my GF at the time, it's a great metropolitan city, the weather is fairly good so you can hit the beach whenever, you wouldn't have any language barrier (although they're accent is pretty funny) you wouldn't have to worry about your family because there's something to do foe everyone, also you and the wify could go to a restaurant each weekend because Australian food is damn good.

    Or also like Gerd suggested Toulouse is a cosy place too.
  5. matherto

    matherto 20 times 20 times Man United

    13 October 2004
    St. Helens, Merseyside.
    Manchester United
    I'd be looking for somewhere on the French Riviera.

    Great weather all year round yet close enough to the Alps to maybe do some skiing/experience some proper snow in winter. Close enough to the borders for Italy/Switzerland/Germany to experience new countries within a few hours too.

    Either that or Munich. I would bloody love to live in Munich.
  6. The_Special_One

    The_Special_One I like Unicorns

    17 August 2007
    Estoril | Knicks
    Dirst thing that crossed my mind tbh. Once I read Sina's post I was like "man, you have just described Cascais/Estoril!". It's an amazing place to live, specially since money isn't a big factor. Great beaches, nice people, very secure and as you said, really close to Lisbon, you can just catch the train and voilá, in 30 minutes you got into Lisbon!

    Oh, and Sina can also follow my hometown team Estoril Praia! Lads are about to qualify themselves to the Europa League! :BOP: That Licá boy is a cracking football, Estoril's best player since a certain André lad! (ok, I'm just overreacting now :P)

    Another one I remember: Barcelona. It might be a good option as well.
    Last edited: 26 March 2013
  7. Damjan

    Damjan World Cup Winner

    16 July 2011
    I've always thought of going to Nice, seems like a lovely city. Cascais seems like a fantastic place to live as well, would love to visit someday.

    Have you considered somewhere in South Africa maybe? I know there's some serious criminal issues but the good parts of the big cities should be ok. Besides, every city has crime.
  8. gerd

    gerd Retired Footballer

    8 January 2002
    Over the moon
    KRC Genk, Spurs
    Barcelona ?
    I heard rumours that they have a football team that isn't bad.
  9. jaygrim

    jaygrim TheAllSeeingEye

    26 July 2005
    Man Utd
    Don't come to the UK, It's fucking horrible.
  10. YoungGun_UK

    YoungGun_UK 20 TIMES!

    12 July 2007
    Manchester United
    Was about to repeat what Jay said, If your bored of Toronto then England would lead to depression.

    you considered Dubai?
  11. PLF

    PLF Legend

    2 August 2004
    Not bored of Toronto, it's just WINTER here is depressing! It's TOO cold and at some point you just get sick of all the snow, the slushy ground and the slippery surfaces.

    It's a great place to be in summer time though especially downtown Toronto where I live and that's why ideally, I would want to spend summers here but live elsewhere for late fall to early spring.

    I've been to Dubai but am not keen on living there right now for a few different reasons. Lot of great things about it though!

    Thanks for all the suggestions guys. Some of the places I hadn't even considered before while others have been considered and I've heard many great things about from others as well such as Cascais!

    I should have mentioned that Barcelona is out of the picture. I've already been there and as much as we enjoyed our trip there, it's not a place we want to live. The city has TOO many tourists and also some pickpockets and not the safest place it seemed etc. as well. It was an awesome trip but not necessarily ideal living place in my opinion. Then there's the whole Catalan language.... I think it's ideal for young people looking to party it up.

    My girlfriend's been to Valencia (I haven't yet) and she said it had all the positives of Barcelona (being beautiful, coastal, etc.) but was more relaxed, less tourists and seemed safer. We're going on a Spain trip in late July and I wanna see Valencia and San Sebastian and possible extend our visit and see Portugal as well.

    I've heard GREAT Things about Australia especially Melbourne (expensive city to live in apparently but well worth it) but Oceania is not something I can consider right now because of the huge time zone difference and my work.

    My girlfriend and parents have been to Lisbon and they only had positive things to say about it and Portugal is definitely something we're considering and I'd want to know more about.

    @Gerd, have you been to Genoa? What did you think?

    I may get a chance to go see Biarritz if I go to San Sebastian late July/Early August.

    @Portuguese friends, isn't Cascais or Estoril very small though? That'd be like living in Alicante as opposed to Valencia for example? I take it some of you would suggest living in Lisbon but knowing that the beach and water isn't far away... ?
    Last edited: 27 March 2013
  12. gerd

    gerd Retired Footballer

    8 January 2002
    Over the moon
    KRC Genk, Spurs
    Sina, i never went to Genoa but i know people who did and everybody who did thoroughly enjoyed it.

    About Valencia. I have a friend who lives in Spain. At the moment living in Spain is difficult unless you have money. That friend told me that the communidad Valencia is known for corruption. I'm not sure how that might affect you and your girlfriend, but i think i had to mention it.
  13. BobbyBox

    BobbyBox WING NUT!

    10 October 2003
    Come to Tel Aviv! Great city, the mediterranean coast runs right down the west side of it. It's very safe, although pricey if you can afford a nice apartment in the centre you will be 10mins max walk to the beach. It is a small city but if you drive you can go on many day trips around Israel (Israel is tiny)

    You can be in Jerusalem in 40mins, go to Eilat in the south with a 4 hour drive through the desert (or a one hour flight), visit Egypt, Jordan. Or in an hour or two go north with beautiful greenery, visit the hanging gardens, mount Carmel etc

    You have the dead sea about 1.5 hours drive away and he beautiful sea of Galilie about 2 hours drive away. You can go biking in the forests around Jerusalem or in mount Carmel. Lots of great treks.

    Nearly everyone speaks English and tel aviv is much like a European city IMO beautiful people, cafe culture and the beach is great. Good mixture of old and new with the port city of Jaffa and beatific old neighborhoods of Neve zedec with its fantastic Carmel market place.

    You are also an hours flight from Cyprus and not far from Turkey.

    Of course you know the major downside, but I have been here for a year and a half and It is such a shame people are put off to come here. On a day to day basis it is very safe here, I feel much MUCH safer here than I did in London, especially walking around at night etc

    I know you probably won't come to live, but I always like the opportunity to promote it :DD
  14. gerd

    gerd Retired Footballer

    8 January 2002
    Over the moon
    KRC Genk, Spurs
    I'm very curious about Israël Bobby.
    In "the conflict" i always leaned more towards the Palestinians, but since a couple of years i have more and more doubts. As often i think the truth is not black or white, but grey...

    I have also heard lots of good things about Israël from people who visted the country and were charmed by it.
  15. BobbyBox

    BobbyBox WING NUT!

    10 October 2003
    Yeah its a tricky one, for me there is so much that people don't know, yet they have such strong opinions on the matter. In Britain I had a much more palestinian view on the situation as it is hard not to when it is reported on the news. But living here you get such a different view and realise why what is happening is happening.

    It's hard to talk about it on forums without it exploding though, as it is a very emotional subject.

    The overlying thing though is it is such a beautiful place and it is a huge shame that people don't feel like they can visit (Understandably in many ways, but not in many others).

    Gaza is supposed to be a beautiful location as well, when Israel moved out of Gaza in 2005-2007 it would have been great to see Hamas invest in Gaza and it's people instead of investing in rockets and bombs. Then I think the situation now would be a lot better and some trust could be built up amongst Israel and the Palestinians. The West Bank under Fatah is trying much harder to progress and hopefully the settlements will stop and peace talks can resume.

    I hope a two state solution can be made and people on both sides can lead normal lives, but I can't see it happening in my life time unfortunately....but I really hope it does.
  16. gerd

    gerd Retired Footballer

    8 January 2002
    Over the moon
    KRC Genk, Spurs
    Completely agree.
    As long as there are radical Palestinian groups like Hamas, there will never be a solution because Israël will continue to react with violence and oppression.
  17. Lami

    Lami Niche Football Staff

    28 May 2007
    Man Utd, Vecchia Signora

    You're best bet is Dubai.

    I know you haven't considered anywhere outside the western region, but imo Dubai would fit you perfectly. It's got that westernized middle-eastern flavor, if I could call it that. Modern, beaches, sunny, multicultural, life expenses moderate, well maybe just leaning towards the costly side but nothing really to mention there since it seems you don't have a financial worry. Massive malls, lavish life, posh places, the lot. Desert safaris, many nice cafes, shishas everywhere, amazing food, you name it. English language everywhere. Also city size is pretty perfect. Lived there for 4-5 years and really enjoyed it.

    If you're still interested then feel free to ask me anything as I'm pretty sure I've missed a lot.

    EDIT: Btw, I would've definitely recommended Australia as it's a really beautiful country to live in. Weather's good too, apart from the random rain. Only downside for me was football. Time difference was a real issue and I could see it being one to you.
    Last edited: 27 March 2013
  18. Milanista

    Milanista Mangiamoli! Staff

    19 December 2002
    London & Milan
    AC Milan
    Genoa is a bit of a busy big city, but the towns nearby are great. I'm nearby every summer for the beaches.

    You should look into the NE of Italy, near the likes of Chioggia, Trieste, Padova, Vicenza etc. They're well kept areas that are +/- 1 hour to the sea and to the Dolomites - so you can ski or go to the beach during the different seasons.

    There's also a number of foreigners there because of Vicenza's American base and the number of international schools. You're also well connected to the rest of Italy by the Freccia Rossa trains (3 hours to Rome, 2 to Florence, 2 to Milan) hours

    My family moved to Padova a few years ago, and it's a nice place for me to go to because it's very clear and generally quite wealthy. Good mobile and internet coverage, great food, nice weather and a lot of green, sea and mountains. Also great for shopping and going for walks - plenty to do in the little villages around the province.

    PM me if you wanna chat in more detail :)

    I'm in London now and easily get sick of the weather - it seems the rest of the UK isn't much better. So if it's nice weather you want, stay away.
    Last edited: 27 March 2013
  19. lo zio

    lo zio International

    24 October 2005
    Biarritz is indeed a lovely village (as gerd said), but if u're not into surfing, windsurfing or sailing u're gonna get bored to death after a week. also the weather factor should be considered. biarritz is beautiful in spring, summer and most of autumn.... but during winter it gets kinda chilly on the atlantic coast of france (however keep in mind that i'm sicilian, and i've spent the last 7 years in palermo, so my idea of "chilly" is probably a bit different from yours). another problem with biarritz is that it's way too crowded in summer (it's europe's hotspot for surfers) and almost deserted in winter. and finally it's too small a town for u (u said u're looking for a city with a decent size, whereas biarritz is a very small village).

    San sebastian is a little piece of heaven on earth, but i would rather pick sevilla, valencia or zaragozza (btw, if u end up in san sebastian, i strongly recommend that u always refer to the city with its original name, wich is Donostìa.... people in the golfo de vizcaya care a lot about their basque heritage and like when foreigners call their city in their original language). sevilla and zaragozza are 2 amazing cities, but they aren't on the coast, so let's rule them out. here's why i don't think donostìa is a good choice. u specifically mentioned u don't wanna live in a crowded place. san sebastian\donostìa is one of spain biggest touristic hotspots and its streets are litterally swarming with tourists from may to september. sure, there are not as many tourists as there are in barçelona or lisboa or valencia..... but san sebastian is also much smaller than those cities so it will feel much more crowded.
    also there might be a problem concerning the language. i don't think it would be a big issue honestly, but u seemed worried about catalan, when u mentioned barçelona, so i guess i should warn u: euskera or vasco (the original basque language) is MUCH more different from spanish than catalan. i can easily understand catalan, but i can't understand a word of euskera. so u might wanna keep that in mind. however, like i said, just like in catalunya, most people in the basque region can speak spanish too, so that shouldn't be much of a problem imo.
    another problem might be its location. since u're gonna spend a full year in europe, i assume u will want to take this opportunity to see as much of europe as u can. well san sebastian isn't exactly the ideal "base-camp" if u plan on visiting europe. the golfo de vizcaya is hardly the centre of europe, and although there is an airport in san sebastian, it's not really a major hub, so there are only a few destinations u can reach with a direct flight from there (many european destinations will require u to change planes in barçelon, paris or bruxelles.... that means more money to spend, for every time u decide to leave donostìa for a european trip).

    that's also the main issue with Lisboa. being on the western edge of europe, lisboa wouldn't be a smart choice for a basecamp to move from, if u plan on visiting the rest of europe. apart from that, lisboa would be absolutely perfect. it's a coastal city, it's not a big metropolis, but also not a small town, the weather is absolutely amazing (even in december), the food is pretty good and the the people are fantastic (u should consider this factor too, if u plan on spending several months in a city..... there are some cities in europe where people are very cold and detached and don't really give a *** about u. under this point of view, lisboa is an amazing place to live in. portuguese are as warm and wellcoming as italians.... u ask a guy for directions and after a 3 minutes conversation he might u invite u over for dinner.). the language might be a problem at first, but if u speak even just a little bit of spanish, u will learn portuguese much more quickly.

    i would definitely rule out Nice (and the entire french riviera, for that matter). nice is incredibly dull and soul-less. sure it's clean and posh and there are not as many pickpockets as u would find strolling down las ramblas, but it's so anonymous that after 2 months there u won't feel like u left home at all (that's the problem with theese "too clean, and posh and plain" cities... they all look alike). nice, like most of the french riviera was italian territory, wich was conquered by france during the days of napoleon. after the 2nd world war, most of that territory went through a huge urban replanning. the aim was to recreate the italian riviera in french territory and turn that region into a huge touristic hotspot. as a result of that, most of the cities along the cote d'azur completely lost their vibe. nice, cannes, menton, beaulieu, cap d'ail, they feel "fake", "plastic". they don't feel french and they don't feel italian either..... it's a bit like disneyland or those cheesy venezia reconstructions u can find in las vegas.
    sure, it's fun to spend a week or 2 in there.... but after a month u'll wanna leave and never come back.
    besides keep in mind the cote d'azur is incredibly expensive, and since u plan on spending an entire year abroad, cost of life is another factor u should consider.
    if u wanna experience life in a beautiful french coastal city, then a much smarter choice would be marseille. marseille is definitely not a posh or fancy destination, but it's a much more beautiful city than nice. nice is clean and "polished", and that's really everything u can say about it.... marseile is not clean.... it's dirty and messy and much less "safe" than nice.... but it's also sooo much more beautiful and vibrant.

    genova would be another brilliant choice. just like marseille, genova is a beautiful and vibrant city (even more than marseille). it's not as "clean" and polished as nice, and it's not as modern as valencia..... it's a bit decadent and "bohemienne" and a million times more beautiful than nice or cannes. exactly as in lisboa, u will never get tired of living in genova... infact one year in genova probably isn't even enough to really know the city. u could spend months in genova and still find yourself lost in its incredible maze of small alleys. plus living in genova is much cheaper than living in Nice (and the same goes for valencia, marseille and lisboa).
    also a very good thing about genova is that it sits pretty much in the centre of europe. you're 1 hour away from every major european city. u wanna spend a week end in paris, berlin, amsterdam, roma or venezia? the plane takes a little more than 1 hour and a half to get there. wanna visit the french riviera or the hills of tuscany? take a bus or a train and in about 2 hours u'll be in firenze or montecarlo or nice. u wanna have a romantic week end in prague or budapest? (don't leave europe without visiting those 2 amazing cities!) then rent a car and u'll be there in just about 4 or 5 hours.
    not to mention the fact that genova sits right in the centre of the riviera ligure: a constellation of dozens of amazing villages, each one absolutely unique and different from the others, each one absolutely beautiful: cinque terre, san remo, vernazza, rapallo, bordighera, monterosso, portofino, santa margherita, lerici portovenere.... just google theese small towns or (even better) make a youtube search and u'll realize how beautiful theese places are. u could spend each week end in a different village for about 3 months.
    this 2 vids will give u a glimpse of "le cinque terre" (litterally "the 5 lands") it's not really a single village, it's a conglomerate of 5 distinct small fishermen villages very close to each other. i've been there 2 years ago and it was spectacular.
    anyway le cinque terre are only 5 of dozens of small villages and towns on the riviera. if u're not into those folkloristic small fishermen villages u might prefere the more lively san remo or alassio or portofino, wich are more "resortish" villages (portofino is kinda like monte carlo; fancy and stilish and the main destination for european and american celebrities and such).

    however are u really sure u wanna spend an entire year in just 1 city? coz 1 year in europe is a lot of time and it would be an amazing opportunity to see lots of great countries, if only u were willing "to move your basecamp".
    if i were u, i would spend something like 3 months in lisboa. from there u could make quick weekly trips across portugal and spain... and still spend enough time in 1 place to really absorb the rhythm and the lifestyle of portugal and spain.
    then u could move to genova, wich would be the ideal basecamp to visit southern france (provence and the riviera), the italian riviera (with its small villages), and also to reach major european cities, such as paris, berlin, prague, budapest, roma, firenze and venezia with (relatively) small trips.
    and then u could save your last month to visit turkey and greece. istanbul would be an ideal basecamp to visit turkey and the greek islands. northamericans often underestimate turkey as a touristic destination. it's an amazing country with such beautiful cities and it would be a shame to leave europe without visiting it.
    if i lived on another continent and had 1 year to spend in europe, i guess this would be the best way to enjoy most of it.
    Last edited: 27 March 2013
  20. gomito#10

    gomito#10 World Cup Winner

    9 May 2003
    DC, USA
    you should do summer and fall in europe and then florida or southern califorinia in the winter! I like lo zio's last suggestions! I went to lisbon on my honeymoon, great city, very friendly to english speaking, but lo zio dont you think being in the algarve(great beaches and weather) would make more sense, because the drive to Seville is so close?

    Hate to be buzzkill jonney, but how will you stay so long in europe without a job or visa?
    Last edited: 27 March 2013
  21. Damjan

    Damjan World Cup Winner

    16 July 2011
    I forgot about le Cinque Terra, always a place I have admired, it looks really beautiful.

    What about Cagliari? It checks off pretty much everyone of the things you're looking for. English is probably not a really big issue because it's a bit of a student town. The weather is good and it has quite a few beaches. Sardinia in general seems very nice, and relatively not as touristy as other places on the Italian mainland.
  22. Honome

    Honome The Hated Chatbox Murder

    16 April 2003
    If safe was not your # 1 most important thing i would suggest Rio, it´s a hot chaotic expensive place, but for some reason people fall in love with :P

    I would suggest to visit first for a week, the place is good if you want to spend a "holiday" year living near the beach.
  23. PLF

    PLF Legend

    2 August 2004
    Wow guys!! thank you all so much for all the info and suggestions. This is certainly what I was hoping for when I created this thread! :)

    I'm going to put aside some time to get back to you with individual replies. In the meanwhile, I wanted to let everyone know that their post and opinions are much appreciated and I'm grateful that you shared it!

    @Lo Zio, Now I'm considering Genoa even more seriously!

    In regards to Donestia, we know all about the Basque culture and language. Keep in mind my girlfriend actually lived there for a year so it's one of the few places we have real experience with and not just information and theories.

    All in all she loved it because like you said, it's like a little piece of heaven! It's beautiful, it's posh, it's got GREAT food, it's safe and she said almost everyone spoke Spanish. She said Bilbao was nowhere near as nice and more of an industrial city, but San Sebastian is a great place to live for many reasons.

    But anyway, I hear your point about the 'Base camp' thing and it's a very valid one. I'm glad you brought it up as it now makes us favor some places more than others. Even though I don't think we'll be backpacking all throughout Europe just because we're there for a year, it does make sense to have a more central and more accessible place since Europe is for the most part so closely knit and smaller spaces.

    @Milanista, I hadn't considered places like Padova or Vicenza but you bring up very good reasons. I'm glad you mentioned them. I especially like the Americans there and an expatriate community. I'm told there are a lot of expats in San Sebastian as well.

    I don't care for skiing or surfing or anything like that by the way. So those aren't reasons I would go for a place or not. I do like the beach and NICE warm weather and whatever place we go for MUST have GREAT HIGH-SPEED internet access because of my work. I'm not sure if that's something I should've mentioned in the original post or is a given in most places anyway... ?

    Interesting. Thanks for the info. I'd like to know more about that if true.
    Last edited: 28 March 2013
  24. embraceuk1

    embraceuk1 Original Member Since 2001

    30 December 2001
    Indiana USA (Scottish)
    Nottingham Forest
    I loved my vacation in Toronto very multicultural and had a very British feel.
    Unfortunately was the coldest recorded week of the year in Feb but still had a blast.
  25. LFC Albania

    LFC Albania Banned

    13 October 2012
    Albania NT
    I would suggest you Gallpoli (ITALY) , my ex was from there , I been there and its really great place .... a small place , hot , beautiful sea , never snow , great food , people are lovely , a lot of things to do !

    dynamic of life its pretty calm , you'll relax and enjoy there I can tell you this !

    also I would say Istanbul , but better no coz I would be jealous on you haha its the place where I want to go its my dream all tho I never bean !

    also I don't know if you consider country's like Albania and Montenegro , there are really nice places over there
  26. drekkard

    drekkard International

    23 March 2005
    Barça, Arsenal, Ajax
    Hey, I know you discarded Barcelona from scratch, but I think you don't really know the city, so let me try to make some good points about it! Then I will advise you about other cities that I know quite well.

    The whole "pickpocket" issue in Barcelona was focused in the touristic places like Las Ramblas or Porta de l'angel, mainly downton. We're talking about very specific streets and situations, because it's something that has never affected the inhabitants of the city. It's a pitty because that's a problem we didn't have 10 years ago and yes it has evolved into a problem recently due to the big loads of tourism we're receiving lately. BUT, living in Barcelona is a VERY different thing to being a tourist in Barcelona. In my day-to-day life I hardly meet a single tourist and I've never had any crime or violent situation of any kind. In fact, I only know a couple of guys who in their life have been subject of violence/robbery. After all, Barcelona is one of the safest big cities of Europe... except if you are a tourist in Las Ramblas in mid-august following the crowd of sheeps and unaware of pickpockets.

    But for people who live here, Las Ramblas is something like a circus that you don't get to visit at all, the real inhabitants of the city move in different areas. So, if that's what concerns you, I really must warn you not to judge solely based on that. Because Barcelona may be one of the best places to live on. Hey, it's not because I've lived here decades, it's because I've lived in other cities and the ammount of good things you have here is amazing. Plus, most of the sports and celebrities who come here end up living here or having a house here to spend some time each year. It's a great place to live, really.

    - Weather is great. I've only seen snow in the city 4 times in my life (I'm 40). On winter it's not too cold (this was a cold year and the minimum was 5º). And on summer it's not extremely hot (maximum of 33º). Not too windy and with calm sea on the beach. And exceptional beaches both IN the city and around it.
    - Food is amazing. One of the best places on earth to eat, and this extends to the whole Catalan and Basque regions.
    - You have lots and lots of beaches of different kinds, and at the same time you're only 1 hour away from skiing at the mountains. You have big mountains very near the beach, which is a very exceptional thing.
    - Don't worry about Catalan or languages at all. 100% of population speak perfect Spanish and I've got friends who I have never heard speaking Catalan not even once. There is no problem at all with language, really. That's just stories from the press. Trust me on this one. Besides, Barcelona must be the place where most people speaks foreign languages of Spain and for sure the most "international" city of Spain. They always sat it's the gate to Europe for Spain for both geographical and cultural reasons.
    - The city is a mixture of big european capital and small province city. It's hard to explain, but is due mainly to it's small shape between the mountain and the sea. The city area is kept small and dense but at the same time you find towns inside it, and the experience of living there is far from living in a megapolis. I can cross the city in 15 minutes with my motorbike. Or you can move by bycicle as well! And there's a good tube and bus service. The city has all the cultural appeal of big cities, with lots of shopping and entertainment services, big malls at the outside, etc... The place where I live I know my neighbours, kids play at the squares, very familiar feeling of places to eat and shop. I just love the blend of big capital and small town that most of Barcelona has.
    - Barcelona is in a key location to go to Italy, France or other Spanish places. You have an international airport and high-speed train. And you can go skiing, skydiving, surfing, cruising, climbing, cycilng... everything is just an hour away from the city. The surroundings include great towns and great coastal places. IMPORTANT: A big mention for the Costa Brava, which is one of the most beautiful places on earth. In fact, if you don't want to live specifically in a big city, look for a place in Begur, Tamariu, Aiguablava or Calella. Paradise on earth. Look for them in google images and prepare to be shocked.
    - You have the advantages of the mediterranean way of life (food, sun, relax) without the amount of corruption, lack of services and unefficiency that you could face in southern places.
    - If you didn't know, the biggest genius of football is currently playing at a club here in the city... If you already missed Maradona playing live back at his time, why miss Leo?

    About Internet technology, Madrid and Barcelona are far ahead than the rest, but due to the pathetic government we have, there's no cable everywhere. You can rent a flat with cable and the house in front will still work with average DSL lines. So it comes down to the specific house you live in at the end, and it's like that for all Spain. Notice that I have 2 companies that depend on Internet 100% and hardly have a problem with it, I have cable connection and it's perfect.

    As Spain is in a massive economical crisis right now (just like Italy and Portgual), if you have a good income of money from your company, you will have a high acquisition power compared to Spanish people. That has it's good and bad effects, but if you're between Barcelona and Nice, for example, Barcelona might be quite cheaper for you right now. Just look at the average wages of people in each country/city. Of course, Barcelona is the most expensive city to live in Spain, followed very closely by Donostia and Madrid.

    Donostia (San Sebastian)
    This is a splendid city I would love to live in if I wasn't living at Barcelona (if London had sun more than 60% of the year I would be living in London 100% sure). It is beautiful (almost posh), you have great food and an ok weather (it's quite colder and rains more than in the mediterranean coast). The only downsides I see in the city is that it's a small city. Don't expect a big capital with lots of things to do. But the surroundings are great and there's a lot of small towns and places to go and if you go for only a year you may not even face the limitations of the entertainment offer. Definitely Donostia is the most beautiful city of the north of Spain!

    In the downside, if you're afraid of Catalan, Basque is a lot worse. After all, as lo zio said, Catalan is a latin tongue and it's easy to understand. But Basque is a very strange language with ancient roots nobody knows where it comes from. So it's impossible to understand anything in Basque. Anyway, I wouldn't bother at all for languages. 100% of population in all Spain speak Spanish and will be ok to speak to you in Spanish if they see you don't understand the native language. In fact, if you go to Sevilla you may face worse problems because they speak only Spanish but in a dialect that it's hard to understand even for the rest of Spaniards! ;)

    Notice that you don't have the tube and bus service you may have in big cities, but if you have your own vehicle (which you should to visit the environments) that's not really a problem.

    So, I would rate Donostia as the 2nd best place to live in Spain!

    I've been 6 times to Valencia and I've never been in love with it. It's not particularly beautiful, the beaches around aren't specially beautiful and there is not as much to do as in Barcelona or Donostia. I don't like that are too much, and would advise you to go to other places before going to Valencia. The north-east of Catalonia is 10x times better for sure, and a place like Girona is a small city with lots of flavour and spectacular things around (look for the small towns I listed in the Barcelona extract and you'll see it quickly).

    So, unless you know people there or you're very keen of a specific place, I don't think Valencia is a city that can stand comparison against Barcelona or Donostia, at all.

    Definitely much better than Valencia and similar to Donostia on a lot of aspects. It's a beautiful city which is kept small enough to be enjoyed by its inhabitants and with good places to visit around. They speak portuguese, but it's very easy to understand if you speak Spanish. I like a lot to just walk by the city and sit down at a terrace and drink or eat something. After all, it's very similar to our mediterranean way of life (eating late, spending lots of time to eat and talk at terraces, spend time in the street or just walking by...).

    Notice that the Atlantic sea is not as gentle as the Mediterranean sea, so expect a bit more harsh weather and a bit more brave sea in the beaches.

    I wouldn't go to Nice. It's beautiful but there's not much to do and it's a lot more expensive than very similar places in western italy and Catalonia.
    I've been to Italy many times (I speak italian) and it's an extraordinary country I love to go. I love the north and the south, the east and the west of it. I would love to live in a place like Lucca or San Gimignano but they don't have the sea there, and I NEED TO LIVE IN A CITY BY THE SEA!). Or Firenze, or Roma! Actually, if you decide to go to live to Italy, it will be a good decision. The coast of Italy is very similar to the mediterranean coast of Spain, not only in the aspect, but also the way of living, the traditions, etc... But I must say that the big cities in Italy (except Milano) are a bit chaotic and traffic may become a problem because of the absence of big tube services and the way the italians drive: completely ignoring the rules in the north, and much much worse in the south ;)

    Lo zio and other can advise you better than I on italian places to live, though if I were you, I would go to a small town by the sea and live the mediterranean way of living for a year. Caution: you may become addicted to it.

    My final advise: if you're looking for a special place to be and it doesn't need to be a city, go for Costa Brava or italian towns by the sea. If you're looking for cities with entertainment, shopping and services, go for Barcelona, Donostia or Lisboa, in that order. If you don't mind seeing the sun or not and spend your salary in umbrellas, go to London! ;)
    Last edited: 8 April 2013
  27. PLF

    PLF Legend

    2 August 2004
    Mucha gracias Alexis!

    Very informative post that has taught me many things and made me reconsider several options as well.

    I'm especially glad you told me that Internet Technology and some other stuff is much more advanced in Barcelona and Madrid than other parts of Spain! That's BIG!

    p.s. I hear properties are very cheap to buy in Spain right now and that it's a good time to do so if one had the money.

    Question for Portuguese friends, what are the requirements to moving there for a year as a foreigner with Canadian citizenship? Do I need to get a gov't job? Can I stay more than 3 months as a visitor? What if I have my own business online? I'm considering Lisbon more seriously now.
  28. drekkard

    drekkard International

    23 March 2005
    Barça, Arsenal, Ajax
    Well, that's in general. You may find perfect cable connection in a small street of Donostia or a neighborhood in Valencia and not in a very centrical street at Madrid or Barcelona, but generally speaking Madrid and Barcelona have more cable connected houses than the rest. But be careful, it WILL depend on the flat/house you're moving in. There doesn't seem to be a plan at all in this country for those things, it's absurd. Otherwise, you may depend on DSL, which in Spain is not as good as in other european countries (and more expensive). As I told you, at our offices we have cable and works as expected.

    Yes they are quite cheap right now, and getting cheaper due to the crisis. But people can't afford them anway because there's no credit from the banks. Only in the hands of banks, there are about 800.000 empty houses right now.

    Problem: nice and beautiful house didn't go down of price as easily, so while an ugly flat may cost now 40% of the cost in 2007, a luxury flat near the beach may cost 90% of the initial price.

    Anyway, there's a lot of offer both in buying and in renting, so if you get to com to Spain (and I guess it's the same in Italy, Portugal and Greece) you will find it easier than the natives to find something nice.

    As an example, I pay 1.100 € for a rented 85 square meter house with a terrace of 85 square meters (just above the house) with views to the city and the sea 15 minutes away from Downtown.
  29. lo zio

    lo zio International

    24 October 2005
    actually sardegna is quite a big touristic spot... u never heard of costa smeralda? it's the northern coast of the island and it's the most exclusive touristic destination in europe (imagine montecarlo, but with carribean\sicilian beaches and sea).
    cagliari itself is quite a dull industrial city. infact that's probably the one place u don' wanna visit when u go in sardegna. the southern coast is very beautiful, it has some sort of a uncontaminated feel about it. the facilities aren't really top notch (resorts, public transports and marina are nowhere near as good as portugal's, for instance), but the beaches and the sea are only second to carribbean islands, sicily and algarve (wich is why so many people go there).
    the northern coast instead was completely "wild" and not very populated up until the '60s, when prince aga khan bought it. he invested a shitload of money on the coast and turned it into a glamorous touristic hotspot for billionaires and celebrities from around the world. the coast came to be known as la costa smeralda ("the emerald coast"). it's quite an interesting story actually, if u're interested, thid vid tells a bit about it (narration starts at minute 1:00).
    anyway i wouldn't suggest sardegna to sina. it's an island, wich means that, wherever u wanna go in europe, u have to take a plane.
    industrial is a bit of a stretch, but yeah, bilbao was kinda of a let down for me aswell. however the town still is beautiful (personally i'd pick bilbao over valencia in a heartbeat)..... i believe the problem with bilbao is that everyone (me included) always arrives there with huge expectations.
    however keep also in mind that in spain, france and italy, big cities are always less "attractive" to tourists, than the small villages nearby... but that is often just an illusion caused by the fact tourists don't get to spend to much time in those cities.
    let me put it like this: u can spend 1 day in donostia or Sintra (a lovely village near lisboa) or portofino (near genova) and u will immediately fall in love with those places..... whereas to really appreciate a big city like lisboa or genova (and probably also bilbao) it takes more time. but living in a big city also gives u something in terms of "experience" u just can't get in small lovely villages.

    as for stefano's suggestion, padova is indeed a lovely city, but keep in mind it's in the inland, so no sea there. close to padova there's trieste, wich is a gorgeous city on the venetian shores. it's a very quiet city, misteriously "off the grid" when it comes to big touristic spots, but it's an amazing place to live in, and is very close to croatian beaches (wich can be a huge plus during summer)... the weather can become a bit unforgiving during winter though (but since u live in canada, trieste's winter probably doesn't even qualify as "winter" in your book).
    now that might be a problem. wi-fi connectivity is terrible both in italy and spain (the situation is slightly better in france and portugal) and the average internet speed most providers offer is pretty bad (consider yourself lucky if u get anything more than 15 mega in download). some providers do offer higher speed connections, but, given the kind of service they offer, they're quite overpriced (compared to usa at least).

    also what alexis said about barçelona is absolutely spot on (of course it would be, since he lives there, but i figured a second opinion could be useful). to say that pickpockets are a problem in barçelona is a bit of a stretch. it's almost exclusively a "las ramblas" problem. if u don't know what i'm talking about, las ramblas is basically a single big avenue wich goes from the ancient port (port vell) to plaça de catalunya. for the occasional tourist an afternoon stroll down las ramblas is basically a must. i can't for my life figure out why tourists like it so much, as it's hardly the most interesting place to go in barçelona, but it's precisely because of its popularity among tourists that it's become one of the less safe places in the city.
    however, as alexis said, visiting barçelona as a tourist and actually living in barçelona are 2 completely different experiences. locals aren't usually to be found down las ramblas (unless there's a spain football match), and if u'll decide to live there, u won't go there that often too (as it's just too crowded with tourists).
    anyway, if there's someone who can break a lance in favour of barçelona's safety, that's me. when i was there i used to live in an apartment en el barri gotic (the gothic district, wich is actually quite close to las ramblas). on 2 different occasions i left my bike key inside the ignition for the whole night (yes, i'm that stupid). the bike was just there for the taking... and yet, both times i found it still there the morning after (the second time there was also a hilarious note sticked to the tank, left there by a local amazed at my carelessness).

    i also forgot to talk about valencia last week. and, once again, i share alexis feelings on it. mind u, it's not like it isn't a beautiful city, i just don't dig it. the city has undergone a massive urban replannning, for the america's cup in 2007 (most of the "corruption problems" gerd mentioned refer to that period), and Calatrava (worldwide famous architect) did an amazing job there..... but as a result of this "plastic surgery", somehow the city doesn't feel spanish anymore.
    however i'm not saying u should write valencia off... but i would suggest u to spend a week there as a tourist before moving there.
    sure. l'algarve is an amazing region and faro is a spendid city to live in. but since l'algarve is a southern region, although relatively close to amazing cities like sevilla and granada, it's also quite distant from spain most northern cities (like leon, donostia or saragossa). plus, since football is a factor to sina, lisboa has a huge advantage over any city in algarve.
    Last edited: 8 April 2013
  30. drekkard

    drekkard International

    23 March 2005
    Barça, Arsenal, Ajax
    lo zio, you haven't confirmed my theory that in the north of italy people drive completely against the rules, while in the south it's much worse... ;)

    I admire Italy, but my experience driving by Sicily and south Italy 20 years ago was nightmarish. At least the first 24 hours. Later on I decided to do like the natives and ignore traffic lights and do whatever I wished and things got easier quickly. :COAT:

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