Seville has a vibrant culture and colourful history and, though it is a major city and the capital of Andalusia, it retains its small-town charms and offers expats a slower pace. Nevertheless, as with every city, along with these positives, there are a few negatives to life in Seville.
Below are some of the pros and cons of moving to and living in Seville.
Lifestyle and culture in Seville
+ PRO: Vibrant culture with many options for entertainment
Life in Seville is everything an outsider may think when imagining Spain: a place where the tapas culture is part of the everyday routine, where the flamenco compás (rhythm) echoes through alleyways at night and where matadors are carried out of the ring like heroes. Many argue that it's Spain's most romantic and quintessential city, and they may be right. Seville’s charm, beauty and rich lifestyle have convinced many an expat to remain far longer than they intended.
+ PRO: Small but welcoming expat enclave
While Seville is much smaller than the likes of Madrid or Barcelona, it’s still a cosmopolitan city with all the trappings one would expect of a major metro. It’s often best for a new arrival to join a group or club in order to meet people and make friends. Expats can choose from a variety of running- or book clubs, language exchanges, flamenco and cooking courses, and art groups all over the city. In a place as friendly as Spain, it's easy to make connections.
- CON: Closed-off culture
As the old saying goes: ‘Sevillanos are the first to invite you to their home, but never tell you where they live’. Social circles in Seville are often entrenched and extend back to schooldays, so breaking into these cliques can be difficult. However, learning Spanish will go a long way to being accepted.
+ PRO: Relaxing pace of life
One of Seville's most attractive qualities is the relaxed pace of life. People from all over the world come to Seville seeking out this slower pace of life in one of Europe's most temperate cities. Lunches are long and leisurely, and the concept of time is hazy at best.
- CON: The pace of life can sometimes be too slow
On the flip side, Seville's 'mañana, mañana' ('tomorrow, tomorrow') attitude can mean bureaucratic quagmires, missed appointments, long lines and plenty of frustration. Additionally, as the capital of the autonomous community of Andalusia, the city employs many civil servants who have a reputation of doing as little work as possible.
Accommodation in Seville
+ PRO: Relatively affordable living
Because Seville is small, expats can choose a neighbourhood of their liking and won’t have to worry too much about long commutes. The closer to the city centre, the steeper the rent. Still, renting a room or apartment is considerably cheaper than in bigger Spanish cities, particularly Madrid.
- CON: Outdated housing infrastructure
Many homes in Seville have been passed on through generations, resulting in old houses needing extensive repairs. Additionally, houses in the city often do not have dryers, ovens, air conditioning or central heating.
Safety in Seville
+ PRO: Relatively low crime rate
Spain's crime rate is extremely low compared to other European countries, and Seville is no exception. New arrivals can rest assured that life in Seville is generally safe.
- CON: Petty crime is an issue
Despite the low crime rate, petty theft is rampant. Expats should always keep a close eye on their belongings. If something has been stolen, it should be reported to the national police, particularly if it's been taken by force.
Getting around in Seville
+ PRO: Seville is walkable
Seville is flat with just one hill in the entire city. This makes walking the preferred mode of transport, especially in the pedestrian-friendly city centre. The metro and light rail can be used to access areas and neighbourhoods a bit further out.
Healthcare in Seville
+ PRO: Affordable with basic coverage
Healthcare is available to anyone legally residing in Spain through the government's social security system, and insurance is almost always paid by employers. Many expats often opt for affordable private insurance, which allows for less wait time and greater access to specialists.
- CON: Long lines and waiting times
The public healthcare system, though an invaluable resource in Spain, is not perfect. Expect queues in urgent care clinics and long waiting times for specialists.
Education and schools in Seville
+ PRO: Public and concertado schools are government funded
Spanish education comes in three forms: government funded; concertado (funded in part by the Spanish government and the Catholic Church); and private schools. The government absorbs the greatest part of the cost, so families in Seville only pay the fees for school supplies, bus routes, after school activities and specialised courses.
- CON: Bigger classes and fewer materials in public schools
Although public schools are inexpensive, classrooms can be cramped and teachers overworked. So expat parents are advised to ask about teacher-student ratios and the facilities available.
+ PRO: University education is affordable
Studying at a public university in Andalusia is far cheaper than in most European countries. This is a major pull factor for expat students looking for a semester abroad in an exchange programme or those who wish to study full time in Seville.
Working in Seville
+ PRO: Many working holidays and a full month of paid vacation
Full-time employees enjoy many local holidays, a full two weeks of paid leave during the Christmas period, and days off during Easter and the local fair. What's more, a full month's summer holiday, which is often taken in August, is the norm for employees.
- CON: Hard to secure an expat job
While the unemployment rate has been decreasing nationally in recent years, Spain's job market hasn’t escaped the recent economic turbulence around the world. Finding a job in Seville as a foreigner could prove difficult and salaries may not be so lucrative. The hiring process is complicated: a company must demonstrate that no other European Union citizen is more qualified, and visas for non-Europeans are costly, time consuming and not always granted. The most common profession for young expats is teaching English.
Travel and tourism in and out of Seville
+ PRO: Well-connected train travel
Spain's public rail company is regarded as one of the best in the world, connecting even the far-flung corners of the country. Getting around by train in Seville is easy thanks to Renfe, or Renfe Operadora, which is known for their punctual service.
+ PRO: Top-class hotels and tourist attractions
Tourism is one of Spain's greatest and most lucrative industries, and there are several major multinational brands providing excellent hospitality in Seville. Additionally, Seville is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites and wonderful cuisine, making it a favoured European destination.
- CON: Heavy tourist movement during holidays and summer
Because of the well-established tourism industry, visitors flock to Spain, particularly in the summer and to the coastal regions, like the Costa del Sol and Costa Dorada. For this reason, hotels and restaurants sometimes charge peak rates during heavy tourist seasons and local holidays. Travelling off-peak can be more enjoyable and affordable.
►Start the house hunt by reading Accommodation in Seville.
►Check out our favourite things to See and Do in Seville.
"In America, I’d be considered poverty level because of my salary. But here we live comfortably (my husband is a civil servant) and can provide for our children.
What I love that’s cheap is the food and entertainment. We often joke that we can live like kings because we enjoy being outside and doing low-cost activities like taking the kids to the park, going out for tapas or hiking." Learn more about Cat, an American expat, and her experience of life in Seville.
Are you an expat living in Seville?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Seville. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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