Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of emails from young families wanting to live in Valencia and I love reading them because it reminds me of myself a few years ago when we initially thought about moving to Spain.
Of course, the first thing I did was read and search the web to find out more about the list of areas we want to live in. I took on the quest for finding any kind of advice from a family like ourselves who had lived in Valencia for a while.
I went on forums, online groups and explained my situation. In all honesty, based on my experience I found that some forums are not as ‘friendly’ and the people who seem to be frequent on them will immediately question my motives in a snarky way.
Fair enough, we know that moving to Spain will not all be rainbows and unicorns, but it would be helpful if we didn’t get immediately judged about it. We were aware that moving uprooting our young family in a totally different country will be hard work, that’s why we want to know as much as we can from people who have already had experience in living here.
In the early days (when we were house hunting in Alicante), I recall a particular incident at a shopping centre. My husband and I overheard a British couple talking on the same aisle and of course, wanting to know more about that area and excited to hear a familiar accent we approached them to politely say hello. I also asked if they lived here as we were thinking of relocating. Well, she was a ‘little off’ and I could tell as soon as I opened my mouth that she wasn’t remotely interested.
She carried on pushing her trolley mumbling something like “We live inland…” While her husband also shuffled himself as far away from us as possible! Charming! I’m pretty sure we weren’t too weird about it! Well, that was our first ever experience with expats here in Spain! For sure not all expats are like that, but being nice and helpful is always a welcome gesture, don’t you think?!
With that in mind, I thought it would be a great idea to compile the TOP FIVE popular questions that my readers have asked me through my blog about what it’s like living in Valencia, especially if you have children.
Renting or Buying?
I would really advise to try renting for a year or so before consider buying. Planning your move carefully will be beneficial in the long run. I know of a family that moved from the UK with school-aged children, who are having endless problems with the house they bought only a year ago!
They came to Spain after selling their property in England, but the dream soon turned into a nightmare when they suddenly faced problems with leaky pipes, dodgy electric connections and an estate agent who doesn’t really give two cents! It’s a very stressful time and instead of enjoying their new life, they are far too busy sorting out what needs to be fixed as well as making sure that their kids are OK!
Renting gives you a good idea of what suits your lifestyle. More importantly, you’ll soon learn that many Spanish houses in the campo do not have gas mains and can get very cold in the winter! Not so ideal if you have very small children or if you like your home comforts such as central heating and double glazed windows.
You have to keep in mind that old chalets and villas in the countryside are mainly used as summer houses by many Spanish families and some properties unless they have been renovated can get very cold in the winter.
Where are the best areas to live in?
Well, this all depends on the lifestyle you want. If you have young children, I assume that you would like to be near the schools. So living in the middle of nowhere and taking 30 minutes more to drive the kids back and forth wouldn’t be so ideal. It might be great in the first few months, but imagine doing it for the next 5 or more years?!
Choose an area where there are facilities for families. There are many urbanisations here in Valencia that have access to sports centres and have large community areas without having to drive out. Ideal for making friends and getting to know people who live in the area, especially when the 12 weeks of summer holidays begin!
I also found that older urbanisations in the countryside don’t offer as much when it comes to facilities for families and you will probably need to drive to the nearest town to go out and socialise. This is fine, but if you have teens, it’s also good for them to have their own social life. So it’s ideal to have access to the nearest bus or metro so you don’t play a taxi driver during the weekends!
What are the crime rates?
It’s more than likely that if you choose to live in the city the crime rates will be higher compared to a small town or village. Our town has a very low crime rate. It’s the kind of place where you would feel comfortable walking with your kids late at night. There is always a mixed crowd and there’s never been a time where I can remember seeing or hearing anything that made me feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
But, if you must know about the crimes that I have heard while I’ve been living here, then it would be orange thieves, burglars who take advantage of empty houses during the winter and occasional car break-ins which mainly happens in town. Aside from those incidents, I haven’t heard of anything that made me cause for concern. Many homes in our urbanisation are fitted with alarms and it is also very common for households to have at least one dog to guard the property.
Public, Private or Concertado
It is a fact that the younger the child is, the easier it is for them to learn and adjust. So if you are moving here with a child younger than 10 years old, a public school would be a lot better and cheaper in the long run. My son was 5 years old when we moved here, and he took over a year to learn how to communicate confidently in Spanish.
However, it is a lot different if you have older kids. The older the child is, the harder him to adjust. You must remember that they have to deal with the culture shock and a totally different way of learning and speaking amongst other things. This process will take time and it also depends on your child. Whatever you decide, be prepared to invest a lot of time helping your child with homework, keep communications open with the school and ask for help like extra tutoring if necessary!
Take a look at my post ‘List Of Concertado Schools In The Region Of Valencia’ and check out a detailed map of schools around the area. You can also download an extensive list of schools in Valencia to help you with your search.
What about Valenciano?!
Unless you send your children to a British, American and other private schools, then there is no getting away from the Valenciano language. Public and concertado schools will teach Valenciano! For example, my son has two subjects in Valenciano. One is Llengua (Valenciano) and also Ciencias Social (Social Sciences) which is also taught in Valenciano.
Bear in mind, unless your child already speaks the Spanish language, they will have to learn TWO languages. Even though there is a saying that kids are like sponges, you must also invest the time to make sure that your child has all the help and encouragement that he needs. Whether be in the form of extra tutoring or dedicate a lot of time to try and learn the language yourself.
Are you a family of ex-pats that took the big leap? How did you go about finding information about the country and area you wanted to live in?
I’d love to hear your stories, let me know in the comments below!
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Thank you so much for writing this blog! My situation is slightly different to yours in that we’ve been living in murcia for almost 15 years! I moved here from London with my now ex partner who is spanish. I’ve now been offered a job with the possibility of moving to valencia. I have two boys aged 17 & 10 who both speak Castellano and English of course but not Valenciano. I’m concerned about my little one, as he wold need to go to school in Valencia and will have to learn a new language. I would prefer to live in the city, so like yourself, I’m scouting the Internet to prepare myself and help me take the right decision. I’m sorry about the bad experience you had with existing expats…but thankfully we’re not all the same. I’d appreciate any help or advice you could give me concerning making this move to Valencia, especially about the best areas of the city and the public or concertado schools. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks in advance. Angela
Hi Angela, thanks for your lovely comment! Valencia is a lovely city for families and I can totally understand how you must be feeling right now. But dont worry, because you have lived in Spain for years, I do not think you’ll have a big problem with the Valenciano language. You mentioned that your youngest already speak Castellano, then I don’t think it would be too difficult for him to learn Valenciano either!
At the moment, my son is taking private Valenciano lessons every week. Personally, I feel that I cannot help him as much as I would like to. For example; if he has to read a book and write about it, I am unable to help or explain to him in depth because my understanding and vocabulary of Valenciano are minimal. I just want to be sure that he is fully understanding the tasks set to him and by hiring a Valenciano tutor, I know that he will learn a lot more and she can explain to him in a clear and concise way.
On schools, I cannot really advice you on schools around the city, as I live further inland. But if helps, we enrolled our child in a ‘private concertado’ school when we first moved here. But it became expensive in the long run and we felt as time went on the school was only interested in making business than helping our child reach his full potential.
So, last year we decided to move him to a public school in our local town and he is doing so much better, and also happier, which is the most important thing! His teacher is great and we’re always in communication about my son’s progress. I just wish that we did it sooner as it would have saved us a lot of money! But, of course, that’s my experience, I cannot say for others schools. 🙂
Areas that we looked at while we were researching that are near the city are; La Cañada, L’Eliana, Rocafort, Campolivar & Godella. I cannot say much about the inner city areas as I do not know much about them. But I hope that helps a little. If you have any more questions please do not hesitate to ask, I will try my best to help you or ask around for you! 🙂
Thanks so much for taking the time to write this blog! We’re a canadian family looking to have a sabbatical year in a bit of a warmer clime and hopefully/possibly have the kids learn some Spanish. My kids are 14, 14 and 10 so I’m in the tricky zone with regards to schooling. We don’t really want to send them to international private schools (and they’re so very expensive!) and were wondering about public schools, with tutors and perhaps even pulling them out of school a couple of hours a day to do a math/English basic curriculum on an online home schooling course. Have you heard of this kind of arrangement and do you know if it’s even a possibility with the Spanish school system? We had thought of Grenada as an option but are still looking for schools, as that seems to be the most important link for us. I speak Spanish but the rest of my family does not so there will be a major learning curve involved….still, I’d rather them come away with some Spanish instead of being immersed in a private english speaking school.
Thanks so much!
I have a completely different outlook to being an expat only now that i am one myself. i get a lot of people also asking about moving over and the thing that always surprises is me is how easy they think it is! I can only imagine moving to a country in a foreign language is 10 times harder than what we are going through, and with kids! But as you say, if someone asks you for help in the store – i hope I come across as friendly and approachable because I definitely want people to learn from our mistakes and get a full picture on what they could be getting themselves into.
Very nice article. Thank you Maria. We are in the process of house hunting in Valencia Spain. We have two young girls 7 and 9 and are torn between living in a bigger more spacious property in the suburbs or in an equally amazing apartment in the city closer to everything. Some cons about this particular apartment is that there is no outdoor space and it is about a 10-15 walk to school. Secondary school is no longer walking distance. The girls have also been asking for a dog, which is not as convenient to have in an apartment. The suburb life resolves this, but I am also afraid that you miss out on things going on in Valencia. Question how easy it is to make friends and if it is too isolating. Would love to hear any opinions from anyone who may know both scenarios well enough to give some advice. Thanks in advance for reading.
Hi Karen. Thanks for your comment. I can see the problems you may face if you choose an apartment in the city. However, Valencia have a lot of green space and many have outdoor play areas near apartments. Some schools also offer transport, if it’s too long for your child to walk. You will need to look in to this more as they differ on each school. We live in a suburb about 20 minutes from the city and we love it. Making friends is easy especially if your children go to the public school, however you have to make an effort to at least speak some Spanish. Our urb have a community centre that have a sport area, pool and bar, so it’s lovely in the summer but nice and quiet in the winter. My sons school is about 5 mins drive away so not too far. It really depends on what kind of life you are looking for. We love the quiet life so living inland suits us. 🙂
This blog has been really helpful. My husband and I are considering a move to Valencia where I have applied for a teaching job at a British School. We have 2 children, a girl (5) and a boy (1 1/2). We’ve never been to the city but from what I can see it seems beautiful.
I was wondering about health care etc particularly with having young kids. Also we have a dog and I was wondering if you have any information on moving to the region with a pet.
Sorry this is all a bit vague. A mindfield at the minute. A lot to consider.
Hi Sharon. Im glad you found my blog useful, it encourages me to create more content for families like yourselves. Healthcare in Valencia is pretty good. Residents have access to the free healthcare system,(SNS). Paid partly by social security payments, which will be deducted from your wages. My son hasn’t had any serious treatments, but when we do go to the local clinic we’ve been treated pretty well and promptly.
Regarding moving pets, we used a company called poshpetsspain.com (that was over 5 years ago) they were really good in picking out cat up and placing him in a cattery before we arrived and picked him up. We received regular updates about how our cat was doing and they didn’t charge silly prices. I think back then we paid around £350. I hope this info is helpful to you, if you want to ask any more questions please do not hesitate to contact me via email 🙂
Hi Maria, thank you for your blog – most friendly and helpful. We are a family of 3, our daughter is 13 and my husband and I are in our 50’s. We currently live in Jhb, south africa and are concerned about the future prospects of education, medical care and the overall economy of our beloved country and so we are in the throws of planning a move to Spain over the next 18 – 24 months. Sooner would be nice but there is a lot of prep to organise prior. We are coming to Spain in March 2019 to do a reckie and check out schools, distances and suburbs. I have many questions though. I see that everyone says english or international schools are pricey – but what does pricey mean in euro terms? We pay for private schooling here so we are used to haemorrhaging for our school fees here but I have no idea what the damage to our cashflow will be in monthly or annual fees. i cannot seem to find school fees on any of the sites. Do you have a preferred private school and suburb you would recommend. Jess may be 15 by the time we get there, so it will be quite late in her schooling career to go to a public school – she will be totally out of her depth. Any thoughts? We also have 3 dogs that we will be moving with – so will need a garden for them and obviously will need a detached house for the garden space, so your thoughts too on this need in relation to schools please. Why Valencia you say? I have spent a few holidays in Spain over the years and of all the countries I have travelled to, Spain, and more importantly, the Spanish, are my most favourite people in the world (second only to the Irish). We want to move to a country that will offer us the warmth of culture and climate that will make uprooting our lives less traumatic. Valencia to me seems to offer a more authentic culture, untainted by too much tourism, but enough to make it an attractive hub. We hold British passports, mine is EU irish, so we also intend to work and contribute to the economy – havent decided what to do yet though. We are both self employed here, and busy selling our respective businesses and are looking forward to a whole new world – even it it does mean becoming a dog walker or a waitress!
Our #1 focus is schooling, and the correct neighbourhood, so your feedback would be most welcome – the rest we will stumble through say by day.
Hi Shiv, I have never responded to a blog before(ack!) but I am also in the same boat as you, and am so excited to know there are others out there planning the same thing. This blog is wonderful! We are a family living on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. I am originally from South Africa, but have lived here for 17 years now. We are planning a move to Spain in 2 years and I have just begun the process of trying to find the right town/city/village/neighborhood, the right school, etc. It’s so daunting! But so exciting!! I have a daughter who will also be 14 or 15 years old in a couple of years, and two 12 year old boys at that time as well. So we will definitely have to look into the private international schools. My question, do you recommend one school over the other? I see there are a few…We will be coming out with the family in the summer of 2020 to check it all out (although if we get a chance on a good air fare(we are SOOOO far away!) we’ll come out before then…I would appreciate any advice on neighborhood/school please!! Thanks so much, Colette
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Hello Maria! Your blog has been a blessing for me today! 🙂 My name is Agustina, I am originally from Uruguay, but have been living in Costa Rica since 2003. My husband is from Argentina, we met here in Costa Rica…we have two kids, Sofía, 10, and Joaquín, 6. Since we are italian citizens and we both have online jobs, we are planning to move to Valencia next year, hopefully before the beginning of school year in september. All the information you have in your blog has been of great help!! I have been googling and although I have found webs and blogs about expats in Spain, but none of them has been son helpful as yours! I wanted to let you know…. so I will keep on reading all your posts and your readers´ comments… thanks a lot!