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So, you’re thinking about living in Valencia?

So you're thinking about living in Valencia, Spain

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 long 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 on 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 a 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 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!

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 expats 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!

By Maria

Mom, wife, web/graphic designer and illustrator. I am also the author of Ohla Living a personal blog where I share my lifestyle, travel, days out and creative thoughts. I’m a collector of anything quirky addicted to coffee, cocktails, the beach & VW Kombis.

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  • Angela

    February 26, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Hi Maria

    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

    1. Maria

      February 29, 2016 at 2:36 pm

      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! :)

  • Christine Alevizakis

    March 21, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    Hi Maria
    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!

  • Meg

    July 26, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    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.

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