Expat working in Spain during pandemic shares what shocked her ‘more than anything’

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Before starting her new life in Spain, Maddie had moved to Dubai in 2016 as the demands placed on her as a headteacher in Essex “were getting so onerous that I was going to burn out with the stress”.

Maddie explained: “I also love travelling and experiencing different cultures and Dubai is a great jumping off point to both Middle East and Far East; I was able to extensively travel around the whole region for four years.”

However, when the lockdown started in 2020, it “quickly became very draconian”.

That’s when she decided to move to Spain: “I’d already made the decision to move from the Middle East and closer to home due to family reasons, and I had applied for my current job in Spain, in Valencia region (North of it).

“I got it, so that was that decided! However, I have lived in Spain before – in Barcelona for a few years in my 20s, so I knew I would like it and I had a pretty good idea what to expect culturally.”

Maddie shared what her first weeks in the country were like: “It can be daunting moving to a new country but I always try and plan reasonably well so things don’t jump up at me i.e. car hire sorted, a place to stay (initially got that through a contact through work).

“It was more stressful this time in 2020 as I had just relocated from Dubai and it was HARD getting out of there in one piece both with everything legal sorted and with salary due actually paid!

“I was back to the UK for only a month and then out to Spain. Then a new headship with all the pressures etc of getting to know both the workplace and the community.

“I spent the first few weeks both getting up to speed with work whilst chilling down exploring the community (helped it was hot and summer) after a really quite unusual and stressful few months of lockdown in Dubai.

“I bought a lot of stuff to add to the two suitcases I had brought with me,” she explained.

But is it easy for Britons to find a job in Spain? According to Maddie, it didn’t use to be complicated.

She said: “The job was advertised online via TES international site – basically the go-to place for international teaching jobs.

“This was before post-Brexit agreement actually fell into place (this happened on December 2020) so it was easier for my school to employ me.

“I now need to employ staff specifically with European passport if I have any hope of getting them able to teach in Spain without a five-month delay or so! Basically, it is very hard.

“I was lucky to arrive six months before this came into effect – this also meant I could sort out my driving licence relatively easily.”

Maddie said she felt “safer” in Spain during Covid times than back in the UK: “By the time I arrived in Spain their really strict lockdown laws had stopped. However, travel could not happen between different provinces (there are 18 in Spain).

“Mask wearing outside was compulsory at all times (it still is) and restaurants, bars etc mostly closed. Curfew from about 9pm to 6am for at least nine months, town restricted to towns (or close area) for at least four months, however, hairdressers were open until six! Life feels more open now, from around May 2021, but always some restrictions.

Where should you go on your next holiday?

Now that the world has opened up again it’s time to pack those suitcases and head off on a well-deserved adventure. Where should you be jetting off to? Take our quiz and find out.


With endless culture, gorgeous beaches and weather to die for, Greece is a great choice both for romantic getaways and family trips. Wander the historical streets of Athens and Thessaloniki or head to an island to soak up the sun – the choice is yours.


It may be far away but it’s definitely worth the trip. Japan has sprawling metropolises, stunning scenery, and a rich history and culture to boot. Check out the cities of Kyoto and Tokyo and make sure to get your fill of their world-famous cuisine while you’re in town


Hop across the pond and experience an array of cultures, climates, cuisines and more. You can leave the phrasebook at home and get truly immersed in everything that this sprawling nation has to offer, from the Grand Canyon to the Statue of Liberty


With some of the best food around and boasting the world’s most romantic city, France is a great choice if you’re in a hurry. Be in its glorious capital in just hours, grab a pain au chocolat and practice your language skills while wandering along the banks of the Seine


La dolce vita is calling! With its stunning views, fascinating history and world-famous Neapolitan pizza, Italy is a great choice, whether you’re after an adventure or want to dive into a big bowl of spaghetti


A little off the beaten track, Morocco boasts stunning architecture, winding street markets to get lost in, and beautiful landscapes. Soak up the sun in Marrakech or head to Chefchaouen for one of the most unique experiences a holiday-maker can have

The Caribbean

Sun, sea and sand – what’s not to love? Head to the Caribbean if you really want to unwind. With plenty of picturesque locations to choose from, from the streets of Havana to the beaches of Grenada, you’re sure to find something that fits your holiday dreams.


When most people think ‘holiday’, sunshine and relaxation comes to mind – but a different kind of trip can be just as rewarding. Splash around in the Blue Lagoon and try your luck at catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights. This is definitely one for the bucket list.


India is well worth a visit if you have some time to spare. With an array of different cultures coexisting in this vast and vibrant nation, as well as gorgeous food to be enjoyed at every turn, you’ll find yourself immersed in the experience. Take a trip to the Taj Mahal for that jaw drop moment

Swiss Alps

If snow sports are your thing, then this mountainous region is perfect for you. Venture down the powdered slopes and warm your hands at the après-ski afterward. Perfect for a group of friends, a romantic trip, or even some time with the kids – if they can stand the cold!

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“I feel much safer in Spain than in the UK [in terms of] Covid procedures etc. My school has been fully open to children from September 2020 to now – we occasional close a class, but nothing like the UK as in general everyone is more accepting of wearing masks etc,” she explained.

“The rules are that all children over age six wear a mask at school, all day (as indeed we all do) and we have windows wide open all time etc. It’s not warm. I’m currently typing this in six degrees!”

Maddie explained this is actually what surprised her the most about Spain.

She said: “The East coast of Spain is not warm all year round. The cold in winter, especially after Dubai, shocked me more than anything!”

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