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Parents’ reveal: These are the best and worst things about having children in Spain

What are the best things about raising children in Spain? And what about the downsides. Here some parents who know a thing or two about the issues spelled out pros and cons of having a family in Spain.

Parents' reveal: These are the best and worst things about having children in Spain
Photo: Cristina Quicler/AFP

We asked readers to spell out the positives and the negatives about raising a family in Spain.

Overwhelmingly, our readers had a positive experience of bringing up their children in Spain, once they had adapted to the Spanish lifestyle.


Photo: depositphotos


Several respondents mentioned how “child-friendly” and safe Spain is.

“The Spanish love children,” said David Viz, a dad who lives in Jerez de la Frontera. “They’re welcome everywhere and at any time of the day or night. If a ball bounces into even the busiest street, cars will stop because they know a child is likely to follow (I witnessed this in Madrid).”

Another father from Madrid agreed. “The big thing for me that kids are accepted everywhere,” said Garreth Nunn. “People really love kids and you are made to feel welcome in most places.”

The generally good climate means that much of the time can be spent outdoors, which as most parents know, makes for healthier and happier children.

“A lot of opportunities to bring kids outdoors, for playing or picnic or sports,” remarked Cass Stan who is bringing up her children in Barcelona.

“The country is really safe. You can see children playing by the park past midnight during summer!” agreed Christian Deschamps from Granada. “The weather is mostly great year-round especially near the Mediterranean.”

For those with Spanish partners, that also means an extended family in Spain, which has its perks, with several readers commenting on the importance placed on the extended family and socialising as a family.

“You can go out till the early hours with the kids and know they won’t be out of place and there’ll be little antisocial behaviour (as long as you’re in an area without Brits!)” said Carla Leftwich, who lived in Catalonia.

“Family members and neighbours usually take care of babysitting and amusing each other’s children. It’s a community thing,” remarked another.

Childcare and Schools

READ MORE: The 28 surefire signs that your child is definitely Spanish

Readers broadly praised childcare facilities in Spain as being “more available and cheaper” than elsewhere, especially in Madrid where “the Communidad de Madrid have now followed the city hall’s example of offering free ‘Infantil’ (0-6) care and this will save a lot of money for families,” according to one.

But when it came to schooling there was mixed reactions, with several people in Catalonia expressing dislike of the emphasis put on Catalan teaching over Castilian Spanish.

And others complaining that although good, the state school system had been neglected, while private and semi-private schools thrived but were often connected with the church.

“In Madrid most semi private or private schools walk arm in arm with the Catholic Church and I don’t want this,” wrote one father.

The bilingual schools weren’t strong enough on English, early enough yet some felt that overall it was a better schooling environment than they had at home.

“The schools are more like a family unit unlike English schools,” said Carla.

“Go for public schools nearby your neighbourhood, it’s easier for kids to pick up language because when they live close to their friends and they have more chance to interact with friends and that helps in language learning,” advised Cass Tann in Barcelona.

Bringing up bilingual

Almost every respondent emphasised the advantages of bringing up their children with two languages. 

“Don’t be worried about the children finding it difficult to learn Spanish, they pick it up really quickly,” reassured one mother.

Late bed times


Photo: Ulkas78/Depositphotos

Quite a few people remarked on how the Spanish hours were difficult to adapt to for northern European parents, but on the whole, respondents felt it was  more valuable to adopt the Spanish way of doing things.

But one father summed it up with this piece of advice: “It’s true the late meal and bed times can be a little strange at first but if you stick to your own country’s traditions, you miss out and more importantly so will your kids.”

Parenting is everybody’s business

A few readers remarked on how foreign parents in Spain will have adapt to people chipping in with their parenting advice and opinions.

“Get used to everyone thinking they can talk to your child,” advised Emma Phillips from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands.

“People will always lend a hand but will also butt in where they shouldn’t,” agreed another.

“Every person and dog on the street feel they have the right to tell you how to raise your child and if you do something out of the norm it can be frowned upon,” recounts Nunn. “I once had an old couple threaten to phone the police because I was out in the rain letting my son jump in puddles and despite being in a wet suit, they were disgusted.”

Photo: grafvision/Depositphotos

Gender stereotypes?

One father felt the biggest challenge was in the different perceptions of the role of the parents.

“Spanish dads can be quite lazy and tend to leave everything to the mother to do,” explained one hands-on father. “My wife is always hearing how lucky she is to have a ‘hands on dad’ and it annoys her, and she is 100 percent right, that it shouldn’t be seen as something strange that a dad changes nappies or likes to spend time with his kids alone.”

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Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.


Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 


Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.


Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.


The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.