A Slice of Spanish Life

You wouldn’t believe it unless you saw it, and since we see it all the time, we wanted to present to you a picture of what getting business done looks like here in Spain. The way they do things is very different from how things are done in the US (it’s certainly not wrong, but it is very different!).

To illustrate, I’ll give an example from what we’re trying to accomplish right now. Because we moved from La Coruña to Santiago, we need to formally change the address of Terra Nova, our non-profit association. So here’s what we’ve had to do so far:

1. Have an official board meeting where we voted to officially change our address. We then printed out the minutes for this meeting and had everyone sign it.

2. We also needed to type up a certified letter saying that we changed our address. The notary helped our teammate, Sarah, type this up, since we had zero clue how to write it. Nate (the president of Terra N0va) and Sarah (the secretary) had to sign this letter, and then it was attached to the minutes from step 1.

3. Yesterday, armed with the above two documents, we had to go to the notary and Nate had to sign yet another document. We then had to pay the notary 140€. In dollars, that was $202, to employ a notary for one signature. I miss the days of going to Fremont Public Library in Illinois and paying $5 to notarize something.

We’re not done yet, unfortunately. We still have to:

1. Take all of the above paperwork and communicate the address change with the Ministry of Justice. We think this will involve sending the paperwork to the lawyers’ association in Madrid that helped set up Terra Nova in the first place, but it could be as simple as a trip up to the Ministry of Justice office in La Coruña.

2. Once we get our address changed with the Ministry of Justice, our local lawyer will then take the Ministry of Justice proof of address change and bring it to Hacienda, the IRS-ish branch of government, and change our address with them.

And then we’ll be done. Once we get a Welcome Center up and running, though, we’ll need to change the address yet again to reflect the location of the actual place of business.

It’s no wonder that many Spaniards find all of the steps too complicated and expensive, so they either wait a long time before registering formal changes, or they don’t do it at all. Laws are more “suggestions” here than in the US. The funny thing is that the Spaniards themselves grumble and groan the loudest about all this bureaucracy. They made this video to show how life is in their culture. I posted it a while ago, but I feel like it bears repeating here:

As we always say, “Things here take longer than you think they’re going to. So always bring food with you.”

So now that I’m done bellyaching about the system here, I’m curious: What do immigrants and Americans alike gripe about regarding life in the US? It’d be interesting to hear.



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