Interview with Beatriz Carro de Prada, Founding Partner of BRS Relocation
With offices in Barcelona, Madrid and Seville, BRS Relocation is a leading global mobility company in Spain. Since its creation, the company has managed over 5.000 relocation cases. Here we talk to Beatriz Carro de Prada, Managing Director and Founding Partner.
When and why BRS Relocation Services set up?
BRS Relocation was set up in 2001 to assist families to integrate faster in their new life in Spain. I myself moved seven times in nine years between France, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, Austria and the United Kingdom (often with my family in tow). So I know how stressful it can be without support! Having someone who knows the ropes to help along the way (before, during and after the move) makes the experience so much easier and it can actually be quite fun.
What sort of client uses a relocation agency?
We have clients from a diverse range of backgrounds, from executives working at multinational corporations, Spanish companies that are recruiting staff from overseas, to university professors and individuals that chose to come here for a change of life.
What is the starting point with a client when they come to see you?
We begin with a face-to-face meeting with the clients in order to fully understand their needs, expectations, worries and concerns so that we can devise the best solution. Once we know exactly why they are moving to Spain, their estimated length of stay, whether they come with children, whether they’ve been here before, if they speak Spanish, and various other small (but important) details, we are able to give them the best possible service and make their move seamless and effortless. We advise on where to live, schooling, best practices, and administration issues such as resident permits, and of course we explain cultural differences so that they do not have any unpleasant surprises or cultural shocks once they have moved.
In your experience, do families tend to want to buy or rent properties in Barcelona?
Most families rent a property at first until they get a feel for the area. Then if they decide to stay long-term they will often buy a property and many clients buy properties as a second home.
Aside from finding somewhere to live, education and schooling is obviously a high priority for parents, how do you help them find the right schools for their children?
It’s all to do with really listening to the family and understanding their needs. We make sure that we find out how long the family plan to stay in Spain, how old are the children, which school they attend in their home country, whether they have they lived abroad before, which languages the children speak and what education system they prefer. Once we have all this information we can give them all options and help them decide. We can arrange school visits and we put them in contact with other parents so that they can share their experiences.
What are the main concerns of parents with regards to schooling in Barcelona?
Language is a big concern and that the children will adapt to the new school and new friends. I find that the parents are often much more worried than the children themselves. Children adapt very quickly and it is important that the parents do not worry too much in order not to stress their kids out! We can help with this reassurance due to our years of experience in successfully relocating families with school-age children.
Do most of your clients opt for international schools or local schools?
Generally speaking families who are only coming for a few years normally opt for international schools whilst families who plan to stay long term tend to choose local schools. The age of the children also plays a big part in the decision and I find that if the children are older than 10 years old parents prefer to put their children in international schools.
Do your clients find a big difference between schooling in their home country and in Spain? How do they overcome this?
It really depends on the country of origin. For instance French and German families do not find as many differences as schools here follow a similar system. On the other hand families from the UK or the US often find some differences in the size of the school facilities and outside spaces, but I must say that they all adapt very easily.
In your experience what is the main reason families move to Barcelona? Is it a lifestyle choice or for work commitments?
The majority of our current clients move because of work commitments. This wasn’t always the case – when I started the business back in 2001 we had a lot of families from the UK who moved to Spain because of the lifestyle. Cheap flights from the UK had just started prompting many families to move to a sunnier country. Also many American families wanted to give their children a European experience and came for a year.
In your experience whats the average time people stay in Barcelona? Are there many families that settle for good?
The average time is approximately 3 years if they are moving to Spain for work reasons. Families that come for the lifestyle normally plan to settle for good.
Do you get many instances of families who are unhappy in Barcelona and return to their home countries? If so, what is the cause of this?
Fortunately we don’t get many unhappy families. When there are problems then it’s normally the due to lack of work for the ‘trailing’ partner. It can be difficult for a partner who is used to working in their home country if they can’t find work in Spain.
How do you help with integrating the family into life in Barcelona?
In addition to the school advice we’ve discussed, we also give recommendations for healthcare, babysitters, cleaners, children’s activities, hobbies and classes, a concierge service, introductions to other expats social clubs, international networks, sport clubs etc… the list goes on! We provide ourselves on providing ongoing support. We also organize different activities such as cultural events for the whole family, activities for spouses and cross-cultural training and workshops
How family-friendly would you say Barcelona is?
I think that Barcelona is extremely family friendly. Spaniards love children and they are welcome everywhere. We have the beach and the mountains nearby, there are many children’s activities including cultural activities such as children’s opera, it’s easy to get around and it is not a very big city like London or Paris.
What, if any, paperwork do people have to complete when they move to Spain and how easy is it do this paperwork if they don’t speak the language?
If you do not speak Spanish then it can be tricky because the bureaucrats or “funcionarios” do not normally speak English, but on the other hand Spaniards are quite helpful with foreigners so they’ll try their best to assist.
How easy is it for people to “set themselves up” at home i.e. get phone lines, electricity connections, water etc if they don’t speak the language? Can you help with this? What other services do you offer?
It’s easy when you know how! It requires a bit of patience but it is possible as long as you speak some Spanish because admin staff tend not to speak English. Obviously it’s much easier if someone experienced does it and so we can help with getting connected in addition to helping with any renovations, purchase of furniture, etc.
What would you say were the main advantages and disadvantages for members of the international community living in Barcelona?
The main advantages to living in Barcelona are the gorgeous weather, the beautiful countryside, delicious food and the fantastic quality of life. There is a thriving expat community and so it’s easy to make friends with other expats…if you want to. I’d say that the main disadvantages are the restricted opening hours, the decreased productivity and efficiency and in some cases the Catalan language.
Do you have any tips or advice for people looking to move to Barcelona? What can they do before they move?
Here are some key tips that will help you plan for your arrival in Barcelona. Following even just a few of these pointers will help to alleviate any stress and dispel any worries you may have!
• Prepare your move well in advance especially to secure places at international schools.
• If possible organise a preview trip to Barcelona with a local relocation expert.
• Have clear expectations in terms of your housing requirements.
• Open a bank account as soon as possible, this is essential in order to make payments to secure a property. Credit cards are not accepted for rental payments.
• Being observant will help you to interpret the behavior of the Catalans and as a consequence know how to conduct yourself.
• Lunchtime is sacred in Barcelona so please take your time and don’t rush anyone else.
• Make sure you go to your bank before 14:00 (2pm) as banks are closed in the afternoons
• People live in a more relaxed manner In Barcelona, they like to take their time, remember that may be why you came. So please be patient if you have to queue for a service, you’ll only get stressed otherwise.
• When using your credit card you will always need some photo ID, such as an official identity card, passport or driving license.
• Remember that everything will be different in Barcelona than what you are used to and what you expect, so be patient!