If you make a move to Galicia you may well find yourself sailing out of Portsmouth or Plymouth, stuffed full rental van stowed below decks, thinking of all the new things you are about to experience – and so you should, because Galicia has a lot to offer, much of which can no longer be found (at least at affordable prices for the majority) in the UK or other northern European countries.
After a while in Galicia, however, you will almost certainly come to realise that there are some things you miss, so here are some of the more common things for keeping in touch with the motherland, and how to source them in Galicia.
TV (including getting the BBC in Spain)
Much of Spain now has digital TV (licence free, by the way) and so chances are if one of the many channels is showing an American or British film or series you will be able to change the audio language to English.
At other times, however, you will wish you could still get TV programming from your home country, eg. the BBC. Fortunately this is possible in one of two ways.
- Option 1 is that you can buy a UK freesat box (or digital TV with built in satellite decoder) and a big satellite dish that’s orientated towards the Astra 2E (currently temporarily the Astra 1N) satellite. Since the 2014 switchover from Astra 2D the reception has actually got a little better in Galicia, but you will still need a clear view to the south and a good quality 1.8 metre dish to get reliable reception of the UK free to air channels in most parts of Galicia.
- The cheaper and better way, if you have an internet connection with unlimited download and at least 2Mbps download speed (that’s actual, not what Movistar tells you you have “up to” – check it at www.speedtest.net) is to sign up for a VPN (virtual private network) with a UK server and then use BBC TV live, iplayer, 4OD and so on to get the full gamut of UK tv.
If you try to connect directly to the BBC website it will see that your IP address (every device connected to the internet has an IP address assigned to it that shows your approximate location) is outside the UK and you won’t be able to access TV or iplayer content.
By connecting to a VPN your connection becomes: your device to the VPN, and then the VPN to the BBC’s server. As the VPN is located in the UK it passes the BBC’s location check and you get full access.
The best value VPN provider I’ve found costs around £25 per year and is www.boxpn.com. This VPN has servers available worldwide so this solution works equally well for TV from more or less all EU countries, the US, etc..
There is a question of the legality of accessing services such as the BBC that require a licence in the UK, and no clear answer.
Expats taking UK freeview boxes abroad is now a longstanding tradition that contravenes no laws.
Using a VPN is entirely legal, and the BBC has long been aware that expats access its TV services online using VPNs and hasn’t tried to do a whole lot about it. When you first access the site you will have to accept a popup that informs you that you need a licence to view BBC TV.
Getting a licence without a UK address is, however, impossible, and therefore someone legally minded who was eg. keen to keep up with BBC News, Match of the Day, The Great British Bake Off or whatever, might argue 1) accessing this content causes no significant loss nor harm to anyone, and 2) although they were made aware that a licence was required there was no way for them to legally obtain a licence …and you’d have no problems. If you feel guilty about this then maybe buy some BBC dvds or other products to make up for it.
English language goods and shopping for UK things
For a few happy years Amazon UK used to ship free to Spain, which was great for books and DVDs in English but also extended to their full catalogue even covering foodstuffs (tins of organic beans, for example).
Unfortunately this ended in 2013 but it annoyed some customers sufficiently to get them onto facebook where they formed a group and maintain a useful list of UK companies that ship to Spain for free or at least cheaply.
Telephone & internet
If you need to call friends and family back home you’ll find that, although they’re improving in competitiveness rapidly, standard Spanish phone and mobile deals still make it quite expensive to call abroad.
Movistar now has two add-on options for a fixed line, one where a 1€ per month additional payment will make your calls to most EU countries and the US massively cheaper and the second where a 5€ monthly payment gets you 500 minutes of calls to fixed line telephones in most EU countries and the US.
An even cheaper solution, if you have a broadband internet connection or a mobile plan with data allowance, is to use skype for free video calling or, if whoever you want to call isn’t on skype, buy skype credit which allows you to call from your computer or mobile to a UK landline for 1.9 cents/minute.
If you don’t have a broadband connection or Spanish mobile then look out in newsagents for prepaid calling cards, which are another very cheap solution.