The Brain Drain in Spain 2: Flight to London

July 22, 2013

If you want to be kind of depressed – and your Spanish is up to it – go read the article published in El País Semanal yesterday entitled Fuga a Londres.

It’s good reporting, and tells the stories of several Spanish people who are part of the Brain Drain I talked about several weeks ago.

I was struck especially by the fact that (as we all know) it’s becoming more and more difficult to find a service-industry job in Spain if you don’t speak English.

In the article, they tell the story of a girl who moved to England when she found that she couldn’t even get a job folding sweaters in a clothes shop in Zaragoza without speaking English.

However, London is full of Spaniards who are able to get jobs despite not knowing English.

How is it possible that they can get a job in a country where almost everyone speaks English, while they’re unemployable in a country where almost no-one speaks English?

I suspect it’s just another example of academic inflation.

Going to a public university is (or was) so cheap that virtually anybody could get a degree. As a result, having a degree now means nothing.

These days, with more than 50 percent of young people unemployed, human resources departments can insist on only interviewing trilingual people with Master’s degrees and 5 years of experience, meaning that a whole generation has to leave the country if they want to do anything other than sit around their parents’ house until age 40.

I have students who have a Bachelor’s Degree and three Masters, but who say they get rejected for jobs because they don’t have a CAE. Everybody is fully aware that they would never actually have to speak English on the job–it’s just become another way for HR to reject them.

Another irony is that the Spanish are going to London to do “the jobs that English people don’t want.” All the while, Spain is still full of immigrants doing the jobs that Spanish people don’t want.

I guess working as a dishwasher in a foreign country is probably more interesting than working as a dishwasher in your hometown, but still. Except for some people who used to work in construction, I know very few foreign people here in Madrid who are unemployed. Most of them are employed doing badly paid menial jobs that Spaniards don’t apply for.

Oh, well. Ironies.

I have no idea where this country is going to end up. If all the best-qualified people move elsewhere and build up other countries’ economies, what is that going to be left here? Farmers, bartenders and trilingual hotel receptionists, I guess. Along with all the immigrants doing the jobs that the Spanish don’t want.

The adventure goes on… How many more years? I’d like to know.

See also: 4 things I wish I had known about life in Madrid.


Mr Chorizo.

P.S. Yesterday, the article was published with an affirmation that London is in the Schengen Area. It’s not. Great Britain is part of the European Union, which means that Spaniards can work and travel there without applying for a visa. But, as any non-European immigrant knows, it’s NOT part of the Schengen Treaty. Fact-checking, people! (They’ve since published a correction.)

P.P.S. This article also got a part 3: Flight of the Party Girls.

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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