Expat Series: Living in Valencia, Spain – Interview from a True Expat

This month’s #ExpatSeries takes us to Valencia, Spain. Valencia is on the east coast of Spain and is the third largest city behind Madrid and Barcelona. The vibrant, diverse and cost effective (compared to larger cities in Spain) city of Valencia is where our featured expat Rangel Toussiant spent time getting his education and jump starting his career.

Rangel is a Bronx, NY native who has found a great love for Valencia and continues to find opportunity to flourish personally and professionally in this culturally diverse oasis.

Meet Rangel – Student. DJ. Consultant. Global Citizen. Future Music Mogul

The Arrival

On August 26, 2015, Rangel arrived in Valencia with a purpose to continue his education and begun his studies at Berklee College of Music, an American institution with a campus in Valencia. As he begun to pursue his Master’s degree in Global Entertainment and Music Business, he begun to fully immerse himself in the culture of his new environment and explore all that Valencia had to offer. It has been 2 years since his arrival and with growing working opportunities, creating a life abroad in Valencia for Rangel continues to be a great move!

Deciding where to study abroad and where to live can be tough! In 2011, Rangel was able to visit four cities in Spain with his brother: Barcelona, Madrid, Ibizia and Valencia. Taking this trip prior to pursuing his studies was helpful to understand the culture in and around Valencia. At this time, Rangel had no idea that he would be living in Valencia nearly 4 years later but it was the place, out of the four, that he enjoyed the most. “The other cities had its own distinct charm and appeal but Valencia had a very different feel from what I was used to growing up in New York City and I think that difference is what attracted me to it.”

A Day In the Life…

Describe a typical week for you

My  typical day is a bit different that his normal life in NYC and that is a plus! My day to day is very different which is one thing I love about living here so much. My life hasn’t been as routine as it was in NYC and as a person that likes and appreciates change, routine can become a burden and extremely draining.

On Mondays, hanging out at the beach during the morning, taking in some sun, and people watching while listening to the sounds of the Mediterranean Sea is the way Rangel unwinds from a long work week.

On a typical Tuesday, waking up at the crack of dawn to meet with some partners at Underwood People (a clothing brand I work with), will be working alongside with for a festival at the end of this month in Sevilla, Spain; the festival is called Inter Estelar (as I did today) and Wednesday all I might have on the agenda is my weekly run and some miscellaneous errands; so daily life is erratic but I love that part about it, helps keep me focused and organized. Non-essential routines, i.e. eating, showering, sleeping, stagnate me. As for getting set up as an expat I didn’t really force anything, I just went with the flow of the city and people and learned by taking chances and making mistakes and soon enough I felt integrated into the culture; speaking fluent Spanish and being wildly ambitious helped as well.

Getting Settled…

How did you obtain a visa, housing and a cell phone? 

Being student has its advantages! Attending an American institution helped with housing because Rangel secure housing on campus and health insurance which came with the admission package. Staying connected is key! Living so far away from home, buying a mobile phone is important when navigating through the city and checking in with family. Opening up a bank account is a bit easier in Spain because the options are plenty. “As for my cell phone, I used my own and connected it to a Spanish phone carrier (Vodafone) and opened up a bank account at one of the more popular banks in Spain called Santander; but all “how to” info was provided by the school so they made it extremely easier for me.” 

Upon arriving in 2015 as student, the student visa was the most likely (and easiest) type of visa to obtain. After finishing the master’s program, it is now necessary to apply and get approved for a work visa to be able to stay and earn a living in Spain. This only applies to foreigners that reside outside of the European Union. If you were born in one of the countries that make up the European Union you can move and work freely among those countries, which include Spain. For more detailed information visit here!

Do you speak the language?

Yes, I speak Spanish and my Spanish has improved greatly since being here but the Spanish here is different from the one I grew up speaking (Latino Spanish). At first I wasn’t as confident in speaking it and I still rather speak English but I don’t encounter communication barriers on a daily basis. Sometimes I will use a word the locals aren’t familiar with or vice-versa, but those times are definitely the exceptions at this point.

Getting Around Town and Working…

How Do You Get Around Town?

Valencia is a flat city, for the most part, and it is not too big so walking is the norm, especially because the weather is so great! Europe in general is a bike culture. “I also do ride bikes (I bought a yearly Valenbisi (city bike company) membership for about 30 Euros), and when “painting the town red” I rely on taxis which are very affordable. I don’t usually take the bus or metro (trains, obviously) here but there is quite an extensive bus/metro service that gets you around Valencia.”

Do you work in Valencia, if so, where?

I have various jobs while I’m out here. I obtained my jobs from a blend of networking and the traditional ways of job searching. I DJ, occasionally, trying to get gigs more often in a market not tailored to the music I play so getting gigs is difficult but possible. DJing gigs are mostly obtained by referrals, especially if I am trying to DJ in the hot spots which would be great for my career.

Additionally, I am a consultant for Translation LLC, a music technology company based out of San Francisco started by Steve Stoute, and I got that position through my network. A good friend of mine whom I met at Berklee, who was my classmate last year, works for Translation LLC and mentioned my name when the position became available. [Living aboard requires a lot of networking and making great connection. There is no tell what opportunities can come out of meeting new people and experiencing new things.]

Lastly, I work as Brand/Music Manager for Undërwood People, a Nordic clothing company based out of Valencia. I also got that position from the network I have built while in Valencia. I met the founder of the company through a mutual friend, my barber, and the rest is history!

So, if there is a lesson learned here, it’s that it is absolutely true that “it’s not what you know but WHO you know”, I’m living proof.   Working as Brand/Music Manager for Undërwood has exposed me to tons of different aspects of the music industry that I wasn’t too familiar with, live music being the main aspect.

I have earned the opportunity to work with some of the top talents in Spain, both indie and mainstream. I have thus far worked two festivals, Arenal Sound and Viña Rock.

How is the work culture in Valencia?

As for the work culture, the most noticeable difference is the pace in which the work day is approached. “Siesta”, Spanish for “nap”, is a cultural staple here; businesses close for 2-3 hours midday, usually from 2-4:30/5 or 14-16:30/17. Being from NYC, I [have to adjust to this cultural norm] more because NYC is always on 100 and the hustle and bustle is part of the NYC lifestyle, but a midday nap is something I could get used to!

The Pros and Cons of Living in Valencia…

Loves and Dislikes

Love: weather, location (Spain is the “door” to Europe and it is located in an extremely convenient location in regards to travel), food, people (for the most part), culture, traditions, women, cost of living, pace of life, beach proximity, love for Americans (especially New Yorkers), the variety of different peoples from different parts of the globe.

Dislike: racism mostly due to ignorance but wrong nonetheless, people (refer to “for the most part” above), distance from New York, lack of a hip hop scene (although it is growing and it is very appreciated the few times a hip hop event takes place), size of food portions, constant Spanish speaking, constant Futbol watching and the 6 hour difference to New York makes it extremely difficult to watch live sporting events and awards shows.

The American Perspective 

I can’t remember ever seeing the American media mentioning Valencia, but in regards to Spain I have never heard anything negative from the American media. On the contrary, on various occasions the American media has boosted about how great of a country Spain is, which it really is. The only negative thing I have ever heard is when it comes to sports, especially basketball, that the Spanish players are “soft”, which is true, but it’s a European thing, not just a Spain thing.

These are a Few of my Favorite Things…

Thing To Do: Network, in any capacity; whether it be at work, nightlife, jam sessions, etc. I love meeting new people and being in uncomfortable situations, experiencing new things and creating new memories.

Place To Go Out: Party wise or in general? Hip Hop nights at Rumbo NightClub on Wednesday night. If it’s in general it’ll have to be going to my favorite bar in Valencia, where I am like family; it is an Italian bar called Cuatro Monos in the neighborhood of Ruzafa or travelling to Granada, in the South of Spain, which I absolutely love. 

Place To Eat: Argentinean Steakhouse called Cruz Pampa in Valencia.

Neighborhood: This depends on my mood, the day, and time of year but the neighborhoods that I most frequently visit in Valencia are Ruzafa, Canovas, and El Carmen.

Memory Made: Having my mother, sister, brother, nephew, and my ex-girlfriend (who is like family to me) come visit and experience Spain for the first time by coming to visit me, excluding my brother because he was here already in 2011 with me.

Words of Wisdom…

Trust the timing of your life! If you could look yourself in the mirror and keep it 100 and be able to say that you are truly putting your best effort forward, then that is success for you! Stay the course, REALLY believe in yourself (not just talk it), and put out in the world what you want to see in the world. AND PLEEASSSSEEEE, ENJOY THE JOURNEY!!!! It will only benefit you!

Follow Rangel’s journey on Facebook and Instagram.

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