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Nationals of EU countries, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland may freely work in Spain. If you are offered a contract, your employer will normally steer you through any bureaucracy.

Virtually everyone else is supposed to obtain, from a Spanish consulate in their country of residence, a work permit and, if they plan to stay more than 90 days, a residence visa. These procedures are well nigh impossible unless you have a job contract lined up before you begin them.

You could look for casual work in fruit picking, harvests or construction, but this is generally done with imported labour from Morocco and Eastern Europe, with pay and conditions that can best be described as dire.

Translating and interpreting could be an option if you are fluent in Spanish and a language in demand.

Another option might be au pair work, organised before you come to Spain. A useful guide is The Au Pair and Nanny’s Guide to Working Abroad, by Susan Griffith and Sharon Legg. Susan Griffith’s Work Your Way Around the World is also worth looking at.

University students or recent graduates might be able to set up an internship with companies in Spain. The Association of International Students for Economics and Commerce (www.aiesec.org), with branches throughout the world, helps member students find internships in related fields.

You can start a job search on the Web, for instance at Think Spain (www.thinkspain.com).

Business hours

Generally, Spaniards work Monday to Friday from about 9am to 2pm and then again from 4.30pm or 5pm for another three hours. Shops and travel agencies are usually open similar hours on Saturday as well, although many skip the evening session. The further south you go, the longer the afternoon break tends to be, with shops and the like staying closed until 6pm or so.

Big supermarkets and department stores, such as the nationwide El Corte Inglés chain, open from about 10am to 10pm Monday to Saturday. Shops in tourist resorts sometimes open on Sunday too.

Many government offices don’t bother opening in the afternoon, any day of the year. In summer, offices tend to go on to horario intensivo, which means they can start as early as 7am and finish up for the day by 2pm.

Museums all have their own opening hours: major ones tend to open for something like normal Spanish business hours (with or without the afternoon break), but often have their weekly closing day on Monday.

Pharmacies have a wide variety of opening hours. The standard hours follow those of other shops. In the bigger centres you will find several that open 24 hours a day. Some have extended hours, say 8am to 10pm, usually on a rota basis. To find out where late-opening pharmacies are in the cities and bigger towns, pick up the local paper.

As a general rule restaurants open their kitchens for lunch from 1pm to 4pm and for dinner from 8pm to midnight. The further south you go, the later locals tend to go out to eat. While restaurants in Barcelona may already be busy by 9.30pm, their Madrid counterparts are still half empty at this time. At lunch and dinner you can generally linger quite a while after the kitchen closes. Some, but by no means all, places close one or two days a week. Some also shut for a few weeks’ annual holiday – the most common period for this is during August.

Bars have a wider range of hours. Those that serve as cafés and snack bars can open from about 8am to the early evening. Those that are more nightlife bars may open in the early evening and generally close around 2am to 3am. Some places combine the two roles. As the bars close the clubs open (generally from around midnight or 1am to around 5am or 6am).

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