Photo by Lee Woolcock
For many foreign residents, there comes a moment when some sort of a licence from the local authorities becomes indispensable, and they must overcome the human being’s natural disinclination to deal with bureaucracy. Well, buck up, stiff upper lip and all that, because you’re not likely to be the first foreigner to apply for whatever licence it is that you need. It’ll probably cost some euros, require a certain amount of preparation and/or study and persistence, but things will work out fine. Here are a few case histories of those who have gone before.
Joanne Burns obtained her standard ‘B’ driving licence last April. It cost her about €2,000, even though she passed first time.
I didn’t learn to drive in Ireland because I never needed to. Here I work outside Barcelona and got really tired of taking the bus. I learned in a RAC school. First, you must take the theory test. After you pass, you take practical lessons with a driving instructor.
Going into the test was like jumping into the deep end of a swimming pool blindfolded. They used to offer a ‘language-adapted’ theory test for non-natives, but now you either take the theory test in Spanish, or in English. I took the test in Spanish, but bought the books in English and Spanish to help me understand. I was going to take it in English, but the translations were so bad that some questions were incomprehensible! The Spanish theory was extremely difficult. It was full of language tricks and false friends. I thought it would be impossible to pass. But after four months of intensive studying, three classes a week, I passed.
In Spain, it’s illegal to go out practising with a provisional licence and another licensed driver. My instructor was Portuguese, and spoke bad Spanish. I had to wait for six months to get a time slot with him that fitted in with my work schedule. I had a practical lesson every morning at 7am for about two months.
In the test there are four of you in the car: you, your driving instructor, someone else taking the test and the examiner. I passed, which is just as well because if you fail costs shoot up. In contrast to the theory, the practical was too easy. You only drive for 20 minutes. They didn’t test me on reversing around a corner or a three-point turn...in fact, my instructor told me that none of this was important.
Steve Taylor has passed the theory exam for his Spanish recreational sailing licence, the Patrón de Embarcaciones de Recreo (PER), and just needs 16 hours of experience in a boat to receive it.
My dad was a head lighthouse keeper on the Queensland coast, so I’ve been in and out of boats all my life. The course was a gift [from my wife]; for our honeymoon we visited some of the islands where I grew up and as we couldn’t rent a boat by ourselves, my wife thought it would make a good present.
There are a series of licences that allow you to go further from the coast in progressively bigger craft. You can start at any level, time and money permitting. The Titulín gets you in a six-metre boat and allows you out four miles; the Recreo allows you up to 12 miles out, in a 12-metre boat, anywhere in the world.
I studied at an established school, Mar Libre (www.marlibre.com). The month-long course costs between €800-€900. I was lucky as my class had four people in it while the one before had 30. In the exam, about 90 percent of candidates were men. You have to pass a two-and-a-half hour theory exam. Terms are all in Spanish, while English is the international sea language.
You have to memorise a lot. Theory covers safety features, a set of rules called RIPA designed to prevent accidents at sea, meteorology and how to read maps, although these days everyone has GPS. We used the Strait of Gibraltar as an example, as it’s notoriously difficult to navigate. Practical experience in a boat is a formality, and includes how to tie knots.
Owning a boat is a luxury and many people are now trying to sell theirs. In Barcelona it’s really expensive to moor, about €400 a month. You also have to pay for a craft check-up every three years.
Melbourne-born Matt Grant opened Bar Incognito (www.incognitobarbcn.com) with partners Ana Jelic and Nicole McManus in February 2008.
I’ve worked in the hospitality industry for a number of years. We looked at 20 or 30 traspasos in a six-month period, that’s a lease on a bar or a restaurant. There are three kinds of licences: C1 is drinks and snacks, and you can trade until 3am. C2 is a tapas place, for example. C3 is a restaurant. The length of the lease depends on when you come into it, and a particular licence comes along with the space.
For the space and location we thought this place was the best value for money. It’s a great size with a high ceiling, which is unusual. Noise is an issue in Barcelona, and it was already soundproofed. It took us three months to redecorate.
We had some money and we wrote a kick-arse 24-page business plan, translated it into Spanish and approached three banks. The first two insisted on property in Spain as a guarantee. But when we approached the third, the Catalan government had just announced that it wanted to give first-time businesses a boost, so we got a loan that covered a quarter of our costs. Things are different now with the recession. You may find it impossible to get a loan but there are three times as many places up for lease. Rents may not be lower, but the deposit may be.
Inspections! That’s the scary word. Guàrdia Urbana deals with complaints from neighbours. Mossos check on safety features and insurance. In 2007, there was a clampdown on employing illegal staff. If you employ anyone without papers they can shut you down. We’ve been inspected twice in a year, and we take no risks.
Dean Malcolm has run his importing business Australian Gourmet (www.australiangourmets.com) for 10 years. He must renew his licence every five.
I obtained the licence from the Registre Sanitari d’Indústries i Productes Alimentaris Catalan (RSIPAC), the Catalan wing of the Spanish health department. It entitles me to import and distribute farmed meat and wild game.
In New Zealand, livestock is grass-fed in fresh air, and is hormone-free. Farming techniques are sophisticated, as the dimensions are larger. Here, I mainly deal to hotels and restaurants. There is a growing market for high quality and organic products.
I presented a business plan covering everything from the origin of the product to its distribution. Meat importation is strictly regulated by the EU. Go into any cold store in Europe, and you can trace products to where and when they were produced.
I ship meat in by sea, which takes about five weeks. It arrives in Belgium or Holland, then is transported to Barcelona. You are subject to quotas and taxes with lamb and beef. Speciality meats, like kangaroo, have no quota, but you pay more to import it. On top of that, I pay Spanish IVA [VAT]. I have tried to import other products, such as wine, but it’s heavily taxed and I couldn’t compete with the established Spanish wine
Trade barriers are restrictive and elitist. New Zealand has strong historical links while Brazil is a country that’s gaining ground politically and economically. But many other Latin American or African countries are blocked from selling their products, and can’t develop.
My competitors are giant companies that sell at knockdown prices to monopolise the market: it’s bad for the environment and farmers who produce a quality product get a raw deal. I’d love to organise a means for New Zealand farmers to benefit directly from the sale of their products.