Category Archives: Spain

MULTI-CULTURAL RELATIONSHIPS – Falling for a Foreigner

I just celebrated my 5 year anniversary with my half Spanish half Colombian boyfriend. When you consider that I am half British and half Cypriot, that’s an interesting mix of nationalities, although I know many more exotic couples than we are! So I wanted to share, in a light-hearted way, some of the pros and cons of falling in love with someone from a different country.

I don’t really like the word foreigner. It is, of course, a relative term and I am as much a foreigner to someone else as they are to me. Or more specifically in this case, I was the ‘extranjera’. I wasn’t even looking for a boyfriend, but that night in a bar in Madrid, I met such a special man that I welcomed him into my life for the long run. So let’s start with the pros.

  • Learning another language – I had been in Spain for almost a year when we met but my Spanish still left a lot to be desired! Google translate was the 3rd wheel on all our first dates and it was hilarious. There’s no better motivation to get good at a language quickly than when you are desperate to communicate with the person you’re falling in love with.
  • Gene diversity – this might sound like a joke but there is actually scientific evidence that gene diversity is linked to disease resistance. Good news for our future babies!
  • Open mind – living in another country will certainly open your mind but actually sharing your life with someone from another country will involve you day to day in another way of living so being open-minded is the only way it will work for both people!
  • More tolerant – learning about another culture from someone you love is bound to make you more tolerant and understanding of other people’s views and beliefs. You will realise that often there is no ‘right’ way to do things, rather, different ways. Part of the fun of a multi-cultural relationship is combining your two lifestyles and making a hybrid that is even better than either of the originals.
  • Know yourself better – the combination of opening your mind and becoming more tolerant inevitably leads to some self reflection. I cannot express how grateful I am to have learned so much about myself and to have questioned things I considered to be ‘right’, ‘normal’ and ‘good’. You get much closer to some kind of ‘truth’. It is so liberating to free yourself of your ‘home’ culture and to create your own life together with your partner, it’s like a fresh start.

I could only think of 3 cons which is a good sign!

  • Argument fails – the first time I tried to argue in Spanish was such a fail! You take it for granted being able to express yourself in your own language. It’s also when you realise how your brain doesn’t function quite the same when emotions are running high. The words didn’t come and I ended up reverting back to English even though I knew he didn’t understand. That also taught me about my lack of self-control in arguments so in the end it was actually useful. Even if you are quite advanced in the other language, if you don’t share the same first language as your partner then some misunderstandings are inevitable. There will be some mis-translations and even just some cultural differences in how you express emotions. It’s definitely a learning process.
  • Food differences – eating habits can differ greatly from country to country. We don’t realise how important our eating habits are to us until we can’t eat what we want when we want. But again, you keep an open mind and learn to adapt. In Spain the biggest meal of the day is usually lunch, with dinner being a lighter meal. Of course that is the other way around in the UK and I wanted my huge plate of pasta in the evening. I did get used to the Spanish way of eating though and learned to thoroughly enjoy my big bowl of plant-based pasta in the afternoon. It actually makes more sense to have the bigger meal for lunch!
  • Timing – this was a tricky one. It takes a bit of adapting to relax your concept of punctuality. That is a must if you live in Spain. However it’s a whole other level when you’re trying to navigate that in a relationship. I had to learn that ‘ya llego’ (literal translation – I’m arriving now) actually means ‘I’m on my way and I’ll be arriving in 10-20 minutes’. In the end there was some meeting in the middle on this one!

 

In the end, these cons just reaffirm my points about becoming more tolerant and openminded. So it’s really all positives! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, it’s just a bit of fun 🙂

MY TOP 5 TIPS FOR MOVING TO SPAIN – How to Survive and Thrive in Spanish Cities

Moving to Spain is an incredible adventure and the best decision I ever made. If you’re considering relocating to the country of sunshine, smiles and sangria, here are my 5 top tips to help you get the most out of your time in España!

1- Get a job

One of the most common jobs for fluent English speakers in Spain is teaching English. If you have good communication skills, enjoy being around people and like working independently then this might be a great option. While I lived in Madrid I taught English in businesses, to adults for the Cambridge exams, in private classes and to children in schools and extracurricular classes.
It’s a great job because you get to know Spanish people even if you can’t speak Spanish yet. It’s sociable and rewarding and it’s the kind of job that when you go home you can completely disconnect and enjoy your time in your new city! If you would like to teach English there is also the Auxiliar programme. In my opinion it is definitely worth getting a TEFL qualification before applying for English teaching jobs although some schools may accept native speakers without qualifications (they will pay less).
Of course there are many other options, perhaps your company already has an office there. Maybe you have an online business which allows you to work from anywhere. Perhaps you already speak Spanish, in which case you can apply for jobs directly in the Spanish job market. In any case, be prepared for your salary to be substantially lower but also know that the cost of living in Spain is also much lower. You can really enjoy your time in Spain with a very modest salary.

2 – Find an apartment

Do your research. Read about different areas of the city, find out about prices, the kinds of people who live there, the vibe of the neighbourhood. Check transport links and proximity to amenities like supermarkets, etc. Renting a place in Spanish cities is similar to most big European cites. If you have been renting before, take into consideration that your rent should be cheaper in Spain and check if bills and internet are included.
I recommend the website idealista.com especially if you are looking for just a room to rent in a shared property but also for whole apartments. It tends to be cheaper because there aren’t as many estate agents advertising on that site. You can also look at fotocasa.com. If you are renting from the landlord you will probably need one month’s rent plus a deposit (fianza) which is usually the same amount as one month’s rent. If you’re going through an estate agent you will also need to pay the administration fee.

3 – Learn the language

It is a good idea to learn at least basic Spanish before you go. The more you know, the easier it will be. Find a class, download a language app, watch films in Spanish, listen to music in Spanish. Become familiar with the sound of the language and practise as much as you can.
Once you get to Spain you can continue with classes but you also have options such as language exchanges which are free. Something I’d also recommend is to have somewhere on your phone where you can write down new words you learn throughout day so you don’t forget them. Watch the news in Spanish, it’s great because they use more formal language and speak clearly so it’s easier to understand and you have images for context.

4 – Get involved

When you move to a new city and especially a new country, it’s important to feel connected. A good way of doing this is to get involved with an activity you enjoy. It can be an existing hobby – join a sports club, find a yoga class, join a choir. It can also be a new activity – try a flamenco or salsa class, get involved with a charity. Not only will you be doing something fun but you will also meet new people.
Spanish people, in general, are very welcoming so make an effort to talk to them and make new friends. Not only will you feel more at home in your new city but it’s the best way to improve your Spanish too. You can also get local recommendations for places to eat or things to do.
It’s also nice to speak to people in English so join Facebook groups of other English speakers in your city and go to meet-ups. As much as it’s great to immerse yourself in the new culture, I know it can also be very tiring, especially if your Spanish isn’t fluent. It’s also nice to speak to people in your native language and share experiences with people who are doing something similar to you.

5 – Be open-minded

Moving to another country is a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow. Allow yourself to be open to new experiences and new ways of thinking. Just because you are used to doing things a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s better than a different way of doing things. By being open and interested towards new places and people, you’ll find you learn things about yourself that you never would have otherwise.
It is possible to live in another country and stay close-minded and stubborn in your ways of thinking but you will never get to truly enjoy the experience and grow as a person if you don’t become more open. Re-evaluation of your own lifestyle and beliefs can be hard and even realising you were wrong about certain things, but it will make you a more tolerant, understanding person. For everyone I know, living in another country has been one of the best decisions they’ve ever made. It certainly was for me and I can say with absolute certainty that it has made me a better person. Plus I met the love of my life in Spain.