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10 Things I Didn’t Expect About Living in Spain

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe Views

Since I’m living in Spain, I have discovered that there are vast cultural microcosms within the country. Before that, Spain brought to mind tapas, bullfighting, and sunny weather. From my Meddeas’ experience, I learnt that Spain is much more than what I thought.

1. How Each Part of Spain is so Different

Each part has its own attractions and cultural flairs; whether it be watching flamenco in Seville or hiking green mountains in the Basque Country. Every region has its own local food specialties, like pintxos from Bilbao or paella in coastal areas like Valencia.

Discovering that every region offers a distinct subculture makes traveling and living in Spain a novel adventure every time.

A stunning view of Gaztelugatxe from Game of Thrones, seen during one of my many trips around Spain. This was just a short hike outside of Bilbao!

2. How Traveling is so Simple

I knew Europe was very well-connected so traveling around would be a possibility, but I was shocked to learn how simple traveling can be in Spain! Flights from various cities are usually affordable and can take you to many different countries.

I was able to visit several European countries like the Netherlands, Greece and the UK. Even though I live in a smaller town in Andalucía, airports nearby were always accessible thanks to regular public transport.

Trains and buses can also transport you to other parts of Spain, whether it be a weekend in a major city like Seville or just a day trip to a local beach town. If you want to travel, Spain is a great destination to explore and discover new adventures with ease.

3. How I found a Tight-knit Community at my School

My school is a bit on the small side and I am the only Language Assistant there, so I was a bit nervous to get to know everyone at my colegio. However, my fellow teachers, the faculty, and the students welcomed me with open arms. I found that the students are interested and engaged in lessons and want to know about your life in another country. Teachers are quick to offer guidance and support to help me feel comfortable. Being included in school activities and getting to know each person has created a sense of community at my school, which makes it so much more.

4. How I Met so Many Other People Who Teach

There is a surprising amount of other Language Assistants in Spain, even in a smaller town like the one I live in. Through English meetups I have met a large network of friends in Spain and found some great friends through Meddeas. You’ll be able to find people from all over the world teaching near your town, I have friends from Canada, the US, the UK, and even Australia. It’s great to get some tapas with other Language Assistants after school and talk about our classes and weekend plans!

A beautiful glimpse of the sunset in Rota, Spain, taken during a day-trip from my town.

5. How Good the Food is

Before moving to Spain, I wasn’t sure what the food would be like, but the wide variety of local cuisines and tapas featured in Spain are simply delicious. Tortilla, patatas bravas, and jamón are common dishes you can find in most parts of Spain, all of which are both inexpensive and so tasty!

It’s great to try local specialties, like sherry, that is the main drink in my town. Spanish people often love to show off their cuisine so you may come into school one day and be offered homemade bocadillos or have friends offer to make you their family recipe of gazpacho. Discovering the food and tastes in Spain has been an adventure in and of itself!

Celebrating the local Feria del Caballo in Jerez.

6. How the Local Festivities are so Fun

Spain features so many fantastic festivals, like Las Fallas in Valencia or running of the bulls in Pamplona. In my region of Andalucía, each town has their own feria – a massive, week-long carnival with rides, games, dancing, and of course food.

Festivals like these bring together the local community and allow the city to show off the best it has to offer. My town also features specials Christmas shows called zambombas, which really help to get you into the holiday spirit.

Wherever you live in Spain, you are sure to find similar traditions that are unique to the local culture. And of course, you can travel to other cities to enjoy their festivals!

7. How the Cost of Living in Spain is so Cheap

Although bigger cities are more expensive, in general, the cost of living in Spain is quite cheap. So, you can go out for food and enjoy trips with your friends without having to worry too much about budgeting.

Supermarkets, clothes, and rent are all very cheap compared to my hometown in the United States. Flights, trains, hotels, and other travel accommodations are usually reasonably priced, so you can take trips a few times a year.

You can buy food for one or two euros, and rent is often a small percentage of your income. Budgeting is always a good idea. You can have a great quality of life without spending a ton of money in Spain!

8. How Speaking Spanish was Easier than I Expected

Although I studied Spanish in school, I anticipated there being some challenges getting used to speaking in Spanish all the time outside of school. However, after the initial shock of hearing it everywhere, it becomes second nature, even if you arrive in Spain with a lower level of Spanish fluency.

You’ll hear the language from the people around you, and have to speak it for yourself while going out to eat or at the supermarket. These small, daily interactions can quickly and easily teach you Spanish. You’ll be submerged in the language every day!

9. How Many Accents and Languages Here are Throughout the Country

I had thought that in Spain the people speak Spanish, period. That is not the case! Many differing accents, jargon, and languages offer a glimpse into that region’s culture.

The Basque Country, Catalonia, Galicia, and Valencia all have their own languages. People also speak Spanish. The region I live in Southern Spain has a distinct accent that took me some time getting used to. Even after studying Spanish, I’m still learning new slang words.

Getting to know your region’s own type of Spanish can help you in your fluency and give you a sense of the local flair.

10. How Welcoming and Warm Spanish People Can be

Spaniards are warm, friendly, and generally interested in your culture and where you come from. In my school, I have found a strong sense of community between Spanish people, who are always willing to help you. I’ve noticed the same thing in people I have gotten to know outside of class.

A few teachers offered me a drive to the airport when I was traveling. Some others show me the city when I first arrived, to know the best sites to see and places to eat. Getting to know people from your school and make friends from Spain can form great friendships. Also, they can give you local tips to best enjoy your time in Spain.

By Elton Taylor., 2018/2019/20

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