Why should people choose this destination?
Spain is similar enough to England that you won’t feel too out of your depth, yet there is still loads of rich history and culture that is really exciting to learn about and be a part of, from the countless fiestas to salsa dancing. Spain is also home of cheap tapas, nights out that last until 6am and the siesta – yes, it is perfectly acceptable to have a power nap after you’ve eaten your lunch. Add to that the good weather and many beautiful cities to visit and you’d be crazy not to want to go!
What are the travel/cultural highlights?
Whilst it is probably a cliché to mention the capital city, Madrid is definitely worth a visit. Even in just a weekend you can pack in so much, whether your thing is museums or quirky rooftop bars. Another favourite of mine was Seville, which has a beautiful plaza with a canal and lots of things to do and see.
In terms of culture, there are a lot of bull rings open to visitors. Even for people who disagree with the tradition of bullfighting, it’s interesting to see the ring and learn more about the history of this culture and how the festival actually works.
And wherever you go, find out the local delicacy and try it – each region has its own speciality, be it a tapa, main course or pastry. Some of my favourites are napolitanas, a pastry filled with chocolate, and flamenquín, a dish from Córdoba that consists of pork and ham that is breaded and fried.
How was the process of adjusting after being in the UK?
For me there were three main things that took a bit of getting used to, but thankfully they weren’t too extreme. The first was greetings: in Spain it’s customary to kiss people once on each cheek and that’s it, but I would always try to hug them too, and end up standing on their feet or hitting them in the face. Another thing to remember is the siesta – most shops shut for a few hours in the afternoon (probably between 12pm and 4pm) so don’t try to do your shopping at that time! And finally the meal times are very different – often lunch (the biggest meal) isn’t until 2pm or 3pm, whilst the evening meal is much smaller and is generally eaten at 9pm or later. I recommend keeping a stash of snacks in your room to see you through that long wait to lunch!
How expensive is it to live there?
Luckily it’s not too expensive at all! Rent is cheaper than England, as are most supermarkets. The thing that seemed most expensive to me was booking transport to other parts of Spain, but it is definitely still doable, especially if you’re willing to get a coach instead of a train.
What is your best piece of advice?
Get help from locals for anything bureaucratic! Unfortunately all the stereotypes about the Spanish being lazy are true, and depending on who you ask for help you will get different advice (even two people working in the same office will give you completely different information). If you’re not confident that you’ll manage it on your own then see if a native will go with you – it will make the process much less stressful and hopefully it can be completed in half the time!
What study abroad options are available?
If you are a native English speaker and studying a language degree then you can work as an English Language Assistant with British Council, working around 12 hours a week in one or more schools to support Spanish students learning English. Alternatively you could find a job placement yourself, or go there as an Erasmus student and study in a university. The last option isn’t limited to language students, so if you’re interested in a year abroad then it’s definitely worth enquiring about it!