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Al revés: ¿Que sorprende a los españoles sobre los ingléses?

Hace unos meses, dije que escribiría por lo menos uno post en español al mes con el propósito de llamar la atención de más lectores españoles y, por supuesto, para mejorar mi nivel de español permanentemente insatisfactorio. Como es de esperar, no he cumplido esa promesa, principalmente por estar demasiado flojo pero también porque no quiero que me avergüence.

Sin embargo, nunca vamos a aprender si no nos comitimos hacer los errores (si acabo de hacer uno no es que quería estar irónico).

Entonces, si eres español, o hablas super, super bien por favor dime lo que he dicho mal y por que en la sección de los comentarios abajo icon smile Al revés: ¿Que sorprende a los españoles sobre los ingléses?

Bueno, a la tema del post.

Aquí en España, nosotros ‘guiris’ solemos a notar esas cositas raras que paracen completemente normal a los españoles. A veces nos reímos, a veces nos enfadamos, otras veces miramos fijamente en estado de shock a lo que estamos viendo. Por ejemplo, cuando vi para la primera vez a los costaleros encapuchados y genuinamente aterrorizantes en semana santa, o cuando alguien me explicó que exactamente lleva una tortilla de Sacromonte. Pero la cultura es la que es, en cualquier país del mundo. Entonces, con eso pensamiento, me pregunté: ¿Que, exactamente, sorprende los españoles sobre los ingléses?

Por suerte, tengo amigos españoles que han pasado tiempo en Inglaterra, o que estan ahora, y estaban feliz a aclarar el asunto para mi. Este es lo que dijeron:

No railings on windows!

Es costumbre a tener barandillas en frente de las ventanas en España. En Inglaterra, este no existe, agradecidamente. Mi amiga me dice que son usadas para protegerse contra los ladrónes. Y ella le digo que ya tenemos alarmas antirobos para eso y que no queremos que nuestras habitaciónes parezcan como celdas de la prisión.

No blinds on windows!

Parecer estar una gran diferencia entre las ventanas españolas y inglésas. Las persianas también son evidentemente muy importante para los españoles. Tiene sentido, si se considera cuanto luz solar hay en España, pero en Inglaterra casi nunca hace sol, entonces como se las echa de menos?  La solución en mi opinón es simple: vete a John Lewis para comprar unas cortinas gordas. Es básicamente como doble acristalamiento.

window Al revés: ¿Que sorprende a los españoles sobre los ingléses?

Quiero mis persianaaaas!!

Carpet in the bathroom!

Ahora que lo pienso, de verdad es raro que pogamos moqueta en nuestros baños. Supongo que – otra vez – sea por el maldito frio interminable en Inglaterra; no queremos que los pies se congelen por la mañana. Pero el baño es un cuarto que se humedece y se ensucia facilmente, y si hay moqueta la tarea de limpiar sólo puede ser más difícil…

Too many sandwiches!

Decir la verdad, esta no me sorprende. Llevo tres años en España y siempre mis compañeros de piso me han dicho que como los sandwiches como una vaca come la hierba. ¿Que puedo decir? Nos encanta los sandwiches. Dame un ‘Boots Meal Deal’ cualquier día de la semana y me tienes a tu dispoción. O todavía mejor, un BLT calorifico de M&S. Riquísimo!

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Food Porn (Dana Mcmahon FlickrCC)

Boys are bad kissers!

Vale, entiendo que no tratamos bien los dos besos en los mofletes cuando conocimos a alguien pero que besamos mal en general? No puede ser! Pero mi amiga me dice que si. No sé, quizás ella ha tenido mala suerte – no me ha besado, por ejemplo. O quizás es la verdad. Chicas, ¿que pensaís?

Warm Beer!

Tienen razon. ¿Por que bebimos cerveza caliente? Bueno, no es que la preferimos asi, más bien por nuestra alta nivel de impaciencia (ver abajo), pero realmente sólo pasa en situaciónes extremas – los festivales, por ejemplo, o cuando hacemos un picnic. Imaginate eso: un picnic extremo. Habría tantos sandwiches. Mmm.

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Mejor servido: caliente.

Drinking Habits!

Hace unos años el gobierno británico aprobó el ley reguladora de 24 horas, con el intento de traer al nación una cultura más civilizada y acabar con el ‘binge drinking’. Como era de esperar, fracasó, y ahora está peor que era antes. Aunque los españoles les gusta mucho a beber y hacer las fiestas, este exhibición de desenfreno desvergonzado les pilla por sorpresa. Igual a las tallas de los vasos; en España se puede elegir entre medio litro, tubo o caña si quieres cerveza, en Inglaterra es ‘pint’ o ‘half’ y ya está.

Inappropriate dress code!

Como ya sabe todo el mundo, hace tiempo de mierda en Inglaterra casi todo el año. En el invierno, no suele a llover tanto, pero hace un frio que pela casi todos los días. Sin embargo, este no impede a las chicas llevar las minifaldas y vestidos pequeñisimos – algo que, aparentemente, dejan los españoles y probablemente el resto del mundo boquiabiertos. Seguro que lo habeís visto en España también: el guiri llevará su camiseta y sus chanclas a cada oportunidad que le presente. Sencillamente, tenemos piel gruesa; una resistencia desarrollada al frio la que nos permite llevar ropa asi.

fatgeordiegirls Al revés: ¿Que sorprende a los españoles sobre los ingléses?

Normal.

Que conste, no llevo las minifaldas y vestidos pequeñisimos, sólo los tacones.

¿Vives tu en Inglaterra? ¿Has vivido allí antes? ¿Que más te sorprende sobre los ingléses? Quizás encontrarías útil esta pagina de web sobre la vida como un español en Inglaterra

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sayingcheers

The Ten Spanish Drinking Commandments

There’s a knack to drinking in Spain; a certain manifesto that – given enough time – one generally becomes accustomed to. We Brits are used to a binge-drinking culture that for one reason or another didn’t go away after the Labour party brought in 24-hour licensing laws in 2005. The rationale was that it would instil more of a sophisticated, continental café-type drinking attitude. A legitimate proposal, you might argue, but doomed from the start really.

But this notion of a ‘café-drinking culture’ could only have sprung from countries like France, Belgium and indeed, Spain. Yet I often wonder how and why this is.

I can’t speak for France or Belgium but here in Spain, I’ve rarely felt sophisticated when knocking back the beers with amigos at the weekend. Not to say, of course, that civilised and responsible drinking doesn’t take place – this does happen, and is generally a daytime custom – but going out for a drink frequently means the same thing as it does in Britain: going out for a drink to get drunk. And when this happens, there are rules to follow. Thus, I doth bring you…

THE 10 SPANISH DRINKING COMMANDMENTS

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One: Thou shalt choose wisely

As is the case anywhere in the world, getting to know foreign beverages duly involves many instances of trial and error. There are inevitably good ones and bad ones, which can usually be set apart judging by their respective price tags. In Spain, however, each beer, glass of wine or copa is often as cheap or costly as the next, and unless you’ve a Spanish friend on hand to help, you’ll end up having to sift your way through them all until you find a winner. Everyone has their preferences, but as a rule of thumb, don’t go for:

Cruz Campo: A Sevillana cerveza that is essentially Spain’s equivalent to Fosters, unless of course you are in Seville, where it is considered to be almost on par with holy water.

Sangría: Not only will this probably not be available, but it is a proper tourist drink that is usually made with the cheapest, nastiest wine and liquor that is too embarrassing to leave on the back bar – unless you’re at a fancy beach bar on the Costa del Sol.

Ron Negrita: A good choice if one’s sole intention is to become inebriated as quickly as possible – it’s strong, and cheap when bought from a supermarket, but be warned: the resaca is devastating.

Two: Thou shalt speak with proper tongue

In the UK we say ‘Cheers’, often not even excitedly, before we take that first, yearned-for sip. In Spain, you could probably write a book on the things to say and how to say them before getting stuck in. ‘Salud!’ is the direct translation – fair enough – but occasionally one is required to join in with longer, often rather puzzling verses, the learning of which is effectively a rite of passage for us guiris. ‘Pa arriba’, pa’ bajo, pa’ al centro, pa’ dentro!’ – ‘Up, down, to the centre, inside’ – is the most commonly used expression. Andalucíans can be crude though, as is exhibited through the use of: ‘Quien no apoya no folla, quien no recorre no se corre’ – He who doesn’t support doesn’t get laid, he who doesn’t ‘run along the surface’ doesn’t well, er, ‘finish the job’, so to speak. How British of me.

Three: Thou shalt not forget the proper traditions

As is customary to learn the local limericks and sayings, boorish as they may be, one must also respect the non-verbal rituals when out drinking in Spain. Rubbing the bottom of your glass in a circular motion on the bar or table and then banging it back down is one such example. Even today I haven’t a clue as to why we do it. I suppose it’s one of those little mysteries I enjoy being confounded by. It takes place in between saying ‘Salud!’ and taking that first swig, which is where the next practice comes in: eye contact. If you fail to make eye contact at that precise moment the first sip is taken, you are, effectively, condemning yourself to seven years of bad sex. Yes I know! I gulped too.

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Here’s to some great sex!

Four: Thou shalt exercise caution

I’ve alluded to the importance of drinking stamina in Spain before, but it really is beyond doubt the single most fundamental commandment of the 10 Spanish drinking commandments. We go all night in Spain, and if you don’t pace yourself then you could be in for a sudden case of las naúseas later on down the line. Be clever and go slow.

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The Finish Line at 8am

Five: Thou shalt drink at lunch time

Forget any pre-conceived idea of what society constitutes as ‘normal’ drinking hours. Any hour is a drinking hour in Spain. Some Spaniards even consider it unusual for somebody not to have a beer during a lunch break. ‘Why bother with coke?’ I was once asked. ‘It’s the same price as beer.’ Fair point really.

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Six: Thou shalt not be vexed by la cuenta police

Most bars in Spain do not charge customers until they are ready to leave. This is fine, providing you are not part of a large group and have inadvertently become involved in a longwinded, tedious squabble over who’s had what and who owes who. As was touched on by Jess of HolaYessica! (in a post that I can no longer find) a few months ago, this can get very annoying. Personally, I am of the ‘let’s just split it evenly to keep it simple and painless’ sect; there’s no mood killer quite like somebody taking out their smartphone to work out how much more that person who was on the mojitos owes. However, this is often the case here in Spain and if you’re like me then you just have to learn to deal with it.

Seven: Thou shalt eat whenever possible

If there’s a tapa there, take it. As commandment four stipulates, pacing oneself is imperative if you are to make it safely to the finish line. Food is fuel and – if you’re in my neck of the woods – served free with every drink. When tapas are finished for the night (generally around midnight in most places) there’s always that tasty, irresistible-when-drunk-and-hungry alternative: el Shawarma. Best to keep an emergency pack of chewing gum about for when this happens though – don’t want to scare off that pretty Spanish girl now do we? Or boy – girls like shawarma too.

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Eight: Thou shalt take a nap beforehand

A Spanish politician recently suggested that Spain do away with the siesta so as to help boost the country’s failing economy by having longer working hours. There was uproar. Siestas are fundamentally important here, whether meant as strategic pre-drinking snoozes or not. In any case, they can potentially determine the outcome of a night out: still up at dawn singing loudly, or in bed by 2am, snoring loudly.

Nine: Thou shalt attend a ‘botellon’ at least once

The term ‘botellon’ is used loosely to refer to what we Brits simply call ‘pre-drinking’. It takes place either in somebody’s home before la hora de salir in order to attain a satisfactory and cost-effective level of drunkenness, or out on the streets among hundreds of other tipple-toting dipsomaniacs. The majority of these tend to be alarmingly young looking, often because they are in fact very, very young. The police let them get on with it, providing they all stay out of trouble, and here in Granada, there is even a large, designated area, known as el Botollodromo, where this shameless debauchery takes place. Ten years ago I would have loved it. These days, however, I’d rather go for option one in the comfort of a cozy home. You might like it though.

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Botellon (Source)

Ten: Thou shalt learn these words

Here and there I’ve inserted some useful Spanish words and phrases that you may very well need when drinking in Spain. Here are their translations, along with a few others:

‘la hora de salir’ – time to leave

‘copa’ – spirit and mixer

‘llename’ – fill me up

‘un chupito’ – a shot

‘ponme otro’ – another one please

‘cuanto cuesta?’ – how much?

‘venga otro más’ – sod it give us one more

‘buenas noches’ – good night

‘resaca’ – hangover

‘las naúseas’ – the act of being repeatedly sick

imag0063 The Ten Spanish Drinking Commandments

Cidra y Perucci Martinis

Got any more to add to the list? Let’s hear them in the comments section below…

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hippie hippy granada andalucia san miguel alto tropical perdiz

Hippies

Hippies are sundry

They come in many molds

Some black, some white, some fat, some thin

Some drunk, some young, some old

 

In any case one value is shared:

A love for all things we are bestowed

Whether sons, daughters or mongrels

Cheap rum or veggie curry by the load

 

By day they work to keep afloat

At night they rave in droves

Some go on until the next morning

Others retreat, beaten, to their coves

 

Shabby, bearded and bedraggled

An exterior is of little concern

It’s the beauty on the inside that counts:

A lesson we all ought to learn

 

Hippies take each day as it comes

With a constant and catching smile

Deadlines and spreadsheets are meaningless

Goji beans are far more worthwhile

 

Yet on we go, living our lives

All loud, headlong and zippy

Wouldn’t it be swell, if just for a short spell

We all lived more like a hippie?

 

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All these pictures were taken at San Miguel Alto, the highest point of Granada, during one of the numerous, free daytime fiestas that take place between the spring and autumn. For me, it is exactly this sort of thing that epitomises Granada, and how I will always remember it.

 

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uk to spain, transition

The Transition

I’ll never forget my first night in Spain. It was the start of a new chapter, and one that I had undertaken completely by myself. Initially I had been excited, ready to throw myself in at the deep end. Hours into my new life though, this excitement had abruptly transformed into a sinking feeling of loss and isolation. Gripped with doubt and anxiety, I didn’t sleep a wink. It was the loneliest night of my life.

Over the next few days, I came to realise that everything and everyone in my life had become part of my past, and although there would inevitably be visits and reunions of sorts down the line, I was essentially staring down a path filled with uncertainty for the very first time: I’d graduated, I’d done my gap and I’d done a TEFL. This was it. Adulthood. Career. Responsibility. Life.

keepcalmenglish The Transition

Granted, I was glad of the heat – leaving all that rain and gloom behind was gratifying to say the least – and bursting to learn and thus be able to speak Spanish, something which I had naively assumed possible in under one year, but at that point neither of these considerations could cheer me up.

To make matters worse I couldn’t understand anything. It was culture shock, pure and simple. And I had been so sure I’d take to Spain like a duck to water. I’d lived abroad in Canada for nine months before, but that was with English-speaking people in an English-speaking country – Spain was evidently going to be a much tougher nut to crack and this duck was flapping, quacking and sinking fast.

Meeting people was the biggest struggle; I couldn’t speak Spanish and was completely dependent on other newbie English teachers, many of whom I had to pretend to get along with in order to have a social life. In fact, if I hadn’t been enjoying my new job so much I could quite easily have given up and gone home in those first few weeks. I didn’t though. I stuck with it, and eventually I was rewarded for my hardiness. I was learning Spanish, speaking Spanish (albeit the same Friday-night drunken ramblings on most occasions), soon making new friends and still loving the job. By March, I was totally settled, and ready to explore more of Spain. I was happy.

Now, almost three years down the line I am temporarily back in Britain – London, more specifically, where I am busying myself as an intern for a certain tabloid newspaper. It’s quite the transition, Granada to London, particularly after six uninterrupted months of the comparatively quiet Spanish life. Yes there’s the stuffy tube, relentless traffic and piss-poor weather (though I should point out that this last week has been glorious) but there’s more to it than that.

‘Reverse culture shock’ is what Google’s calling it. Frankly, this probably isn’t what it is; I’m not in shock, and I went through the same transition last year. So no, definitely not that. I am, however, feeling increasingly alienated from my life in the UK, which I am only ever reminded of when I come back. Things change, people move on, get new jobs, get married, have kids, and it’s weird for me. I don’t lament the ‘good old days’ or any of that nonsense, I just feel as though my life in the UK is stuck on pause, and each year I want to spend less time here so I feel like I’m progressing again.

cultureshock The Transition

Essentially, I’m worried that my being in Spain, which I love, is driving me away from home ­– something I didn’t sign up for. But now, after more or less three years in Spain, it’s honestly beginning to feel a lot like home, and I’m not ready to abandon that yet.

But that’s a good thing I think. And everybody else I talk to about it seems to agree.

Anyhow, this post wasn’t meant to be all maudlin and soul-baring. Nor is it, I hope. I was supposed to give a few light-hearted tips on how to re-adjust to your homeland. Oh well. I’ll save that one for next time.

Expats, have you ever experienced culture shock or ‘reverse culture shock’?

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The Alhambra Palace, Granada, Spain, winter, sierra nevada

5 Reasons why I’m Staying in Granada

A couple of months back I posted a long, rambling piece expounding my ongoing frustration at not being able to decide where I would call home next year. My options, as far as I could see, were fairly straightforward:

  1. Give up my life here in Granada, go home and begin looking for a job – any job – that would pay substantially better wages than those of an English teacher in Spain.
  2. Move elsewhere within Spain and continue teaching English while attempting to pursue other, hopefully profitable avenues of interest.
  3. Stay put here in Granada, where I had begun to feel quite attached, and continue teaching English while attempting to pursue other, hopefully profitable avenues of interest.

Option 3 always had its nose in front; it was by far the easiest way to go. Yet ‘easiest’ – at least for a while – amounted to ‘laziest’ and ‘most irrational’ in my mind. I kept convincing myself it was the wrong choice to make – that I’d be effectively relegating myself to a career in teaching English if I stayed, which, needless to say, is not what I intend to do with my life.

Many of you left comments and offered me sound and heartfelt advice, which was received with enormous gratitude. Thank you. I even received a longwinded, matter-of-fact email from some guy who’d stumbled across the blog via my couchsurfing profile. I never got back to him, but if he’s reading this, then thank you too.

But even after all that, I was still unable to make a decision. And that’s how it stayed, until the penny finally dropped on one gloriously sunny afternoon on Cantarriján beach, as I sat back with a mojito in hand. Moments before, I had been sunbathing in 27° heat, and 3 hours prior to that I’d been strapped to a snowboard hurling myself down the hoary peaks of the Sierra Nevada.

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That mojito

How, in the name of jamón Serrano and tinto de verano, could I turn my back on that sort of lifestyle?

Well, ‘lifestyle’ may be putting it somewhat optimistically, but the point is that there was virtually nowhere else in the world I could’ve pulled off a feat quite as awesome as that. All of a sudden, any lingering uncertainty in my mind had vanished, and all I could think about were the plentiful reasons why I was undoubtedly going to stay. Here are five of them:

One: The People

I’ve been lucky enough to meet some truly excellent people since my arrival in September 2011. Initially, forming friendships with non-English speaking Spaniards proved tough, as my own level of Spanish was low and I hadn’t quite begun to feel settled. Moreover, I was determined not to slip into the confines of the ‘guiri bubble’, so duly tried my best to keep away from the typical hangouts. And by ‘hangouts’ I obviously mean ‘Irish pubs’.

These days, I’m as big a guiri as you’ll ever come across. I can often be found watching football and glugging back pints of tapa-less lager in Irish pubs. Well, one Irish pub to be exact. But I’ve absolutely no shame in admitting that; it’s here where I have met people who I now regard as best and closest friends.

Of course that’s not to say I haven’t neglected my Spanish-speaking social life – I am the undisputed intercambio king of Granada don’t you know. And the hippie vibe in Granada is very special, as can be seen in this shot below, of a huge, spontaneous party that took place in La Huerta de Carlos in el albaicin not long ago.

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People, in La Huerta de Carlos, El Albaicin

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On the way to the beach from The Sierra Nevada

Two: The City

Chances are if you’ve read this blog before you’ll probably have gathered that I am rather fond of my enchanting abode by now. And if you haven’t, or even if you have, allow me to explain why/refresh your memory…

Granada, as a city, is totally unique; its matchless combination of Spanish, Moorish and modern European cultures is worth staying for alone.

Each day on my way to work, I walk past Plaza Nueva, where I can see the lower reaches of the Alhambra Palace looming over the tourist trafficked square, on to Calle Elvira, where the brightly adorned Moroccan-style clothes stalls and cramped, smoky tetarías line the cobbled cuestas leading up into El Albaicin. Later in the evening, I walk home back along Elvira to the accompanying soundtrack of various Spanish bands or Flamenco artists ringing out from the tapas bars either side of me, and eventually arrive in my own barrio, El Realejo, which used to be the old Jewish quarter, to a scene of lively guiri bars and various wallworks by the eminent El Niño de las Pinturas.

I’m still discovering new and amazing things about it every day.

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Una tetaría de Granadaimg 4549 e1369746041627 5 Reasons why Im Staying in Granada

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One of El Niño’s best pieces in El Realejo, Granada

Three: The Sierra Nevada 

The locality of one of Europe’s prime ski resorts (despite its comparatively uninteresting terrain) was the initial reason for my coming here. I’d never heard of it before someone mentioned it during a chat regarding my future whereabouts when I was living in El Puerto de Santa María. It just so happened that the February Puente was right around the corner and I still hadn’t made plans. One week later I was standing on top of the SN’s summit telling my friend that I absolutely had to move here. Seven months later my goal had been fulfilled.

If truth be told, I have not visited anywhere near as often as I would have liked to since the cost for one single daytrip is so despicably high, but when I do visit, I am always reminded of how extremely lucky I am, no matter what the conditions. I love snowboarding, and I’m not about to give up my local ski resort just yet.

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Yours truly at The Sierra Nevada last December

Four: The Music

My first year in Spain amounted to the dullest ever in terms of decent, live music on offer. Before leaving the UK, music had been a huge part of my lifestyle. I didn’t play any instruments, but I could often be found flailing around dimly lit, subterranean nightclubs to the sound of thrashing guitars or earsplitting drum and bass, and I also wrote about it when publications were interested.

Here in Granada I have been lucky enough to rediscover the music led lifestyle I left behind in the UK, thanks to clubs like the reggae reverent Booga and the bass buff haven Sala El Tren. I’ve also seen a good amount of cover bands since moving to Granada, the most recent and outright best being a Nirvana tribute band at Plantabaja. They rocked it!

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Congo Natty at La Sala El Tren

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Nirvana cover band. It was a blurry night…

The one thing Granada does lack in this category is a major music festival, but it really isn’t that much of a big deal; Sevilla and Murcia are only a couple of hours’ drive away after all…

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M83 at SOS 4.8 Festival, Murcia – just 2 hours away by car

Five: The Weather

This year has been distinctively wetter and colder than the last, but I believe much of Spain has suffered the same miserable fortune. At one point I began to wonder whether there really was that much of a difference between here and back home. Then it got sunny, and I felt like an idiot.

December through February is tough – especially if you live somewhere where your housemates don’t allow you to use the central heating – but after (what is normally) a brief spell of rain and dreary skies in March, we are swiftly rewarded with months of bold, blue skies and increasingly hot temperatures until around the middle of October. July and August are especially sizzling times of year, and I do not stick around, but May and June are perfect for beach weather, hence my impending trip to Las Negras in Cabo de Gata this coming weekend icon smile 5 Reasons why Im Staying in Granada  

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Playa de Cantarriján, Provincia de Granada

Special mentions: tapas and the girls

No list of reasons why I’m staying in Granada would be complete without paying justified homage to the city’s unrivalled culinary scene – sorry – free culinary scene. Well, perhaps not everything is free (certainly not in restaurants), but any tapa served in Granada comes gratis with your drink 99% of the time.

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Shawarma de pollo y Papa Yunani at the incredible Om Kalsoum, Granada

Then there are las señoritas. Meeting girls – Spanish girls – as a young(ish), single, foreign and dare I say dashing fellow has been a subject I have never visited on this here blog of mine. Let’s just say that being king of the intercambios seems to yield various benefits, and I’m not quite ready to give that up either…

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The Alhambra Palace from El Mirador de San Nicolas, Granada

If you’re planning a trip to Granada, head over to It Rains In Spain where you’ll find oodles of handy tips…

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fiona flores watson, scribbler in seville, spain, josh taylor

A Spanish Inquisition: Scribbler in Seville

spanish inquisition A Spanish Inquisition: Scribbler in Seville

I’ve been to Sevilla many times before, and despite my reservations on the subject of its much lauded feria, I must confess I am secretly enamoured with the Andalusian capital. In fact, had it not been for the job I was offered before coming to Granada, I would’ve almost certainly set up shop in Sevilla following my first and rather flaky year in El Puerto de Santa María.

It’s a lot bigger than my beloved Granada, so is naturally more difficult to familiarise oneself with. But I like it that way. Each time I go, I invariably discover something different, be it another bizarrely constructed building or some jaw-droppingly delicious tapa bar tucked clandestinely down a side street. Last time I visited I was taken to a luminous outdoor club on a river island. I can’t remember its name, nor how I got there, but I distinctly recall enjoying myself a fair bit.

Someone else who enjoys themselves in Seville on a much more regular basis is Fiona Flores Watson, of Scribbler in Seville, and this month’s interrogatee for my Spanish Inquisition series. In the interview, Fiona reveals what its like to be an expat in a city with a profoundly yet decreasingly inward-looking culture, one or two of her top tips/pet hates and just how fruitful intercambios can be…

Name: Fiona Flores Watson

From: Essex, UK

Occupation: Freelance journalist, blogger, editor, content creator and social media consultant

Time in Spain: Nine and a half years

About Blog: Scribbler in Seville is about living in Spain’s most romantic city – its esoteric fiestas, multi-layered history, and quixotic inhabitants; unusual activities, and fun things to do for families, both in Seville and within easy reach of the city. It’s also about being a mum to two Anglo-Spanish kids (my husband’s from here), and a bit about expat life.

granada A Spanish Inquisition: Scribbler in Seville

Fiona at Granada’s Alhambra Palace

Questions:

 1. Complete this sentence:

“Spain is an invigorating and frustrating sort of country, filled with sunshine, great tapas and good, cheap wine. However, there is too much corruption and not enough decent cake.

2. Why did you move to Spain? Why Seville?

I was living in Ecuador, and wanted to be closer to my family in England, but still speak Spanish. Someone told me Seville was small, beautiful, historic and very hot, near the beach, and with the best fiestas in Spain. I was hooked.

3. What is one of Seville’s best kept secrets?

The Cartuja – a 15th-century monastery and ex-(English-owned) ceramics factory, on the other side of the river from the centre, with a contemporary art centre, cafe and beautiful gardens – cutting-edge video in the chapel and installations in the refectory – I love the jumble of history, religion and art. Shady walks, culture, and a haven of calm. Also, the artists’ corrales – communal courtyards with small studios and workspaces, in the Macarena area of the city. They put on flamenco and music performances – seriously under the radar.

 4. How would you describe the culture there? What type of people tend to thrive, and what type don’t do as well?

Culture here is deeply, profoundly Sevillano – it is 90% inward-looking, though that is slowly changing. For many Sevillanos, their city is the best place in the world, and there’s no need to go anywhere else – best food, best fiestas, best art. To get on in Seville, you have to take their unwavering belief in their own city’s superiority with a kilo or two of salt, and join in by paying your own homage. If you don’t, they will be offended. Otherwise, if you like hot weather, going out for tapas and being sociable, you’ll do fine. There are all sorts of tribes in Seville, from the pijos (posh people) to the trendy-bohos – you’ll find your niche.

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Seville’s Cathedral (Source)

 5. What have been (briefly) the best three experiences you’ve had since moving here?

I had a high old time with friends at the Jerez Feria the other week, in the Tio Pepe caseta. Intravenous sherry all afternoon – marvellous. Any day at the beach with my kids is fab – swimming in the sea, building sandcastles and not being glued to my iPhone. And seeing inside the Alhambra for the first time was pretty special. Just the most beautiful, romantic, fairytale place I’ve ever been to.

 6. What has been the worst? And how could it have been avoided?

Various instances involving appallingly bad customer service, often by phone – rude, uninformed, unhelpful staff who make me want to put my fist through the nearest wall (my blog post on this topic got some interesting responses).

 7. How much Spanish could you speak before you moved to Spain? What’s the best way to learn?

Quite a bit, after a year living in Ecuador. They say the best way to learn is to get a girl/boy friend – I met my husband within three weeks of arriving, and he doesn’t speak English; failing that, an intercambio with a Spanish person, where you speak half the time in English and half in Spanish – I know a few people who’ve ended up with theirs.

 8. Money is a thorny issue for any would-be expat. Do you have any tips on working, saving, banking etc?

Never go food shopping when you’re hungry; always check your bank statements for sneaky hidden charges; and use second-hand websites – as recommended by you in a recent post! I also do clothes swaps with friends.

 9. Finally, what’s the best photo you’ve ever taken in Spain? Tell us about it!

Always very subjective, but I like this one I took last week on El Rocio pilgrimage. I love taking pictures of fiestas here – usually sunny, vibrant atmosphere, bright colours, clapping hands, expressive faces, big smiles, magnificent beasts, picturesque vehicles. Noone does fiestas like the Andalucians.

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El Rocio Pilgrimage

Click here for a read of Fiona’s much commented on ‘Nine things I’ve learned while living in Spain’ post, which you may find either hilarious or mildly offensive. That’s why it’s so good.

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