Tag Archives: money

Make Savings on Your Trip to Andalucía

Andalucía, the second largest and most visited autonomous region of Spain, is a rich haven of fascinating landmarks and monuments. From Granada’s illustrious Alhambra Palace and Sierra Nevada mountain range to the Picasso museum of Malaga and the world’s third largest cathedral in Seville, holidaymakers are never short of things to see and do.

Quite predictably, it can be rather difficult– and often costly –to cram all these sights into an already jam-packed itinerary, especially when tackling it all solo. Buying online is the best way to ensure things run smoothly and setbacks such as sold out ticket offices and language barriers are avoided, even though buying online usually means paying over the odds.

However, with TicketBar.eu, not only can you buy online beforehand and save yourself a few headaches but you actually receive discounts, group offers and the chance to jump the often snaking queues at all the major attractions. Spain For Pleasure has teamed up with ticketbar.eu to help bring you the best attractions Andalucía has to offer at the best possible prices.


torre de la vela, alhambra, granada, spain
Granada seen from the Torre de la Vela – the highest point of The Alhambra

A guided tour at The Alhambra Palace typically costs €43, but with TicketBar you will pay €37. You’ll also make a saving of €6 on a regular tour with audio guide and be able to skip the queue.

Other options in Granada include the Alhambra + Flamenco Show + Dinner package, Hop on Hop off City Bus Tour, Historic Granada Tour and even a day trip to the Costa Tropical and Nerja Caves– all at discounted rates.


seville, sevilla, catedral, cathedral
Sevilla (Source)

TicketBar offers even more discounted tours in Seville, from Classic Sevilla, Historic Sevilla, Hop on Hop off Bus, Guadalquivir Cruise and a ‘bike tapas’ tour. There are even day trip packages to Cádiz, Jerez, Doñana and Córdoba.


teatro romano, roman theatre, malaga, spain
Teatro Romano, Malaga (Source)

Although not quite as luring on historic and architectural merit when compared with Granada and Sevilla, Malaga still boasts its own selection of sights. TicketBar offer four cut-price tours in Malaga: The Hop on Hop off Bus (including a stop-off at the Roman Theatre), The Highlights Bike Tour (including a stop-off at Picasso’s birthplace), The Malaga Tapas Bike Tour and Bike Tour of Malaga FC’s stadium for visiting football fans.

TicketBar operate tours in more than 30 other cities around the world. Visit their website here to book your discounted tour in Andalucía, whatever and wherever it may be.

A Spanish Inquisition: A Texan in Spain

spanish inquisition spain josh taylorI have zero statistical evidence to back this statement up but I’m going to stick my neck out and say that the expat blogging community in Spain is the world’s largest.

If I’m wrong, I can’t be far wrong. There seem to be hundreds of us, forever finding new and exciting experiences to try out and enjoy so that we can then bring you, our beloved readers (or random visitors), and each other a consistent stream of quality content. It’s a wonderful community where new bridges are built every day and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

However – and this is a big however – we are seriously lacking in man power. I’ll admit that there are heaps of man-powered sites out there run for the purpose of selling something or brand-building, but when it comes to other, personable blogs about Spain, geared to a slightly younger crowd like my own, I rather feel as though I am flying the flag solo (if I’m wrong do let me know below!). Frankly, I am not bothered by this; all those lady-powered blogs out there (you know who you are!) are excellent resources for both laughs and information, and in theory this apparent lack of man blogs should mean I reap a wider audience. Should mean.

So when I stumbled across Trevor Huxham’s blog, A Texan in Spain, a couple of weeks ago, I was understandably delighted to have finally found another blog about Spain composed by a dude (Robin over at A Lot Of Wind is another rare example). Like much of the younger US crowd here in Spain, Trevor is enrolled in the Auxiliare Language Assistant Program, allowing him the opportunity to live, work and travel within Spain for one year. His blog chronicles his small-town life in the rural village of Úbeda and all of his jaunty endeavours while aiming to provide other auxiliares with handy tips and how-tos.

So let’s say hello shall we?

Name: Trevor Huxham

From: Plano, Texas, U.S.A.

Occupation: North American Language and Culture Assistant

Time in Spain: Since late September 2012, although I’m home in the U.S. for the summer.

About blog: While my blog is primarily travel-oriented, I try to avoid the “we did this, then saw that, and ate here” approach in favor of easy-to-read yet smart, introductory posts about individual cities I’ve been to in western Europe and Morocco. Additionally, I try to give helpful how-tos for the language assistant crowd and write an honest account of what expat life is like in Spain.

trevor huxham, spain


 1. Complete this sentence:

“Spain is a fascinating and laid-back sort of country, filled with festivals, history, and simple, tasty food. However, there is too much regionalism and not enough international food.

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

I moved to Spain to work as a language assistant in a bilingual primary school in Andalucía, but I applied for the job because I wanted to travel and finally become fluent in Spanish. I ended up living in Úbeda, a World Heritage-listed city for its Renaissance architecture, because it was half an hour from the small village I taught in.

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

Something that makes the town really unique is its longstanding pottery tradition. Craftsmen cover all sorts of plates, cups, and jugs with a gleaming green, copper-based glaze that dates back to Muslim times. Three of the six remaining Moorish kilns in Spain are in Úbeda!

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

With a population of only 36,000, Úbeda’s no big town; however, it doesn’t have the sleepiness associated with most tiny villages. The city puts on frequent cultural events in the Hospital de Santiago’s auditorium, the main drag in town has tons of Spanish and international shops, and countless bar-restaurants will serve you tasty free tapas with your drink.

ubeda úbeda spain trevor huxham
Úbeda, Andalucía, Spain

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

1) Hiking 115km on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage; 2) Getting to explore Moorish and Mudéjar buildings across the southern half of the country; 3) Going out for tapas every few weeks with Spanish and American friends and perfecting my andaluz accent.

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

I know it’s a self-diagnosis, but I’m pretty sure I got Seasonal Affective Disorder aka the winter blues this year—yes, in “sunny” southern Spain! It rained well above average this winter, so I had no control over that, but I probably should have purchased a space heater, taken a Vitamin D supplement, and gone for a paseo whenever the sun was shining.

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

One of my majors in college was Spanish, and I came into Spain fresh out of school and conversant in the language. I don’t think the traditional classroom setting is the only way to learn, though; you need grammar/vocab studies and practical, real-world conversation. Sometimes simply hearing what people say in Spanish is difficult, so I subscribe to podcasts like Notes in Spanish to practice listening.

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

I feel like I lucked out with the steady teaching assistant job I got in Spain. One of my British friends in the area in the same program got paid a few months late yet subsisted entirely on private English tutoring and income from working in an English academy. For Americans, I recommend getting a Charles Schwab checking account since there are literally no ATM fees whatsoever.

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

When I was in Sevilla for the first time back in April, I had in mind this shot of the Torre del Oro at night with the Giralda in the background, so I knew I’d have to go across the Guadalquivir River somewhere. On the western bank I waited for about an hour for the sun to go down until the exact moment when the sky went this deep cobalt blue. I got the photo I wanted, but as I walked back across the San Telmo bridge, this beautiful composition appeared and I couldn’t resist another shot.

Seville Spain bridge torre del oro, giralda
Torre de Oro, Seville, Spain

If you’re a language assistant in Spain or are considering becoming one, then click here for a read of Trevor’s post ‘A Day in the Life of a Language Assistant in Spain’ for a thorough breakdown of what to expect.

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.

fiona flores watson, scribbler in seville, spain, josh taylor
Fiona at Granada’s Alhambra Palace


 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.

Seville's Cathedral (Source)
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.

el rocio, pilgrimage, fiona flores watson, scribbler in seville, josh taylor, spain
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.

My list of invaluable online resources as an expat living in Spain

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

We had a power cut the other night.

I hate power cuts, and especially when they happen at night; I am invariably prevented from doing anything that I want to be doing (if my laptop battery is low, which is often) and I can’t boil the kettle or use the hob, therefore am unable to make myself a cup of tea, which causes the sort of anguish that no man should ever have to bare.

As a kid, I’d jump for joy if ever there were a power cut, and then rush off to the loft to unearth some dusty board game (usually Risk or Monopoly) while Mum sorted out the candles and Dad waited in a dark corner with the torch held under his chin, ready to click it on and petrify me when I emerged with the board game underarm.

On this occasion, my instinct reaction was very different. I swore, sighed, got up (still swearing), wandered off to fetch a candle and then began reading a book. Of course I like reading books, but not when I am forced to do so and generally not at night – it’s much more of a daytime, terrace, coffee and sunshine thing for me.

Inevitably, the lights flickered back into life within moments of having sat down, and my untimely, darkened interlude was over almost as abruptly as it had started. I drifted insentiently back to my computer and settled down into my swivel chair to resume my evening of mindless web browsing.

And that’s when it hit me – just how reliant I have become on the internet as a tool not only for casual distraction, but for everything I do. Before coming to Spain, I hadn’t been so unremittingly consumed with it. Facebook, uni stuff, fantasy football league and one or two news websites were just about the extent of my web browsing.

Evidently, that’s all changed now, and after a bit of a ponder and several cups of Yorkshire’s finest, I’ve drawn up a list of the online resources that I deem to be categorically invaluable to me, as a young (barely), working, travel-fervid expat here in Spain.

If you live under similar circumstances or have done before, then perhaps you’ll be inclined to agree with some. If you’ve never called yourself ‘expat’ but are thinking about it, then I assure you, ALL of the following will be hugely helpful in the settling in process – I only wish I hadn’t had to find (most of) them myself…

#1 Couchsurfing

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

Fair enough, you don’t have to be an expat to become a ‘couchsurfer’ – the worldwide social networking site is for anyone, anywhere – but if you’re living away from home, you’ll invariably be surrounded by new and interesting places that you will no doubt want to investigate on a regular basis.

Couchsurfing is the perfect way to go about doing this. You save lots of pennies and meet lots of very friendly, local people, who are likely to show you around town or at the very least send you on your way with an elaborately modified map.

What’s more, couchsurfing also offers expats the opportunity to meet other, like-minded people in their own cities. It wasn’t until my impromptu trip to Pamplona last March that I realised the potential benefits of attending regular meet-ups here in Granada. Before that experience, couchsurfing had only ever been a service I occasionally needed whilst travelling or offered to other travellers. Now I attend the Granada forum’s intercambio every week and meet new people from all over the world. It’s a huge part of my life.

#2 Car sharing websites

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

In a recent post about SOS 4.8 Festival in Murcia, I alluded to the Spanish car-sharing website amovens.com. This particular site is probably my favourite, as it never seems to let me down. I’ve also used blabacar.es and carpooling.es, albeit each on just one occasion, but both were equally as positive experiences.

To give you an idea of the savings I make using these types of sites, consider that a one-way train ticket to Seville from Granada costs €29 and lasts just over three hours. Now consider that I made that same journey in almost half that time at a third of the price. I’ll say it again…

There is of course that element of risk involved, but I’ve never heard any horror stories to put me off. Girls, understandably, are and ought to be more cautious, but like couchsurfing, many of these sites function on a reference-based system, so that any would-be passengers may give their would-be drivers the onceover before making arrangements. The golden rule is that you do not fall asleep; this is both rude and dangerous!

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

#3 Tusclasesparticulares.com

It took until my third year here in Spain to stumble across this gem of a site. Whether you are planning to stay in Spain as a short-term or long-term expat, you will, inevitably, at some point begin teaching English. It’s the easiest job to find and with a bit of luck you’ll be able to find a decent academy who treat their staff well. I am fortunate enough to be able to count myself among the few English teachers here in Granada who are paid well, on time and most important of all – legally. Others aren’t so lucky, and often find themselves scrapping for hours and desperately trying to seek out private students.

Tusclasespartiulares.com is a service that makes this issue a hell of a lot simpler. Students – of any language – and language teachers alike may create a profile and post short ads detailing their needs/services etc. Users can instantly see prices, hours of availability, relevant experience and so on.

Earlier this year, I created my own profile and received around 15 messages within the first week. Some came from private students and others from directors of local academies inviting me to an interview for a part- or in some cases full-time position. It’s a surefire way to get the moneys rolling in.

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor, teaching in spain

#4 Expatforum.com

This site provided me with answers when I needed them most.

Last year, I went through hell and back trying to replace my lost NIE at Granada’s oficina de extranjero (complainy post in the works). Those of you who already live in Spain will almost certainly be aware of just how infuriatingly slow and tedious Spanish bureaucracy can be. I was desperate for a new certificate so that I could legitimately claim el paro (extremely generous unemployment benefit) over my jobless summer, but ran into countless stumbling blocks along the way.

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

Hours of frantic Google searches led me to expatforum.com, where I was at last able to read something concerning the matter in English and, after registering as a user, send beseeching messages to the senior, Spanish bureaucracy hardened members. Eventually, I resolved my issue by requesting and subsequently being granted a temporary residence card, but I very nearly had to cry in order to get what I wanted. I didn’t cry, but probably would’ve done had it not been for some expert guidance via the Spain page on expat forum.

#5 Second-hand / flat-share websites

I’m guessing sites like this exist in just about every country by now. The US has Craigslist and the UK have spareroom.co.uk, gumtree.com and flatshare.com. All of them work amazingly well. Here in Spain, you have to look a bit harder for the better ones. I use easypiso.com (branch of easyroommate.com) and loquo.com to find my digs.

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor
It’s just chaos in the mornings…

My first year using easypiso.com yielded a moderate apartment with excellent flat mates (except one, asshole) and the second pretty much the opposite way around; I now live in an incredible, modern, three-floor house with a terrace, patio and soundproof basement. However, my housemates and I do not get along, and I recently decided that, despite how in love I am with the house, the people with whom I live are more important, so I’ll be enlisting the services of easypiso or loquo once again this coming June.

I should also mention that loquo.com, as well as segundamano.es, are fantastic sites for buying second hand stuff. I’ve bought a phone, a bike and various other bits and pieces, and met with the seller in person every time. Waaay better than ebay.

 online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

#6 Wordreference.com, NOT Google Translate

Thanks to wordreference.com, I am able to trick people who I only speak Spanish to on Facebook into thinking that my Spanish is absolutely flawless. I can use words like ‘diluviando’ or ‘quisquilloso’ or (personal fave) ‘zarrapastroso’ and pretend as though I didn’t just look it up in two seconds flat. Better still, each translation yields two, three or even four uses of the word in context, so you are able to choose which word suits what you want to say best.

The same cannot be said for the erroneous Google Translate. Often, a search for a single word will turn up numerable results, with no contexts given as examples. If an entire phrase or paragraph is copied, pasted and translated, the result is even more inaccurate, as complex grammatical structures somehow seem too much for Google’s gargantuan brain to deal with.

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

I must admit, since I downloaded the app for my smartphone I have perhaps become ever so slightly overindulgent. Beforehand, I used it as a quick fix whenever I was reading or writing in Spanish online. These days, it’s whenever I am momentarily unsure of how to say something, when in actual fact I could probably wrest it out of me if I just mulled it over for another minute.

#7 Twitter

online resources, expat, living away from home, travel, blog, josh taylor

No list of invaluable expat resources would be complete without giving an honourable mention to Twitter now would it? Frankly, I’d be lost without it.

Since finally giving in and joining shortly before Christmas, it has become an almost exclusive news resource for me. There is, however, a lot of distracting, pointless dross that when clicked on swallows up a good chunk of my day. And that isn’t good.

I can’t keep up with it to tell you the truth, but I do like retweeting things I find funny or interesting. I’d retweet this if I hadn’t already tweeted it.

God that’s the most incredibly twattish-sounding thing I’ve ever said on here.

*Another useful resource that breaks information down into chunks such as Employment, Work Permits and Visas and Healthcare in Spain is Whichoffshore.

Expats, would-be expats and er, ex-expats! What are your most invaluable resources in your adopted homeland? Do pitch in!

How to Get The Best Euro Exchange Rate When You Head to Spain

by Peter Lavelle

Find here 6 tips to get the best euro exchange rate, whether you’re just holidaying in Spain or, like Josh, relocating entirely.

euro exchange rate, euro, exchange, rate, spain

1. Check the exchange rate as soon as you know you’re going to Spain.

This is because it gives you the biggest possible window to get a good exchange rate. If, on the other hand, you wait until the last minute to exchange currencies, you’ll have to accept whatever exchange rate is available, even if it’s bad.

That could mean you get a smaller euro total.


2. Check the exchange rate regularly with Google.

To find out if the exchange rate is good or not, you can use Google.

Go to Google, and enter “pound to euro”. Google will deliver the latest exchange rate, as well as those stretching back to 2009.

With this, you can tell if the current exchange rate is good or not, as well as watch what happens.

euro exchange rate, euro, exchange, rate, spain

3. Set reasonable expectations for your exchange rate.

This is because, if your expectations are too high, you’ll be left waiting for an exchange rate that never arrives.

Instead then, look at where the exchange rate has been in the last 3 months.

This will give you a sense of what the euro is currently doing, and what exchange rate you can reasonably expect.


4. Take a good exchange rate the moment it becomes available.

If you see an exchange rate you like, take it there and then.

This is because the foreign exchange market is volatile, and a good exchange rate can quickly disappear. For example, if you wait to see how high the exchange rate climbs, it could fall before you know it, and you may lose out.

euro exchange rate, euro, exchange, rate, spain

5. Compare the exchange rate you’re offered from a bank with that from a foreign exchange broker.

This is because a foreign exchange broker will provide an exchange rate up to 4.0% better than a bank. On a large transfer, this adds up to hundreds or thousands of euros extra.

In addition, you won’t pay charges or commission with a foreign exchange broker. By comparison, a bank charges up to £40 per transfer.


6. If you like the exchange rate, but don’t yet want your money in Spain, set up a forward contract.

A forward contract lets you lock in the exchange rate where it is, so that even if the rate changes later on, that’s the exchange rate you get.

For instance, if the pound rises to 1.20 against the euro, and you set up a forward contract, you’ll get 1.20, even if the pound later falls to 1.15.

euro exchange rate, euro, exchange, rate, spain

Get an exchange rate forecast

Get in touch at foreign exchange broker Pure FX to find out what we think will happen to the euro exchange rate.

We’d be delighted to give you an exchange rate forecast.

How to (sort of) have an argument with your penny-pinching landlady whilst maintaining a decent and proper gentlemanly manner…in Spanish.

usted, spain, spanish, learning spanish, funny

Silly title isn’t it. Long, wordy and totally ignorant of that thing they call SEO. If I were a sensible blogger then I imagine I’d have probably gone for ‘How to use ‘usted’ in Spanish’, as this is in essence, the gristly meat and marrow of what I’m about to regale you with. But then that would be tantamount to false advertising, or just pure and simple deceptiveness – for I am no expert on the matter. I am but a mere specimen, raconteur and passer-on of my valuably learnt lessons. At least I am when I decide it’s high time I rambled on about how to do something in Spanish again.

Yes, this time I thought it necessary to enlighten anybody who cares enough to listen about my woes with the infinitely problematic (for me at any rate) formal tongue of Spanish: ‘Usted’. I very rarely have to use it. In fact, I’d never had to use it until I suddenly found myself facing the inevitability of having to contend with my brusque and blinkered landlady on the subject of unreturned deposits.

I didn’t have to use it, but I wanted to ­– it was an element of Spanish I had until then avoided, due by and large to an overall lack of opportunity. As a señora*, Conchi (her name) could reasonably expect to be addressed as one, which meant the shifting from regular Castellano to this, foreign, guiri-trying, genteel version. Essentially, any verb I conjugated which directly referenced her had to change from the regular second person form, for example ‘¿Como estás?’ to what would normally be the regular third person form, for example ‘¿Como está?’ Along with this omitted ‘s’ it is also necessary to insert ‘usted’ after the main verb and substitute ‘te’ for ‘se’ in a reflexive verb structure such as ‘¿porque se enoja?’ (why are you getting angry?) as opposed to ‘¿porque te enojas?’**.

usted, spain, spanish, learning spanish

After only having recently and properly got to grips with normal verb conjugation, I must admit that the task did seem rather daunting. I would, nonetheless, endeavour to do my best, not just because I wanted to practice using ‘usted’, but also in owing to the fact that I was a young English fellow eager to stamp certitude on the myth of impeccable British manners what what?

Before I disclose to you the rather sketchy dialogue of that haunting experience, perhaps illuming you with a word or two on the landlady who to her credit made this post possible wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Throughout my first year in Granada, I steered well clear of the woman, leaving the terrifying exchanges to my female Spanish housemates, who would spend half an hour mentally preparing for the ordeal pre-arrival, only to be rendered flattened, figuratively disemboweled and scared beyond their wits post-arrival. When we had wanted to change a light bulb, for instance, but were unable to find another that matched the busted and wire-exposed deathtrap sprouting from our corridor ceiling, we were shouted at and told to stop being so lazy; we weren’t looking hard enough.

We searched high and low, chino por chino, and nary a fitting light bulb was found. We doggedly explained the futility of the situation and that the electrician whom she had had wire the place up must surely have known one’s whereabouts. But still, nothing. Eventually, we gave up and lived without light. Then one day, untrue to form, I absent-mindedly wandered down the pitch-black corridor, assuming one foot was being placed directly in front of the other, when I met with a protruding section of wall in a most abrupt and untimely manner. Blood literally gushed from my eyebrow and I had to pay a visit to A&E. Next day, when I rang Conchi to give her a piece of my now dented mind, I was, rather than grovelingly apologised to, politely reminded that it had been my responsibility to find a replacement in the first place. I was shell-shocked and incensed. Yet words deserted me. Instead I hung up, and hoped that I would never have to deal with the vile scorpion woman again.

landlady, evil

Fast-forward six months and I’m the only one left in the flat. The Spanish girls have gone, and so too have the Frenchman and Italian Erasmus student. The latter had been the second-to-last to leave, and he did so without paying his last month’s rent. This left me in a rather sticky situation, as I had already paid my last month’s rent and was owed my deposit. Naturally, I was furious with him for leaving me in the lurch and facing the prospect of losing €220. Conchi, rather predictably, didn’t take the news well either, as she had neither the bank details nor phone number to debit the money/contact him with – we had always paid cash in hand. She did, however, assure me that his not paying would not affect the safe and full return of my deposit. This was a highly dubious promise and one that I fully anticipated to be broken.

Fast-forward another three months and the missing rent had still not been paid. And unsurprisingly, neither had my deposit. I called her from my mobile. No reply. I called her again. Nothing. Again, this time from a friend’s phone:

Conchi: Dime.

Me: Hola señora Conchi soy Josh. ¿Como estás? Digo ‘está’, perdona.

Conchi: ¿Que?

Me: Nada, lo sien-

Conchi: -Dime. ¿Que quiere?

Me: Si. Erm… me gustaría saber porque no me ha devuelto la fianza del año pasado. Me dijiste – digo ‘dije’, perdona ‘dijo’ – usted que iba a hacerlo incluso si no pagaba Fabio su alquiler. Y no me ha contestado cuando he intentado llamarte – perdona ‘le’ – digo ‘la’.

Conchi: ¿Como?

Me: Perdone señora Conchi, quizas no he estado cla-

Conchi: ¡E’cuchame! ¡Dile a Fabio que tiene que pagarme el alquiler de Junio! ¡Si no lo paga no puedo devolverte nada!

Me: Si, Conchi le he dicho pero no puedo hacer más, y tu – perdona ‘usted’ – me dij-

Conchi: -¡E’cuchame! ¡Dile al Fabio que tiene que pagarme el alquiler de Junio!

Me: Señora Conchi como te – perdona ‘usted’, digo ‘le’ – he dicho ya, he hecho todo lo que puedo-

Conchi: -¡Dile al Fabio que tiene que pagarme el alquiler de Junio y ya está.

Me: Pero-

usted, spain, spanish, learning spanish
‘If you love a woman, leave her to drink by herself. If she calls you when drunk she’s all yours – if she turns off her phone, she never was yours’ Source


Conchi: Tell me.

Me: Hello Mrs. Conchi it’s Josh, how are you? I mean ‘how are you?’ (formal) Sorry.

Conchi: What?

Me: Nothing, I’m sor-

Conchi: -Tell me. What do you want?

Me: Yes. I’d like to know why you haven’t paid back my deposit from last year. You told me – I mean ‘I told me’, sorry ‘you told me’ (formal) – that you were going to do it even if Fabio didn’t pay his rent. And you haven’t answered me when I’ve tried to call you – sorry ‘you’ (formal).

Conchi: What?

Me: Sorry Mrs. Conchi, maybe I haven’t been cle-

Conchi: -Listen to me! Tell Fabio that he has to pay June’s rent! If he doesn’t pay it I can’t give you anything back!

Me: Yes Conchi I’ve told him but I can’t do any more, and you – sorry ‘you’ (formal) – told me th-

Conchi: -Listen to me! Tell Fabio that he has to pay June’s rent!

Me: Mrs. Conchi as I have told you– sorry ‘you’ (formal) – already, I’ve done everything that I can-

Conchi: -Listen to me! Tell Fabio that he has to pay June’s rent and that’s the end of it.

Me: But-

She hung up. Just as well really– my (almost) impeccable British manners were wearing pretty thin after a mere two-minute exchange, though I could see her point, even if she had lied to me. All things said and done it was probably time to cut my losses, but not before one last dashed attempt at convincing Fabio to pay up. I did so via Facebook and heard nothing for weeks. Then, miraculously, a message appeared in my inbox that read:

‘Hola Josh, I paid Conchi the deposit two weeks ago and asked her to let you know. I hope she has done it. Fabio.’

She bloody well hadn’t done it. Enraged, I grabbed my mobile and called her. No reply, obviously. Again from a friend’s phone:

Conchi: Dime.

Me: Hola Conchi soy Josh. Acabo de hablar con Fabio y- (I’ve just spoken to Fabio and-)

She hung up. And that was the last time we ever spoke – I was past caring after trying to contact her for several weeks following that. It was over, and while she may have robbed me of my money, I could take solace in the fact that my manners had stayed well intact. And in some ways that’s a victory. In some ways.

*the actual crossover point from señorita to señora is a blurry one and can often lead to impromptu looks of horror and outrage/bumbling awkward apologies, but more on that another time

**there is no doubt, a whole lot more to it than that but as I said – I am no expert. I only know and use that much!

usted, spain, spanish, learning spanish

When do you use ‘usted’ if you speak Spanish? Do you find it easy to shift into it? Have you ever encountered a similarly horrid landlady or had trouble with claiming back deposits?