DISCLAIMER: If you are Spanish and easily offended, it’s best to stop here.
RENUNCIA: Si eres español y fácilmente ofendido, es mejor parar aquí.
Exactly three weeks from now I’ll be back in the UK and probably attempting to navigate my way though the British rail network with way more luggage than one person should be allowed or physical able to carry with them. My Erasmus year is almost over.
But not quite yet! I still have three weeks in which to stuff copious amounts of sun, parties and travel, and what better way to round off a year spent living in Spain than a long puente spent lounging on the beach and dancing in Ibiza? It’s unbearably incomprehensible that this time next year I’ll be graduating from university…I need to stop raining on my own parade.
As the end approaches I’d like to take the time to reflect upon the things I will and won’t miss about my most recent home…
‘Spanish cuisine’ inspires dreams of paella, sangria, mariscos (seafood) and tapas all leisurely consumed under the shade of a leafy palm along a sandy white seafront. This is a pipe dream my friends. PIPE DREAM. What you don’t imagine in your little fantasy is that the food could be so incredibly oily and, well, bland (disculpas a las compañeras mías si leéis esto). The concept of spice is pretty much non-existant over here and the provision of condiments and seasoning in eateries? Don’t get your hopes up.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of tip top tapas and sangria in the sun and paella on the playa, but I’m not a huge fan of pork and anyone who knows me personally and closely will know that I have an overwhelming phobia of shellfish. Anyway, Spain isn’t one giant beach don’t you know? I’ve spent my Erasmus year in Madrid and unfortunately there’s no such Playa de la Latina or Costa del Sol (well actually there is a Costa del Sol but that’s down in Málaga). The point I’m trying to make is that stereotypes can lead to inflated expectations and in turn, heartbreak, so don’t expect to spend everyday sipping tinto in your booty shorts. Which brings me nicely to…
Ah Spain. How can one place cause so much simultaneous joy and despair? It started out so wonderfully back in September with temperatures peaking at an astoundingly non-humid 32 degrees celsius and remaining comfortably warm well into October. I felt spoilt. Cardigan weather in early November is inconceivable to the average Brit, and even the arrival of December and the bitter cold was coupled with glorious sunshine making winter blues a decided impossibility.
And then there was January; arguably the most miserable month of year. The sunshine had obviously decided that it too wanted to head south for the winter and so came the snow, and the rain, and the darkness. This wasn’t Spain, surely?! I definitely did not sign up for this when I filled out all that British Council paperwork. My gloomy facial expressions in the staffroom were met with hopeful statements of “Oh don’t worry, it’ll be lovely from March!” My colleagues had unknowingly inflated my expectations and in turn caused me heartache over the weather. March came and went, as did April and its showers, yet still the sun had not put his hat on! My still gloomy face in the staffroom was met with more repeated responses of “Soon! I promise the weather will improve soon!” Finally May arrived and we were teased with the weather that we should have been graced with in March. I say teased because it only lasted a fortnight before the rain descended to once again dampen my year abroad spirits.
Now it’s June and the weather has been glorious mostly since the ridiculous May rain finally did one, but once a week we are harshly reminded of how different it could be. If I wanted unpredictable weather I could’ve stayed in the UK! Honestly.
Go into any Spanish bar and order a drink and you’ll usually get a free tapa! This could be anything from a few ready salted crisps to a dish of olives to a full on omelette! Incredible.
Spain has its own timetable which makes no sense to anyone else from any other country. Contrary to my British culture and experience, lunch is taken as the main meal of the day with breakfast at noon, lunch at 4pm and dinner at 9pm. What absolute lunacy, and don’t even get me started on those nightclubs. While party goers around the rest of the world are starting to calm down and head home, the Spanish are barely getting started. The British partygoer would be astounded to find that these clubs don’t even open until at least midnight, but the accomplished juerguista knows that fiesta won’t be jumpin’ until after 1.30am and continues all the way until 6am.
Eating and partying aren’t the only things that happen late in Spain; the shops are open amazingly late. Need a bikini from H&M at 7.30pm? Off you pop! Just realised at 8.45pm that you don’t have any decent trousers for that interview tomorrow? Zara will still be open if you hurry.
The fact that I have become accustomed to this peculiar Spanish agenda doesn’t mean I like it. Give me lunch between 12 and 1pm any day! Although come to think of it, that main meal in the middle of the day idea might make some sense… And the shops. Gotta love the shops. What will I do back home if I need emergency stilettos at 8pm? A big pat on the back to you Spain; you’ve got this one spot on.
Going back to being a broke student next year is going to be intense. This year I’ve had more cash than I’ve ever known and instead of saving it I’ve spent it on having a damn good time and making memories that I’ll keep for a lifetime. I’ve also bought a ridiculous amount of clothes that will be almost impossible to get home. I rationalised it as stocking up for next year when I won’t be able to afford shopping sprees. I always have a justification. Always.
I’ll also miss eating out at least once a week and I’ll especially miss this place…
The mighty 100 Montaditos! Every Wednesday and Sunday everything is priced at 1€ and you have 100 mini sandwiches to choose from. And of course your soft drink, pint of beer or tinto de verano (similar to sangria). Oh Montadeets. You’d make a killing if only you’d just hop across The Bay of Biscay and The English Channel to open some UK bars.
I think this one speaks for itself.
THE MADRID METRO
Ahh the metro. For all intents and purposes the metro is brilliant. An underground rail network taking you pretty much anywhere you could want and need to go across the entire city of Madrid and where the metro doesn’t reach? There are trams. There are also buses to fill the remaining transport gaps. The metro is fast and for the most part it’s direct. It’s also very cheap with most journeys costing either 1,50€ or 1,70€ and a 10-journey ticket will only set you back 12,20€. There are modern trains on the majority of the lines and visitors to the city comment on how clean it is in comparison to its Paris and London counterparts.
So the metro is wonderful, right? I couldn’t possibly have any gripes about this wonderful city asset. Well, wrong. I find the metro mind-numbingly boring and given the choice I would more often than not take the bus, but buses encounter traffic and aren’t so direct. You’re underground for goodness sake! What’s to see? Some concrete tunnels. WONDERFUL. Oh yeah it’s hot, sometimes unbearably so. It’s swings and roundabouts really.
“¡ESTAMOS EN CRISIS!”
We know you’re in economic crisis! So is half of the rest of the world! Except the Germans. Greedy gits.
ATTITUDE (and all that it incurs)
Spain Spain Spain and its lovely, helpful, hospitable residents. If this statement rings true for you then I’d like to suggest that you’ve taken your experience of a Tenerife holiday resort and attempted to apply it to a whole nation. Oh how things are different on the mainland. The Spanish love to take their sweet time about everything and no one here seems to grasp what the hell a queue is. As a person hailing from the British Isles I find this most perturbing, and that is only the tip of the iceberg of the general disorganisation plaguing the county. I warn you now, if you are planning a year abroad in Spain and hope to get anything done over here then you need to be pushy or at least make friends with someone that is. Never take no for an answer and always stand your ground because I warn you, the concept of customer service never reached the land of flamenco. Too many times have I stood in front of a till staring in disbelief at a cashier sat twiddling their thumbs or scratching their arse. Thoughts of “If you were in England you’d have been sacked by now” and “This would NEVER happen at home” swirl around my head for around five minutes before someone begrudgingly decides to offer me service with a frown without so much as an apology.
Aside from the bad manners and customer service, the Spanish are actually fantastic people. Their attitude to life refreshing and, although at times frustrating, their pace of life is great. They’re so relaxed and cheerful (despite being nationally broke) and they definitely know how to have a good time. There’s actually a little piece of Spanish attitude that everyone in the rest of the world could do with adopting. At worst the Americans are violent (and overweight), the British are hostile (and overweight), the French are snobby (and underweight) and the Germans are being greedy with their non-economic crisisness (I know that’s not a real word). The Spanish are doing something right because most people are fun, friendly and calm. They have decent style and fashion sense and the majority of the population are a healthy weight – not too chunks and not too bony.
If I never enter a Spanish hospital again it’ll be a day too soon. If it’s not a second degree burn it’s a spinal injury or a night of ECGs. I mean honestly, how can one country bring one person so much bad health luck? I’m not alone, my flatmate herself has had two hospital trips already and one of those was for a head injury. They don’t tell you this when they encourage you to do an Erasmus year.
AND THESE GUYS
Alaska and Mario. Making my Sunday night, every Sunday night.
I’m British. I love a good moan. Not a single day can pass without us getting our collective knickers in a twist about something so there’s absolutely no way I could leave Spain without having a good old whinge about it. The alternative soppy, heartbreak story just isn’t my style no matter how much it’ll kill me to leave.