Today’s post comes from Kim-Ling about previously living in Spain as an expat and why she and her husband and doing all they can to get back.
When my husband and I found out that we were moving to Spain to do a Language Assistants Program, we were absolutely elated. Having visited Spain previously and through studying Spanish at university, I knew that living in Spain, regardless of the length of time, was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.
So I packed my bags, left my job, shoe collection and my ‘fur babies’ (dogs) behind to live ‘la vida loca’ (the crazy life). Whilst I don’t know if I’d really classify my life in Spain as crazy, it was so different to what I was used to back in Australia. I went over thinking I would have too much time on my hands and may often find myself bored living in a small town, with enforced naptimes on a daily basis. But, oh, how I was wrong! Something that surprised me was how different life was in Spain. I ignorantly thought that things would be fairly similar to back home, but routines and attitudes are so different there.
Pozoblanco is a reasonably small town of about 17,000 people. I could walk from one end of the town to the other in under 30 minutes. This was handy, as the two schools I worked at were situated at the opposite ends of the town! I didn’t mind walking everywhere, as it was a great way to clear my mind and get a little bit of exercise on a daily basis. It also made me just soak up my surroundings and enjoy the simpler things in life. The people were friendly and family always came first. In Spain, they don’t ask what you do for a living, but instead care more about if you are married or have kids.
Monday to Thursday, I worked as a language assistant in a primary and secondary school, attending bilingual classes and basically being the ‘expert’ on all things English (and Australia). After school, I’d run home for a quick lunch and then head out again to teach English to groups of students from the ages of 3 to 11 years old (those infant classes were a big learning curve for both the students and myself!). After my group classes, I’d run to a local family’s home to do private English classes, followed by Spanish conversation classes and Flamenco dancing or singing lessons. After a long day teaching, I always looked forward to my flamenco lessons. It was so fun to really embrace this part of the culture. Learning flamenco entirely in Spanish was just something so cool (and a little tricky at times) and so affordable! My dance teacher joked that she should move to Australia and be rich as we paid so little for classes there (€30 per month for eight one-hour lessons, as opposed to Australia, where it’s something like $35 PER HOUR!).
Whilst I loved my extracurricular activities, it normally left me with long days where I normally wouldn’t get home before 9:30pm each night. This worked out ok though, as Spanish people eat so late! Dinner isn’t normally served until around 9:00pm (or later!). When I first moved to Spain, I struggled with the meal times and would be ravenous by 6:30pm only to find that everything would be closed. I quickly caught on to eat a large lunch (as the locals do) to tie me over until dinner (and keep a few snacks on hand).
The other thing that I would get caught out by during the week was the daily siesta! The town would literally come to a standstill from between 1:30 to 5:30 everyday. In our small town, nothing (excluding restaurants) was open on Sundays either! Which is ironic, as I often hated to work in retail on a Sunday when living in Australia, and when I was in Spain, I would often want to do some shopping or pick up some groceries, to find everything was closed!
Every weekend, we would hop on a bus followed by train (and sometimes plane) to our next destination. This hectic and unstoppable weekend travel routine was also something we never did back home. We’d be lucky to go somewhere new once every couple of months in Australia, let alone once a week! I think there is just a different mindset over in Spain. Life is something to be lived and enjoyed, and we really embraced that concept wholeheartedly!). And why not? It’s relatively easy to travel around Europe from Spain, and a lot cheaper than travelling in Australia. We figured that we may as well see as much as we can while we were there, as it’s not like we can easily take a weekend trip back there when we are in Australia! NB: We ended up visiting 13 countries in the nine months we were in Europe.
Overall, I loved my time in Spain and would return in a heartbeat. Pozoblanco was a great little town, which I came to call home. From the random street parades to the odd person casually riding a horse down the main street, this town really made a big impression. For me, there is so much to love about Spain. I love the music, the history, the casual approach Spaniards have towards life and the emphasis they place on family… the list goes on really. Living there, my fascination and love for the country has only grown and increased my desire to return long-term.
I honestly believe that you get what you put out. If you want a good experience, whether it is living overseas or just travelling, you need to approach life with a positive and open attitude. If you approach life and people that way, good things will come. When I knew I was moving to Spain, I wanted to make the most out of it. I threw myself into the culture by taking up dance and singing lessons, I hung out with the locals when I was free and I just tried to remind myself how lucky I was to be there. Knowing that at the end of the eight months I’d have to return home, I didn’t want to have any regrets. I think that is one of the biggest lessons to take. Approach life like there is a use-by date and fill it with as much experience, laughter and happiness as you possibly can!
You can follow more of Kim-Ling’s stories on her site Travel-Ling or on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Hey! I'm Alana and I've spent nearly the past decade living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, working as a writer and photographer. I started Paper Planes as a place to share local insight, special places, and how to travel well through a range of experiences — from hostels to high-end hotels, street meat to multi-course meals.
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