I’d decided when was the best time to switch to bilingual education in Spain. Or so I thought …
I cannot believe that it is almost two years since I started writing this post. This is what happens when I want to write about something that is so important to me. That something is our children’s bilingual education in Spain.
March is decision time. In Spain, school enrollment starts in March for intake in September of that year (read more here).
Both our children have enjoyed Spanish state education in primary ( infantil) and junior (primaria). And I must say that we have been extremely happy with the education provided at CEIP San Sebastián in Mijas Pueblo. Francesca, in particular, has had a few inspiring teachers who have helped her grow and develop in a beautiful way ( Thank you Ruba, Marie Tere, Encarni and last but in no way least Carolina).
Our decision to switch to a private international school in secondary education (ESO) was made based, almost entirely, on language alone. Despite the fact that our children have always spoken English at home, they have only been educated in Spanish. Hence our decision to opt for a change to bilingual education in Spain.
In the year they turn twelve, in Spain, the children move from primary to secondary school. This often means a physical change of school and consequently a division of classes and school friends. An ideal time to make a change without to harsh an impact … or so we thought!
I am writing this post having just been to speak to the director at Joshua’s bilingual school. The meeting was to help me decide whether Francesca’s decision ( yep, you read that correctly!) was the best one.
Mis niños 🙂
Our strong-willed and determined little ten year old had decided, last summer, that starting her new school one year earlier than we had planned was the best idea. Not only did she have her reasoning clear in her head, but she also informed her best friend that that was what was going to happen.
You can imagine my surprise when her best friend’s mum asked me if it was true that Francesa would be changing schools before the end of the course. I am not saying I was disappointed. I was genuinely surprised and very impressed. My little shy girl is growing … in many beautiful ways.
Factors I considered when deciding if bilingual education in Spain was the best option for our children…
- Which subjects are taught in which language?
- Majority language in the school
- Other languages
(I will expand on these points in a later post.)
This Wednesday we are attending the initial interview and entrance tests at Josh’s school. I will report back and complete this post …
Questions I am often asked these days are:
- What is paddle tennis?
- How do you play it?
- Why do you love it so much?
If you follow our Instagram feed you will see why these questions arise …
In this article, I am going to answer these questions and welcome you to the wonderful world of padel.
WARNING: This sport can seriously change your life,
help you get in shape and make you lots of new friends.
What is paddle tennis (padel)?
Padel is a racket sport that combines the elements of tennis, squash and badminton. It is only played in doubles and is practiced outdoors as much as indoors.
The game was invented by Enrique Corcuera of Mexico, who created the first padel club in Marbella in 1974. The sport became very popular in Spain, which has been the professional circuit host of the World Padel Tour where it has been played since 2005. Over the course of the past 10 years, padel has begun to spread rapidly to the rest of Europe and the United States.
Padel is played by over 10 million players and has become the fastest growing sport in the world. #padel
How do you play paddle tennis (padel)?
About the padel court… (La pista de padel)
- Dimensions: 200m² (10x20m)
- A net divides the court into two sides
- Glass walls and netted steel fence surround the court
- The back of the court and the beginning of the sides are made of window glass surmounted by a steel fence (height: 4m)
- Access to the court is on each side of the net
- There are no doors
About the padel rules … (Las reglas)
The game starts with a serve which must be hit diagonally to the opponent on the other side of the net. The ball must bounce within the opponents serving “square”.
The serve is underhanded, with 2 attempts allowed
If the ball hits the net and bounces in the box, it is a let (as in tennis).
During the game:
The ball must bounce on the ground before touching any external walls. If the ball hits an external wall before first bouncing on the floor it is out.
A ball can be returned once it has hit the floor and/or any glass walls. However, it cannot bounce twice.
Volleys are also permitted.
Scoring is the same as tennis, except matches are usually made up of the best of 3 sets (male and female). Six games are needed to win a set and the pair who wins two sets wins the match.
Players will play a 7 points tie-breaker if the score reaches 6/6
About the padel racquet: (La pala)
A padel racquet is solid with no strings and is perforated. It is smaller and more compact than a tennis racquet which makes it very easy to handle.
It weighs between 340g and 370g, slightly heavier than a tennis racquet.
The racquet cannot be more than 45,5cm long, 26cm wide and 38mm thick.
The padel racquet is usually covered by plastic or carbon depending on the quality level. The inside of the racquet is made of ethylene-vinyl acetate which looks like a foam.
Padel balls are similar to tennis balls but have less pressure in order to adapt to the small size of the court but also to the game with the fence.
Why do we love paddle tennis (padel)? This is our story …
In April 2016, I (Lisa) was looking for a sport to enjoy with Joshua, our eldest child.
Joshua has played football in Spain for many years A new school year had begun, a move to secondary education, resulting in a change of school for him and consequent team changes and the inevitable departure of many of his friends. Joshua decided that football was no longer for him.
I must admit that I wasn’t disappointed. We have spent many a wonderful weekend supporting our local CD Mijas team on the pitch. However, as the children grow up and testosterone levels rise, so do conflict and often aggression on the pitch. And let’s not even start about the parents! Not the fun it used to be.
So, it was time for a change.
Reasons why we love paddle tennis (padel):
More time spent in the open air
Great for fitness and flexibility
A quick sport to learn
Age, fitness, strength are not essential requirements to enjoy the game
More time spent together playing sport
Great for integration and making friends
Padel courts are all over Spain
By complete chance, we came across a local padel club and signed up for lessons.
And that my friends was that.
The start of our love affair with this sport…
Eighteen months later and our lives have changed for the better. We have many new friends, mainly Spanish but also other nationalities. We play at least 3 or 4 times a week. That is a total of at least ten hours a week. Not bad hey!
As a work from home mum, (this is my business website) I could never have believed that I would ever find an activity that took up 10 to 15 hours per week of my time that was not work nor child related. It is totally “me” time. I love it.
I also love the fact that my teenage son wants to share a court with me. There are no barriers in this sport …. unless you create them yourself.
Francesca is also taking padel classes but this year she is focusing on her rhythmic gymnastics, as she starts competitions this year. That doesn’t stop us packing four padel racquets whenever we travel though!
So, what are you waiting for?
Do you have any questions about this sport? Have you tried it? Feel free to ask us anything! We’d love to hear from you …
What is the Cost of Living in Barcelona?
We continue with our series of How To Calculate The Cost Of Living in Spain For You and Your Family! Today, we consider Barcelona …
Barcelona is an incredible city with an amazing vibe, which explains why so many people want to live in the Catalan capital. In the latest of our Cost of Living in Spain series, we will be taking a look at Barcelona. This will compare Barcelona with other major European cities as well as look at how much it costs to buy or rent property, everyday living expenses and other financial outgoings to help you decide whether moving to Barcelona is right for you.
Barcelona has long been a top destination for artists but the city is also making a name for itself in the world of entrepreneurs. According to EU startups, Barcelona is the fifth top innovation hub in Europe, beating Madrid which is sixth.
Be warned though, Barcelona is a tourist destination all year which makes it expensive for buying or renting property as well as going out in the city centre. If you want to be in the thick of things and you have a big budget, this won’t be a problem. Otherwise, you may want to look at the suburbs such as Nou Barris, Horta-Guinardo or Sarria-Sant Gervasi, all north of Barcelona and in easy commuting distance of the city centre.
Even though Barcelona is more expensive than other major Spanish cities, it is still much cheaper than London. Figures from numbeo.com show consumer prices are 26.65% lower in Barcelona, rent prices are 61.52% lower and restaurant prices are 35% lower. The average monthly salary is lower too though. The average London wage after tax is €2,553 while it is just €1,407 in Barcelona.
Shopping in Barcelona
Everyday grocery shopping is certainly affordable as Barcelona has a good selection of supermarkets, including Lidl and Aldi, and markets. You can get a loaf of bread for about €0.80, 1kg of rice for €0.68, 12 eggs for €1.20, 1kg of chicken breasts from €4.50, a bottle of decent wine from €3.00 (you can buy cheaper but a half-decent Rioja is €3-plus) and a 0.5l bottle of beer from €0.70. You can also pick up fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fresh fish from the daily markets. It’s best to avoid La Boqueria on the Rambla, as it’s rammed with tourists but Santa Caterina or the Mercat de la Concepcio are good alternatives.
For fashion, you can find everything from designer clothes to market-stall bargains. For high-end fashion head to Passeig de Gracia for Cartier, Emporio Armani and Jimmy Choo among others while 40kms from Barcelona is La Roca Village, which is a Chic Outlet Shopping village with discounts of up to 60% on the recommended retail price. Even clothes you can buy in the UK can be cheaper in Spain. For example a pair of Zara jeans are £29.95 in the UK but €29.95 in Barcelona (about £4 cheaper).
Obviously it can be more expensive to eat in the tourist areas and around La Rambla but you can still get a three course lunch-time set menu (menu del dia) for about €10 even in the tourist hotspots. A decent mid-range three-course meal for two will set you back about €30-€50. Half a lager will be around €2.50 at a bar (at least) and a glass of wine about €2.50 too.
Buying or renting property in Barcelona
Compared to much of northern Europe, property rents seem low in Barcelona. However, the tourist hotspots will be expensive. The city also recorded the highest increases in rents in Spain with a rise of 66% in five years to 2017 while other tourist destinations such as Mallorca rose 40% and Madrid was up 20%.
It is possible to rent a small studio by Barceloneta beach for €500 a month but a decent three-bedroom apartment in central Barcelona, such as near La Rambla, will be closer to €1,500 a month.
The average price of a property is €189,973 but one-bedroom flats in central Barcelona are selling for €260,000 with the best properties in top locations changing hands for millions.
On top of the rental price or mortgage, your average monthly bills for electricity, water, garbage collection and internet will add another €155 a month at least to your outgoings. Based on a two to three-bed apartment, costs will be:
- Electricity – €100
- Water – €20
- Internet – €35
Getting out and about in Barcelona
Public transport is the best way to get around in Barcelona as driving can be hectic and parking difficult to find.
You can get a range of tickets at low prices:
- Single metro or bus ticket is €2.15
- Single metro journey between the airport and the rest of the metro network for one zone is €4.50
- Special ticket for the football bus is €3
- A T-10 travel card for 10 bus and metro journeys in one zone is €9.95
- A T-50/30 card allowing 50 trips over 30 days in one zone is €42.50
- A T-Mes monthly travel card allowing unlimited journeys in one zone is €52.75
When you consider parking costs from €2-€3 an hour, then public transport is the cheaper option, particularly when you add the cost of petrol which is €1.279 for unleaded 95.
International schools in Barcelona
As you would expect from Spain’s second largest city, there is a good range of international schools in the city centre. Tuition fees can be from €10,000 per year for nursery children up to €20,500 a year for sixth form students plus additional fees for uniforms, travel, lunches and matriculation. Some of the best known international schools in Barcelona are:
- The Benjamin Franklin International School following the American curriculum.
- St George’s British School teaching a wide range of subjects from the British curriculum and, in addition, Spanish language, humanities and Catalan.
- Kensington School following the English curriculum
- Princess Margaret school, recognised by the International Baccalaureate Organisation to implement its programme,
- The American School of Barcelona teaching the American system and the IP diploma programme
- St Paul’s School offering the Spanish curriculum
- St Peter’s School which has a broad curriculum following the Spanish system but taught in English
(tables from https://www.numbeo.com)
As we explained in a previous post, Spain is a fabulous place to bring up your children. Family comes first and children are children for longer. However, don’t fool yourself, it can take time to adjust to new ways of doing things, especially when they are so different to what we thought were the right way to do things. There are so many tell tale signs that your kids grew up in Spain. I’m sure you can add many more to this initial list that we are sharing.
We were asked by The Local Spain to write a list and we will continue to add more to this list as you share our ideas with us. So, let’s get started …
You know your kids grew up in Spain when …
- You don’t scream for help when a stranger picks up your child to give them a hug.
- The never ending battle of getting them to say “Please” … is never ending!
- Hot chocolate and donuts (churros) are considered a normal breakfast.
- The first word your toddler learns at nursery is “Mío”.
- Dogs say “guau guau”.
- Tweety Pie is renamed “Piu Piu”.
- You send them off to their first day of school, escuela infantil, before they are even 3 years old!
- You have learnt to do divison sums backwards
- You catch yourself introducing yourself as “la madre de …” or “el padre de …”
- Hand and facial gestures are often used in place of words by your kids for expressing themselves.
- Cacahuete! (How many times do the kids find ways to use that word?)
- 3 month long summer holidays are just the norm.
- You can only dream of early bed times!
- Sea air is a popular cure for many illnesses … especially the never ending snotty noses!
- Your kids grow up able to spray salt water up their own nostrils to help clear a blocked nose.
- Lunchtime can be any time from 2pm to 5pm … especially at the weekend.
- They prefer olive oil on their bread rather than butter.
- Your kids complain when school days last longer that 9am to 2pm.
- You are no longer surprised when you go outside to find a pool full of children…and most of them aren’t yours!
- You don’t usually go outside if it’s raining and, to their English grandparents’ horror, your children do not possess any wellies
- When the children ask for “jamón” (ham) you need to check whether they want “Serrano” or “Cocido” (Spanish cured or boiled).
- Your kids, from an early age, are experts as sucking fresh shellfish, “mariscos”, from their shells.
- They do not think twice about having a full blown conversation with an unknown “abuelo” or “abuelito” in the street.
- They are constantly told by friends and family, back home, that they “look so well” due to year round exposure to fresh air and sunshine.
- They know the difference between a barra, baguette, pitufo, pan de molde and mollete.
- They can roll their R’s a lot better than you.
- You no longer flinch when Spanish radio and TV play the explicit lyrics of UK / US songs and videos.
- You are totally unflustered when you receive a note on Friday evening telling you that it’s a one week school holiday … starting on Monday!
- Your family conversations are often a mezcla of two idiomas. Spanglish rues!
Here’s a question for you: What do you know about Spanish eggs? Eggs, as in “huevos” (the Spanish word for eggs).
It wasn’t until our daughter, Francesca, came home from school one day, headed straight for our fridge and started checking the code on our eggs that we stopped and thought about what we were buying.
In this post, we are going to share with you:
- how to understand the quality and origin of your daily egg by cracking the spanish egg codes.
- some everyday delicious Spanish egg dishes
- Some interesting Spanish eggs – pressions (Yes. Pun intended 😉 )
Cracking the Spanish eggs code
I’m sure many of us just look at the stamps on eggs to see the use-by date. But, did you realise it contains a lot more useful information than that?
If you crack the egg code you can find out how the hens who produced the eggs were treated; the country of origin; and even the region where the hens live.
All Class A eggs must have this egg stamp unless they are bought directly from the farm. If you look at the stamp it will show how well the hens are being treated.
The first number means:
- 0 for organic eggs. Requirements include indoor space of six hens per square metre, minimum outdoor space of 4m2 with pasture for the poultry; and the remaining food has to be organically produced.
- 1 for free range eggs. As well as 1,100cm2 of indoor space for each hen, they must also have an outdoor space which they can use all day. The minimum outdoor space is 4m2 per hen.
- 2 for deep litter indoor housing with a minimum space of 1,100cm2 per hen, which is equal to nine hens per square metre. They cannot be kept in cages but sit on an elevated porch in a barn covered with sawdust.
- 3 is for cage farming with a minimum space of 750cm2 for each hen.
Next to this is a two-letter country code which would be ES for Spain (España) and UK for the United Kingdom. After that is a unique producer code, which often starts with a region code, to identify exactly which farm the eggs are from.
How Do You Like Your Eggs?
Although in the UK you may go to work on an egg, that’s not going to happen in Spain. The Spanish are fond of eggs and have plenty of recipes to try but not for breakfast. You’ll find eggs (huevos) starring in tapas, soups, main courses and desserts.
There are a whole range of top egg dishes including:
Tortilla Española: The most famous is the Spanish omelette made with eggs and potatoes. Some include onion too which adds a nice flavour. This is a favourite tapas in many bars – and you can buy it ready-made in the supermarkets too. This is a world away from your fragile French omelette, this is thick, chunky and very tasty.
Tortilla de batata (sweet potato!)
Huevos rotos: Everyone loves potatoes for dipping into that gorgeous golden yolk, which explains why huevos rotos (broken eggs) are so popular. It varies from restaurant to restaurant but it is basically eggs fried in olive oil along with fried potatoes and any other ingredient which takes your fancy – such as jamon, chorizo, or green peppers. It’s probably the nearest thing Spain has to the traditional English brekkie.
Huevos Españoles: Fried egg fans will enjoy tucking into Spanish eggs fried alongside chopped onions, tomatoes and peppers. Delicious served with toast or fried bread so you don’t waste any of those lovely juices.
Revuelto: Revuelto is scrambled egg with extras. You could add anything you like but favourites are jamon, bacalao (cod), setas (mushrooms) or young garlic stalks.
Egg muffins (recipe in out Activity Cookbook!)
Huevos rellenos: These are delicious stuffed boiled eggs. If you’re a fan of egg mayonnaise, you’ll enjoy these as they are very similar but they usually have tuna added to the mixture.
Huevos a la flamenca: The rich reds and yellows are the eye-catching features of the very more-ish huevos a la flamenca cooked with potatoes, peas, peppers, onion, tomatoes, garlic and chorizo with a beautiful egg plopped in the centre. This is baked in the oven until the egg whites set but the yolk is still runny. A sunny dish born in Andalusia, home to Flamenco, and a perfect brunch dish. Forget about singing for your supper, you’ll be dancing for joy after tucking into this gorgeous dish.
Pisto Manchego: Another traditional – and healthy – dish with seasonal vegetables such as tomato, courgette, peppers and onion slowly cooked and served with a fine pair of fried eggs. Each family will have their own recipe. One will cook the veggies and then mix in a tomato sauce, others will mix chopped tomatoes in with the vegetables as they slowly cook, but what is certain is that it will be delicious and colourful.
Sopa de ajo: The Spanish certainly know how to throw a few simple ingredients together to make a satisfying dish and this garlic soup is no exception. It’s simply fried bread, garlic, paprika – smoked paprika if you fancy a bit of a kick to it – and chicken stock with an egg for each person poached in the stock. The first time you try it, it’s a wonderful surprise as the egg is hidden. It’s pungent, it’s just waiting for you to plunge your spoon in and enjoy.
Flan de huevo: Delicious way to end the meal is with a flan, similar to crème caramel, made with eggs, sugar and milk with a caramel sauce topping.
Spanish Eggs -pressions (Sorry! We couldn’t resist.)
Spanish eggs flavour the Castilian language too( including some rather rude ones referring to masculine attributes … your children will be sniggering over references to “huevos”!).
Did you know that the number of eggs changes the meaning?
valía un huevo – one signifies expense or expensive. ‘It’s worth one egg’.
tenía dos huevos – two means courage. ‘He had two eggs’.
me importa tres huevos – three is for contempt. ‘I care three eggs [for it]’.
lograrlo me costó mil huevos – a large number means it’s going to be difficult. ‘It will cost me 1,000 eggs’.
The size and position of your eggs are important too because you want ‘to have two large, well-placed eggs’ – tiene dos huevos grandes y bien plantados – but you don’t want to be told you have eggs like Spartacus’s horse – tiene los huevos como el caballo de Espartaco – because it means you’re clumsy or like a vagabond. Your eggs are so big that they control you and you might even need a wheelbarrow to carry them around!
Other interesting Spanish eggs -pressions include:
No tener huevos = To not have eggs or to be without value
Tener un par (de huevos) = To have a pair of eggs is to be valuable and fearless
Echarle huevos = To lay eggs is to act bravely (I’ll say!)
Hacerse por huevos = To become like eggs means something is done authoritatively or by force
Que cuesta o vale un huevo = What is an egg worth implies it is very dear
¡Y un huevo! = And an egg indicates not to speak
Ser un huevón = To be an idiot
Andar pisando huevos = Walking on eggs is to do something very slowly or calmly
Estar hasta los huevos = If you’re up to the eggs, then you’re fed up
Manda huevos! – to send eggs is the same is Give me a break! when you’re really fed up
A huevo = An egg shows something is in prime condition
Salir algo de los huevos = If you’re determined then you’ll leave some of the eggs
Me toca los huevos – if it touches your eggs, then it’s really annoying you
If all this talk of egg idioms is scrambling your brain, then just say ‘¡Que huevada!’. This is another egg derivative meaning ‘What a load of rubbish (crap)!!’.
What other egg idioms and phrases do you know? Do share them with us …
Hasta los huevos 😀 😀 😀
As we mentioned previously, Spain is tightening its belt economically. The taxman is going for every centimo possible as the government looks for ways to reduce the national debt. We have been seeing this happen at the expense of taxpayers and business owners. However, the quality of life and Spain, in general, still make it worthwhile to moving over and living here.
Also, with Brexit just around the corner, with whatever that could mean for expats in Spain, it is more important than ever to make sure your paperwork is up-to-date and you are living legitimately in your chosen country.
To help you survive expat life in Spain, we have put together some ‘possibly boring but definitely practical‘ tips. We’ve also thrown in a few fun tips to help you get the most out of your life in Spain in 2017.
List One: Our ‘possibly boring but definitely practical’ tips for surviving expat life in Spain in 2017.
If you are a resident in Spain, check your residency card* is valid and up-to-date. Once it expires, you will have to start the application process again. It’s far easier just to renew it rather than go through the rigmarole of producing documents – and forming an orderly queue – all over again. (*The residency card is currently (January 2017) a small green credit card size piece of paper. This replaced the A4 green residency certificate, which is also valid. The old blue card with a photograph on it is the one that has an expiry date.)
If you are a resident but you only have the white NIE certificate, you should consider applying for your residency card now. Although the details still have to be worked out, when the UK does leave the EU obtaining a residency card is likely to be more complicated. Spain already wants assurances that you will not be a burden which is why it seeks proof of your finances and medical cover. These rules could be more stringent post-Brexit or once Britain triggers Article 50. It is not a difficult process but you just need to make sure you have filled in the relevant forms and take the necessary documents plus photocopies with you. We help you every step of the way in Chapter One of our online course on NIE, residency and the padron.
Check your driving licence and car paperwork. Make sure that the Dirección General de Tráfico (DGT) knows your current address which must appear on both your licence and car paperwork. It is also useful for DGT to have your current address in case you should incur a traffic fine. If paid promptly, you can usually get up to 50% discount but if you don’t know about it, the fine can rapidly soar. Read our blog about our €900 traffic fine (which we fought against and won!) for a horrifying account of Spanish fines’ farce. You can find out how to update your licence and car paperwork in chapter 10 of our online course on driving in Spain.
If you live permanently in Spain, you will need to swap your UK licence for a Spanish one. It is simple to do and might involve a simple medical to check eyes, hearing and co-ordination. It will be easier to exchange licences before your UK one expires. Again, our online course on driving will guide you through this process.
Learn Spanish. We are constantly amazed at the number of Brits who move to Spain but never manage to pick up more than a few words of the lingo. To make the most of your expat life in Spain, we would definitely recommend you learn Spanish. It will help you integrate, it will certainly come in handy in an emergency and you can learn so much more about the rich culture and history through learning the language. To get the most of your expat life in Spain 2017, we suggest you make this the year you learn or improve your linguistic skills. Depending on which part of the country you live in, after conquering Castellano you may be inspired to go on to learn Catalan or Valenciano, for example, to really live like a local. For more ideas on learning a language in Spain 2017 to make the most of your expat life in Spain, sign up for Chapter 4 of our online course on language and Chapter 8 on integration.
January in Spain
List Two: Our 10 fun tips for making the most of your expat life in Spain in 2017
Stop worrying and go with the flow. We know Spanish bureaucracy can be frustrating, the queuing system confusing and the paperwork inexplicable. That is why we’ve set out easy-to-follow instructions in our online course to help you. But, even if you are learning Spanish and trying to integrate but feel progress is slow, don’t beat yourself up about it. If you have followed our advice in List One above, you have done a lot more than many others who enjoy expat life in Spain.
Get out. Discover. Enjoy. We all know how much Spain loves to party with fiestas and ferias taking place every week somewhere in Spain. These fiestas are fantastic fun, such as the arrival of the Three Kings on 12th night; Moors and Christians battles; Sevilla feria spring fair; jumping over bonfires for San Juan in mid-summer; and carnival. Others are more sombre such as Holy Week with processions and palms. To keep informed about the fiestas and ferias around Spain, sign up for our newsletter.
Use your EYES to marvel at the stunning scenery
Remember the mañana mantra. Take life in the slow lane by becoming more Spanish. Your expat life in Spain is not supposed to be stressful. Don’t get worked up about the little things and if you can’t get something done today, then there is always tomorrow.
Remember the more the merrier. The louder the better. Forget about the British reserve and make some noise. If you’re having fun, then show it. Join in the dancing and singing during the fiestas. Invite your neighbours around for a barbecue. Laugh out loud at the little things that amuse you. Nobody’s watching because they’re too busy enjoying themselves!
Savour the simple stuff. Remember why you decided to move to Spain. Was it the food, the beautiful scenery, the people, the culture? Whatever the reason, don’t get so bogged down by the little things that you forget why you decided to make your expat life in Spain. Every day, look up at the views, marvel over the range of fresh fish in the market, smile at the old guys putting the world to rights in the town square, and savour every moment of everything Spain has to offer.
Lisa & Joshua in a Padel torneo
Try something new. Spain never ceases to amaze us with each region having something unique to offer. Take time out of your schedule to try something new. It could be a new sport – padel or golf – a healthy pastime – like walking or cycling – or sign up for an art or photography course.
Taste the difference. Spanish cuisine is very hearty and makes the most of the regional, seasonal produce. Why not treat yourself to a menu del día which is typically Spanish. You could try migas, rabo de toro, pulpo a la gallega or puchero.
Pulpo a la Gallega
Gambas Pil Pil
Do something typically Spanish. This helps you embrace the culture. Learn to slice jamón so thinly you can see through it, or intricate lace-making, pouring cider the Asturian way, flamenco dancing or cooking a giant paella on an open fire.
Go exploring. Spain is such a vast country that it would take a lifetime to explore all of it. But we suggest you do the best you can by setting aside days for getting off the tourist trail and exploring the hidden Spain. Depending on your interests, you could visit a city which isn’t mentioned in the tourist guides, find a traditional village miles from anywhere or visit the national parks or mountains.
Join a group. To truly integrate, we suggest you join a group of people who share the same interests as you or sign up as a volunteer. On the internet, you can find groups of people who meet for excursions or activities. For older people, the U3A is active in many areas. Or volunteer to help others – you could join the Red Cross, help out at a local shelter for the homeless or animals. For further ideas of enjoying expat life in Spain, you can always sign up for Chapter 8 of our online course on integration.
Remember to smile and have fun!
So, there you have just a few of our many tips for surviving and making the most of you expat life in Spain in 2017.
What do you have planned for 2017? Have we helped you make some decisions? Pop over to Our Family Life In Spain Facebook Page and share your ideas with us.
We have started 2017 with a bang! Thanks to readers like you, our family language project, Cooking With Languages, has been brought to life. You helped us raise over £5,000 via Crowdfunding. The campaign ends 30th January 2017 so you might still have time to bag yourself some bargains …
UPDATE: Our How To Move To Spain Online Course …
We are currently working on our online course, our project for 2017. As soon as it is ready, our Newsletter subscribers will be the first to know and, of course, the first to get the discounted price 😉
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Let Us Show You How To Make Money From Your Leftover Currency!
Did you know that Spaniards are still hoarding pesetas worth about €1.7 billion?
Since the euro was introduced in Spain on New Year’s Day 2002, the Spanish have kept the faith with the old money by hoarding about €864 million in notes and €805 million in coins, according to the Bank of Spain. Whether the money is stuffed under the bed or hidden in cupboards, that’s a lot of spare change lying around! But there are more useful things to do with your leftover currency.
Why the pessimism following the peseta?
Pesetas can still be exchanged by the central bank until the end of 2020, so there’s still time to swap it for euros. After all, what else can you do with it? Maybe some people are hanging on to the money in the hope the peseta will be reintroduced into Spain. Many still complain the euro led to rapid inflation as prices were rounded up. A cup of coffee in a bar which previously cost 100 pesetas was priced at €1 while a menu del dia – three-course lunch – went from 1,000 pesetas to €10, which was a whopping 66% increase. (The exchange rate says €1 is worth 166 pesetas). So it’s no wonder that people were suspicious of the new ‘funny money’ and wanted to hang on to the beloved peseta. But can this still be the case 15 years later?
But even the peseta is a relatively new currency as it was only created during the monetary reform in 1868, according to A Farewell To The Peseta speech given by Eugenio Domingo Solans, Member of the Governing Council and of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank, in February 2002. The mid-19th century was a turbulent time of social upheaval, economic depression with a need to establish financial and monetary order. So a new currency was born.
According to historians, the franc and peseta share the same origin with the Livre Tournois, from Tours, being introduced into Catalonia by French troops during the War of the Spanish Succession which ended with defeat in 1714. In France the Franc Germinal replaced the Libre Tournois while the peseta came into being in Catalonia before becoming the basic unit of the Spanish monetary system in 1868 when decimalisation was also introduced (something the British didn’t bring in until 1971 incidentally) Prior to that, the ‘real’ meaning ‘Royal’ was the Spanish currency from the middle of the 14th century until 1864 when it was replaced by the silver ‘escudo’ which lasted from 1864 until 1868.
So what is a peseta? The word ‘peseta’ is thought come from ‘pesseta’, the diminutive form of the Catalan word ‘peça’ meaning ‘piece’. However, it may also have come from the Spanish word ‘peso’ being ‘weight’.
Euro euphoria – reasons to be cheerful?
Despite the doom and gloom by many traditionalists, the reasons for setting up a Euro-wide currency were sound.
You no longer lose out on currency exchange when travelling between Spain and other European countries. Changing money always had a cost to it so it’s much better for tourists to have one currency to use in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and other European countries.
Obviously, businesses benefit immensely too as they can trade with their fellow European companies using just the one currency unless they have dealings with the UK of course.
It’s great for exports because it cuts out any fluctuations of exchange rates which could lead to a difference between a healthy profit and a possible loss.
It’s easier to compare prices between countries. With one currency, it means prices are transparent so you don’t have to work out if you pay more for a new Volkswagen in France than in Germany – it’s all in euros!!
Has the penny dropped?
When you read about how much old money is being stashed away by Spaniards, did it make you think about that drawer crammed full of useful stuff that never gets used?
Everyone has a drawer or box full of old TV remotes, phone chargers and cables which you put away because ‘they’ll come in handy some day’. I bet many of you will also find some leftover currency in that drawer too. You know, you had a handful of small notes or loose change from your holiday in Greece or Turkey, which wasn’t worth changing back into sterling, so you put it away – and forgot about it!
Well now, you can cash in obsolete currencies or coins in many currencies at leftovercurrency.com. Your old Spanish pesetas, Deutsche marks, French francs and currencies still trading today such as US or Canadian dollars and Euros can be cashed in.
So why not hunt out all your leftover currency – old and new – to find out how much you can get for it?
Quotes from Leftover Currency Clients
Leftover Currency was set up Mario Van Poppel and Aleksandra Ruchala after finding old banknotes in a drawer. Curiosity aroused, they wanted to find out if they had any value and so they learned how to convert old money into cash. Thus Leftover Currency was born in 2010 to help other people exchange old currency and coins.
They were joined by Steven Lawrence in 2014 and Leftover Currency started to trade as a limited company. Steven has worked for 30 years in the UK financial and retail sectors, so brings a wealth of experience to complement the couple’s passion for numismatics – the study or collection of coins, banknotes, and medals.
So why not declutter that ‘drawer full of useful things’?
Just dig out any leftover currency, go to the Leftover Currency website and follow the instructions to see how much better off you can be by offloading your foreign currency.
If you are feeling generous, you could even donate your leftover currency to charity … now we like that idea!
Are you a charity? Get in contact with Leftover Currency to be featured on their page.
Public Holidays Spain 2017: Time to start planning!
As 2017 gets into full swing and we start thinking about the year ahead, planning holidays, family meet ups and day trips, it is a good idea to consider the dates for public holidays Spain 2017.
If you are planning your relocation and arranging to visit schools and visit potential rental properties, you will find many places closed on these dates. Avoid them if you can.
If you are looking for the 2016/2017 school holiday calendar, visit here.
According to Spain’s BOE official state bulletin, these are the public holidays Spain 2017:
- If a National Holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday may also be declared a holiday date.
- There are many local holidays that are not included on this calendar, ensure you do your research about the area you plan to visit, before making any plans.
Name of Holiday
Where in Spain?
||New Year’s Day
||New Year’s Day Holiday*
||Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Castile and Leon, Murcia and Melilla
||Día de Reyes (Kings’ Day)
||Día de Andalucía
||Balearic Islands Regional Holiday
||St. Joseph’s Day
||Extremadura and Madrid
||Jueves Santo (Semana Santa)
||National (Except Catalonia)
||Viernes Santo/ Santo Entierro (Semana Santa)
||Balearic Islands, Catalonia, Valencia, Navarra, Basque Country and La Rioja
||Castile and Leon Regional Holiday
||Castile and Leon
||Día de los trabajadores
||Madrid Regional Holiday
||Galician Literature Day
||Canary Islands Regional Holiday
||Castile-La Mancha Regional Holiday
||Murcia Regional Holiday
||La Rioja Regional Holiday
||St. John’s Day
||Santiago Apostle / National Day of Galicia
||Galicia, Navarra and the Basque Country
||Assumption of Mary
||Feast of the Sacrifice / Eid al-Adha *
||Ceuta & Melilla
||Astorias Regional Holiday
||Extremadura Regional Holiday
||National Day of Catalonia
||Cantabria Regional Holiday
||Valencian Regional Holiday
||Fiesta Nacional de España
||Todos los santos
||Navidad/ Christmas Day
||St. Stephen’s Day
We’ll be adding information about all these holidays on the blog, so make sure you sign up for updates!
If you’d like to write about your favourite Spanish Festival, or you think we’ve made any mistakes, please Contact Us
WARNING: Lisa is rambling again. This ramble is about totally related and unrelated stuff in Spain 2016. We have neglected our blog for too long so this is her way of getting it all out, looking back and moving forwards … you have been warned 😉
Our April Fools in Spain
December 28th in Spain, is Dia de los Santos Inocentes. It is basically the equivalent to April Fools in Spain … a day when is it customary to play practical jokes.
To all the lovely people who emailed us and posted messages on our Facebook page, please accept our apologies, but we couldn’t resist it…
NEWS: It is with regret that we must inform you of our decision to leave Spain.
As a result of our decision, our…
Posted by Family Life In Spain on Wednesday, 28 December 2016
A little bit more about December 28th, April Fools in Spain …
This celebration appears to have its origins in an event narrated by the Bible concerning King Herod and the innocents, although over the centuries it has evolved to become a boisterous day in which even the media usually reports on some outrageous and completely invented news story.One of the most widespread jokes on this day is to stick a figure cut out of white paper on someone’s back (without them realising). The word in Spanish for this practical joke is an “inocentada”. And, in the numerous Christmas markets (usually located in the large squares in the cities) you can find a whole range of joke articles (wigs, itching powder, false ink…).Many areas in Spain also have other typical local celebrations on 28 December. Examples include the festivity of Los Locos (or “lunatics”) in Jalance (in Valencia, the mayor of the lunatics governs the town for 24 hours); the festivity of the Holy Innocents in Nogalte (in Murcia, with popular dancing and bands of singers); the Danza de Los Locos, or “dance of the lunatics” in Fuente Carreteros (in Cordoba); the “Obispillo”, or “little bishop” (celebrated in places such as Burgos, Palencia and Murcia, where a small boy is chosen to carry out the functions of the bishop for one day); and the “Festa dels Enfarinats” de Ibi (in Alicante, involving a “battle” fought with eggs, flour and firecrackers).
Why did we decide to play this December 28th “joke”?
It may surprise you but we were doubting whether to continue with our blog and social media pages. Life seems so busy these days and time is of the essence.
Sometimes we just need to take check of everything, especially tasks that take up a lot of our time. Thanks to your responses we know that we shouldn’t give up what we have spent years creating.
We have been blogging since 2010 and have built a wonderful family both online and in real life. It is thanks to all your comments, the private emails and business offers that we are now fully motivated for 2017 and will be planning lots more exciting adventures.
If you use social media, join us for more online fun and activities in 2017:
Looking back over Spain 2016:
A very quick summary of the continuing struggles in Spain 2016 …
- Education standards, particularly related to “so-called” bilingual education, are in question in schools in many parts of the country. We continue to collate feedback and information on this.
- The Spanish royal family and many highly prominent characters seem to be continually engulfed in scandal en corruption.
Good News in 2016 from friends in Spain:
Spain’s ‘ghost’ airport finally gets ready to welcome its first flights as Ryanair confirms routes between Castellon and the UK.
The project cost more than €150m to build and was the brainchild of a local politician who is now serving a four-year sentence for tax fraud…
Castellon is one of a number of building projects that fell victim to developers going out of business, running out of funds or not appreciating that their masterpiece was not needed during the boom years.
Another airport, in Ciudad Real, remains unused despite costing more than €1bn to build. Airlines did use it, but left when the company managing it went bust.
The inclusion on the UNESCO cultural heritage list of the festival, which dates back to the 18th century, comes at the end of an intense two-year campaign backed by authorities in Valencia and involving the participation of thousands of people including falleros, as the people taking part in the festival as known, as well as the artists and craftspeople working on creating the fallas, and pyrotechnics experts – fireworks and firecrackers are an essential part of the festivities.
Located in the heart of Andalusia in southern Spain, the site comprises three megalithic monuments: the Menga and Viera dolmens and the Tholos of El Romeral, and two natural monuments: La Peña de los Enamorados and El Torcal mountainous formations, which are landmarks within the property. Built during the Neolithic and Bronze Age out of large stone blocks, these monuments form chambers with lintelled roofs or false cupolas. These three tombs, buried beneath their original earth tumuli, are one of the most remarkable architectural works of European prehistory and one of the most important examples of European Megalithism.
An article in El Pais informs us that July shatters tourism records in Spain. There were 9.6 million visitors last month, beating previous all-time high set in August 2015 July 2016 has shattered all tourist records in Spain. Never before had so many foreigners – 9.6 million – visited the country in a single month.
The figure represents a 9.1% rise from July 2015, which was already a bumper year for tourism. And it is higher than the previous record for monthly foreign visitors, which was set in August of last year.Despite the Brexit vote and a weaker pound, British citizens continue to make up the bulk of foreign tourists to Spain, with 2.2 million arriving in July, a 11.4% rise from the same period last year.
We are happy to announce that Malaga, one of our favourite Spanish cities, continues to blossom and is receiving acclaim from many sources. In December, the museum of Malaga opened to the public. You now need even more time to visit this great, open and welcoming city.
Family Life in Spain’s Spain 2016:
Let’s start with the happy stuff …
2016 was a great year for us, particularly on the family travel side. In February, we discovered an amazing ski destination in Northern Spain. We had an fabulous summer, travelling to new places, meeting up with family and friends (Yes, I know I have still to write those up and I will!)
We welcomed many beautiful families and couple to Spain, to start their new lives, via our relocation services on http://movetomalagaspain.com/ and we’d like to thank the wonderful Louise for assisting us with this. We couldn’t have coped with the demand without her!
Due to popular demand, I , Lisa, started focusing on the Property Finder section of our business and 2016 was a very successful year. We’d like to thank all our lovely property owners (both current and in the pipeline) and wish you all a wonderful 2017 and many more years to come in your new Spanish homes, be they permanent or holiday homes.
Our son took the leap from Spanish state school in Mijas Pueblo to a private bilingual school in Benalmadena. (http://familylifeinspain.com/2016/09/15/secondary-education-in-spain/) He has taken to it like a fish takes to water, making us so proud. Bilingual education rocks and if you have any questions about it, we’d be more than happy to discuss it with you.
Our daughter has overcome many of her inner demons and has participated in two live performances, for her ballet and rythmic gymnastics. And, despite the uncertainty of her unexpected change of class at the beginning of the school year (http://familylifeinspain.com/2016/09/11/living-abroad-with-children-changes-inevitable/ ) she is loving school and adores her new teacher.
Dad with a grumpy face!
And now onto the not so positive stuff for us in Spain 2016…
Like many people, we have had a few incidents, particularly monetary issues and bureaucratic challenges, over the last few months. However, it will take a lot more than that to make us leave the place that we continue to call our home.
We are as determined as ever to discover more about living in this great country. A country that is also experiencing its own issues and internal struggles.
We have always promised to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about living in Spain on our website and this will not change.
Looking back, I think we seemed to have forgotten all the good stuff and ended on a kind of low. We are battling to understand why it is the honest taxpayer who appears to be being targeted in order to recover the biggest economic debt the country has “ever experienced” … those who continue to work outside of the radar need to be pulled in and exposed.
Despite being very careful, we have been hit hard by the Spanish authorities, not only sending unjustified traffic fines (http://familylifeinspain.com/2016/04/20/paying-traffic-fines-in-spain-this-time-we-refuse-to/) which we managed to contest and win, but also claiming all kinds of taxes relating to our business and land purchase. We are in a whirlwind of Spanish red tape and bureaucratic challenges.
Can you imagine paying a price for something and then being charged tax on almost 170% of that price? Read more on Move To Malaga
Thankfully we have very good professionals working with us and we will continue to contest what we do not believe to be acceptable. It is not easy but we will fight.
Our advice for you …
It is more important than ever to keep all authorities informed of any change of address. Remember that you are responsible for checking if you have any unreceived fines. The longer you leave it, the more expensive they become.
If you haven’t done so already, ensure you have a reputable and reliable gestor, account and and when necessary, qualified lawyer. (http://movetomalagaspain.com/spanish-property-lawyers/)
As we look back on Spain 2016 and look forward to 2017, we are, once again, excited. Admittedly, there are lots of unexpected’s lurking over many people (sorry but we refuse to discuss the “B word” until those in power stop pussyfooting around and make the decisions that need to be made for many to get on with their lives). Once the regulations are clear, our Moving to Spain books will be updated and our new How To Move To Spain Online Course will have all the information you need.
We will continue to share our real life experiences with you in 2017. Remember we are not selling dreams, we are sharing reality. The good, the bad and the ugly about Family Life In Spain.
Whether you are planning to move to Spain or are already living here, ensure you read Our Top Tips for Enjoying Life in Spain in 2017. (This article currently being written so come back soon!)
Phew! That’s it. Sorry to ramble but now that that’s all out of the way we can move on and look forward to what Family Life in Spain has to offer in 2017 🙂
Lisa & Francesca in Paris July 2016
“But she’s so beautiful”, says the mother of another girl at the rhythmic gymnastic practice.
This is what almost every parent we meet says about our daughter.
But that’s what she needs to hear. Nor is it what I want people to say to her.
She is growing up and the words she hears are very important.
It is almost four years since Francesca stopped going to rhythmic gymnastic practice.
The memory of the last event is etched deep in my mind.
I sat there, on the cold concrete floor, hundreds of non-seeing eyes across the hall from us. I was rocking her in my arms, trying to console her, to comfort her, to give her confidence. At least she was in my arms at last. No longer screaming and shrieking, as much at herself as at me. Scolding herself for her self-imagined inadequacies. Desperately trying to hide her inner fear. Control her inner demons.
A few minutes earlier (actually, thinking back, the incident had lasted close to 45 minutes) I had been torn apart with emotions as I stood there and watched her screaming aggressively at her fellow gymnasts who attempted to comfort her, encourage her, to calm her. These were the girls she so loved to practice with. They encouraged and supported here all the way. They knew she knew her routine. She had practiced religiously. She was to be the mini-star of the show.
But, when she was like that, only one person could console her. These were demons she had created. And only she could tame them.
I simply had to be there, ready to step in as soon as the opportunity arose.
Our hard-working, determined little girl was not ready. She was too young. We decided to walk away.
Our family back in 2010
As a toddler, it was heartbreaking to see her scold and even hit herself when she thought she had upset somebody. A slightly raised voice or a change of tone would cause her to erupt. It was soul destroying.
How could this angelic looking child appear to hate herself so much? Why wouldn’t she let us comfort her? For us, a hug could solve everything. It had worked for our son. What a lesson we had ahead …
Francesca practicing what she loves to do!
Today, in my eyes, she has grown so much and in so many ways.
Yet, as she stood there, amongst the other girls, before her first practice session in years, she had never looked so petite and fragile. But she was beaming from ear to ear. She wanted to do this. And when she wants to do something …
In no way do I mean to be rude when I say this, but, next time, when you see a young girl making a big effort to do something, congratulate her on what she is doing, not on how she looks. And watch how she smiles back at you.