About Fiestas and Siestas Miles Apart, By Alan Cuthbertson
Fiestas and Siestas Miles Apart is the humorous but true story of what happens when the Cuthbertson family decides to sell everything (including the family business), load the family car, and move from England to Spain.
As author Alan Cuthbertson and wife, Heather, begin their move, daughters Ashlie and Stacey have other ideas and take off on their own adventure to Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. The girls swim with sharks and work in a gold mine, their enthusiasm and naivety shown in the e-mails and texts received by their parents, who themselves are finding Spanish life a very steep learning curve. Who knew fried sparrow was a delicacy? And Alan’s first hunting trip is not a completely successful expedition, but a very funny one.
We are giving away 3x copies of Fiestas and Siestas Miles Apart in Kindle format and 3 copies in audio format.
For a chance to win answer the following question.
For more information, please visit www.alancuthbertson.com
Excerpt from: Fiestas and Siestas Miles Apart
Antonio and Encarna are good friends from our village. Antonio is referred to as Lee Van Cleef, getting the nickname after I pointed out his similarity to the spaghetti western star
A couple of days later we sat with Van Cleef and his wife Encarna and the conversation got onto the subject of food once again. “Rabbit is my favourite,” confessed Van Cleef.
“I’ve never had rabbit,” admitted Heather.
“Mi casa, Domingo próximo.” Van Cleef’s invitation to Sunday dinner will have been the first time we have eaten with a proper Spanish family in their own home. It was something we looked forward to with mixed emotions.
Not knowing Spanish etiquette for such an occasion, we dressed casually and before leaving the house, selected a bottle of wine to take. “I’ve just remembered. Encarna doesn’t drink and Van Cleef only drinks whiskey,” said Heather, so I swapped the bottle of wine for one of whiskey.
During the short walk to their house, Heather and I mulled over the possible menu.
“He said it was going to be rabbit,” I pointed out.
“I’m just thinking back to the bar when they were all eating sparrows and snails,” Heather said nervously, her nose curling a little.
“We have to eat whatever they put in front of us,” I said, “it would be rude not to.”
We knocked on the door and were greeted by Van Cleef himself. I passed him the bottle of whiskey. He looked at me, then the bottle, then back at me. His expression said, “You have a drink problem my friend.” Inside the house it was quite dark, as most Spanish houses are. Alfonso, Van Cleef’s son, was engrossed in a cartoon on the TV and seemed to be finding it hysterical, a little unusual when you consider he is 19 years old.
We took our positions at the table and right on cue in walked Encarna carrying individual plates full of assorted vegetables and…animal. Heather and I glanced at each other recalling our vow to eat, or at least try, whatever was put in front of us.
Now I know this was to be Heather’s first taste of rabbit, but I just don’t ever remember seeing a rabbit with wings, so presumably some kind of last minute substitution had been made. We all picked up our knives and forks and began to dig in. Encarna saw me pushing the meat around, got up and disappeared in to the kitchen. When she returned she passed me a pair of scissors. “What the hell are these for?” I whispered to Heather. Across the table from me, Alfonso had rejected the knife and fork and was pulling the animal on his plate apart with his fingers, so I did likewise. The wing looked tempting, so I gave it a tug. It came away from the body. Unfortunately, where it had been joined hung the veins and tendons, still dripping with blood and bodily fluids.
“Antonio, no conejo?” Not rabbit? I asked.
“No,” he replied. He then stood up, hooked his thumbs under his armpits and waved his elbows up and down. From this I deduced he was either trying to tell me we were eating bird, or we had progressed on to charades and this was his Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.
Heather, who had been sitting at the side of me throughout the meal, let out a faint squeal that fortunately only I heard. As I turned my head I saw her pulling something from her mouth. Was it a bone? A bit of gristle maybe? Or even a filling? No, it was a piece of buck shot the size of a small rock. “I guess he shot it himself,” I said.
After the main course, a bowl of fruit was brought from the kitchen, and Heather selected a pear and took her first bite. “No, No,” called Encarna thrusting a knife toward Heather.
“I think she wanted the pear,” I said a little worried. As it transpires, the knife was to peel the pear, as they never eat the skins of fruits concerned about what they may have been sprayed with.
As we said our goodbyes I returned the invitation and promised that next time they would have to come to our house for a meal. Van Cleef turned his nose up and curled his top lip. A rough translation of what he said would be. “I don’t think so; I don’t eat that English muck.”
This New EBook Shows You How To Make Eggplant Chips With Honey and many More Classic Spanish Dishes
If you follow our blog, you will know we are lovers of Spanish food. Even our children are known to indulge in “not-so-typical” dishes for children.
We are always looking for ways to encourage friends and family to try new foods, to be more adventurous. Honestly, pickled raw anchovies are actually very very nice!
One day I met up with our friends, Elle and Alan, from SpainBuddy.com. We spent some time together in Málaga city, exploring the sights and grabbing a bite to eat.
I can proudly claim that I was able to persuade Elle to eat aubergine (that’s “eggplant” for our American readers) and actually enjoy it! Previously she wouldn’t touch it, but I was able to introduce her to “berenjena con miel de caña” – deep fried aubergine with cane honey. This dish rapidly became one of her favourites and she now eats it at least once per week – whipping it up in just a few minutes at home.
Elle has recently released a new cookbook in digital format – 125 recipes with full-colour photographs.
The recipes are extremely easy to follow and to show you just how easy they are – here is a sample for you. This is Elle’s version of berenjena con miel de caña – enjoy!
Note: Miel de caña is cane syrup or molasses and can be found in most supermarkets. However, you can swap this for honey, golden syrup or runny jam if you prefer.
Berenjena con miel de caña (Aubergine with cane honey)
One eggplant… or aubergine… or whatever you want to call it
Couple of tablespoons of miel de caña for drizzling
Couple of spoonfuls of flour (any type of white flour will do)
Plenty of olive oil for frying
Cut your aubergine into really thin slices – a couple of millimetres is perfect
Pop the slices into a bowl of water and leave it for half an hour. Soaking before use takes some of the bitterness out (actually I never bother these days although I do give them a quick rinse so the flour adheres to them)
Drain well and toss in the flour
Deep fry in batches in very hot olive oil, flipping halfway through.
When they are golden brown and floating, they are done. You can keep them warm in a low oven while you fry the rest
Drain on paper towels and then arrange on a plate or in a bowl
Drizzle the miel de caña on top.
eggplant chips drizzled with honey
Elle and Alan have lived in Spain since 2006, although only on the mainland since 2012. Together they run www.spainbuddy.com which is a general website about Spain.
6 Top Tips for Surviving Expatriate Life with Kids
I love how many people we virtually “meet” on social media. It really does make the world a smaller place and enable us to exchange stories and ideas with like-minded people.
This article is a guest post written by our Twitter buddy @BGSmith.
BG Smith leads study abroad programs for his university in Spain, and on the side, produces videos and blogs on surviving expat life with a family of 6. For more insight and adventures, subscribe to his YouTube Channel Expatriate Snippets and follow the Expatriate Smiths blog.
Over to you Brian …
We’ve often been asked what it’s like to bring a family of 6 to Europe–usually following an indirect inquiry about our sanity. So I thought it might be apropos to pen this blog post with the top six considerations of traveling and living in Europe.
1. Be Flexible with Your Living Conditions
Across the board, living spaces in Europe are generally much smaller than they are in the U.S. Apartments tend to be two bedrooms or less, and we have learned to fit all four of our kids in the same bedroom, using bunk beds, or putting some kids on a couch if necessary. Hotels may be a good alternative, but even they are much smaller than in the U.S. Shortly into our first expatriate experience, we finally gave up on finding an American-size hotel room that fit us all, and looked for multi-room bookings that were cheap enough to “vale la pena” (as they say in Spain). While Booking.com seems to be a good resource for European hotels and homes, we have also had varying success with Ibis hotels. Their rooms are extremely small and basic (usually a bed, bathroom, shower all in 100 sq ft), but they’re also extremely economical.
2. Go local with Food
After traveling to so many countries, and living for long periods of time especially in Barcelona, we often have friends who ask for restaurant recommendations. Problem is, we don’t go to any restaurants. I mean…we don’t even go to restaurants in the U.S.–we have 4 kids. Not only is it pricey, but “Smith, Party of 6” isn’t always the most relaxing dining experience. No, we don’t do restaurants in Europe, especially since in many cities, the dining experience can be much longer (up to 2 hours or more). Instead, we do “Grocery Stores”. Yep, Grocery Stores. Especially Aldi, Lidl, and Mercadona. WE also do outdoor markets. I’m a firm believer that you learn a culture by its home-cooked meals, and grocery stores are the ground floor. We love to dive into the new and different foods, and we often let the kids choose what they want. Of course, some grocery stores are more difficult than others, esp. Croatia where we didn’t have the advantage of an easily translatable romance language, and the Croatian Kuna has an uneven exchange rate against the euro and dollar. Either way, though, we’ve found that you can get the same, and sometimes better, food in grocery stores than restaurants, and it’s always cheaper. (Below, some favorite grocery foods in Italy and Spain)
3. Level Up on Going Green
From meticulously dividing garbage into up to four different categories and putting out the right receptacles on the right day in Italy to paying for utilities in HomeAway and AirBnB rentals, life in Europe can be much more conservation-minded than life in the U.S. Europeans like to save energy and live green. The value of conservation may even carry over to laundry, as few apartments in the places where we’ve lived (Spain and Italy) have had a dryer; and washing machines in Europe take 2-3 times longer than U.S. counterparts (up to 3 hours for a load to finish). But one thing we’ve learned, is that welcoming the change in lifestyle is actually something our kids have enjoyed–in fact, in Italy, hanging the laundry out became one of the coveted chores.
4. Hang with the Locals
One of the most significant opportunities to grow has been interacting with locals while we’re abroad. It’s a chance for all of us (not just the children) to see from another’s viewpoint and thereby broaden perspectives. For this reason, I always encourage my boys to jump into a futbol (i.e. soccer) game with local kids at a park. Whether it’s been France, Spain, or Italy, the kids have always figured out how to work around the language differences–playing seems to have a language all its own.
We have also religiously attended our church services on Sundays, no matter where we are. This has often meant staying for 2-3 hours of church services, depending on our travel schedule, even when we may not speak the same language as the congregation. In Spain, my fluency in Spanish has made it easier, but the more we’ve gone to Church, the more the kids figure out how to communicate and get around the language barrier, to the point that the oldest have often said they don’t need me to translate for them, even though they don’t speak Spanish.
5. Don’t Always trust the Travel Gurus
Despite what travel gurus like Rick Steves preach, the Euro Rail System is NOT inexpensive or frugal, especially with a family of 6. Inexpensive flights can be a good alternative–even commonly derided cheap airlines like RyanAir aren’t as bad as billed, as long as you know the conditions/specifics of traveling with them. (EasyJet is particularly constricting on their carry-on baggage policies). If booking a flight, don’t fall into the “you can book flights once you get here” trap…it’s best to plan ahead, as Euro flights, just like US flights, are much cheaper a month or two before your travel date.
A good alternative is rental cars. Yes, they can be somewhat expensive (up to $100 a day) but renting from a carrier in an airport is cheaper, and car prices vary by country. Generally, we found them to be more expensive in the UK, and extremely cheap in Spain ($50 for an entire weekend for a car that fits 7). If you book online early enough, they can be the cheapest option for travel. Of course, if you drive, tolls and gas are worth examining (especially in France and Spain), but Michelin has a great website for figuring out travel costs.
A few travel laws you’ll need to keep in mind if you drive in Europe: 1) If you’re renting in Switzerland, Austria, or Slovenia, make sure you get a highway “vignette” sticker, or you’ll be slapped with a huge fine; 2) You will get caught speeding…by a camera. There are a ton in Europe. On the bright side though, the average speed highways can be fun (esp. in Italy where people driving sports cars sit on the side of the road for a few minutes just so they can push 120 MPH). 3) Make sure you follow traffic signs, especially the zone traffic limitato signs. Risking it just because you don’t see a cop will lead to a steep fine (like I found out in Padova). There are cameras everywhere.
An important side-note on Europe travel is how walkable cities are. It’s a blessing and a curse. Driving in large cities is difficult, and often forbidden (esp. in Italy), but it also means that everything is fairly close (or at least a 15-20 minute walk). Bonus: It’s also the most enjoyable exercise in the world–amazing sites and cardio at the same time. It also means a lot more walking for kids who are used to taking a car everywhere. At least a month prior to our trips to Europe, we like to take long walks around our home in the U.S. to get them ready for the “Euro-Cardio”. Also, we’ve found it essential to always bring water bottles when we go sight-seeing, whether it’s hot or cold. Some cities, even major ones (I’m looking at you Paris), have no public drinking fountains. Having a water bottle has not only saved us a few Euro, but it’s also saved us a ton of frustration when kids get thirsty. (BTW, Barcelona is the overwhelming exception here, as there are fountains all over the city).
6. Don’t Slack the Sight-seeing
While we try to avoid the American tourist experience as much as possible, we also believe that sight-seeing can be both exciting and educational. In fact, we tend to see everything we can in an area (sometimes more than locals see). Of course, sight-seeing with 4 boys can be difficult, especially when museum-meandering and architecture-admiring usually isn’t on the top of their list. So, to engage them more, we invite our kids to choose a country, city, or location, and do the research about the area themselves, choosing where to go, what to see, and why to see it and put together a powerpoint presentation about it. This usually includes guided Internet research and at least one trip to the library (bonus). We then reserve a night when they can officially present the idea to us, and when we visit the location, the child in charge gets to be the official tour guide, leading the visit, and talking about interesting historical, cultural, or other significant facts about the location.
Most recently, this led to a weekend road trip around Catalunya, to the Roman ruins of Tarragona and the beach castles of Lloret de Mar and Tossa de Mar.
Another thing we’ve found that works with endless sightseeing is to give the kids a travel journal, where they can draw some of the cool places we visit.
To be fair, sometimes living abroad has to involve the usual video-game playing and TV watching downtime for the kids, despite how much we, as adults, would rather spend every moment taking in the beauty of the culture around us. However, we’ve discovered it’s a balance thing…downtime makes the sight-seeing easier to do and the kids more amenable to the activities. Not to mention, downtime can be a great motivator, especially when visiting cities where there’s a lot of walking.
Overall, expatriate life requires flexibility and, to be honest, isn’t for everyone. Setting expectations, however, is the first step in ensuring a good experience for both parents and kids.
Do you have any Tips for Surviving Expatriate Life with Kids? Do share them with us 🙂
Top Tips for Moving Abroad: Speaking From Experience!
Moving abroad can be compared to a fairground ride. The question is … will it be a fun ride that you enjoy or one that has you shrieking in frustration and fear?
It goes without saying that thorough research and careful planning are fundamental for a successful relocation. Whether moving to a new country on your own, as a couple or with your family, you can always benefit from advice and feedback from others.
Who better to ask for help than people who have experienced the ups and downs of the relocation rollercoaster themselves. In this post, some of the lovely members of our Multicultural Kids Blog Facebook Group share their own advice and experience and also top tips to prepare you for successfully moving abroad, as part of this month’s MKB Kids Blogging Carnival.
This is what I asked my fellow members:
“Moving to another village or town can be a daunting prospect for some people. So, what happens when you move to another country? And imagine moving to a country whose language is different from your own. Many of us in this group have experienced this transition. I’d love you to share your biggest fears about such a move. What tips would you like to share with others facing a move? What, if anything, would you do differently, if in the position again? All matters can be child or parent related or both.”
So, what are their Top Tips For Moving Abroad?
I have listed each contributor`s Top Tip and you can read each of their great articles by clicking the titles. Also, if you are on Twitter, you can follow each contributor by clicking on their name.
Top Tip: There are a lot of worries when we move to a new country, not just for ourselves but also for the kids. But try to learn more about your host country–the good, the bad, and most importantly the funny!–and soon enough the nerves will calm down and hopefully, you won’t feel too much like a stranger anymore and even learn to call this new place Home. 🙂
Her list of 5 tips will help you ease into your new host country.
I totally agree with Anjelica’s final piece of advice, “ Don’t compare your old home with your new one. There will be many differences between the two, that when given the opportunity, will make you a more well-rounded and cultured person. You will most likely learn early on that others do many of the same things you do but with a slight twist. Let go of any feelings of superiority that you may have. You are most likely not in the majority and not in a position to change a whole nation.”
Amanda let us know “5 Ways You Can Make Expat Life Easier for Yourself”“. Having been living in the Netherlands for over 15 years now, Amanda admits to being restless and getting itchy feet. Her next relocation would be different as children are now involved. However, she has lots of ideas that she shares, that will make moving with children easier.
Top Tip: Find ways to recreate a semblance of normalcy and familiarity to take the pressure off all the newness. Also, be prepared for the culture shock and allow space to hear each other out as stress levels get the best of you.
Esther shares her personal experiences in “Keeping the Family afloat”. Having literally just moved continents, they have not yet even got to enjoy the honeymoon period. As she says “I’ll be honest, stress levels in our farmhouse are still pretty high. Being the resident French speaker, the entire administrative piece is on my shoulders. “ … I feel your pain Ester, have a read of my rant posts about Spanish “Burrro-cracia”. It may give you some ideas!
You’ll soon look back on this post and wonder what all the fuss was about 😉
Top Tip: If I had to do anything differently it would have been twofold. First, I would have just bought everything new when we moved to Morocco instead of trying to bring so much with us. Second, I would have relaxed a lot more. With so many unknowns I put way too much pressure on myself and my husband to figure everything out the “American” way. That didn’t work at all. I had to learn to go with the flow.
Ensure you fasten those seatbelts and get ready for the ride as you read Amanda’s “How Moving to Morocco is Like a Carnival “Fun” House”. You can literally feel the ups and downs experienced on many fairground rides as she shares her experiences and frustrations of the tasks that are so simple in your own country but so much more complicated abroad. As Amanda says “you never know what’s going to pop up in front of you, and it will. Be prepared for all scenarios. I felt like I should have run a risk analysis on everything ahead of time.”
Top Tip : Connect with others. This is no reason to feel isolated, but you have to make an effort to find friends and activities.
Jo shares with us some essential “Advice for Expats with Children in Saudi Arabia”. She advises you to “Be open-minded to different styles” and not to listen to the ever present gossiping oh the expat grapevine. She believes that having children in Saudi makes integration a lot easier. Like in Spain, where we live, family comes first and children are to be heard rather than just seen 😉
I must confess that I hadn’t thought of Saudi as a child-friendly destination, however having read Jo’s post I think we might well have to pay a visit.
Despite what many books will try to make you believe, living abroad does not always mean living the dream, although it can be amazing! Be prepared to take the rough with the smooth, be prepared and take it one day at a time. And, of course, The addition of children to the relocation equation makes it a whole different ball game
Top Tip: Be curious and open-minded.”Ask all the questions you have” helps a lot to make things easier for you and the locals because you will let others know what feels strange, new to you and you don’t misinterpret situations.
In “Frequently moving TCKs and expat children” Ute covers aspects to consider when moving with kids / TCKs. As she correctly points out “people need to be aware of the long-term side effects such a life can have on themselves and their children, in order to make the best out of this kind of life.” She explains the phases of such a move and points out the issues that may arise, àrticularly with children. If you are moving abroad with children, ensure you read this very informative article and the many others on Ute’s website.
The team at “The Art of Home Education”
Top Tip: “There is always a reason NOT to do it.” You can always wait for the right circumstances. But what if those circumstances never happen, then you’ll end up waiting forever.
There are some really heart-warming and thoughtful tips and ideas in this article. I particularly loved Nº8, the idea of opening up your house to new people in your neighborhood with view to creating a closer feeling of community. And the fairground ride makes another appearance …
Top Tip: Expect to leave a piece of your heart in your previous location. But relish the new adventure, these are exciting times! Give it a good two years before things start to be familiar and you start feeling settled.
In their article, “Switzerland Here We Are” Babelkid share their experience about just arriving at their latest destination.
Top Tip: Don’t move abroad in a dreamy bubble. Do your research and then do some more. Fasten your seatbelts and prepare yourselves for a thrilling ride. No matter the outcome, make it an experience to remember … in a positive way!
Don’t forget to have a look at our Relocation category for lots more articles about moving to Spain and abroad.
I’d like to personally thank all the members of MKB Kids for taking the time to share their stories and experiences with us today. If you are thinking about moving abroad, do not hesitate to contact any of these lovely people who will only be too happy to help you in whatever way they can.
And remember, if you’ve been thinking about making the move and have done your research … there’s no time like the present!
Better three hours too soon than a minute too late
No time to tarry, lest we forget, lives are at stake
An older head can’t be put on younger shoulders.
You’ve tripped on one of your tricks this time, Joker!
Can you remember which show they’re from, yet? This will give it away, for sure:
Come on, Robin, to the Bat Cave! There’s not a moment to lose!
Holy haberdashery, Batman!
Thanks to modern technology and the big world wide web, we can continue to enjoy childhood classics, such as Batman, wherever we are. We love sharing the cartoons we grew up with, with our children. Thanks to DCKids Youtube Channel and their website, our children are easily entertained at home, in the car and especially when travelling.
The DCKids YouTube channel makes it easy for our children, and yours, to watch their favourite mystery squad, on-demand, and from any device.
DCKids is giving away a $100 gift card for Amazon.
Simply watch the video below and enter for your chance to win today!
A Lap of Spain for Charity: Raising Money for the Samaritans and Cancer Research in Spain
Can you help us support our friends who are riding for a great cause? The Bull boys are off on another adventure to raise money!
Not long to go until father and son team, Dave and Mitch Bull, are off on their epic journey around the coast and borders of Spain on motorbikes. They are raising money and awareness for the AECC (Cancer research in Spain) and the Samaritans in Spain, of which Dave is the patron.
Twenty-three days travelling will see them visit most of Spain´s biggest cities and along the way they´ll be meeting up with groups and local contacts who are supporting them.
The “Challenge” :
to cover almost 400 kilometres each day without using motorways and sticking as close as possible to the coast and the borders with France and Portugal.
they´ll have just five euros each per day for food and drink because they both want to keep costs to a minimum.
Each night they´ll be looking for a friendly campsite where they can pitch their tent for free and, fortunately, with both of them having a passion for cooking, the evening meal should at least be tasty, although a Camping Gaz stove restricts the variety on the plate somewhat!
Following on from last year´s successful challenge to row two kayaks down the River Segura, from Murcia to the coast at Guardamar (52km), which raised over €3,000 for the charities, Dave and Mitch have raised the bar this year to try and cover the 7,500 kilometres in the time allocated and visit some of Spain´s best known places.
Their progress will be updated every day on social media with videos and images of the day´s ride. And along the way, they willmeet up with biker groups who will join them on parts of the trip and with local businesses who will show them around the locality. CAN YOU HELP?
Both riders are highly experienced on motorbikes having raced on the circuits here in Spain up until a few years ago and with Mitch having sat, and ridden, his first motorcycle at the tender age of five years old the pair are well equipped for what will surely be a test of endurance and conditions as the weather in the north of Spain and in the mountains of the Pyrenees and Granada will be completely different to what they will find in the Southern part of the country.
With both bikes loaded with around 50kg of equipment, and as Dave says, “a few boxers and t-shirts”, the going certainly won´t be swift, especially in the seaside towns and cities that they´ll be passing through every day.
So far all the costs of the trip have been covered by generous sponsors, both businesses and private individuals, which has once again humbled the pair. Said Mitch, “People are just so kind and come up to us handing over cash or requesting the donation page because they all know someone who at some time has been affected by cancer, or has struggled with life at times and has called the Samaritans. We just want to do our bit and with a member of our family being treated for cancer we felt that we needed to do something.”
Are you a local Business in Spain? Contact us for Sponsorship opportunities!
Dave and Mitch will be leaving Gran Alacant (town hall car park) on the 27th of September at 12pm and heading up to Alicante Castle before continuing the journey to Valencia where they will camp out for the first night. Barcelona follows on the 28th with an appearance on Simon Harris´s radio show on Barcelona FM. Then they´ll be off to Gerona before heading across the Pyrenees for two days.
It´s a long time on the road but the boys are sure to have some amazing experiences along the way which you´ll be able to see for yourself via the various medias available.
We´ll keep you updated here too so keep an eye out for the ‘Challenge’, and the two of them coming through your town in October.
EXPECTED ARRIVAL IN THE MALAGA AREA: 14th OCTOBER 2016
In a new series about moving to and living in Spain with children, we speak to families who have taken the step and moved their family abroad, to Spain. Today we speak to Justine Ancheta about living in Barcelona with children.
@FamilyInSpain interviews Justine about moving to and living in Barcelona with children…
General introduction. Who you are? Where did you move from? Where did you move to? Do you have children?
Hello! I’m Justine, and I’m a US citizen from California. I met my husband when I was living in Seville in 2003, which is where he is originally from. We got married in 2008 and lived together in Barcelona. Both of our children, ages 2 and 5, were born here in the city.
What were your main concerns / worries before moving to Spain?
I spoke Spanish very well. My worries began when I first got pregnant in Spain, thinking about giving birth in a Spanish hospital. I was concerned nobody would understand me culturally and emotionally, and I wouldn’t have anybody to help me raise my baby. Luckily, my parents and my husband’s parents were with us the first month, so we were able to get some help cooking and cleaning our home.
What research did you carry out before deciding to move?
Since my children were born in Barcelona, I knew a few expat mothers who had already been through the process of raising their children in a multilingual and multicultural environment. I asked lots of questions! I also joined a online group of parents in Barcelona called Barcelona Tots. It’s very active, and you can ask anything, such as language issues, recommendations for dentists, day excursions with the kids, etc. Just being able to find people online who have “been there, done that” was a great help. The Internet is truly a goldmine!
During the move and now …
Let’s talk about the experiences at school / nursery … How did you decide which school to send your children to? Any tales / stories to share? Any tips for other mums about selecting schools
When I first started to think about nursery for my daughter, I was very stressed out. The mentality of sending children to nursery here seems to be that nursery is not just a place where a caring guardian can watch your children while you work. Spanish people seem to truly treat it like school, and they often call it that — “cole”. They also feel that it’s very important that very young children socialise at an early age (such as 12 months old) because it’s good for them. I got lots of pressure and opinions about it.
I ended up deciding to put my daughter in an international, multilingual part-time playgroup when she was two years old. This was the best decision I made for my family. Not only did it ease me into the Spanish education system, but we also made some very valuable friendships with other families at the playgroup. These friends have been an expat support group. Any expat experience has its challenges, but when you’re an expat mother, it gets even more complicated. I especially need friends who completely understand my feelings of being in between two countries.
Integration: What steps have you taken? Has it been hard/easy? Any general comments about the people where you live?
To integrate into the Catalan culture, we decided to incorporate our children into the public education system. Our daughter goes to a concertada school (half-private, half-public). It’s much less expensive that private schooling of course, and also I think it’s healthier and easier that our children have friends in our neighborhood. They are also growing up trilingual, which is a huge plus. Luckily, we got our daughter into the school of our choice, and we couldn’t be happier. Our son will go there next year.
Getting to know Catalans has been a challenge. But I think it’s normal for any culture. When I was single and living in Seville, it was easier to make local friends, but I had the time, and my lifestyle was different. Now, I find myself trying to make friends with the mothers at school. Friendships take time. I don’t know if I’ll ever find a Catalan BFF, but just getting to know parents at school is a start!
In general, I find the Catalan people to be open to other people and cultures because there’s so much diversity. I find they’re often misunderstood by other Spaniards as being cold or lofty. That’s not my experience.
We don’t live in the center, so our neighborhood is family-oriented. We’ve also been lucky to have outstanding neighbors. This lovely elderly couple has watched my children while I ran important errands, one of them quite often. They’re practically family. They know how hard it is to take care of two little ones since essentially we don’t have any relatives nearby. They’re truly invaluable.
How is your Spanish? What are you doing about it?
I’ve been learning Spanish for over 20 years, and my husband is Spanish, so it’s advanced. I will never be a true bilingual. I would have a hard time writing an academic paper, but I can have a decent conversation in Spanish.
What do you do for a living? How do you support your family in Spain?
I’m teaching English at the moment. Most of the hours available for teaching are after school or weekends, and I value that time as family time. Currently, I’m looking to expand my career into marketing, writing, and/or editing. So if you know of any opportunities, let me know!
To close …
If you had the chance to do it again, would you do anything differently?
I can’t think of anything that I could change. There are natural challenges of living abroad, but they were bound to happen. I’m happy where I’m at! I feel like I’ve learned and grown ever since living here.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of moving to Spain with children?
It’s a great opportunity to raise your child in a multilingual environment. Plus, it’s probably more acceptable to be out with your children late in the evening, which I think is great! The kids here seem healthy, happy, and safe.
A native Californian, Justine began her adventure as an exchange student in Seville, Spain. She realized her real adventure started when she came back as a resident and started raising a family in Barcelona. But she’s up to the challenge because she can’t get enough of this stunning city.
Leonor contacted us via our Facebook Page and we invited to share her observations of being a mum in the UK, from a Spanish mum’s point of view.
Leonor and her son, Imam
So, over to Leonor …
You realise you are adapting to life as a mum in the UK when…..
1. Your school meetings start at the actual scheduled time…. (the first one is the only school meeting you will not be on time; being the only parent who is late you will be too embarrassed to do this again!).
2. You go to the pub with your children and you are told the children are not allowed here. Come on!! Bad day for you….:(
3. You are called “Mrs (your surname)” instead of being called “your first name” by the teachers at the school.
4. You learn you can be an active part of the school; you can even stay at your child´s classroom helping him. Amazing! I was allowed to be a primary school child again….(the only problem was the chair which was a bit small for me but shhh…this is my little secret).
5. You learn that schools don´t use any books (Maths, Science, English…) at all, so you don´t have to buy them (yay!!). Don´t sing victory too soon, you will have to buy instead the uniforms for the state schools (uniforms in Spain are only used in private schools).
6. You learn you should not go out with your children after 5.30pm as almost everything is closed and families do not go out after this time.
7. You go to the beach with your children but you never (hardly) go into the sea as it´s frozen (your children will not mind the water temperature. Admit it, you are getting old and whiney!!).
8. You realise you can dress as you please and even go out with your pyjamas and slippers but still nobody would be looking at you. Yay, freedom!! Don´t do this in Spain! It´s seen as a crime!!
9. You learn there are 24/7 supermarkets so you can actually go shopping at 2am if you want to (I actually went shopping at 3am once, just to check if they were telling the true….). Very useful indeed for busy mums!
10. It´s raining cats and dogs but your children are not coming back home running from the rain; it seems they don´t care anymore if it´s raining or not. Rain does not affect their lives, but would still affects yours (you are too old to get used to getting wet).
11. The time you realise you cannot touch/kiss/hug children in the UK! That was, I think, the hardest one for me. I was told this when I started working as a teacher in one of the local schools. At the end of the year, some students came to me with a big bouquet of roses, cards and several gifts in order to thank me. I did not know what to do as I just wanted to hug them all and kiss them!
12. My favourite one; Sleepovers!! 3, 4, 5 children staying at home (your home) in your son´s bedroom, until the day after! What a great tradition in the UK. I so love making dinner for all of them!
Hello. My name is Leonor. I am from Spain and I am thirty something years old.
I am the Academic Director for Cervantes Ltd (find more about me here: www.spanishpassion.co.uk), an academy of languages based in Eastbourne-England. I teach standard Castilian Spanish, the official language of modern Spain. I love my profession and find teaching more a pleasure than a job.
My 7 year old son and I decided to move to England a long time ago. I quitted my job in Spain as a manager of a language department in an academy of languages near to Gibraltar, as our personal lives were not great at that moment, so we were ready for a big challenge. It was the right time to do it.
What can be a bigger challenge than going abroad with your 7 year old son, your car and your suitcases being a single woman? That is what we did. We took our car, our clothes and our great self-esteem with us.
I soon realised that I could not take onboard a full time job if I needed to help my son to integrate with the school, the language, etc., so I started as a private teacher working at home until I found a flexible position as an academic director for a school of language whose students are all over the world so they do lessons online as well as face to face. This flexible job would allow me to have some income and take care of my son properly, with plenty of time to help him. This was exactly what I needed.
My son is now 14 years old and we love our life in the UK. We feel very British although we miss Spain a lot. I am still working for Cervantes Ltd and I am happier everyday.
I don´t know if we will ever go back to Spain but I know something for sure; my heart will always belong to my two countries, no matter what happens. We are half-English, half-Spanish.
I hope you enjoyed at least some of my experiences as a Spanish mum in the UK. I need to clarify that most of my life lessons I listed above, happened thanks to my son. My child was the one who allowed me to get to the bottom of the British family life and enjoy all this, whilst learning from it at the same time. Without my son, I could have lived in the UK independently from the British culture, just hanging out with Spaniards, like Spanish people do here everyday. I couldn´t do this, as I had family commitments with my son, and it was precisely this which made me be part of the real English family life and integrate easier. I don´t think I could ever thank my son enough for this.
What do you think? Do you agree? If you are a Spanish family living in the UK, we’d love to share your story: Contact Us.
As an expat, do you celebrate St Georges day in Spain? Do you celebrate it English or Spanish style? Did you know that Sant Jordi is also a big celebration in Catalonia, Northern Spain?
Following our recent trip to Barcelona and our fascination with the the architecture and the history that is found in every street and building around the city, we decided to invite Matthew from Barcelona to tell us a little bit more about St George’s Day in Spain.
Over to you Matthew ….
St George’s Day – The most romantic day of the year?
We all know the tale of ‘St George and the Dragon‘. The knight in shining armour who comes to the rescue of a damsel in distress about to meet her demise at the hands of a monstrous dragon. Apart from maybe retelling the tale to their kids, the average reader from England and the UK sees St George’s Day more as an event to celebrate national pride, which of course, is brilliant! However, apart from the increased presence of flags and bunting, very rarely is the day truly celebrated and there is no official way to rejoice in the occasion.
Meanwhile 700 miles south, Catalonia – whose patron saint is also St. George – do have their own official celebration for the day, and it centres around the aforementioned tale. You see, in the Catalan version, after Saint George (or Sant Jordi as he is known here) slays the dragon a red rose bush grows from the blood of the beast, which he gives to the princess and they live happily ever after. Today, men all over the region try to make their own happily ever after by presenting the one they love with a rose, just as the brave knight was said to have done.
Whether you’re in Barcelona or Girona, all around Catalonia you’ll find that the streets are absolutely chockablock with stalls selling roses of all kinds of colours from red, white, and pink to blue, black, and even multicolour. Locals stroll hand-in-hand as pairs, taking in the vibrant atmosphere. You’ll also see men nervously carrying roses along the street as they’re preparing to present them to someone special, and women walking home with a spring in their step, roses in hand and a person in their hearts.
The celebration doesn’t end there though! At the beginning of the 20th century, a bookseller noticed that the day coincided with both the death of William Shakespeare and the apparent burial of Miguel Cervantes. While men were buying roses, this bookseller proposed that women buy their partner a book, and so it has since remained. You only have to walk down Las Ramblas to see the masses of book stalls on the street, as well as various book fairs being held around the city. This Catalan tradition caught on so well that at the end of the century, UNESCO took note and officially declared April 23rd as World Book Day.
If you’re looking for family-friendly things to do, there are many events held specifically for this day. For instance, it’s open-house at Barcelona’s City Hall and Parliament buildings which are usually closed to the public on Plaça Sant Juame. There is also a free workshop for families at Carrer Buenaventura Muñoz, 21 where children can make objects related to the story of ‘St George and the Dragon’. All in all though, the celebration of St George’s Day takes place on the streets because the entire city becomes an attraction thanks to the lively and cheerful atmosphere. So if worst comes to worst, simply take a relaxing family stroll and let the magic of the celebration fascinate you…
About the Author: Matthew Debnam
A London ex-pat who made the move to Barcelona 4 years ago. He writes part-time for various local businesses including OK Apartment, who provide holiday apartments and monthly rentals in Barcelona, but is a full-time tourist at heart.
Living in Seville versus Antequera: Comparing the South’s Biggest City to its Most Centrical
If you are thinking of moving to Spain and wondering where to live in Spain, it is always interesting to hear what other expats living in Spain have to say about areas they have lived in.
In this article, Cat and Hayley, two young, North Americans give us their thoughts on living in Seville and Antequera …
Seville is Southern Spain’s de-facto capital and a must-see on the tourism circuit. It’s also the center of politics and culture in the south. Antequera, on the other hand, is in the dead center of Andalusia and about as typically Spanish as you can get.
Here we give you the battle between settling in Andalusia’s largest city, Seville, or enjoying the small town charm of Antequera.
The Pros for living in Seville …
Proximity to the beaches and mountains: Seville is located in the Guadalquivir Valley and sits at just one hour from both the beaches in Huelva and the mountains in the Sierra Norte or Cádiz. It’s also not far from the Portuguese border.
Interurban transportation and friendly on cyclists: Home to an international airport, a major train station, and two bus depots, it’s easy to travel from Seville to destinations all over Spain. Several major motorways service the city, too. Seville has also received the accolade of being Spain’s most bike-friendly city, thanks to its flat terrain and over 100 kilometers of bike lanes.
The tapas and dining scene: Seville is well-known for its tapas, a small dish consumed at mealtime. Locals say the bar culture has kept the economy afloat, and the establishments are practically a Sevillano’s living room. What’s more, Seville offers several other types of cuisine, from Indian and Mexican to Argentinian, so you won’t have to eat tortilla española at every meal.
Beauty, folklore, and history: It’s impossible to keep Seville’s charm a secret. From the horse-drawn carriages to the eclectic architecture, the city is full of beautiful corners to explore. Seville is also quite traditional, so flamenco and bullfighting are common art forms and synonymous with the city. Living in Seville means never getting bored of its beauty.
Historic Seville is one of the many culture and contributions to Spanish patrimony. After all, it was here that the Catholic Kings gave Christopher Columbus money to discover the New World, and the riches the conquerors brought back were funneled through the city. This has left its legacy in both architecture and language, making Seville a culturally rich city.
Local festivals: Known for both its extravagant Holy Week and colorful local fair, Seville actually has a local minister solely dedicated to the springtime festivals. Because Seville is a cultural capital, there are plenty of flamenco shows, music festivals, and gastronomic markets throughout the year.
Strong international contingent: Truly a city with international flair, Seville has become home to people from many cultures without being too overwhelming. There are several international groups for expats to join, allowing us to stay in contact with our language and culture. Seville is also home to two universities, meaning Erasmus students arrive in droves during the academic year.
In the Pros Antequera corner…
Location, location, location: Antequera was nearly chosen as the capital of Spain’s Southern Autonomous Community for its strategic position in the geographic center of Andalucía. Nowhere are you better positioned to visit the South’s most famous cities than in Antequera. Head north to Córdoba or south to Málaga and arrive in just under an hour; while a trip west to Seville or east to Granada will take you around an hour and a half.
Antequera is also within an hour’s drive to the famous Costa del Sol beaches. Are mountains more your scene? Just 15 minutes outside the city is the famous El Torcal Park and Nature Reserve with Jurassic age rock formations that will take your breath away and transport you to another time.
Transportation: If you’re looking leave Andalucía, book high-speed train travel to Madrid from Antequera’s Santa Ana AVE station and arrive in two and a half hours. Or try Málaga’s International Airport, Spain’s fourth busiest with major routes servicing Spain, Europe, America, and Asia.
Eat on the cheap: If you’re looking for a traditional tapas experience look no further. Antequera keeps Spain’s culinary tradition alive and well by charging clients just over 80¢ for a small plate of food to accompany their drink of choice. Take advantage of the small portion sizes to sample a variety of tapas and expect to spend a mere 10€ on a meal out.
Still not full? Don’t forget to save room for breakfast! Antequera is known throughout Spain as home to the mollete, a delicious white bread roll served lightly toasted and spread with any number of typical breakfast toppings from tomato and olive oil, to jam or even paté. Though you’ll see mollete on menus all over Spain, the best can only be found in Antequera.
Culture: Where better to soak up Spanish culture than in this typical mid-sized city? Antequera hosts two ferias each year, one in May and the other in August, which coincide with bullfights at its bullring, built in 1848. Other festivals throughout the year keeps things lively: don’t miss the Tapa Fair usually held in June, September’s Medieval festival or February’s Carnival celebrations.
Practice makes perfect: Looking to perfect your Spanish? Try living in a small town rather than a capital city. With very few fellow ex-pats to depend on it would be almost impossible not to improve your Spanish while living in Antequera.
Cons for living in Seville
For every upside to living in Seville, there seems to be a downside. It’s actually an odd paradigm that expats get used to, but the annoyances sometimes creep up from time to time.
Limited flights from the San Pablo airport: Seville’s airport is quite small and doesn’t fly to many international destinations. This means flying from Málaga or Madrid is sometimes necessary, or catching several flights to reach your destination.
Still one hour from beaches and mountains: Seville is relatively close to the coast and to the mountains, but not that close. When you choose not to have a car, escaping the city can be tricky.
City-wide public transportation: While Seville is considered a transportation hub, the local public transportation leaves much to be desired: it’s expensive, slow and doesn’t reach every part of the city. Biking and walking is the best way to get around.
The heat: Seville is one of continental Europe’s hottest cities, and May to October feel like living in a sauna. Because the city sits in a valley, all of the hot air remains trapped over the city, a meteorological phenomenon known as El Bochorno to locals. No wonder so many sevillanos head to the coast every weekend!
Cost of living is higher: Naturally, living in a city means paying more for rent, entertainment and transportation. Aspiring expats should check out the cost of living as part of their research before choosing a city over a small town.
Small town blues: Life’s certainly far from perfect in Antequera. While locals are friendly and open, with only one cinema, a small shopping mall and a handful of grocery stores, expect to run into the same faces again and again. If you’re a fan of anonymity, Antequera is not the place for you.
Missing home?:It’s been a long day and nothing would make you happier than to kick back with some fellow English speakers in front of a hot plate of Mexican nachos, some spicy Indian curry or even a bowl delicious Thai noodles. Not in Antequera. If you’re a fan of frequent international flavors and company this traditional Spanish town may not be for you.
Buy a car: Antequera is well positioned in the heart of Andalucía; but you’ll be hard-pressed to take advantage of its stellar location without your own transportation. While busses and trains to major cities and small villages do exist, their timetables are famously irregular and inconvenient.
Have we peaked your interest? Have you made a decision? Are you a North American thinking of relocating to Spain? Get in touch.
Do you agree or disagree with Cat and Hayley’s thoughts? Where would you rather live? Post your comments and we will welcome other ideas too about where to live in Spain.