As a reader of our blog and Family Life in Spain Facebook Page, you will know that we spend the long, school summer holidays in Cadiz. Our days are filled with surfing, beach visits, playing padel (me, Lisa, that is!) enjoying delicious local food and basically enjoying summer living.
So, when we were asked to review a Tesalate Sand Free towel, we jumped at the opportunity.
Although I must admit, until it actually arrived we were not exactly sure what a “sand-free” towel actually was.
In our busy beach lives, a sand-free towel was simply an oxymoron.
So, by checking out the Tesalate website we learnt about their sand-free towels:
Our exclusive AbsorbLite™ fabric has been specifically engineered to create a towel that makes your beach days more awesome than before.
Sand free. Leave the beach at the beach.
Full sized beach towel: 160cm x 80cm / 63 x 31 inches.
Ultra absorbent; over 1 litre of water.
Rapid-drying. Half the time of a regular beach towel.
Compact when rolled. Fits in your bag.
Our first challenge was choosing the design … with so many great, fun designs to choose from (I think there are currently around 62!) To simplify the choice and the fact that all four of us loved four different designs, we made our lives easier by opting for the family-sized towel, of which there are currently 10 designs.
Look at the wide choice colours and design here: Have a look!
It was a close call between The Alchemist and Bohemian … but for us, Sancti Petri in Cadiz, where we spend our summers is always about the colour of the sea. The colour blue … The Alchemist was a clear winner!
What did we like about our Alchemist XL sand free towel from Tesalate?
Super light and compact.
Very easy to fold away
Great design and lovely colours. It definitely caught the eye of many fellow beachgoers.
Comfortable to lie on
Absorbent and quick dry
A quick flick of the towel and the sand disappears!
What did we dislike about our Alchemist XL sand free towel from Tesalate?
This isn’t really a dislike but more of an observation that requires time to decide … the price!
€89 is quite a lot to spend on a beach towel. However, if it continues to look as good as it does now and perform as well as it does, in 12 months time … we will definitely be purchasing another one!
Have you used a sand-free towel? What did you think?
In a culture that greatly values youth and beauty, skincare is a huge priority for Spaniards. Of all the countries in the world, Spain ranks 13th among the top 15 spenders in the skincare market. The country’s consumers are constantly on the lookout for the most effective and scientifically-backed products, which explains why products from Nu Skin Spain are rising in popularity.
Everything Nu Skin does is driven by science and the desires of its target audience. As a global distributor, Nu Skin has many cultures to appease, but by combining aspects of science and nature, the company is able to appeal to a broad audience. Its product range has something for everyone. This article will overview some of the most popular products in Spain’s market and how they’ve been proven in clinical trials.
Spain’s Beauty Ideals and Practices
When walking the streets of Spain, you’re bound to see bright, dewy, and seemingly age-resistant complexions that appear to defy environmental factors and the passage of time. While Spaniards are minimalist when it comes to makeup, skincare is something they take very seriously — especially in their constantly sunny country. Natives are careful to avoid sunbathing, knowing that the sun is a huge factor in ageing and skin cancer. They’re diligent with using sunscreen and moisturizer; they eat a well-balanced diet, and they follow a strict skincare routine to keep their skin as youthful as possible.
Spaniards also make an effort to stay informed about potentially harmful ingredients in skincare products. There’s a new demand within the country for botanical ingredients and formulations that have been proven to work. Nu Skin’s product lines support this growing demand, and here’s how.
Carefully Selected Ingredients
Spaniards value high-quality raw materials and potent ingredients, and Nu Skin delivers exactly that in all its products. Its scientific teams actively search out “all of the good,” meaning they work around the clock to identify the best high-quality ingredients for its skincare lines. By utilizing naturally derived materials and synthetic boosters for over three decades, the company has seen marked results in clinical trials.
Spain’s Best-Selling Skin Care Products
Epoch Baobab Body Butter
Two aspects of life in Spain make this all-over moisturizer so popular; the first is that most people bathe in hard water, which can have a harsh drying effect on the skin. The second is that oil is a huge commodity there, especially in beauty products, and Epoch Baobab Body Butter is abundant in natural oils that support smooth, supple skin.
Scientifically speaking, the baobab fruit pulp extract is a humectant and emollient that prevents dryness and conditions the skin to help it retain more moisture for longer. Together with the macadamia nut oil, which mimics the effect of the skin’s natural sebum, this monounsaturated fatty acid can easily be absorbed and maintain the skin’s natural water barrier.
180 Face Wash
Skincare isn’t just for the women of Spain. Men, too, are conscious of their skin health. The 180 Face Wash was designed with both genders in mind to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin texture while minimizing the impact of spots caused by Spain’s ever-blazing sun. When combined, vitamin C, sesame oil, soybean oil, grape seed extract, and ginseng extract work together to even out skin tone, prevent moisture loss, reduce free radicals, and tighten the skin.
ageLOC Radiant Day SPF 22
Spain is sunny for 295 days of the year on average, which doesn’t make it easy to maintain the light complexion favoured by those who live there. As such, the ageLOC Radiant Day SPF 22 has become a must-have product for a Spaniard’s skincare arsenal. This SPF contains a powerful anti-ageing blend of ingredients (including jojoba, shea butter, bamboo extract, and ageLOC) that scientifically stimulate youth cell turnover, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and ensure easy absorption by the skin.
Scientific Research Leading to ageLOC Product Line
Anti-ageing science is a hot topic in the beauty industry right now. People all over the world are desperately seeking the secret to eternal youth, and Nu Skin is making strides toward revealing those secrets and making solutions available.
Wrinkles are a direct result of extracellular matrix depletion, which causes the skin to lose its elasticity. This depletion can be attributed to environmental factors including the sun’s UV rays or smoking, which can destroy the elastic tissue that keeps the skin looking young. Science has discovered that select antioxidants and vitamins can reduce the appearance of ageing and protect the skin from sun damage.
In 2017, Aging Cell published a study conducted by scientists from LifeGen Technologies and Nu Skin. The purpose of the study was to determine healthy patterns of gene expression in various tissues and use them to discover ingredients for their formulas with the same healthy-ageing patterns.
The experiment was successful; Nu Skin identified some of the genes that impact how we look while we age. This led researchers to conclude that healthy ageing can be supported by combining ingredients that mimic healthy ageing in a variety of tissues and applying them to skincare products.
These ingredients were named super markers, and today, Nu Skin’s ageLOC science targets those super markers to influence the way people age. ageLOC technology creates a balance of super markers with their youthful genetic patterns and applies this science in Nu Skin product development.
Browse Nu Skin Spain’s Anti-Aging Product Range
Whether you live in Spain or elsewhere in the world, you can browse Nu Skin’s product range to find a solution that suits your needs. With more than 200 personal care products, you’re sure to find exactly what you need to look and feel great — inside and out.
According to data from the Horticultural Trades Association, over two-thirds of British adults enjoy visiting a garden centre every year. This just goes to show how much the British love gardening. However, if you’ve recently moved from the UK to warmer parts of the world like Spain, you will have to change the way you garden.
Here are simple ways to create a garden for a warmer climate:
Research about the soil
The main soil type in Spain is clay. In the UK, clay is one of the most difficult soils to work with, but in Spain, it actually works really well. Droughts and extreme heat are much less damaging on clay soil than any other type of soil, which makes it easier for plants to germinate and grow healthily. The rainfall in Spain is also less than what Britain gets in a year, so your garden won’t be wet, clogged, and unmanageable.
Understand climactic changes
Climate patterns change frequently in most Mediterranean regions, which means in some areas summers could have rainstorms, while in others there could be extended periods of drought. It’s important to learn about the weather patterns where you live so you can effectively choose which seeds to plant.
Pick the right plants
The Mediterranean Garden Society has a list of some of the best hot weather plants you can easily grow in your new garden. One great example is Aloysia gratissima (known in southern Spain as La Faborita), which grows six to nine inches tall. It thrives in well-drained soil, and come spring its white flowers bloom to give your garden a calming vanilla smell. You can also plant some Bush Morning Glory, which has a beautiful, snowy lavender flower that blooms in summer.
Succulents are also a great choice. They grow best in places with sweltering heat and require very little maintenance. They also come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colours. You can spread them throughout your garden and even use them as decorations indoors.
The hot weather also makes it ideal to grow a huge variety of vegetables—from cabbages to root veggetables like carrots, parsnips, potatoes, artichokes, and beetroots.
Build a reliable water system
If you don’t water your plants regularly they will dry up fast, so make sure the water system you choose is reliable and efficient.
Watch out for plant pests and diseases
Remember that the warmer climate makes your plants more prone to pests and diseases. The head of RHS Advisory Services Guy Barter explained to the BBC that you need to choose your plants carefully to work with your gardening environment. Decompose your compost properly so that it doesn’t attract flies. Make sure you have a place for it where you can aerate and water it easily. Gardening experts say the larvae of the rose chafer beetle are often found in compost, and although they are not generally harmful to every plant in your garden, they can damage the plants you are growing in pots.
Protect yourself and your guests from the sun
You can’t very well enjoy your hard work if you can’t sit in your garden with a cool glass of wine and marvel at your blooming flowers. Take the warm weather as an opportunity to get the cosiest pieces of outdoor furniture, and create an inviting garden where you can entertain guests and have BBQs. Pergolas and gazebos are ideal for entertaining and will also be a nice focal point. Some of the pergolas on Screwfix are open air, and come with additional gazebo kits. A covered gazebo is preferable as it will provide good cover from the sun during the day and add to the overall look of your garden. You can also add climbing plants to the structure to make your chill out spots look even more attractive.
It’s also maybe worth considering joining gardening and home interior design events to get more inspiration about the best garden designs that work for the warmer weather. We wrote about one of the most sought-after events in Estepona, which featured a lot of practical advice from local Mediterranean gardeners and interior designers. Be sure to check if any of these events are happening near you. As long as you have all the right tools, there’s no limit to what you can do in your summer garden, especially if the weather is nice and sunny.
Do you intend to move to Spain with your family this year, and maybe buy a property? If so, you’ll already be thinking about sitting on the beach, soaking up the sun, with a tall glass of sangria by your side. That said, before you can get working on your tan and enjoy la vida española, you’ll need to sort through some practical things and pay attention to our Currency Exchange Tips.
For example, how can you transfer your money from the UK to your Spanish bank account at a top exchange rate? Well, to ensure you maximise your euro total, and start your new family life in Spain on the best foot, please find below 10 easy tips. Keep these in mind, and exchanging currencies to move to Spain will be ¡muy facil!
Our 10 Currency Exchange Tips:
1. Plan your money transfer well in advance.
Are you thinking about moving to Spain with your family in the next few months? If so, start looking at transferring money to your Spanish bank account now.
This is because, the sooner you look at exchanging currencies, the bigger the window you give yourself for an outstanding exchange rate to become available!
2. Talk to a friendly, professional currency dealer.
Is this your first time transferring a significant sum of money to Spain? If so, speak to a friendly, professional currency dealer.
He or she will explain the process and answer your questions in straightforward language, without any jargon. This way, you can put your mind at ease.
3. Transfer your money with a foreign exchange broker, instead of your bank.
When we transfer money to Spain, it’s tempting to use our local bank. The thing is though, the banks know this, so they offer inferior exchange rates.
Instead, a foreign exchange broker can get you a significantly better currency rate, to make moving to Spain with your family a breeze.
4. Accept a good exchange rate as soon as it arises.
When you exchange currencies, our impulse is often to wait and see how high the exchange rate goes. The thing is though, the foreign exchange market is highly volatile.
Given this, instead of trying to “time the market”, exchange currencies when a good rate arises. This way, you’ll receive the euro total you need!
5. Keep an eye on the foreign exchange rate with Google.
To keep an eye on the foreign exchange rate, and find out when sterling climbs, you can simply use Google.
Just enter “GBPEUR” into the search engine, and Google will return the current exchange rate, as well as a historical exchange rate graph. This way, you can see if the exchange rate is favourable!
6. Don’t exchange currencies at the “low of the day”.
On a given day, the exchange rate fluctuates. Today, for example, the pound to euro interbank exchange rate has moved almost 0.5 cents!
As a result, to lift your euro total when you move to Spain, ensure you don’t exchange currencies at the “low of the day”. This is the point when the exchange rate is lowest!
7. Transfer your money with a currency broker that’s “FCA authorised.”
To make sure that your money is highly secure when you exchange currencies, use a foreign exchange specialist that’s “directly authorised by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA.)”
This means that the currency dealer will adhere to all UK regulations to transfer funds, and protect your money!
8. Avoid banks or currency brokers that charge fees or commission.
In 2018, you can transfer your money to Spain while paying 0% in fees or commission. This way, you save the highest possible amount, to lift your euro total in your Spanish bank account!
So, when you speak to a currency broker, ask them to confirm that they charge 0% fees and commission.
9. Get peace of mind with an International Transfer Receipt (ITR).
When you transfer money abroad, you’ll like to know that your money has arrived safely in your Spanish bank account as soon as possible.
To get this peace of mind, ask your foreign exchange broker for an International Transfer Receipt (ITR). With this, you’ll receive quick, clear confirmation that your money transfer has been successful.
10. Protect yourself against volatility, with a forward contract.
To guarantee that you get the euro total you need when you move to Spain with your family, you can set up what’s called a forward contract.
With this, you lock in today’s exchange rate, so you know well in advance what euro total you’ll receive in your Spanish bank account. This way, you’re protected against currency volatility!
With these 10 tips in mind, transferring money for your move to Spain will be a cinch. So you’ll enjoy less stress, and more ¡siesta under el sol!
Further Education in Spain: How To Decide What Options are Right for Your Child
Parents on the Costa del Sol, as in other parts of Spain, are constantly having to make decisions on their child’s future based on language, suitability for their personality and where you think they will want to live and work when they get older. When you’re considering what further education in Spain path is right for your child, it starts to become more complicated, as the world is their oyster and options are almost endless, however, they are still young and need your support and assistance.
If you’re debating this decision at the moment, here are some thoughts from the experts at the Schellhammer Business School, the first English-speaking business school in southern Spain, to help guide your thoughts.
When we speak to parents bringing their children up on the Costa del Sol about further education in Spain, they tend to be confused on whether to send them to Spanish Universities, send them abroad to keep their options open or keep them here to study. Of course, no child is the same and so there is no one solution for everyone.
So, in this blog post, we want to give you some pros and cons of these three common options.
Pros – There are options both big and small, with most bigger cities in Spain being home to one.
Cons – Teaching style may vary from students who have attended English schools all their life.
Ideal for – Young individuals who are looking to become a lawyer, doctor, dentist or other regulated profession and wanting to practice in Spain only.
UK or US Universities
Pros – The curriculum and teaching style will be familiar for students who have attended English schools all their life.
Cons – Tuition at UK universities have risen substantially over the past years and universities in the US can often cost several 100,000 USD. Moving to another country away from parents as well as starting a new chapter in their education can be too much for many young people and they can struggle without the support network.
Ideal for – Individuals looking to gain a degree in a regulated profession, such as medicine or dentistry to then practice in that country and very independent, confident youngsters with good life skills.
Local Universities teaching in English
Pros – No need to travel abroad or live in an unfamiliar environment and follow a teaching style and curriculum that pupils coming from English educated backgrounds will be familiar with.
Cons – Since they are private and not funded by government, they are fee paying institutions, but there are also scholarships, grants and financial aid that students can apply for.
Ideal for – Young individuals who wish to stay in Spain but gain academic qualifications suitable for business, hospitality and other related fields in social sciences in Spain and abroad.
About the authors
This guest post was written by Evangelos Zographos, Head of Studies at Schellhammer Business School.
Schellhammer Business School offers a range of higher education programmes including a pre-University Foundation Program, undergraduate Bachelor of Business Administration and postgraduate Master of Business Administration aligned and validated via the European Bologna Treaty Norms, as well as an Executive Program. From September, Schellhammer Business School will also be expanding its educational offer with Cambridge International AS & A Levels.
Founded in 2009 and expanding into a stunning new campus in Estepona a year ago, they are the only British accredited business school in Spain that teaches in English. In 2018 they were recognised with the prestigious British accreditation by ASIC (Accreditation Service for International Schools, Colleges and Universities). This is an important accreditation, recognised by the British Government’s Home Office, approved by Ofsted and leading educational bodies in the USA and Europe.
All courses are taught in English and offer a personalized approach to learning, with small class sizes and attention on developing the strength and self-knowledge of the individual. The business school is located on a secure 200-hectare estate featuring an 18-hole golf course, gym, three swimming pools and a unique natural environment.
They are currently accepting applications for the upcoming academic year.
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!