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The Girl with the Daffodil Tattoo

A Welsh girl let loose in a wild world

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Spain first year

How I ended up in Madrid

I arrived in Madrid in 2010, bright eyed and bushy tailed, all ready to learn Spanish. What I had really wanted to do was what my course mates were doing, aka live off mummy and daddy’s respective purse and wallet and do a masters, or just potter about and live with my parents. They spoke of the homecoming with dread. “It’s going to be hard going back to their house after living independently”, they said. I envied them.

Not having taken up the challenge of studying any language properly before (“This isn’t going to help me make money in order to have financial security”, that holy grail of holy grails I had been brought up to seek), I applied to China and was accepted. I was to fly on August 13th, 2010.

I was crashing with my sister in London, a few days before my departure, when someone from British council called me.

“I suppose by now you’ve realised that there’s a problem with your visa”, she said kindly, in the clipped tones of an admirably middle class English accent.

Erm. Come again?

It turned out that some random Chinese citizens had been going in to schools and getting knife happy, attacking teachers and students. I had been (too) honest about my mental health history, getting the required documents that said I was “mostly harmless” etc, so under the disability discrimination act, British Council had hired me. Long live equality! However, the Chinese government had just banned giving teaching visas to loony foreigners, so I was in job limbo.

They said they would sort it.

A few days later they called me to say I could work in central Madrid, even though I didn’t speak Spanish. I was relieved. I had already handed in my notice for my bar job in London and I was tired of living in a capital and having no money.

So, off I trotted.

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Women: Contraception in Spain

Here’s a compendium of info about birth control in Spain, from my own personal experience, top what my friends/coworkers/doctors have told me.

Contraceptive Pill

Cost=between 4 and 15 euros a month

Brits: Stock up on 12 months of the pill before you leave the UK. You will save between 36e and 180 euros over 12 months

You can easily find the brand name for your pill in Spain. I’ve also been told that you can take your empty pill box to the pharmacy (if you live in Madrid) and they can/will search for the equivalent for you and sell it to you without a prescription. When I lived in Madrid I was told (by a pharmacist) that whether it was sold to you or not without prescription (this goes for the morning after pill as well) depended on how conservative the person was serving you. In the three years I lived in Madrid, I never had any problem whatsoever.

My experience in Bilbao has been that pharmacies that will let you buy the pill without a prescription are few and far between. Not sure if this is due to the Basque Country being more Catholic or just general regulations.

In general, there are two types of pill that are covered on social security, meaning that they are cheap (4e for a months supply). These are Diane ( ) and . All the rest are around 15e a month.

Nuva/Merina Ring

Rough cost per month: 20e

This is a ring you insert into your vagina that releases hormones to stop you ovulating.

IUD

Rough cost for  years:

US citizens living in Spain: Might be covered on your insurance (Mapfre, Sanitas)

Many women are now opting for an IUD (a copper device that is fitted into your uterus that lasts for several years). It’s important to get one fitted a while before you go abroad for your follow up appountment.

Implant

Rough cost for  years:

 

 

Disclaimer: This article is includes my research, opinion and opinions from other women I’ve spoken to. Please consult your doctor.

 

Tip for EU People Moving/Travelling to the UK

To get around the UK plug annoyance, use something plastic in the top hole of the UK socket to open the safety shutter.

plug

I like to use a biro lid.

biro

 

Happy travels!

Technology: Phones, Apps, Contracts, and Companies

Going to Spain for a while? Here are some technotips.

  1. Install Whatsapp on your phone

(Almost) everyone uses it here, as many people don’t have phone contracts. It’s also great for keep in contact with your friends at home

2. Get a YOIGO sim

I tried various pay as you go sims, and I like Yoigo because calls are too expensive, their phones are unlocked and relatively cheap (you can buy a two sim card phone NEW for 140e), and their customer service is not completely terrible. You can also pay 7e a month for 3G, which is really useful if you move to a place where internet takes a thousand years to install.

Don’t forget to bring your passport to buy whatever sim card you end up getting; it’s an anti-terror measure here that you can’t buy a phone sim without ID.

3. Bring an extender cable from your country

You can buy travel plugs in Spain, but instead of buying 5 or 6 individual ones for your phone, laptop, hairdryer etc, why not bring an extension cable with you from your country?

Wall>>>travel plug>>>extender cable

>phone

>laptop

>hairdryer

Also, for UK travellers, remember that if you buy electronics in other European countries, you can (usually) shove them in to a British socket by sticking something plastic into the top hole of the plug socket, like this:

plug

I like to use a good old biro lid. It’s the perfect size for opening the safety shutter.

Flights home (and Christmas: BUY FLIGHTS IN AUGUST)

If you’re planning on going home at Christmas… BUY YOUR FLIGHTS NOW, in August, or else pay double.

A) Buy your flights 6 months before (yes, in August)

B) Fly on the 23rd of December at the latest

If there are random volcanoes, strikes, or ice, you won’t get marooned somewhere (there are no trains/buses on Christmas day)

C) Tell your school in your first month when you’re flights are. Offer to make it up.

I worked in a really difficult, uptight school, where we were told that Christmas wasn’t a Spanish holiday and… Basically, be assertive. Don’t let anyone mess with your Christmas with your family.

Best place to buy US flights:

STA travel

If you’re under 26, you can get great deals using this site.

Things you can’t get in Spain (or are expensive/low quality)

Good peanut butter

Stationary (coloured flashcards, thank you cards)

Shampoo and conditioner (there is little tax on wine, beer, and cigarettes, but cosmetic items are more expensive)

Socks

Anti-histamines (only on prescription)

Teriyaki Sauce

Hamburger Helper

Spice blends (Chinese Five Spice) Note: You may be able to find spices in specific neighbourhoods where non-Spanish people live. In Madrid, many corner shops have a great range of spices for South Asian food.

 

Women:

Hair cuts (Spanish hair dressers tend to chop a lot off)

Sport’s bras (buy an extra at Target/New Look)

 

Things that may be cheaper:

Fruit and veg

Contraceptive pill/merina ring/nuva ring/IUD (some are 4e a month, others are 15e a month)

Care Packages from Outside of the EU

Make sure the sender fills out the customs form properly, or you will have to pay 40e at your end 😦

Banks

  1. Find the best credit card for travel

Getting charged for withdrawals from your home bank is a big pain in the butt, and your Spanish paperwork will take a while, meaning it might be a few months before you have a bank here.

UK:

http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/credit-cards/travel-credit-cards

I use a Halifax Clarity. It’s the top rated card on the above article, and I was already with Halifax anyway.

US:

??????????????????? LET ME KNOW WHAT THE BEST BANK FOR AMERICANS TRAVELLING IS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW OR EMAIL Humphries.sarah@gmail.com

Spanish Banks

Sabadell allowed me to have an account without a NIE (Spanish resident number).

I changed from them to ING as Sabadell have two types of account (depending on how much you get paid each month), whereas ING offer free transfers no matter what. They also have this nifty friend invite thing where if your friend is already with them, you both get 32.50e (they say more, but that’s not including the tax) to change to them.

Desk tidy

You will need:

Materials:
Boxes (choose your sizes to suit your needs)
Clean cans/jars
Drawing pins
Strong tape, preferably clear

Tools:
Box cutter
Long ruler (optional, but useful)

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This project is super simple. Just remember to work with the shape/stength of the boxes you have at hand. Happy crafting!

Cardboard notice board

You will need:
Command strips
Cardboard box
Box cutter

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Limits:
Your imagination

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