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The Girl with the Daffodil Tattoo

A Welsh girl let loose in a wild world

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living abroad

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 😦

Accidentally read an article in The Mirror

A friend sent me a link to an article in The Mirror:
Man commutes 5 hours a day from Barcelona to work in London and still saves money?

Something about this article just doesn’t add up. I see thrre main problems.

Firstly, let’s think about the maths. If it takes him an hour to get to the airport in Barce, then an hour to get from the airport in London to his office (unlikely but let’s estimate), then that’s already two hours each way, leaving 30 mins for airport security, waiting for the flight, then the actual flight itself. Hmm. Bernard’s watch, anyone?

Also, the man talks about getting a 5am bus to be at the office for 9:30am, which sounds like 4.5 hours (one-way).

Thirdly, he talks about “running on the beach *before* work” (my emphasis). He also doesn’t mention what time he gets “home” to his flat in Barce.

Why does the British
media always try to make people think Britain is rubbish? Tonnes of Spanish, Basque, and Catalan people are happily living in the UK. Yes, food and drink are imported and so expensive. But Britain is a highly developed country in the top 30 for quality of life in the *entire* world.
Courtesy of MoveHub: Quality of Life Around the World

Living Costs World Map

Integration

Integration is a word that was on my periphery when I lived in my home country. People would often mention how certain groups of immigrants all lived in one area of a city, and maybe “kept to themselves”, or “didn’t learn English”. As the issue didn’t apply to me, I ignored it, as was my privilege as being part of the majority.

When I moved to Spain to teach English and learn Spanish, I didn’t know ANY Spanish (or similar languages), which made me a target for xenophobia at the school where I worked. I absorbed the abuse like a sponge; it was my fault they hated me, if I spoke better Spanish they would treat me better, etc. I got it in to my head that “intensive” courses would help me, so I signed up to all of the Spanish classes that I could, and I struggled and struggled and struggled. I allowed my Spanish coworkers to make me feel guilty for not knowing their language, as if not having had the opportunity to study Spanish made me a “bad” person. They were insecure about their English so they took it out on me, trying to get me to pronounce words in Spanish and laughing at my attempts. The idea of being one of those “güiris” who just hung around with other English speakers and didn’t “make any effort” repulsed me, so I spent all of my time outside of work with Spanish people, at different types of events; parties, drawing clubs, dance classes, picnics, gigs, volunteering.

I spent two years miserable, and mostly alone. At best, Spanish people patronised me, gloating about how “¡internacional!” they were to have a token foreigner at their party. At worst, people screamed in my face for being different, pushing in front of me in waiting lines, full of resentment that I was “Erasmus”* (which I wasn’t. I had a degree, I had a job, I was working, I was paying my own rent), while they were unable to get a job within their own country, as if I had control over the political and economic situation.

(*Erasmus is a scholarship in Europe for people to spend a semester or full year studying at a university abroad. As with many scholarships, students use it to party their stresses away with the free wine money the government has given them. For Spanish students, who don’t leave home to study abroad, this might be the first time they have rented their own apartment, hence the nickname “orgasmus”)

And always, always, the bilingual coordinator at school spoke of “integration”. We had a meeting about it once a month, where we were chastised for “speaking English” in the dining room (when our Spanish English-speaking coworkers wanted to practice with us), but this was an atmosphere where I sat down and people (grown adults) would abruptly get up to sit somewhere else because they didn’t want to sit next to me, or people wouldn’t say “Hello” to you in the corridor (which is customary here). From these experiences, it became clear that “integration” was something that we did, while other people were allowed to use us as psychological punch bags. We had to eat fruit with knives and forks, as it was “the Spanish way”. We were told to “stop eating all the food”, as whenever the breakfast buffet ran out of something, it was our fault. When we were sick, we didn’t have a cold, we were hungover, because that was our stereotype and stereotypes are always correct. We were told to “integrate”, but we weren’t given a “way in”. Our Spanish coworkers formed a tight, sealed circle, with only one or two breaking ranks to show interest in their new, temporary colleagues, mostly motivated by practicing English with us, which made their coworkers despise us even more.

I still hear my friends in Britain, all monolingual, saying mildly xenophobic things, like commenting that someone “had lived in the UK 30 years and still didn’t speak English”, pronounced in that tone of disgust, as if “speaking English”, or any language for that matter, were an easy thing, accessible to all. If an immigrant doesn’t have a job in the native language, they don’t have an opportunity to speak it on a daily basis, because making friends is hard, especially factoring in different cultural norms.

Last week, someone chastised me for having English speaking friends. I explained to the person that without a job in Spanish, making friends here is hard, seeing as this region has a “cuadrilla” system, meaning that you make friends in primary school, and you keep that group of friends for life. My boyfriend’s cuadrilla have made it clear that they are not interested in being friends with me. They don’t bother to remember my name, they ask me no questions or show no interest in me whatsoever, they talk about me within earshot as if I can’t understand them, they criticise my Spanish, my pale skin, my choice of music, they assume that I don’t know how to play poker and suggest that I should share cards with my partner,. In short, they don’t treat me with kindness or respect, and I don’t feel comfortable with them or like spending time with them, which is a huge source of disappointment for me. I had hoped that my boyfriend’s friends could be my friends too, but I am coming to terms with the fact that that is not possible. Even after explaining all that, the person continued to imply that I “wasn’t trying hard enough”. I wanted to say: “I’ve lived in Spain almost 5 years. I’ve made one friend who is Spanish/Basque. How much harder do I need to try? I’m done with trying”.

My boyfriend is French, and is happy living here. I am now learning French, and I can see that about 40% of their language is the same as Spanish. Nouns, verbs, expressions, grammatical concepts like masculine and feminine as well as the subjunctive. They even use bread to eat dinner in the same way, tearing it off in a chunk, and using it to push food onto their fork. Integrating is easier the closer your native language and customs are to the target culture.

I’m not integrated here, because if integrating means being Spanish, or Basque, or something else, then that’s not me, and it never will be. I can’t eat my dinner with a fork in one hand and a piece of bread in the other, and I don’t want to. I drink PG Tips in the morning. I dunk biscuits in it. When I eat soup, I dunk a sandwich in it. These are things that I like to do, tiny things that go back to my earliest childhood.

I’m me. I’m from where I’m from. That’s not better, that’s not worse, it’s just different. If people here or anywhere else don’t want to accept me for that, then that is their problem, not mine.

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