To get around the UK plug annoyance, use something plastic in the top hole of the UK socket to open the safety shutter.
I like to use a biro lid.
Going to Spain for a while? Here are some technotips.
(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
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:
I like to use a good old biro lid. It’s the perfect size for opening the safety shutter.
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:
If you’re under 26, you can get great deals using this site.
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)
Anti-histamines (only on prescription)
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.
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 😦
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.
I use a Halifax Clarity. It’s the top rated card on the above article, and I was already with Halifax anyway.
??????????????????? LET ME KNOW WHAT THE BEST BANK FOR AMERICANS TRAVELLING IS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW OR EMAIL Humphries.firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
There is nothing that makes my blood boil more than Spanish pillows. What can I say? It’s the little things in life.
Don’t know what I mean? Close your eyes, and picture a bed.
Does it look like this?
Or maybe this?
Well, if you move abroad, be very careful that you buy pillowcases that fit your pillows, because guess what: some countries have ANOTHER SIZE OF PILLOW. Observe:
Longer and slimmer, it is no better or worse than the “standard” pillow that one can purchase in the dreaded Ikea. It’s just a very slightly different shape, enough to need a different sized pillow case.
Then, there’s the one pillow for two people idea.
Staying in my friend’s mum’s house, I actually slept on a bed a bit like that (minus the chap with the beret). My partner and I were reticent about sharing a pillow, but to our surprise there was no tug of war in the night. Maybe this whole long pillow business is so crazy, it just might work!
When I first moved to Spain, I had no idea about the different pillow system. I bought one pillow case that was long enough for a 2 meter long pillow (sigh) and one that was for a single Spanish bed, but my ONE PILLOW I bought from Ikea didn’t fit either of them (see fig. 1).
Then the supermarket told me there was no refund on pillow cases that had been opened, which I thought made sense, but I still pulled this face.
4 years later, I was buying pillow cases for my pillows from a shop I’d stumbled upon in the neighbourhood. The other shop I had found was wickedly expensive, but this one was reasonably priced and the lady was nice. Finally, my three pillows, kindly donated by my landlord/friend, would be sheathed in pillow cases that ACTUALLY FITTED them. All three pillows were completely different sizes to each other, as well as the random selection of pillow cases my boyfriend had amassed in my several months of absence (one of which was SQUARE. A square pillow case. SQUARE. Don’t even get me started).
I had done it. Finally we had pillows with their very own pillow cases. I basked in my own glory in the Basque Country. In your face, annoying things that you never get used to when you live abroad!
Weeks later, my landlord/housemate/friend told me (via email) that he wouldn’t be reimbursing me for the pillow cases as he does for other things I buy for the flat, as they were “just” for our use, “not for the house”, and that we would “take them with us” when we left. I sighed.
In the last 5 years, I’ve moved house 23 times. I’ve lived in 5 different countries, on 3 continents. I have chronic back pain from carrying my minimalist possessions, leaving behind me a trail of clothes horses and home made spice racks (see fig. 2) in my previous apartments.
(Fig. 2. “The Homemade Eco Spice Rack”)
Today, my most prized possession is my library card, as it saves me from buying books and so the inevitable wrench of saying goodbye to them. Packing, unpacking, repacking, tedious chores of the nomadic.
I know that there is absolutely no way in hell that I am bringing with me three random sized pillow cases with me to the next country I live in. I’ll have enough to transport; electronic cables for laptops, kindles, phones, and other “essential” electronicy doodads take up a surprising amount of space, and are actually quite expensive to replace.
I looked at my pillows, snug in their red and purple cases.
They cost me around 18 euros. So if I use them for 12 months, they will have cost me about 1.50 euros a month. I’ll take that rental price.
Dear Pillow Cases,
When I leave Spain, I’m not taking you babies with me, but you were definitely worth spending 20 euros on.
Never change, my sweet cotton friends.