So it feels weird to say I’ve been here for a month now – I still feel like I haven’t seen all the essentials in Tudela, let alone in Navarra or in wider Spain. However, to commemorate this first temporal landmark I have compiled a list of the biggest differences I have noticed from my experience so far of living in Tudela.
- Kettles – why does no one use kettles?!? This one still phases me. When she saw I’d bought one, my 24-year-old flat mate genuinely asked how to use it. I honestly cannot imagine any Brit getting to the age of 24 without knowing how to use a kettle.
- Opening hours – this is probably my biggest moaning point (I may be in Spain but I am still a great British moaner). Fortunately the supermarkets generally tend to stay open through siesta hours, but especially when I arrived it was the most frustrating thing to get halfway through sorting some administrative necessity, only to be told that you should come back tomorrow because it was time for a nap (I’m looking at you comisaría).
- Fresh milk – I’m telling you, finding that sweet lactose nectar over here is like looking for gold dust. A friend who travelled through Latin America told me she experienced the same issue; something about not trusting that the cows weren’t diseased, but here I think it is simply that it just isn’t a staple in their diet. I suppose if they’re only using a drop a day in a coffee it’s not worth buying the expensive fresh stuff.
- Family life – I’ve found that people tend to stay in their regions for most of their lives over here – even for uni they will if they can study the course they want. Even one of the teachers at my school has told me that she plans to return to Aragón (a neighbouring region) as soon she can find a teaching placement there, where she can be near her family. It was also strange because people at my Church were shocked to hear that I had absolutely 0 family members in the country. Even when I was talking to the parents of one of my students, I admitted that at times I do miss England slightly, only for them to jump in to suppose that it must be odd to be away from my family – which, oddly enough, as much as I love them, I don’t. I’m more used to going long periods without seeing them, and a Facetime call from Durham and a Facetime call from Tudela is much the same conversation.
- Vending machines – even though shops have very restricted opening hours, there are often tucked away little corners in streets with a collection of vending machines. It’s no replacement for a weekly shop, but you can even buy alioli (Spanish garlic mayonnaise) in some of them.
- Alcohol culture – much to my students’ disappointment when asked about it, I haven’t noticed a huge difference in attitude towards alcohol on a general scale; any knowledge I have of drinking culture comes from a uni setting which I feel makes a biased comparison. As a girl who loves a G&T, it’s often my go-to drink for a relaxing weekend evening. Out here, everything is free-pour, which must be why their attitude to it is so different; from what I’ve seen, if you’re drinking any kind of spirit it signals that you’re out for a crazy night of drinking. I, however, genuinely enjoy the refreshment of a good G&T in moderation – you can see why they call me the abuela of the flat now. On the contrary, wine is never apparently the drink of choice if you are going to a discoteca, as a Spaniard informed me. While bar/pincho hopping in Zaragoza (quickly becoming a favourite pastime of mine) I asked for a glass of Rioja once we got to a pub-like bar. But what I was served for 1.50€ resembled vinegar more than the velvety delight of Rioja I’ve been enjoying here, on the border to the region itself.
- Opposite sex relationships – as I would like to stress with all of my points made on this blog, this impression may very well reflect the personalities of the people who I have encountered, rather than general Spanish attitudes. But here I have found that my love life has been much more of an open topic for questioning. When I received a letter from a Durham friend, they wouldn’t believe that nothing was going on between us and kept giving me the encouraging wink. Eventually I gave in and explained to them that he batted for the other team, although this didn’t entirely discourage their playful suggestions… Not only this, but the majority of my students asked in my ‘introducing myself’ initial lessons with them if I had a boyfriend – to which the teachers hardly batted an eyelid! I was also saddened to hear that my flat mate who comes from Brighton was advised not to mention its status as the gay capital of Britain in her introduction, in case any of the parents should complain.
- Baking – it wasn’t until I came to Navarra that I realised how culturally specific English baking is. I can’t even get some of the ingredients for a basic flapjack over here!
something Spaniards have probably never seen
9. School – school is this strange system which is in some ways more, and others less, formal than in England. The teachers call all the teachers by their first names, which to me still feels a little personal. School uniform in secondary school is also pretty uncommon over here; as I’ve been told, it’s mostly reserved for private school students. Having said that, I don’t think school is particularly easy for them – at my school, we start at 7.55am every morning and they can have exams of varying sizes as much as once a week. I was also shocked at the naughty behaviour of the sixth form students, and was explaining to one of the teachers just how different attitudes between sixth form and high school students are in England from my experience; if you were going refuse to do the work, there was no point in you being there if you didn’t have to. She told me that here it’s not like that because the parents are heavily involved in their children’s education, often obliging them to do the bachillerato (A Levels) instead of a vocational course. But I still can’t get over the school canteen – rid from your mind any image you may have of soggy school dinners and grumpy dinner ladies, over here it’s as if I’ve stumbled into a cafeteria in some typical Spanish pueblito. The freshly ground coffee for 1€ is my staple. Spanish students tend to eat a big lunch at home once school finishes at 2pm, but for the long school day the café is well stocked which croissants, bizcochos and oreos (Jamie Oliver would have a field day) and provides a second staff room for those in-between lesson lulls.
none of this business
Anyway, I’m happy to announce that my Erasmus grant has finally come in – woohoo! And to celebrate I’m going to finally start doing some travelling. First stop – San Sebastián on Sunday!
So I’m signing off this post with an apt sayonara in song: