This time next week, my time in Spain will have come to an end, having spent 10 months teaching in a British school. I now reflect on my time here and ask myself whether it was a valuable experience and whether I would come back one day and relive it all once more….
The first week back in September was full of hopes and expectations, of how I would re-invent myself and do all the things that I never did before. I wanted to become a new person with a new personality and never say no to a new adventure.
The reality was somewhat different and I realised that my personality has evolved over the years but rarely changes drastically. I read a book recently, where the central character talks about how your personality is shaped very early on in life and an experience or your reaction to it, however great or small, determines and shapes your personality. Therefore how you react to criticism or how many risks you take in life are all established at a young age and you will always revert to that personality type even if for a short period of time you try to re-invent yourself.
It has taking me many years to finally accept who I am, knowing that my personality is set and I need to just be happy in life with the type of person I am.
Being a teacher surrounding by students for 5 days a week, means that in your private life you almost crave the opposite, i.e. being away from people and spending time by yourself. That is why during my time here in Spain, I spent many weekends, simply being, i.e. going for walks and watching Spanish TV to improve my language skills. I had dated a Spanish guy for a period of time and this helped my Spanish enormously.
Despite being a teacher, I am quite an introvert and prefer one on one meet ups rather than large group gatherings. I find that in large groups with so many people talking all at once, I get distracted and cannot focus on one conversation at the one time.
When I reflect back on my childhood I realise that I always had one key friend rather than a group of friends. This key friend changed over the years depending on the class or school I went to, but I still only focused on truly having one friend. Therefore this part of my personality has not changed as I grew older.
This leads me on to the fact that life in Spain does not suit my personality, as Spanish people meet in big groups around a table at a local bar rather than the intimate surroundings of their home. Spanish people do not like to invite people to their homes unless they are family, preferring instead meet-ups in open spaces. I prefer to visit friends in their homes, as it is much more of a relaxing environment.
The other interesting fact about Spain and its culture is that people eat very late. Generally around 10 or 11pm and therefore restaurants open after Siesta at 8pm. I am used to eating much earlier, generally around 6pm, therefore eating at 10pm or 11pm is simply too late for me, especially when you go to bed at 11pm or 12pm for school the following day.
I love going for walks and with temperatures soaring to 30 degrees, the best time to go is early morning. What I notice on my walking routes is the smell of dog urine which smells worse when the weather is hotter. Spanish people love their dogs and take them for a walk regularly, however what many of them don´t like to do is clean up their mess afterwards! Therefore streets tend to me very dirty and if you are not careful you end up getting it on your shoes!
Like most European cities, there is also a lot of graffiti on derelict buildings or on the side of railway lines. Some of this can be quite beautiful wall art but some can be quite awful in appearance.
Living in Spain has other downfalls such as the thin walls between apartments in a building block. It is customary to hear your neighbour snoring, or their phone beep with an incoming message or hearing them walking up and down the corridors at night going back and forth to the bathroom. It doesn´t help that I am a light sleeper.
Most of the apartments were built in the 1960s and therefore along with the thin walls, they have no heating and people rely on air condition units or portable heaters to heat their homes. Some have had the finances to put in a proper heating system but not many I know have these installed.
I mentioned affordability in the last paragraph, salaries for teachers and indeed for most of the Spanish population is low. Yet despite this, prices of accommodation, bills and food have gone up each year. Unemployment is high and those who come here, do so for the weather and not much more.
Utilities bills for electricity, water and gas are very high and most of the bills comprises of taxes which are high due to corruption practices in the past with utility companies.
Now you might be wondering if there are any advantages to living in Spain? There are a few. Their medical system here in world reknowned and you are in safe hands when treated in Spain.
The great weather for most of the year with little rain means that if you love the outdoors, then it is an ideal spot to live in.
The towns and villages around Spain are beautiful and steeped in history. Therefore it is a very interesting country to visit.
Of course if you are a language lover and want to learn Spanish like me. Then it is always best to live in the country where the language is spoken. The biggest fulfillment for me is moving here in September with very little Spanish and 10 months later leaving with enough Spanish to have a decent conversation with a Spanish person and understanding programmes on TV.
That for me was the only reason for moving to Spain and now I leave with another language to add to my language list!
Would I come back again? I will try to come back each year to continue learning Spanish by doing a course with the Cervantes institute. I will also come back to visit the cities I did not get an opportunity to visit whilst being here.
The question is would I come back to live here again and the answer is a resounding no…. Unfortunately… España no es para mi.