As I’ve reached Christmas break I decided that now may be a good time to review my time so far in the form of a country showdown! Before I begin I’d like to point out that this list is based on personal preferences only, so all points are debatable, these are just my opinions!
CATEGORY: Weather WINNER: Spain
This one is hardly surprising. As much as I love the UK, you can’t really compare a grey, rainy day in Salisbury to an afternoon on Malagueta beach on the Costa del Sol. When it’s still 20 C in December every day in Puente Genil, you know something must be right. (Although, saying that, the lack of cloud cover means it’s like an English summer at lunch time but damn cold at night, especially in my chilly little stone-floored flat, which makes knowing what to wear somewhat of a struggle!)
CATEGORY: Bureaucracy, admin & general organisation WINNER: UK
Hands down. Don’t want to get into too much of a rant about this but it was pretty clear from the moment I arrived, and after my countless horrible trips to the government offices in Córdoba, that the Spanish bureaucracy is just horrendous. Not only that but general life organisation, communication in the workplace, and mañana mañana attitude make everything pretty frustrating if you’re not Spanish, don’t know what’s going on and generally can’t get past the overly laxness of everything. However, this is one of those things you just have to deal with and go with it, as there’s nothing you can do!
CATEGORY: Food WINNER: UK
This is one of those things that your home can always do best. I’m sure there are plenty of people that will argue me on this one but, from a vegetarian point of view, Spain’s food is pretty lacking. When eating out, I’m pretty much restricted to just eating potatoes and tortilla, that is if they haven’t decided to lace those with jamón, along with everything else.*
Not only that but the supermarkets offer little more, whereas in England my favs (Tesco and Sainsburys ❤ ) have great ranges of veggie freezer food, etc. Where I live you can generally just get local fruits and veg in the fruterías, which is probably a good thing, it just means I have to make a little more effort with cooking everything from scratch (but most days when I’ve finished work I just want to be able to shove something in the oven).
(*The only exception being Granada which offers a huge range of veggie and vegan restaurants and tapas, due to the high demand in the area from the large ‘hippy’ population!)
CATEGORY: Nightlife WINNER: Spain
When I think about nightlife in the UK, images of grimy clubs, under-age girls wearing next to nothing in the freezing, pouring rain, probably falling over in a gutter or something on the way home, and ‘lads’ fighting in the streets and drinking until they make themselves sick, spring to mind. Pretty grim. Compare this to the streets of Spain, where you head out at about 11 to a warm high street buzzing with pretty much everyone in town, from 2 year olds to 80 year olds, all sharing in a glass of wine and a bite to eat. The conversations are loud and the atmosphere is buzzing. You wander down to another wine bar or cervecería where you no doubt bump into everyone you know and some old man bursts out into flamenco song. And people here still know how to party, generally heading out until the early hours and grabbing churros for breakfast on the way home! The music is better, the drinks are stronger (be careful…), and the people actually know how to dance.
CATEGORY: People WINNER: Spain
Despite my earlier rant about the Spanish mañana attitude and horrendous bureaucracy, the Spanish people have actually won me over. Compared to the English, they are much more warm and open (despite at first being overly curious about foreigners in their small town, which I didn’t love). Even people I have only met once immediately bombard me with offers of help for everything from finding a flat to getting lifts to the train station; when they say I can call them if I need absolutely anything, they really mean it. Not to say English people are horrible and unkind or anything, it seems we just keep ourselves to ourselves more when we meet people and are much less straightforward and ‘to the point’ than the Spaniards, which I’ve had to get used to! Overall, I think The English could learn a little from the warm, open and relaxed attitude of the Spanish.
CATEGORY: Public transport WINNER: UK
I’ve probably ranted about this one before as well; unfortunately the public transport system in Spain sucks, particularly in small towns like mine. There is a train station which no trains actually go to so you have to pay for a taxi and travel 20 mins out of town to even get to the station. Then the trains on the main line between three airport cities only run from like 8am to 8:30pm, which makes travelling for early/ late flights near impossible. There are only two buses to and from my town, which each only run 3 times a day, and the bus station is less than inviting… Everyone in Spain has a car and without one travelling around becomes pretty difficult; so I rely on Bla Bla Car for nearly every journey, and have ended up stuck a couple of times when there hasn’t been a car share available. So yes, although the trains themselves are actually very nice, and probably a lot cleaner than trains in the UK, the rail network and journey frequency just doesn’t compare.
CATEGORY: Schooling WINNER: UK
Ok so UK wins again. Don’t want this post to turn into too much of a rant, but my experience working as a language assistant in the bilingual program of both a primary and secondary school has been quite the eye-opener. I can’t speak for the education system in general but I think I can safely say that they haven’t quite got the grip of the bilingual programme yet. Quite a few of the teachers seem uncomfortable teaching the material in a second language, and the assistants (me) aren’t given enough guidance with the subjects they’re expected to teach. The majority of the lessons involve reading and repeating from a textbook, so there isn’t much variation in terms of activities for different learning styles or abilities, etc. That said, at least Spain has a bilingual system, unlike England which is still playing catch up to countries such as France and Spain, in terms of MFL teaching at a young age.
CATEGORY: Cost of living WINNER: Spain
This is an easy one. I pay less than half the rent in Spain for a nice, 3 bedroom, furnished flat with a terrace, than I did for just one room in a house in Southampton; it’s a pretty good deal all in all! The cost of going out drinking is also a hell of a lot cheaper, with cañas as low as 80 cents and tinto de verano for 1.50€. Not much more to discuss here!
CATEGORY: Culture WINNER: Spain
Obviously this one is subjective and I by no means mean to say that the UK has no cultural merits. However, as a foreigner in Spain, there are a lot more interesting and different cultural hot spots for me personally than the UK. The interest surrounding cultural attractions in the south of Spain is partly due to the history of the region, which has produced an interesting mix of Roman, Catholic and Moorish Arabic influences on its culture. From the Alhambra in Granada, to the cathedral in Sevilla, I am never short of ‘wow’ places when travelling around Spain! (See my postcard scrapbook for more!)
CATEGORY: Christmas WINNER: UK
Had to be done. Although I love Spain, nowhere does Christmas like home. Besides, Puente Genil didn’t actually turn on its Christmas lights until 6 days before Christmas this year, which made the run up through December less than festive. I missed the English lights, decorations and carols, and in Spain there wasn’t a mince pie to be found. So, yes, I’m afraid nowhere does Christmas like England (unless, of course, we’re counting Germany: they sure know how it’s done).
RESULT: Spain 5 – 5 UK
(I guess there are pros and cons of each; how very diplomatic of me)
Speaking of Christmas in Germany, check out my next post where I’ll tell you all about my trip to southern Germany to see the Xmas markets! Now wasn’t that a slick transistion…