When I tell people I have a passion – nay, obsession – for traveling, they always ask me why I chose Spain over other countries. “Turkey is beautiful!” proclaims my mother. “Dubai’s where the money is!” others say. “Korea’s where everyone goes!” claims anyone who’s sort of looked into teaching abroad. “I looked into JET. You should too.” rings from those once interested in Japan.
My answer is, why not Spain?
A lot of people view Spain as a country that has absolutely no money. Whether that’s true or not, it’s not really about the money. I didn’t base my decision on money, otherwise I’m sure I would have declined the offer. While Spain offers a good (enough) salary for native English teachers, there are other factors that play into.
Firstly, it’s a beautiful country. That isn’t an understatement – it really is. As someone who grew up in a country with many of the world’s best natural wonders, I appreciate the outdoors. Madrid, the city I resided in, doesn’t strike people as the most outdoorsy place, but it’s surprisingly nature-friendly. It’s a major city, but there’s a lot of green space within the center and around its borders. Take a one hour trek outside of the city via train, and you’ll find lots of mountains to hike (and sometimes ski down). The funny thing, though? Despite what it offers, Madrid’s natural beauty pales in comparison to other places in Spain. The islands are an obvious one, but did you know Valencia is stunning? Barcelona is, too, with its mountains, parks, and beach. San Sebastian is utterly ridiculous, with its too-pretty-to-bear bay and coastline. Granada has an old school beauty to it, with La Alhambra being one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. And don’t even get me started on Cadiz – it’s so mesmerizing that you’ll never want to leave!
Secondly, it’s easy going. While you may find this frustrating in some ways – especially when it comes to the legal things – you’ll come to appreciate it. One thing I absolutely adore about Spain is that people value their time with friends, and if a night goes on a little too late, they’re usually cool about it. People don’t place an unhealthy emphasis on what you do for a living, because they’re generally more relaxed and want to enjoy their lives. While I’m in Spain, I’m actually on the “busy” side of easy going – constantly doing something, keeping busy, even more so than at home in North America – but I appreciate that I’m able to do so because I choose to, not because the culture I’m surrounded by wants me to work myself to death (even though I do)!
Thirdly, it teaches you new things. Before I moved to Spain, I could barely speak Spanish. I liked to think I could, but living there was a major reality check. As I had the reading and writing part down already, I had room to grow in the verbal department and made it my goal to gain some level of competence in talking. By the time I left, I was able to express myself in Spanish with ease.
The language isn’t the only thing you learn, though. As the lifestyle is completely different for us North Americans, I learned how to adapt to something very different. Spanish culture does share similarities with my parents’ culture (and my heritage), so in that sense, it was strangely foreign and familiar. I balanced it out and got used to the parts that were new to me, which taught me to be more open.
Fourthly, it’s sunny and happy. Yes, this deserves its own point. Trust me when I say that there being a consistent amount of sun can really change your mood. As a Canadian, I’ve dealt with the winter blues. It should be noted that in some parts of Spain, there isn’t much sun (the north was gloomy when I went in June), but Madrid gets lots of sunshine during the year.
Fifthly, it was my childhood crush. As strange as that may sound, it’s true. I had a very, very big crush on Spain. I was so obsessed with Spain that my flamenco-ish dress was my favourite item of clothing for several years. Keep in mind that I was a tomboy, so for that to be the case is a very strange thing indeed.
I loved the language, the culture (well, the old school culture), the actors, the history, and everything else. I loved Spain so much it forced me to take this opportunity as an adult, even after my love affair with it dwindled.
Spain was my weakness – the thing I was attracted to – and I couldn’t say no to it. Although I know I’ll never fully assimilate in Spain, it’s mostly because I don’t want to. I love observing it as an “outsider”, taking in the things I appreciate and not adopting the things I can do without. It’s been the perfect compromise.
So, I guess I’m going back very soon. Will I be there for more than a year? Who knows. At this point, I’m just excited to get back, and to start round 2.
Are you going abroad this fall? If so, where to? If not, where would you go?
Yay, I hope I feel all these same things about Spain! I went on a very fast paced trip after high school and loved it, but after being in Asia for so long I really can’t relate/imagine what living in Europe will feel like.
Well, I suppose in just a few weeks I’ll know! 🙂 Glad you are going back. It seems like you made the right decision!
Spain certainly has an aroma
By the way, I choose Korea for the money….and living there totally didn’t make me happy! So now I’m choosing Spain. That should tell you something 😉
That’s too bad! At least you learned from the experience, and probably had a lot of good times along the way. I hope Spain’s better for you! I actually assume Korea or Japan would be more up my ally, but Spain has been positive for me. You can never really know until you go out there and try it all!
and by “ally”, I meant “alley”. haha
Spain really has a magical quality about it that draws you in by all of your sense as well as penetrating straight to your heart. I’ll be heading there in a month to start my year of teaching English there 🙂 Glad I stumbled on your blog!
That’s really exciting! I’m sure you’ll love it. 🙂
Hey Ghezal! I had no idea you had a blog until I looked back at the old entry/interview about Juan and me on Kaley’s Y Mucho Mas blog and saw your comment. I’m glad to hear you’re coming back! Let’s get a drink sometime this fall and catch up.
That post was hilarious – I can’t believe I didn’t even realize it was you until way later! We’ll definitely have to get together this year.
Que Viva Espana… ?
Yours sounds like a new religion … but hardly.
Having visited Spain several times it’s easy to become a fanatic .. especially with the amazing authors it has captured and seduced … e.g. George Orwell .. Ernest Hemingway
I’m seriously considering lengthening my annual visits from 2-3 weeks to 3-5 months and have just started to research where to stay. Instinctively I feel that it should not be too difficult to accomplish within a reasonable “student” budget.
If anyone has words of wisdom on my rash research project on
“where to stay to stay in Spain every year for 3-5 months without going broke”
I would be most grateful …..
thanking you in advance …. kk
Don’t get me wrong – I like Spain a lot, but it’s certainly not a religious nor spiritual connection. I simply enjoy it. There are many places around the world that I like! My main passion is exploring places rather than Spain itself.
That all depends on how much money you have. Anywhere in the south would be relatively cheap, but Spain as a whole (besides San Sebastian) has great affordable places. If English is your first language, you’re in luck – there’s a way to make extra cash for that in Madrid (or other cities).
And by this, I mean that San Sebastian tends to be pricier (at least compared to city living in other parts of Spain).
Thank you for your unbelievably FAST reply. Although my “mother tounge” is English it is actually my third language. I spent over a year in Mexico and have a fair navigation in Spanish French German as well 🙂
Any web links that you might have for .. “Se Renta” would be gratefully appreciated …
As for “religion” … like politics .. it is a topic that I usually avoid … 🙂
That’s interesting. Usually, it’s the other way around (different mother tongue, but English being the first language). May I ask where you grew up?
You should check out idealista.com for an idea of how much rooms go for! I cannot believe how cheap rooms are in Seville – wish it was like that in Madrid, too.
Reading your post made my heart swell. I studied abroad there many years ago and fell in love. I am currently trying to find a way to get back to Spain on a more long term basis. I at first counted it out because of the economy, but one must follow their heart! Enjoy it immensely!
You say … “but one must follow their heart! Enjoy it immensely!”
and then ask for a comment …
perhaps then … just follow your heart! Enjoy it immensely!” … 🙂