Having returned to England this weekend to surprise my mum for her birthday, along with this week coinciding with my first month anniversary of being on my year abroad, I thought that I would take the opportunity to highlight some of the main differences that I have encountered between my birth country and my adopted country.
Spanish trains are so noisy… and even more so at 6.50 am when all I want to do is sleep! Never again will I moan about a packed chiltern railways service from Warwick to London. At least on our trains the journey is relatively quiet, and even more so if you are lucky enough to find a seat in the silent zone. However, on Spanish trains, the doors don’t quite close properly, and the noise of the train moving makes it almost impossible to have a conversation.
However, at least the trains run to time… (I’m looking at you Southern) and if there is a strike/railworks another timetable is put in place which DOESN’T eliminate half the trains without providing any alternatives. Spanish train strikes mean a reduced timetable, but a reliable one. None of this “half our drivers are on strike and a quarter are ill so we don’t know if your train is coming, has left or even exists” rubbish (cough cough Southern (again)). And for railworks at least three quarters of the trains run and the others are replaced with a bus service. Oh, and the trains that do run are actually two trains joined together to give double the capacity… In Spain, problems are solved not exacerbated. One other thing about the trains, and this is going to sound extremely naïve… they also drive on the “wrong” side, which even though I have been in Spain many times, I have only just noticed!
Speaking of driving on the wrong side, I know that it is one of the main differences between the UK and Europe and that we are all aware of this change as soon as we cross the channel, but that doesn’t mean to say that I haven’t had a fair few near misses when crossing the roads (or tram tracks) here. Next to my house is the Avinguda dels Tarongers, an 8 lane highway with two tram tracks, on which I have often looked the wrong way, decided it was safe to cross, only to nearly be squashed by an oncoming truck.
Spaniards also love one way systems, which have often left me waiting on the pavement like a lemon for a car to pass before it turns before reaching my crossing point, simply because it can’t go down a specific road…
We all know before travelling to Europe that we need to pack an adapter for our electronic items. Yet no one mentions how easily the adapters fall out of European sockets. The slightest pull on the cable will often lead to the charger being pulled out of the socket, quite often without me having realised, so there have often been times that I have thought my laptop was charging only for it to suddenly die on me while I am in the middle of something.
It’s not all doom, gloom and near death road experiences though, as Spain is also home to a lot of amazing things. For example, no matter what you need, be it something completely mundane or totally random, you can almost always find it in one of the numerous “chinos” that can be found in almost any street. They are a kind of bazaar, almost always owned and run by a Chinese person, which has allowed me to practise repeatedly the three words I know in Chinese, and very often to be ignored or answered in Spanish accompanied with a wry smile, which can be found on practically every street. In fact, the street next to mine has 5! I have bought pegs, colouring pencils, a giant dice, buttons and a spatula from these stores which just proves the huge range of items they have. And all of this at incredibly low prices!
As mentioned last week, the tea is awful, but Spain saves itself on the hot drinks front by having amazing coffee! And best of all, this coffee is extremely cheap! Walk into any cafeteria/bar and you can easily get a coffee for half the price of what you would pay for it in England. Even more amazing is that fact that I can get a cappuccino in Laura’s university for 50cts at the restaurant’s vending machines and for 40cts in the new-as-of-this-week vending machine in my primary school! This may well be the reason why Spanish people are quite possible the only people who have a higher annual consumption of coffee than I do!
Another factor may well be the high speed life that they live. Spaniards are often stereotyped as lazy, siesta-taking, paella-eating and all the rest of that but I am yet to finish a day still able to keep my eyes open. A typical working day consists of me getting up at 5.30, leaving the house at 6, getting the train at 6.30, being in school from 8.30-16.30, sprint to the train station to get the train at 16.45, get home at 18.15, prep for tomorrow, eat, shower, collapse into bed. Thank God (and thank Estefania) that I only have to do this twice a week! However, this doesn’t mean that the other days are any less hectic. In the month that I have been in Spain, I have travelled more than 1300km (over 800 miles) in train and walked at least 200 km and this time Tuesday I will have travelled 4500 km by plane since setting off from London Gatwick just over a month ago. It’s been an amazing experience so far, and I am actually quite sad that a month has already flown by, as that means that I have a month less to carry on this adventure of a lifetime.
Look out for another post on Monday containing this week’s events!
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