Favourite Food Things in Spain

As a British child, I was dragged to Spain a lot as a kid. So much so, that I thought I had a pretty good idea about what I did and didn’t like about the country. And if you read my posts leading up to my arrival in Madrid last year, they’re more on the ‘didn’t like’ side of things. However, Spain has pleasantly surprised me and I figured it deserved a positive post for a change, so here are my five favourite things about living in Spain. And surprisingly, they’re all food related. Vegetariansaywhaaaaaat?

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 12.40.01

1. Tostada con Tomate:

Before I moved here, my biggest worry was how I’d survive as a vegetarian. And even though it’s still a constant struggle with jamón and chorizo lurking around every corner, there are some foods I’ve sort of fallen in love with. Mainly tostada con tomate. Technically speaking, before my Barcelonés boyfriend complains, this is a Catalan dish. But political stance aside, I love this thing. Never would I have thought I’d want to eat tomatoes for breakfast if it wasn’t somehow related to baked beans, but I am smitten. It’s made even better by always being less than 3€ including a drink, speaking of…

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 12.43.06

2. Café con Leche:

I’d heard so much about Spanish coffee, and was honestly expecting something amazing. However, my first experiences with coffee in Madrid just left me feeling underwhelmed. Tiny sizes and the seemingly nonexistent iced variety left me resorting to Starbucks more than I’d care to admit. But now I am one with the café con leches. Sure, they may not all be winners, but they’re cheap and easily accessible. And after twentyone years of living in my English hometown, I never found a coffee I liked within walking distance to my house. So I’m pretty content with the two minute walk to my preferred coffee shop nowadays. I’m almost over the fact that I can’t get a decent iced latte. Almost.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 12.43.58

3. Just General Eating And Drinking Outside:

This is a bit of a stretch on my food topic, but hear me out ‘cause I think it’s important. In the two weeks of summer we get in the UK, everyone runs to the nearest beer garden. But beer gardens are meh, because there’s not much that can compare to the joy of sitting outside in the sun with a good coffee and an even better book. I know it’s a weather thing, but come on, get on this one, UK.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 12.45.22

4. Sweet Things For Breakfast:

Back in the UK, I was strictly a banana or Special K kinda girl. Chocolate for breakfast? Eww. Gross. Blehhh. But what started with a bowl of my flatmate’s Coco Pops led to me possibly having a napolitana from every bakery in Madrid. Croissants just don’t do it for me anymore. Sleepy Saturday mornings at my local brunch haunt, chocolate muesli bars on the bus to work, or Coco Pops in bed. I am a convert. Well done, Spain. Give me that sugar.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 12.46.00

5. Froyo:

I have never been one for ice cream. It melts too quickly and it makes my teeth cold. Out of tradition, I’ll have a little pot of vanilla at the theatre, but I’m more likely to be found racing to finish a Mr Freeze before it melts into nothingness. But one fateful night in August, hungry and a little day-drunk, I stumbled onto my first froyo shop of Madrid. Magical. Now I’m just counting down the days until it reaches 20 degrees again so I can justify walking along with my yoghurt and my fruit. And not having it melt all over me because it’s not EVIL and TERRIBLE like ice cream is. Two words, guys: banana froyo. You’re welcome.

I think it’s safe the say… the vegetarian has been appeased.

Teaching English in Madrid: Pros and Cons

tumblr_nl7a7cKGN91qzb2e5o1_1280

So teaching English in Spain was a bit of a whirlwind decision for me, and since deciding to do it last May and moving to Madrid in July, my opinions and expectations have changed a lot. Firstly, I was so completely against teaching children. I hated high school when I was there myself, why would I willingly spend more time there as a grownup? One of the selling points of teaching for me was that I could work exclusively with adults. So how did I end up, eight months later, working with kids (and more importantly, enjoying it so much more)? Let’s investigate.

I’ve pretty much done the whole teaching spectrum during my short time in Spain. I’ve worked in an academy, taught in-company Business English, and taught in a secondary school. I’m by no means an expert, but just in case anyone is an obsessive Googler like I am, here are my thoughts on all three of my teaching gigs so far.

Teaching In An Academy: Most people who teach in a language academy will tell you the same thing: it’s very hit or miss. I kind of fell into academy work. It was one of my first job interviews in Spain, and they were the first place to offer me a job. As an unemployed college graduate, I jumped at the chance. I was gonna have money? Yes please! However, I really wish I’d done more research first. I quickly found out that my €10 an hour pay was kind of, well, terrible. I pretty much just spent my days teaching straight out of a textbook and fighting with the CD player to get listening exercises to work. Also, for all my fear over teaching kids, adults (with barely any command over the English language) will very often fight you over basic English grammar or word pronunciations. Like, who’s the English teacher here, Juan?

  • Pros: Your classes are all in one place and most of the time materials will be provided.
  • Cons: The pay isn’t the best and there’s a strong possibility they’ll expect your academy classes to have precedence over any privates you might have.

Teaching In-Company Business Classes: I really liked teaching Business English, but I did get amazingly lucky teaching only C1 level students. A lot of the time Business English students will want to focus more on conversational English that will help them with clients and travel, rather than revising the joys of the past participle for two hours. Originally I was worried that my lack of business knowledge would hinder my ability to teach Business English, but you’d be surprised how much stuff you pick up from just general day to day life, and there weren’t any instances were I couldn’t answer my students’ questions. A lot of the time I’d plan a lesson on a specific subject, and by the end of the class I’d be answering random questions about Scottish Independence and the, uh, nightlife in Amsterdam. Definitely more interesting than phrasal verbs.

  • Pros: You have more control over the lessons and can ask your students what they specifically want to learn (you’ll also get to sit in fancy conference rooms a lot).
  • Cons: When taking on new classes, you have to account for travel time between locations, so you better bring a book to read on the Metro.

Teaching In A School/Being A Language Assistant: After my Business English contract was coming to an end and seeing how much my friends liked working in schools, I decided to try my luck applying for the Ministry Program… in the middle of the school year. Shockingly enough, it actually worked. And I’m so glad it did. Teaching kids is very different to teaching adults, but for the first time since starting this little teaching adventure, my job actually feels… rewarding? I thought that teaching paying adults would feel like this, but I quickly realised their interest mainly stems in landing a job. Whereas kids might not be learning English by choice, the majority of them do seem to actually enjoy their lessons. And the best part is that because I’m only a measly language assistant, I just get to play games and do fun stuff with them, all the boring grammar stuff gets loaded onto the teachers. It’s like being the cool aunt or something.

  • Pros: Your classes are all in one place, you get to hear sentences like ‘Madonna will have a baby… and then kill it’ whilst teaching the future tenses, and let’s be real, the pay is pretty great.
  • Cons: The likelihood of getting placed in a school in the centre is slim, but honestly the commute isn’t so bad. When I first got placed in Zone B2, I almost cried. But it only takes me about 45 minutes and my 40 book reading challenge is coming on like a dream. So not really that much of a con after all.

So that’s my experience with teaching English in Madrid. I know the experience is different for everyone, but that’s part of the fun of it. It’s supposed to be an adventure! And if you really do get a job and it’s completely terrible, just change it. In case you couldn’t tell from what I just wrote, there’s lots of opportunities for teaching English in Madrid and you’ve just gotta find your perfect fit. If you’re thinking of applying to teach English abroad, I highly suggest it! It definitely changed my life for the better… although whether that’s the joys of teaching or the cheap vino blanco is purely a matter of opinion.

What’s On My iPhone: The Expat Edition

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 18.14.05

So this is a pretty cliché and unoriginal trick of the bloggers, but it’s one I’m strangely fascinated by. However, I never thought I’d actually do one myself, because as much as I (thought I) loved my phone, I didn’t really feel I could offer that much to the discussion. It’s just a phone, y’know? But then I moved to Madrid, and my phone somehow became so much more than a phone. Wow, this sounds so lame. But it’s true. And it’s still true almost eight months later. I honestly have no idea how the expats of the past lived without smart phones. So here’s ten of the apps that I think make expatriate life not only livable, but more enjoyable.

  1. WhatsApp: I originally downloaded WhatsApp before I left for Spain so I could text my parents, little did I know how much Spain actually loves it. It’s especially useful when you first arrive in a new country, ‘cause you’re bound to meet people who put off buying a sim card for months and months who you can only communicate with when they’re within WiFi range (don’t be that person, no one wants to be stuck waiting for 40 minutes not knowing if you’re dead or not).
  2. Weather: I never used this app in the UK, in fact it was relegated to a little folder of ‘boring apps’ chilling on my last page. But almost eight months in and it’s still hilarious for me to screenshot the weather in the UK and the weather here, and send them to my mother with laughing emojis. ESPAÑA!
  3. Citymapper: Definitely my favourite and most used app, Citymapper has saved me more times than I care to count. It tells me how to get anywhere around the city, so I can pick the fastest route. Or in my case, ‘weeeeell… I could walk the 15 minutes… but it’s only two stops on the Metro…’. And it’s only gotten me lost maybe two times. Yay.
  4. Citymaps: Yes, this is a different app. A newer addition to my collection, but still an equally important one. This is pretty much if Google Maps and Pinterest had a baby. It tells you recommended places around you and lets you read user reviews (which are sometimes in English). Always useful when you’re just dying for a café con leche in a new part of the city.
  5. Instagram: Because how else would I make everyone from back home super jealous of my cool Madrid life? (Only joking. Kind of.) Related apps I recommend are VSCOcam and Afterlight, because as much fun as I’m having in Madrid, you can’t doubt that everything’s better with a filter.
  6. Google Translate: Moon of my life, my sun and stars. Most commonly used in supermarkets when I’m trying to figure out if there’s meat in whatever I’m holding. The new camera scan feature is one of the best things to ever happen to me… even if it means I’m getting lazier with my language learning. Speaking of…
  7. Cat Spanish: I’ve probably downloaded every Spanish language app in the app store at some point, but none of them ever worked for me (the only thing I remember from Duolingo is ‘the penguin reads the newspaper’. So useful). Maybe it’s because of my deep-rooted love of LolCatz, but this app just clicked with me. And I’ve learnt more with this than any other language learning app. Or even GCSE classes. Cats are magical, guys.
  8. Pacer: Strangely enough, moving abroad and exploring a new city (and not spending all my time in bed watching Netflix) has made me a teensy bit healthier. Pacer is pretty much a pedometer that tracks your steps in a neat little graph and pits you against your Facebook friends… and I am a highly competitive person. Most of my days now end with rage if I don’t make 10,000 steps (and sometimes frantic pacing around the apartment to bring my score up). But it’s all in the name of health so it’s okay.
  9. Goodreads: I read a measly nineteen books last year. For an English Literature graduate, that’s embarrassing. So I set myself a goal to read forty books in 2015, and with my new fifty minute commute to work, this should be a breeze. However, I don’t trust myself. So I publicly marked this on the Goodreads reading challenge to shame myself into completing it. Also, using the app to rate a book when I finish it is strangely therapeutic.
  10. SAM: More of a serious one here, but one I’d still like to talk about. When I was regretting taking on a second internship and cutting down my classes, my anxiety was the worst it’s been since 2013. SAM is way to deal with anxiety and panic attacks, and it really did help me. Whether the breathing exercises were actually calming me down, or I was just distracting myself, I credit this app with me getting to sleep some nights. Expat life is amazing, and I’m all for moving abroad to escape your problems, but sometimes they catch up with you, and this is a good way to help when you’re awake at 3AM. And if I’d have listened to my panic attacks and given up and moved home, I wouldn’t be here now, with a job I enjoy and time to leisurely write blogposts on a sunny Spanish Saturday afternoon.

So wherever you are in the world, I hope these apps help you as much as they help me in Madrid. And if anyone has any tips for new apps to download, let me know! Even though I’m scarily low on space right now. It might be time to reevaluate my need for Robot Unicorn Attack.