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Rebecca Binkhorst left New Zealand to follow her Spanish dreams. After the customary period of Kiwi travel, she has ended up living and working in Granada, where she is experiencing a whole different side of life and putting her language skills to the test. Rebecca hopes to share her experience, through a passion for food and travel, to inspire fellow Kiwis to uncover the beauty of life in Spain.


A Long Way From Home

At their core, all airports are the same. You know you’re headed somewhere different though when the language and shops start changing. Heading to Spain via Hong Kong meant three different time zones and climates in 40 hours. The warmth of Malaga was more than welcome after leaving the cooler New Zealand spring, a good start to my time here. One thing any traveller should expect is the question about where you are from (customs officials aside). A common reaction when finding out where I come from is for people to exclaim how far away that is. Well you can’t get any further! It does act as a conversation starter though which is always welcome, as well being interesting to find out what people know. All Blacks? Kiwifruit? Often the Lord of the Rings, as evidenced by the elvish tattoo proudly shown to me when a festival goer found out where I call home.

Food Culture
Tapas are one of the many reasons why people visit Spain in the first place. Available in every city, but sometimes not as the included delight with your drink of choice. Being in Granada, I have the pleasure of being able to reasonably expect a morsel with each drink. If you have particular preferences, be on the lookout for establishments that have a tapas menu. Oftentimes with tapas, you get what you are given. This could be anything from a few green olives to a plate of prawns. These menus can save you from staring a prawn in the face when you really just wanted meatballs or delightful Spanish jamón.

Spanish bars will likely open for the evening trade around 8pm, staying open into the night. If your favourite place closes and you still want a drink and a boogie never fear, clubs stay open into the early hours. Don’t be surprised if you see people heading home at 6am. As with New Zealand, everything from karaoke bars to Irish pubs and clubs is available. I would be surprised if I was walking down Queen Street and saw a taxi advertising a club though.
I’ve heard that 'organisation' can be an issue?

How to describe the Spanish attitude towards organisation? In the words of a Granada native, “not very organised” reflects the general Spanish view on life that one should slow down and just enjoy things.  However, such a way of life can lead to confusion and sometimes frustration for the unaccustomed. Appointments at the foreigner’s office can turn into multi trip affairs when you're told different information with every visit, and school can include unexpected siesta opportunities when your class has a test you were not informed about in advance. The solution? Be like a duck in water and let it roll off your back. You’re in Spain, just relax, these things happen. For bureaucratic matters, I recommend thoroughly researching in advance what you may need, bringing multiple copies of any potentially relevant documents, ready to pull out if requested.

Another side to organisation that may be unexpected is supermarket shopping. At home, one can pop down to the local and grab all your food, as well as any medicine cabinet type things such as paracetamol. Here it is different. Anything that is a drug is sold only at a pharmacy. Whilst this does mean you have to head to another store if you have a headache, pharmacies abound. Most are helpfully signposted with an illuminated cross out the front, usually displaying the time or temperature. On the flip side, you can buy liquor from the supermarket.


They just speak Spanish right?

As you may be able to guess, Spanish is indeed the main language spoken throughout most of Spain. There are nevertheless other official languages like Galician or Catalonian, as well as some of the autonomous communities putting their own stamp of the standardised version. Andalusia is the perfect example of this. As I had been to Spain a couple of times on my youth, I had a fair idea of what to expect when I came here. However, it was still an assault to my university language skills to hear the ends of words left out of speech as well as sometimes the middle! ‘Andaluz’ is not its own language as such but a spoken version of Spanish that may leave you wondering… To further complicate the matter, Granada has its own set of phrases and slang. Half the fun is working to understand these.

If you have not come with a grasp of Spanish (I would recommend learning at least survival phrases if possible) do attempt to communicate with clear English. As Spain has recognised English as an important international language the school curriculum is officially bilingual, thus most of the younger population should have some sort of grasp of it. This does not always translate to real life fluency. However, if go in with a smile and positive attitude, you will enjoy yourself.

Being a student city, language exchanges are very popular in Granada. Perfect for practising your Spanish or helping a Spaniard with their English, they also do double duty as a way of meeting people from all over the world. Bonus if the intercambio is in a bar that has free tapas. 

Thinking about living here?

If you are considering an adventure in Iberia, the first thing I would say is do it. It is an amazing experience, one that makes you think differently and enhances your appreciation for our lovely home. Secondly, do your research. Find out what part of Spain you want to be in and why. For me, the Alhambra was the place. The architecture style in general as well as the abundance of oranges, olives and free tapas made Andalusia the natural choice. Thirdly, if you have any questions not easily answered about visas chat to the Spanish embassy in Wellington. They were incredibly helpful in the lead up to my departure and I’m sure would also be for you. Finally, enjoy yourself!


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Rebecca is an English language assistant based in Granada, Spain, where she works with implementation of the bilingual school curriculum. Prior to moving to Spain she was a travel industry professional, organising and advising on all aspects of the travel experience to deliver clients' desired outcomes. In addition to working on her Spanish she enjoys travel, swimming, cooking and ice hockey.


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