10 reasons to choose town life over city life
Catherine is studying French and Spanish at the University of Southampton, and spent the last academic year in Puente Genil, in the south of Spain, working for the British Council. She is also a student ambassador for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
As many of you year abroaders will know, the decision about where to spend your nine months (or more) is without a doubt a tough one. As I was applying to the British Council for my year abroad I knew I would have little say over where I got placed, and yet my friends and I were all adamant that we wanted to live in a big city. I actually ended up living in a small Spanish town called Puente Genil, and I really couldn’t have had a better year.
So here are 10 reasons why pueblo life definitely beats the bustle of the city:
1. Your language improves
First things first: your language skills improve immensely. I’d heard all about this before travelling but didn’t realise the extent to which it was true until I’d been living in Puente Genil for a few months. With no English-speaking shop owners, and no Erasmus students to rely on for company, you’re forced to speak the local language all the time, whilst also dealing with the challenge of regional accents and dialects!
2. Nothing beats small town celebrations
In Puente Genil, there seemed to be a different religious festival every weekend, and I can tell you: the parties are like no other. People would burst into spontaneous flamenco song and dance in the streets, and lock ins at the local bars were a regular feature of a night out (which usually didn’t end before daylight). Plus, everyone knows everyone in small communities like these, so you’ll probably get introduced to half the town in your first night.
Which brings me on to ...
3. It’s easier to make friends
There’s generally a friendlier vibe in small towns, so people are eager to get to know you, offer a helping hand and introduce you to all of their family and friends. Everyone from my estate agent to the local taxi driver was so nice, and so insistent on helping me whenever I needed anything; I met people in no time!
4. It feels like you’re part of a community
As you make more friends you start to feel like you’re actually part of the community, instead of a small cog in the big city machine. You’ll no doubt get invited to local events, asked round to the neighbours’ houses for dinner, and probably asked to help half the kids in town with their English homework.
5. You get to know the area better
This sense of community can really come in handy if you ever start to feel homesick (for myself and most of my friends this happened just after Christmas, when we came back from visiting our families already missing the comforts of home). But I also found that living in a small town you get to know not only the people but also the local area better, making it feel more like a home from home.
6. There’s a more laid back pace of life
Usually with small towns comes a much slower and more chilled out pace of life. While for some this may seem frustrating at first, I really got to enjoy the warm, lazy evenings sitting outside my local bar with a cold drink and some tapas, chatting with friends and not having to worry about work. While the hustle and bustle of the city may be fine for some (and I used to count myself among those people) there’s nothing wrong with trying out something a bit different and slowing it down for a few months.
7. You’ll get to see beyond the postcard image
Whenever I told people where I was living on my year abroad, I’d always get the same reaction: “Oooh, now that’s DEEP Spain”. It seems Puente Genil is, generally speaking, renowned for being very traditional, very authentic and very Spanish. And this, for me, was one of the major benefits. I really got to experience authentic Spanish town life, getting to know what things are like behind the touristy postcard image of Spain we often see on TV.
8. The countryside...
The views are beautiful. No more need be said on that.
9. The cost of living is so much cheaper
Opting for town life turned out to be a huge plus for my bank balance. I was sharing a pretty nice three bedroom flat (with a terrace!) with only one other girl, and I was still paying less than half of what I would normally pay for just one room in a shared house in Southampton! All the money I saved on rent I got to spend on travelling around Spain, and even visiting Morocco and Germany, which was definitely worth it. So I could not recommend this option more for anyone who wants to travel a lot (just check your local transport links or, if you have a car, check out the FCO guide on driving abroad).
10. It challenges you
And finally, although living in a small town has its definite advantages, it will also challenge you – but in a good way. It will force you to see things from a different perspective, learn about the local customs, and adjust to a whole new way of life. It will improve your ability to cope in unexpected situations and will push you to try new things, often putting you outside of your comfort zone. But ultimately it will develop you as a person, which has to be the biggest advantage of all.