10 things I miss about living in Spain
Florence reflects on the things she misses most about living in España...
1. The food and drink
Tortilla. Paella. Chorizo. Patatas bravas. Rioja. Gambas al ajillo. Croquetas. Churros con chocolate. Tinto de verano. Jamón. Caña con limón. Manchego.
Need I go on?
2. The prices
Whilst I spent a lot of time before my year abroad panicking about running out of money and having to live in a box, it turned out to be the healthiest year in the history of my bank account. There is nothing better than paying for a glass of wine with spare change, or going out to dinner for less than €10.
3. Las fiestas
"¿Te gusta la fiesta?"
Those were the first Spanish words I heard when I landed in Madrid, uttered by a particularly welcoming (and good-looking) immigration officer.
Truth is, a love of la fiesta is pretty crucial to life in Spain. Every city, town, village and next-door neighbour has their own Saint Day. Add these to the national bank holidays and you have a hell of a lot of time off. Make the most of it by getting involved in local celebrations (but be warned - those Spaniards sure can drink).
4. The weather
Whilst a dose of Vitamin D is good for the soul, it's not just the clear skies that I miss. What I love most about Spanish weather is its reliability.
In Madrid, the seasons behaved exactly as expected: winter was bitterly cold, spring and autumn were mild and summer was hot. Unlike the UK, where sun can turn to drizzle in the blink of an eye and leaving the house is an exercise in forward planning, in Spain, a sunny day tends to remain sunny. Trust me - predictable weather is a gift.
5. The architecture
From Gaudi's gothic cathedral in Barcelona to the towering Arabic beauty of the Alhambra in Granada, from the tree-lined avenues of Madrid to the cobbled streets of Segovia, the history of Spain is written in its walls.
6. The hours
Arriving in Spain can be somewhat of a shock to the British system. Eating lunch at 3pm and dinner at 9pm - not to mention everything shutting down for a couple of hours in the middle of the day - can take some getting used to. Once you settle in, however, you'll never want to go back to your old ways. For one thing, what's not to like about a working day that factors in enough time for a siesta?
7. The mañana attitude
Like the strange hours, the laidback approach to life can be frustrating for us uptight Brits. Especially when you've just moved into a new flat and it takes 3 weeks for the Internet provider to fit your WiFi (I spent a lot of time in Starbucks for that first month).
Yet, by the time I left in July, I was a completely different person - relaxed, easygoing and happier to take things as they come. Even my walk had adjusted to the Spanish pace. Living in Spain taught me that the world wouldn't stop if I slowed down and took the time to appreciate my surroundings.
8. The language
I can't express how much I missed the sound of the Spanish language when I moved back to the UK. From eavesdropping on the metro (one of the most satisfying year abroad experiences) to ordering in a restaurant, everything sounds better en Español.
9. The traditions
Spain is a country rooted in its traditions and it's impossible to spend a year abroad there without experiencing a few of them. Whether you're exploring a bullring (or attending a fight if you're brave enough), watching a flamenco show, crashing a Semana Santa procession or chucking tomatoes at complete strangers, Spain is full of traditions that are weird, wonderful and totally unique.
10. The nightlife
You haven't gone on a proper night out until you've downed a few free chupitos, danced until 8am and munched on churros on the way home. Britain, you're doing it wrong.