Category Archives: General

Happy Summer Hiatus…

OK, Marina and baby and I are off on holiday for a few weeks, so…

If you are new to the site then I really suggest you take a look around, listen to some podcasts, please do leave some comments if you have something to say, and don’t forget, if you like learning Spanish, you have to check out our sister-site, the famous!

Happy Holidays! – Ben

Bringing Up Baby Bilingual in English, Spanish, and Rubbish

A common question Marina and I are asked, as a Spanish-British couple, is ‘What language do you speak to each other?’

The answer is that we absolutely interchangeably speak English, Spanish, and rubbish.

Let me explain: We are both very good at each other’s language, so we can easily talk to each other in English, or Spanish, and communicate perfectly. I would say we speak a touch more Spanish, but it really depends on factors like how tired one of us is (I always defaults to my own language when I’m tired)…

The problem is that our easy interchange between English and Spanish doesn’t just happen on a daily basis. It doesn’t just happen on an hourly basis…

It often happens on a sentence to sentence basis, or worse, a word to word basis!

For example:

Marina to Ben: You look exhausted, qué te pasa love?
Ben to Marina: Nothing, I’m just feeling a bit agobiado

Oh dear. You see the thing is, in sentences like this we’ll change languages when a single word or phrase works better in one language than another. Qué te pasa just works better than ‘what’s going on’ for Marina in the above example, and in the case of my reply, I use the word agobiado becuase it does a one-word job that English doesn’t have to explain a general feeling of stress/anxiety/over-work/too much on my shoulders.

And Marina understands what I mean perfectly, just as I understood her! Why speak in one language at a time, after all, when we have all the wonderful lexical tools of two at our disposal? We have a reached perfect, hybrid-bilingual communication at a sentence to sentence, word to word level.

Here´s the problem. Well two problems really.

Problem one, things get worse. Our hybrid-bilingual model quickly gets out of control. Let’s take my sentence from the above example again, and look at another version, that is almost more likely to be used these days:

Ben to Marina: Nothing, I’m just feeling a bit agobiated

AgobIATED! Spanglish at it’s best! Yet it just sounds right, and I know that Marina knows exactly what I’m talking about, even if I am effectivily speaking the third language of rubbish!

But here’s the biggest problem of all: We are trying to bring up our baby to be bilingual. What chance has he got with words like ‘agobiated’ flying around the house?

Time to ditch the private language I think, and stick to those good old staples of English and Spanish, and preferably just one at a time!

Updates: La Presidencia and NIS Forest

First of all, STILL not official confirmation of whether Marina has indeed been landed with the worst job in Spain, and is in fact ‘La Nueva Presidenta de la Comunidad’!

We are avoiding bringing up the matter with the porter, who is bound to know, working on the assumption that what you haven’t been told in person, might still not be true!

Secondly, some of you know about the ‘Notes in Spanish Forest’, 120 cherry trees in Asturias bought with proceeds from the sale of our ‘Crisis Collection’ pack, over at our Spanish learning sister-site Notes in Spanish. Well, the trees have just been planted, and the charity, Fapas, has put a really nice photo-story up on their site about the big event. Do have a look.

Marina has made a Spanish video about it too, here.

Have a great weekend! – Ben

(Expat) Help Needed…

My friend Marielli is doing some really interesting academic work that includes research into expats living here in Spain, and could really do with a hand on a quick survey if you are:

1. US American or British
2. 18 years of age or older
3. Currently living in Spain, US or UK

As Marielli says:

“This research will require you to participate in a brief online questionnaire that will take less than 10 minutes to complete. The survey touches on the dimensions that are described extensively in the work of Geert Hofstede and Michael Minkov. They deal with key issues in national societies, known from social anthropology and cross-cultural research. By participating in this study, you will help contribute to more data in the field of cross-cultural research.”

I’ve taken the survey, it’s quick, easy to complete, so do please help if you fit the bill.

Here’s the link to the survey

Thanks! Ben

Spain in trouble?

Just got home via a 2 am cab ride, streets strangely empty. The cab driver said:

“It’s the news from the government, 4 million unemployed, over 17% of the working population, people are scared… wouldn’t surprise me if we reach 5 million…”

And I think Spain might well reach 5 million unemployed, I mean, it’s not as if the construction industry (which counts one way or another for over 30% of the GNP) is going to recover in the next 5 years… and what’s going to replace it?

Spain has troubled times ahead I fear…

We Won The Lonely Planet ‘Best Expat Blog Award’!

Yes! We won the Lonely Planet ‘Best Expat blog’ award, and I say ‘We‘, because all the comments over the years from ‘You‘ have kept this blog more than alive… the video below, made as the ‘acceptance speech’ for the ceremony in San Francisco last night (how posh is that!?) explains better:

Many thanks to you all again. If you are new here, do stop for a look around, and if you like learning Spanish, please do look at our famous Learning Spanish podcasts too!

Saludos from Madrid!

Ben (el contento)

P.S. Don’t forget our great Spanish podcasts site!

How to avoid being “an expat” in Spain

expat in Feria de Jerez

Photo: Me trying to ‘blend in’ and not to look like an expat (Fail?!)

OK, so technically if you live in Spain and aren’t from here, then you are either an immigrant, or an ex-pat – probably both. Nothing wrong with either of course, but there are certain aspects of ‘ex-pat-ness’ that it is certainly wise to avoid, if only for the benefit of your own long-term self esteem!

So, here is my quick guide to ‘How to avoid being “too expatty” in Spain’ – and, more to the point, really fitting in with the locals! Please add to the list in the comments!

1. Never drink in Irish bars, no matter what sporting event you just can’t miss and isn’t on anywhere else.

2. … and don’t say things like ‘I counldn’t half do with a decent pint instead of these tiny bloody caña beers they serve over here’.

Typical Spanish Bar

Photo: Try to drink in bars that look like this

3. In fact… only drink in bars with crap all over the floor, a few old Spanish men permanently stuck to the bar, and at least one well dressed barmen, over 50, who’s worked there since just after birth.

Drunk in Spain

Photo: Clearly NOT expats – expats wouldn’t bother with the matress

4. Don’t ever get obsessed about eating “at least one good meal from home” a week. Spanish food is much better for you. You’ll live longer. (4.b. Don’t do all your food shopping in the ‘gourmet’ section of El Corte Ingles).

Spanish market

Photo: Avoid El Corte Ingles – try food shopping in places like this!

5. Don’t spend more time on Facebook than you do soaking in your new surroundings.

6. Don’t wear white socks, shorts and tennis shoes in public.

Spanish football fans

Photo: To blend in, dress like this

7. Learn some more Spanish! Come on, you live here! Join in!

8. Swear more (and only in Spanish, joder).

9. What would you add for number 9?

Comments below please! (Later note on some comments below: I’m amazed that some people used this as an excuse to reinforce idiotic stereotypes about the Spanish – says a lot about a certain class of expat I’m afraid…)

Later Notes on Parenting…

Tireeeeeedddddd…. very very tiiiirreeeeeeeddd…. I’m told the sensation will pass in about 7 years time, when our son starts sleeping a little better, but right now, wow. Why did they do so many drugs in the 60’s? They should have just had more kids and experienced the joys of halucinagenic sleep deprivation for FREE!

So you may have noticed that this blog has been, well, a little quiet recently, and now you can guess why. Reserve energies left after parenting duties are being used mainly to keep everything running smoothly at, the website that really pays for the nappies. That doesn’t mean things over here at Notes from Spain are being abandoned, far from it – we’ve done more in the last 2 months to boost the wonderful forum than we’ve done in it’s entire history – do join in!

As I get increasingly used to life after few hours sleep, expect more blogging here soon, especially now the weather is so wonderfully inspiring – sitting at a cafe terrace table in Madrid’s Retiro park on Sunday, sipping Estrella Damn number 2 (rather it was Mahou), a sense of great happiness came over me – could have been the beer, could have been the sleep dep., but I think it was that wonderful sensation of ‘soaking up early spring sun in Spain’… and knowing there are 7 months of hot blue skies ahead…

Expect more Spain here this week and beyond, when I hope to be reporting on this wonderful country as well as my friend Richard does, with his excellent Spanish-Granny-Warrior post here: Chariots of Ire