Summer Salad Days – Notes from Spain Podcast 76

Distant view of Madrid

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Been a while, but here’s another fantastico Notes from Spain podcast! It’s hot at last, we’re all loosing the seasonal depression that no-one knew you could get in Spain, I’m getting in trouble over how to eat salad, whilst coping with the biggest culture shock I’ve had in years: how to map my childhood experience onto the Spanish education system so I can make intelligent decisions about the future of my own offspring….

21 Replies to “Summer Salad Days – Notes from Spain Podcast 76”

  1. This reminds me of one of the TED lectures about choice. How we strive for the freedom and money to do what we want (or what we think we want). Only the more choice we have the more stressed out we seem be become. I’m sure that,even though Marina knows the education system well, she’s not too certain either. The move from primary to secondary is extremely stressful in the UK, if you can’t afford to go private. So wherever you are I don’t think it’s ever that straight forward. You always want the best for your children.
    I’m sure everything will be fine though. Having good parents is the most important thing. 🙂

    1. Thanks Stephen – I’ve seen that TED lecture and you are right, it totally applies here! We are certainly baffled by the ‘hindrance’ of choice!

    2. If you are at all into philosophy then check out Isiah Berlin’s essay on Two Concepts of Liberty. He points out that having freedom of choice isn’t much good if you can’t act on those choices, and that in order to act on those choices you require another type of freedom. Unfortunately achieving this other type of freedom requires a restriction on the freedom of choice, e.g. in order to be free to read any book you must be forced to learn to read!

  2. The heat is glorious and, yes, just last evening I was discussing SAD with a Spanish friend who suddenly feels much better with the arrival of unbroken sunny days. We meet every week, yet this was the first time this year we had been able to sit on a terrace sipping beer for me and Horchata for her.
    And a café terrace on the central reservation of Juan Bravo, with traffic zooming on either side, is probably worse for breathing in pollution than the schools built beside busy motorways.
    I have had no need to know about schooling, but I do have to put up with three teenage kids lolling about the house with nothing to do and no money to do it as Spain has no paper routes, no after-school jobs which would solve both problems and something that, in the UK, we would take as granted.
    Oh! And get to grips with the sharing. On my first date with my lovely lady we were sharing a huevos estrellados with forks. There’s only one better way to share saliva!!!!!!!

  3. Interesting to hear your podcast. I moved to Spain almost 13 years ago and did the “growing into an adult” part over here as well.

    Never really noticed it, until recently, but I am definitely experiencing sort of a gap where i went off learning spanish, adjusting to another country and it´s culture etc, where others would have just gotten on with life and grown up.

    As for the salad sharing… I think that is one of the things I actually like best, sharing the food and not just the salad, being able to try out all different plates between friends instead of just one.


  4. @Richardksa and @Mirjam – I LOVE sharing plates of food… I just still have an issue with the sharing of salad. No idea why, guess it’s illogical and I should just get over it!

  5. Always good to hear a nfs podcast.

    Ben, don’t give up over the salad issue, all you have to do is overturn the centuries of Spanish tradition by giving friends and family big spoons for the salad bowl. Eventually we will do it, no more abeulos slobbering over the communal salad! My in-laws don’t do it anymore if I take the lead, be a bit more bossy!

    Very interesting to hear your views on schooling in Spain. The buildings/grounds may not be as aesthetic as most British schools but it seems to me the Spanish kids are generally much nicer to each other (adults too, come to that). Just make sure your boy is well educated in the art of concealing the chuleta!

    As for your Britishness or Spanishness, it’s curious that we have to so often define ourselves by our cultural environment rather than as individuals. My wife as been in the UK a little longer than you’ve been in Spain and I don’t think she’d ever describe herself as less Spanish or partly English but she does now like Marmite, watching rugby and drinks Lady Grey tea all day. Oh and, of course, she does use the salad spoon! I think it can be alluring to become part of another culture and freeing to have a new identity but I guess it can sometimes be only a temporary way of escaping the things about oneself that one doesn’t like.

    1. Ahhhh, I’ve tried the big spoon approach, it just gets pushed out of the way by the incoming fork! Good point about cultural identity – perhaps I’m still trying to work mine out!

      1. Hi, Ben.

        I can sympathize with you. I would not want to share salad in the way you’ve described. Although, I would make an exception for sharing just with my wife or girlfriend.

        Listening to your comments about the salad put me in mind of the custom of sharing mate in Argentina: the mate gets passed around and everyone drinks it through the same metal “straw”.

        How does Marina react to having to use serving utensils for the salad when you both visit the UK? When you’re home in Madrid, maybe you could suggest alternating how the salad is served: one day it’s communal salad and the next time everyone gets their salad on their own plate ahead of time or uses the large serving spoon and fork in the main salad bowl.

  6. Ben – as you can guess I’m going through a similar thought process regarding the education of our son. My main concern is not so much the lack of green fields, which are probably more important for secondary education, but rather the issue of English teaching. Given that our son will (hopefully) be bilingual anyway, most of the time he spends in English classes will be wasted because the level will be way too low for him. So we’re trying to find a school in Madrid that does not put emphasis on teaching English. With the current push for “bilingual” schools, and extra hours of English in the curriculum, it’s a lot harder than you’d think.

    1. I think it’s a given that our kids will have to waste some time in English classes sooner or later, better that than having to learn it the hard way like their school mates though!

    2. I have a the same concern. I can just imagine the mind-numbing boredom setting in as my English speaker listens to hours of vocabulary lists in his local “bilingual highschool” (I worked there and there is nothing bilingual about it. Just have more hours of vocabulary lists.) I don’t know who will suffer more, my son or his teacher who will have to entertain him. Any advice?

  7. Ben,
    I am awfully glad to hear that you are back again doing podcasts of NFS. Please remember that children have a natural ability to “code switch” and can learn Spanish and English at the same time. Looking forward to hearing from Marina. Eating salad Spanish style is a “walk in the park!” On the other hand, eating couscous Morrocan style is harder for me to stomach. I would rather someone have their fork in the dish than their fingers!
    Dante Ganzini

  8. Hi! Very interesting podcast! I hope you can change the salad eating technique of those surrounding you! So funny! I also want my own salad for myself, ha, ha! Can I ask you something? Whereabouts are you from? Lovely accent!

  9. hey ben!

    great podcast. as you started to talk about the education thing, i thought, oooh i think i know where he’s going with this!! i feel exactly the same about this kind of thing, and have been thinking about it more and more recently (having just got engaged to a spanish girl probably has something to do with it!)

    for me it’s also about living in the city, and bringing a child up in that kind of environment. when i was a kid we were in the quinto proverbial, and while it used to frustrate me that we had to drive to get anywhere, i look back on it now incredibly fondly.

    what’s better for a child, being surrounded by trees, fields, cows, rabbits, or being confronted by delivery men weeing on the street of a morning (the sight i was faced with this morning as i headed off to work)?

    i like your suggestion of just abandoning your concept of what childhood is based on your own experience – i can’t think of a better solution to deal with it…

    look fwd to the next pod!

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