Spain

East of Málaga blog

East of Málaga  is a blog written by Marianne, who defines herself as a “recovering’  lawyer,  EFL teacher, neophyte blogger, petrol-head, amateur photographer, traveller, English woman and shameless arctophile (yeah, go ahead – look it up!).”  Marianne’s good sense of humour is present throughout her writing.

Photo credit: East of Malaga

East of Málaga provides useful information about living and travelling in that neck of the woods. Whether readers want to know everything about the AVE (high-speed train) from Madrid to Málaga , or what to have for breakfast in Spain (those churros con chocolate look so tempting!) or even  the cost of living in Spain, Marianne has spot-on information.

The travel photos on this blog are a feast for one’s eyes. Beside, every month, East of Málaga organizes a photo challenge where everyone can participate (I do!)

Head over there and read all about Marianne and Málaga.

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December 11, 2012 Comments disabled

The All American Family, With a Spanish Twist

As someone who has lived abroad for over a decade and seen so many multi-cultural relationships blossom and thrive, I love reading stories like Cari and Juan Luis’s. In this interview, Cari tells us all about how she and her family happily weave together the Spanish and American cultures in their day to day family life.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How would your friends or family describe you?

I am a 38 year-old mom of three and have been married 16 years to my husband from Spain, Juan Luis Andreani. When I was in college I wanted to travel abroad and went to Madrid, Spain. I fell in love with Europe and ended up finding a job there and living for a year. I came back and finished my degree (I changed my major from Education to Spanish with an emphasis in teaching languages and a minor in Sociology), married my Spaniard and now teach English at a private high school here in Jacksonville,  Fl. I am very driven and have gone further in my education graduating now with a Masters in Leadership. My husband and I love to travel to new places and feel that the world is a marvelous place! I love learning about new cultures and exposing my children to them. My parents and family are very typical “all-American” and I am married to the only “foreigner” but my family adores my husband and the uniqueness he brings. I think he is still adorable and exotic and I have loved our journey together.

Where do you live? Where are you from? If those are different, can you tell us a little about what inspired your move?

I live in Jacksonville, Florida, but I am originally from Salt Lake City, Utah. After I moved back from Spain, I finished my degree at the University of Utah and my husband joined the American military and we were stationed first in Jacksonville. We loved it so much, we stayed when he got out.

If you would describe yourself as multi-cultural, tell us a bit about what culture you most identify with and why. What culture do your kids most associate with?

I think the best way that describes us is maybe “split personality”. Since we live here and we all work/go to school in American schools, we are very American, but we try to keep the things we like from Spain. For example, my husband is the chef of the home and cooks a lot of Mediterranean food.

Can you describe a typical day for you?

Because my husband has lived here for about 17 years- he has adapted the most to the American way of life. However, we visit Spain at least once every year or two and it curbs our (my husbands specifically) homesickness. We are your “all-American” family, with a Spanish side to us.

What is the best part of living in your country? The worst?

Here in the States we can have a great life. Economically, we can have a better quality of life here. In Europe, especially Spain, economic times are tough. We enjoy the quality of life and safety from living in the suburbs.

The worst part is possibly the food- we hate fast food and hate that our country is basically killing themselves slowly with a poor diet.

What books or films would you recommend someone who’d like to know more about your country?

We recently saw the movie “There Be Dragons” about the Spanish Civil War. A great movie.

What language or languages do you use on a day to day basis?

We speak mostly English but we are also bilingual and speak Spanish (Castillian or Castellano) My husband, my oldest son, and I are fluent. Our two little ones (ages 10, and 7 are not, but understand quite a bit.)

Tell me about a national hero in your country (can be anyone- living or not, internationally famous or not). Who are they and what are they admired for?

Since my husband and sons watch sports they LOVE Iker Casillas (soccer), Nadal (Tennis), Alonso( Formula One), and Sergio Garcia (golf)

 Tell me about your favorite holiday, and what cultural traditions you practice to celebrate on that day.

Christmas is the best- we celebrate Reyes Magos (the Three Wise Men on Jan. 6th too)

Describe a favorite typical meal from your country (include photos if you like!)

Favorite meal are so many things from Spain- like I said my husband cooks and he is better than any restaurant! He makes Pollo Al Ajillo (chicken in garlic and olive oil and white wine), Paella (rice dish), and Flan (custard) for dessert. My FAVORITE is Cordero (lamb) they make it with garlic, olive oil, wine (Malaga Virgen) and rosemary.

What’s something that visitors are often surprised by when getting to know your country/culture?

Spaniards look nothing like South Americans. They are Europeans and are light skinned and many have blonde hair. They also are surprised when they see Madrid (the capital) it is very similar to Paris and very European. I think because of the Spanish language they associate more with South American, but the truth is they are European and have more of a feel of  French than any South American country.

May 24, 2012 Comments disabled

Cecilia: Italian by birth, Spanish at heart

Today we speak with Cecilia, born and raised in Milan, but currently living in Barcelona, Spain. Cecilia tells us about her experiences living everywhere from Spain to Bali, and why she is loving the Spanish lifestyle.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How would your friends or family describe you?

I’d like that my friends and family would describe me as a sensitive, reliable and sunny.

You are from Milan, but live in Barcelona and have also spent time in the US and Bali? Can you tell us a little about what inspired your move and desire to live in all these wonderful places?

I was born in Milan and I lived there for 24 years. At the moment I’m living in Barcelona, Spain, since July.

I’m studying in a master of translations in the Pompeu Fabra University. I really like Barcelona because is full of art and culture, and so multi ethnic. In this city there are also a lot of events and activities for young people. It’s amazing!!!

Two years ago I went to US to study English and to work like a babysitter in an American family. I looked after the two funny children and I learned a lot of English! I really liked this experience because I had the opportunity to know many people of different culture.

Last year I travelled to Bali, Indonesia, for two months because my ex  boy-friend was working there in a Diving company. It was the first time that I saw a place so different form my country.

At the beginning I was on holiday trying to find something to do and one day I read on internet an announcement of a family from US looking for a nanny and I immediately contacted them. It was what I wished!  I love children and I really enjoy to spend time with them. I knew the family and I began to work in their house looking after their so sweet 1, 5 old boy.

Tell us a bit about what culture you most identify with and why.

I identify more with Spanish culture than with the Italian one.  I really like the Spanish lifestyle. Spanish people are more relaxed than Italian people (I mean the northern part of Italy), the day is larger, lunch time is at 3pm and dinner time is at 9/10 pm.

What is the best part of living in your country? The worst?

I think that the best part to live in Italy is in the countryside of Tuscany. This place is so beautiful and quiet.

The worst I think is Milan, my city. It’s very grey, industrial and the people are quite cold.

What language or languages do you use on a day to day basis?

Here in Barcelona I speak Spanish with the majority of the people and Italian just with Italian friends who are living here and in Skype with my relatives and friends who are in Italy.

 Describe a favourite typical meal from your country

A typical meal of Milan is the “Cotoletta alla Milanese”.

It’s Veal cutlet coated in breadcrumbs. It is a typical dish cooked by grandmothers! So good!!!

May 17, 2012 1 comment

Aslak: Enjoying the outdoors and family life in Oslo, Norway

Culture shock in your own country? Absolutely! Read more to hear about Aslak’s fondness for Norway and particularly Oslo, how fantastic the outdoor and family oriented lifestyle is there, and how it feels to have culture shock when coming back home.

Where do you live? Where are you from?

I am from Oslo, Norway. Oslo is the capitol of Norway. The city it self has about 600.000 people and Norway is just about to become 5 million people. Apart from the 2 years I spent living in Barcelona, Spain and 2 x 1/2 year living in the US (Texas, Utah, Minnesota) I have lived here my entire life and I am very fond of the city.

Can you describe a typical day for you?

A typical day for me is all about family and work. My wife and I try to share the responsibilities at home equally, so that I normally take care of
the mornings and she takes care of the afternoons. That means that in a typical day I get up early and make breakfast for the kids, fill their lunch
boxes and make sure they get safely to school and kindergarten. After that I have a 30-40 minute commute to work. I work as a consultant but my clients are mainly centrally located in Oslo so I rarely have to do extensive traveling. Most days I can ride my bicycle to work.

After a full day’s work I rush home. It seems there is always some football (soccer) match, handball practice, parents meeting at school or something going on, so I normally just manage to get through the door before heading back out again.

Once the day’s activities are over and the kids are in bed I pick up the computer again and put in a couple of hours of work before heading to bed.

I know you lived in Spain for a couple of years. Did that experience change your view of your own country at all? If so, how?

Yes. The same thing has happened to me both when returning from studies in the US and in Spain, although I was more prepared for it the second time around. The thing is, that when moving abroad you are mentally prepared for the fact that there will be cultural differences. When returning home, you are not expecting there to be any differences, since this is “your own” culture. However, you have accustomed to your new culture and can actually experience a small cultural shock. This can be small things and it can be big things.

When returning from the US I was surprised by how rude Norwegians are. While as in the US, someone would say “excuse me” while passing you with a 2 feet distance in a supermarket isle, people in Norway can literally bump into you without even acknowledging that you are there.

What is the best part of living in your country? The worst?

Oslo has a great nature with great outdoor possibilities very close to the city core. The city is surrounded by a forest (“Marka”) which can be used
for skiing in the winter time and walking, running, bicycling, fishing, camping and more in the summertime. In the summertime the Oslofjord provides great opportunities for swimming, fishing, boat life and even beach life(!) as well.

There is also a broad acceptance in the Norwegian work life for having family obligations to attend to. Even in client situations it is most of the
time OK to reschedule a 4 o’ clock meeting because you have to pick up your kids at the kindergarten.

Of the things I like the least about Norway is a tendency among people to try to pull other people down, especially if they are successful and know
it/ show it. Going your own ways and achieving success is jealously looked down upon. There’s a poem in a book from the 1930s quoting a “law” starting with the line “you should not believe you are something” and it goes on “you should not believe you are as good as us”. All Norwegians are familiar with this law and even though not accepting to conformity is more accepted than ever, the tendency is still there.

What language or languages do you use on a day to day basis?

Norwegian, obviously, and I read and watch news, books, movies etc in English. No Spanish, desafortunadamente.

Tell me about a national hero in your country (can be anyone- living or not, internationally famous or not). Who are they and what are they admired for?

I will go for Roald Amundsen. 100 years ago (14th of December 1911 to be exact) he was the first man to reach the south pole beating the British Robert Scott. Winning the “race” to the South Pole and beating the British was an incredible achievement. For a small and new Nation (we got our independence from the Swedes in 1905) it had great significance far beyond the individual achievement. Skiing is Norway’s national sport and Norwegians take great pride in staying outdoors. Even today explorers and adventurers are greatly respected and admired in Norway.

Tell me about your favorite holiday, and what cultural traditions you practice to celebrate on that day.

The 17th of May! In 1814 Norway got its constitution and the day is celebrated with great children parades in the streets of every city and small town. The National day is all about creating a great party for children.

What’s something that visitors are often surprised by when getting to know your country/culture?

There are no polar bears in the streets! Definitely not in Oslo, and not even anywhere on the Norwegain main land. (There are however polar bears in Svalbard, a Norwegian island far north).

March 29, 2012 Comments disabled

Happy Valentine’s Day!

This day honors one or more early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine, and today it is celebrated in over 100 countries around the world. Take a look at what some of our contributors have to say about it!

Valentine’s Day in the USA (By Jason, our contributor from the US)

As I child I remember getting a packet of Valentine’s cards and hand writing the names of every child in my class on the back of factory-made cards and putting each one inside an envelope addressed to each kid in my class.  I carried these to school in a brown paper bag then I put one on each classmate’s desk.  At the end of the day, I collected the exact same number of cards from my classmates and carried them home in the same brown paper bag.  I enjoyed reading each one.

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February 14, 2012 6 comments

The etiquette of visiting around the world

Leave shoes on or take them off? Bring flowers or wine? Call in advance or drop in? What to do?

Some of our contributors got their heads together and came up with a very useful guide on how to avoid social blunders when visiting these countries: Canada, Spain, France, Costa Rica, United States, England,

Tea and cakes


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February 1, 2012 14 comments