Tattooing is the most misunderstood art form in Japan today. Looked down upon for centuries and rarely discussed in social circles, people with tattoos are outcasts in this country, banned from most public spaces such as beaches, bathhouses, and even gyms. Tattoos have an extensive history in Japan, and to truly understand the stigma behind them it is essential to be aware of their significance. The first records of tattoos...Read More
So, you’re coming to Spain…
If you’re anything like I was as a student, the weeks leading up to your new journey will be spent scouring the internet for everything there is to know about your new home. After living here for two years, I can say without a doubt that my enthusiasm for living here hasn’t diminished in the slightest. If you want to know what makes me so passionate about living in Spain and if you’re eager to see what is to come in these next few months, please read on!
Reason #1: Amazing Weather
I don’t mean to be cliché by starting with the weather, but in all honesty the Spanish sun has earned its reputation and deserves a mention. Maybe it’s unfair to generalize the weather across the entire country, however it is safe to say that no matter where you are – Bilbao, Madrid, or even Barcelona – the climate is going to be far more welcoming than what you’d find in Northern Europe and the UK. The south of Spain is blessed with the Mediterranean climate: warmer and drier weather year round with plenty of days to work up a nice sunburn. Northern cities – such as Bilbao – have much more of an Atlantic climate, characterized by milder temperatures and more rainfall. Don’t let the rainier weather dampen your day though, it’s the wetter climate that Northern Spain owes its lush greenery to!
Reason #2: Incredible Food
Alright, now on to the important stuff. Paella, jamón ibérico, tortilla, patatas bravas, gazpacho; all of these delicious and iconic Spanish foods are commonly served as “tapas,” a small side dish that is included with the purchase of a “caña” (small beer costing around 1.2€). In cities in the north of Spain such as Bilbao, tapas are called “pintxos” because of the Basque influence, but more on that later. The “tapas” culture here is probably one of my favorite aspects of Spanish society. Nothing characterizes living in Spain more than going out with your friends after a long day of work or classes to enjoy a few cañas and some delicious tapas. If you’re not old enough to enjoy a beer here, then I suggest making a trip to Cien Montaditos.
Reason #3: Affordable Cost of Living
All of you will be happy to hear that Spain is going to be quite forgiving on your wallets and purses. Spain has one of the lowest costs of living in Western Europe, behind only Portugal. Going out to eat is quite affordable, depending on where you go. For you students I really recommend paying Cien Montaditos a visit; the crowd is quite young and one day a week all items on the menu cost 1€! Traveling within Spain is also very cheap, something very appealing for tourists and travelers who want to take advantage of all the climates and cities this country has to offer. To put it into perspective, a round trip bus from Madrid to Marbella – a city on the southern coast of Spain – will cost about 35€. That’s a total of 14 hours driving at a price you would pay for an expensive dinner! The discussion of rent expenses is perhaps more relevant to the teachers rather than you students, however if any of you decide to study in Spain for university I think you’ll find that you can afford much nicer homes than you’d be able to in a vast majority of Western countries. I myself live in a 160m2 apartment with two other flatmates, the place looks more fitting for a royal family than it does for a few broke college kids but we manage to pay our meager 1200€ rent expense.
Reason #4: Important History
Spain has a rich history that has been developed by Roman conquests and Moorish invasions. The first Roman conquests took place roughly 200 years B.C. Their control of Spain lasted 600 years, and the ramifications of the Roman expansion benefited the Spanish as much as it did the Roman Empire. Perhaps the most significant contribution Roman rule had on Hispania was the introduction of Roman Catholicism, Spain’s overwhelmingly dominant religion. The imposition of Latin as the official language is what led to the development of the Spanish language. In regards to the Arabic influence the Moors brought to Spain, there is simply too much to mention for such a short post! The Moorish rule was considered a very tolerant reign, marked by acceptance of other religions and cultures of the native population. The 700 year presence in Spain forever left impressions on the language, food, and most notably today: the architecture. Although the influence the Moorish invasions had on Spain may not be so apparent in Bilbao, cities such as Seville and Granada in the South possess beautiful qualities that reflect those of their neighbors across the narrow straight.
Reason #5: Colorful Cultures
Finally, I want to talk about what makes Bilbao such a unique and special place to visit or live in. Within Spain there are a diverse number of cultures, with each being as rich and distinguished as the next; however, the Basque culture possesses an identity so strong that its language is recognized as one of the four co-official languages of Spain: Galician, Basque, Aranès, and Catalan. Now, back to Bilbao. Bilbao is the largest – and arguably the most influential – city in the Basque country. This makes for an incredible opportunity to learn the oldest language in Europe, and maybe even make some friends along the way! The Guggenheim, the Seven Streets, the Azkuna Zentroa, the Plaza Nueva– there are an unlimited number of places to see and things to do in Bilbao. If you make an effort to pick up the language and engage with the locals I promise you this city will give you some of the best memories of your life.
To those of you who made it through all my rambling, I want to say thank you for listening. I initially moved to Spain to study towards a dual degree in law and business at IE University, but it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the Spanish sun, the friendly culture, and the food, and I hope you do too.
To the TGS students living in Bilbao this spring: I hope you embrace living in Spain while capitalizing and reflecting on all of your unique experiences that TGS offers as these really set us apart from our peers. And to the graduating class, congrats on completing your TGS journey, and I hope that you are perhaps more informed and excited than you already are to be graduating in Bilbao!