Stalkers Or Students?!


OK, this will at first appear to have no relevance to the above title, but read on and you will understand, I hope?!

I am a little snarly today; yes, snarly. It is as though I might quite literally bite someone! Also, I’m not quite comfy in my own skin.

I knew I would be like this upon returning to life here in Madrid. Three months away form Madrid, and now I have to get back into the routine of life here. It certainly tests me!!! Its like I’m living on constant shifting sands, and always beginning from the beginning again. Its damn crazy, as in August, I go back to the UK again!!!!!!!!!!! So, I will face the same thing in vice versa. Good job I like a challenge!!!

Anyway, as per my return (to either soil/land) I admit, I now hate everything about this place, grrrrrrr!!! This is a temporary effect, it doesn’t last long!! It is merely me settling in to my life again!!! Yet, there is one thing I do ESPECIALLY hate, and that is true at any time and in any place – bad manners. More specifically the bad manners of my ‘students’ or X-STUDENTS, grrrrrrrr AGAIN!!!!

These people had three months to decide to inform me they no longer wished to retain my teaching services, and as per usual the idiots decide to tell me last minute. I could have quite easily committed physical bodily harm, when I read their silly responses to my email enquiries regarding recommencement of their classes.

Being blunt, I HATE BEING MESSED ABOUT. Why???? Well, if you don’t know already it is damn inconsiderate and disrespectful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I had the decency to be honest and up front with these students. I explained I was going to be away from Madrid for at least two months; thus, providing them with the option to inform me, there and then or at any time before I returned to Madrid, that they had secured another teacher in my absence. Oh, but no, they said they’d be happy enough to wait for my return, they didn’t want another teacher. Yeah right! Yet again the Spanish have let me down with their inability to just be honest!!

I don’t mind the fact they have found another teacher, good for them, yipppeeee!!!! I was bored to death with the classes anyway!! I am happy to have a new start here in Madrid; especially after being back in the UK and having done so much there, I didn’t want to return to the old and staid. I want lovely newness!!! So, good luck X- students with your new teachers, BUT I just wish you’d have been more honest with all those months ago!!! It’s not like you didn’t have the time to tell me!!!!!

Also, this is where the title will make sense – leaving the old behind me might now eventually dissuade my die-hard stalker from constantly reading and re-reading this blog. I will no longer face a million and one questions about my private life. I won’t have to pretend that we are best buddies or God knows what else. It is sooooooooooooo unprofessional – people just don’t understand there are boundaries; I’m your teacher NOT part of your personal life, and thank you very much BUT I don’t want to be part of your personal life!!!!!!!!!! ENTIENDES???????

Sorry, off topic there a little bit. Anyway, hopefully my stalker will sling their hook in another direction now!

Just to let you know, if you could already tell, I am waiting for my ‘normalmente’ to resume, which should take about two weeks. Then I will feel really back to life in Madrid. Until then, please put up with my intermittent rants, I KNOW YOU LOVE THEM!!!!

 

Not My Cup Of Tea


It was a friend of a friends Birthday, and I got invited out for afternoon tea, odd you might think, afternoon tea in Madrid, it’s hardly a place renowned for such little quirks, and you’d be right.

Besides the slim slices of cake and tea offered in a mug, with not even a little teapot to keep it company, it wasn’t exactly The Savoy! Yet, it was a nice change, meeting people over tea and cake rather than beer and tapas.

I must admit, I love alcohol and food. Its practically in my blood; my family are thorough bred foodies and of course I have a strong Irish connection to boot (bad combination)! The only problem is both of these fine things, food and alcohol, don’t necessarily like me very much.

A few years ago I decided to scrap my old ways, in short, junk food was banned and so to was the vodka (et al). This, actually helped me. Physically, mentally and emotionally I felt relieved, it was like a breath of fresh air! I hadn’t realised how good it could be to be free of the shackles of, for want of a better expression, bad living.

Now, I’m no paragon of virtue, I still like to eat burgers and love a good cake and still enjoy a tipple, but since moving to Madrid I’ve noticed how easy it has been for me to slip back into my bad habits. Temptation is everywhere.

In the UK, I would choose not to go to bars, clubs and restaurants. I would meet friends in my home or theirs, we’d go walking, meet for coffee, go to the movies, shop, visit the beach, museums, National Trust properties and so on and so on. I seemed to have the opportunity to do more than merely meet people and friends in bars and restaurants to then eat and drink.

I had friends who were my party pals, they only wanted to get drunk and eat too much junk, consequently we soon parted ways as I didn’t want that lifestyle any more. I’d lived that lifestyle for too long, and frankly I was bored of wasting my money and time on a useless pursuit of what always was unhappiness the day after (hangover, arguments, tired, sick and so on).

Now, you may think, what a boring mare – no, actually I’m not. I enjoy diversity, I enjoy not having to do what other people expect I should do, because they are happy doing it. Yet, here in Madrid, everyone meets for beers and tapas, even a day of pottery making ends up in one of thousands of different bars open until the small hours.

WHY???!!!!!!

I am once again being forced to apply the breaks on this ‘lets have a drink and lets eat all the fat infused food we can find’ ethos, and I’m discovering just how difficult it is to keep up with friends.

Not all of my friends, as some of them get where I’m coming from, but there are those who don’t.

I have friends who just because they are happy to while away their weekends over bottles of booze and then the bathroom sink, they think I should want this too. If I don’t, then the invites to do things just suddenly don’t arrive any more. 

They think, I’m sure, that I’m miserable or purposefully avoiding their company. Well, I’m not, I just can’t physically or mentally do this drinking fest every weekend or weekday. 

If I accepted every offer to go out during the week:

A) I’d be flat broke

B) I’d have an inflated liver the size to envy any poor force fed goose

C) I’d be thoroughly miserable

D) I’d be the size of the Titanic before it sunk.        

What is it about these points that people find so hard to grasp and take seriously?!

Also, my life here isn’t necessarily like their lives.

I don’t work full time, I have a boyfriend I enjoy spending time with (which usually consists of mainly weekends as he works so much), and I also have a life which still exists in the UK too. In fact, I have one foot here in Madrid and one in the UK.  I suppose, in a way, I have more responsibilities than they do too.

No, I’m not taking about kids, but about bills, mortgages, a career I’m once again trying to revive, I’m learning Spanish (still) and they’re fluent already, plus I didn’t move to Madrid to extend my student years (as some of my friends seem to have done).

I suppose I’ve lost the thread here, or the initial thread in any case. I begun with afternoon tea. Well, the people I had afternoon tea with are these friends I’m taking about, and they are somewhat one dimensional in their offer of friendship.

The reason is I’m the outsider. They are 3 friends who know each other through teaching together, and I came to know them through one of the Madrid meet-ups.

Don’t get me wrong, they are lovely in many ways; they are very complimentary, kind and I have fun with them, but, I notice too that they only talk and don’t really listen. I don’t like that, it really is a sign that people aren’t really friends. I don’t enjoy being ignored, or cut short or spoken over as though I’m not important, and they were doing that quite a bit. Of course, they also were eager to depart as they had a drinking fest planned – which of course, I hadn’t been told about or invited to. So, I know, well now know, from our last meeting, that I am an outsider to them. I don’t fit into their type of friendship. I can dip in and out of it, but because I’m not a party animal, I’m not really their cup of tea (well, we all like coffee from time to time don’t we).

So, have I told them any of this – no, I didn’t see the point in really going over the ground with them. I know I can’t sacrifice my lifestyle choices to meet their own, and I know they wouldn’t stop going out or drinking the volume of beer that they do for me. So, it is what it is.

I suppose I feel a bit peeved. I mean I have lost one friend over this already. I couldn’t afford to do what she wanted to do every other weekend. Yet again though, our ideals of friendship clashed. She was looking for more friendship than I could give. I couldn’t be there for her and her alone – I have a life when I don’t see her and I have to maintain that! So, I don’t see her any more and that actually upsets me.         

I think too, I have sacrificed what I really wanted – not having to get drunk and eat junk and be out till the small hours, just to gain friends. How pathetic is that?! I’m too old for that crap! Either people like me for me, or they don’t. If they like the fact I can drink them under the table and stay up all night dancing, then what type of friendship is that? Hardly a firm foundation for me to rely upon.

For me, friends are people you can share everything with. I don’t want a one sided party fest, I’m not 20 any more, I want something connected, deeper and diverse. I won’t settle for superficial.

In saying all this on Saturday I return to the UK again, and this time it will be for two months (a very long time for me). I will then see which friends are left standing when I’m not in the picture for this length of time, and which forget I even existed.

I think the way I have been feeling of late the change of scene will do me well, as I am getting a little narky here (I think this post reflects that well enough), I seem to get ‘itchy feet’ after a few months in one place! God knows how I’ll cope when I don’t have another country to escape to, and am stuck in one on a permanent basis! I always thought I had some gypsy blood in me somewhere!

 

Anyway thanks for reading my rant!! I appreciate it as always.

Hasta luego!!!

A Very Spanish Christmas and New Year


This Christmas, my boyfriend and I chose to remain in Madrid. We had considered returning to the UK but the prospect of confronting; the packing of many suitcases, the crazy airports and masses of people, delayed flights, bad weather, the hustle and bustle of the usual Christmas shopping frenzy (in ALL stores, but especially supermarkets, where food hoarders fight over the last Turkey!), the lack of personal transport and general malaise of UK Christmas cheer – in short, this bedlam really didn’t hold its usual appeal! So, we decided, sensibly, to stay put and experience a Spanish Christmas.

I admit, I was pleased and relieved to be staying in Madrid for Christmas, so too was my boyfriend. It saved us a lot of angst and hassle, plus, it has been great just having time to ourselves. We don’t seem to have enough quality ‘us’ time, and being here meant not having the usual obligations to please anyone, but ourselves!!! Selfish, it might be, but true!

In all, Christmas here hasn’t been such a culture shock. We have managed to buy the food we needed without hassle, without pushing and shoving and fighting in the aisles for the Brussel Sprouts or pigs in blankets! I did feel slightly peeved; I couldn’t buy any Mince Pies, Cranberry Sauce or my beloved Bread Sauce (the Spanish don’t know quite what they are missing out on!), and my home made gravy lacked its usual pizazz due to me forgetting to buy in extra stock cubes. Yet, regardless of this and the fact Spanish Christmas cakes and sweets just aren’t all that, we managed to survive!!!

We listened to Christmas songs and carols from King’s College Cambridge (the best Christmas carol choir service). We opened our presents, even though the Spanish wait until the Three Kings (6th January). We didn’t have a tree or any decorations, but then I knew we wouldn’t be buying those this year. We celebrated Boxing Day (26th December) by going out for a fabulous dinner and indulging in some lovely cocktails, although the Spanish don’t celebrate Boxing Day.

So, we didn’t miss out on anything really. However, I did think that it would be a quiet Christmas, as it was going to be just the two of us, but I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Nearly every night we have been out and about, far more actually than we would have been in the UK. On our doorstep are cafes, bars, clubs and restaurants. It has been easier to have fun and celebrate the holidays just because we are in the heart of the city. We can, on a whim, just go where we want, when we want and don’t need to rely on anyone else or fit into anyone else’s schedule. It has been great!

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and friends to bits!! I also enjoy spending time with them, and miss them dearly!!! Yet, Christmas in the UK can sometimes become, well, a little bit claustrophobic. Let me explain; I think people get stuck in a Christmas rut, a routine whereby every Christmas ends up becoming the same, without any real changes. Most importantly, the fun factor is often left out of the equation for one reason or another. This Christmas though, hasn’t been in anyway ‘rutified’ (Definition: to be put into the mould of a rut – I know it isn’t a genuine word!).

This Christmas has been a change of scene, it has been something different, we have come and gone as we pleased and we’ve had fun. This is why for me, in many ways, this Christmas has been one of the best. I always wanted to go away for Christmas, but hadn’t felt I could before, because of not wanting to upset my family and make them think I didn’t want to be with them. It is considered to be somewhat selfish, doing your own thing at Christmas; it is after all fundamentally about being with family and friends.

Yet, by living in Madrid we had a legitimate reason for not being there with them at Christmas time, even though for the previous two Christmases we returned to the UK to be with them. This time, we wanted a change though, we wanted to make the most being in Madrid. We haven’t got that long a time remaining here, this time next year we will in fact have already moved back to the UK. So, understandably we wanted to maximise every opportunity that being here affords us, which includes, a Spanish Christmas.

Hopefully then, we haven’t been deemed too selfish, as I do know our family and friends have enjoyed their Christmases too (even without us there with them)!

So, now Christmas time is over (very nearly over), I have, as most people do, been remembering all that has happened in 2013. More specifically, the life I have lived here in Madrid during this time. Although being out here for these few years hasn’t been all plain sailing, I feel that this year has been a year for positive changes. I feel quite good about things. I am also feeling quite saddened by the prospect of not being here in Madrid for next Christmas. It does seem as though this chapter of my life will soon enough come to an abrupt close, and without any fanfare I will be back where I was, as though these few years in Madrid never happened. How weird!

So, for my boyfriend and I it is even more important than ever before to enjoy the time we have left living in Spain!!! This Christmas sort of encapsulates that momentum we feel, the fact that we want to have fun and experience life to the fullest without feeling bad about about doing so!!

Anyway, before I become maudlin, and I don’t even have New Years Eve as an excuse, let me say I have thoroughly enjoyed the ups and downs of my time in Madrid (and hopefully will enjoy the year to come)! When the time comes and we depart for the UK, I can take back with me a whole new perspective and life experiences. As someone, at sometime once said; “nothing good can last forever”; maybe not, but I can of course treasure the memories forever!

So, here’s to a fabulous New Year – for me, you and everyone out there in the world!!!

I shall be celebrating my New Years Eve in Puerta del Sol, drinking some alcohol and some eating grapes (not as strange as it might sound – it is a Spanish tradition to eat grapes as the clock strikes to signal the new year).

Where-ever YOU are and what-ever YOU do, have fun and enjoy every last minute of 2013!!!!!!

Learning Gender Roles Via The BBC


The BBC have recently been accused of sexism with their remake of children’s classic Topsy and Tim.

It was claimed by parents that the BBC misinterpreted the original children stories, and chose instead to reinforce traditional gender stereotypes, which were being aimed at very young children. The charecter Tospy is a little girl who is seen baking princess cakes with her Mum, while her Brother Tim is informed baking is not for him. As a boy he can play outside on his bike or help his Dad with “mans work”.

I wondered, as I have on many occasions before, how do we learn our ‘gender roles’? Is it nature or nurture, and how can we be sure?

Thinking of my own childhood, I recall never being compelled by my parents to be particularly ‘girlie’, and naturally I wasn’t this way either. I was always encouraged to just be me, and perhaps by being a headstrong child who knew what I liked, pressures to be ‘girlie’ (if they existed), never affected me. I therefore feel surprised that in the 21st century children are still being encouraged to mimic, and reflect, what their own parents deem to be acceptable gender specific stereotypes. It just seems almost self defeating and rather odd.

Why would any parent force their child to be anything, and ruin their own child’s ability to blossom and develop naturally, free of preconceived ideals laid down throughout the eons?!

What is so terrible about girls playing with cars and bikes, and boys playing with kitchens and dolls? Surely having diverse skills and interests make for more rounded and capable future adults?

I know if I had children, I would indeed encourage them to be them; who else can they be after all!

Don’t get me wrong, their is nothing wrong with traditional gender roles, if those people performing those roles are happy enough to do so. Yet, there is nothing wrong with mixing it up either!

Living in Madrid I see many more examples of the conventional family unit than I do in the UK. The wife cooks, cleans, takes care of the house and kids, while the man works, is head of the household, applies the discipline and often the education of the kids. This is almost expected and seen as the social norm.

Now my household has never been quite like this, to the surprise of the people I meet in Spain. People are shocked that I am interested in politics, and also that my degree, career and writing all have a political grounding. I have actually been told how unusual it is for a girl! Obviously they haven’t heard of Emily Pankhurst, Simone de Beauvoir, Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher, Naomi Wolf and Hilary Clinton; what about Eva Perón?

For me, applying any expectations upon a person, especially at a young and impressionable age, just becomes a simple case of the self fulfilling prophecy. You get what you expect. Women and men then become merely caricatures of their gender, nothing more than that! How can we then argue they are naturally as they should be?

Have women actually been able or allowed to genuinely break through that “glass ceiling”? Not if the 21st centuries depiction of gender is the reference point; a woman’s place is still at home, while the man still belongs to the world. This has to be true, the BBC even think so!

To be serious, in recent years it has been a giant step backwards for men and women alike. Adverts, marketing, media and society in general have peddled the over sexualisation of the younger generation. This has drip fed a generation with gender specific notions of beauty, relationships, sex and availability, youth, frivolousness, self obsession, celebrity culture, diets, gossip, fashion and materialism.

So, maybe reverting to the stereotypical gender roles is only the natural step forward from this re-education?

For me I feel it is difficult to distinguish, and therefore state concretely, how much of nature actually plays a part in a child’s socialisation, self perception and development. Especially with all the dross floating around their environment.

Think about how difficult it is for us as adults to really separate ourselves, and our choices from all the expectations applied upon us, what we have seen, learnt, experienced and absorbed into our psyche?

If it is so difficult for us as adults, the question then remains; how can a child?

Nature v’s nurture, for me there is no real contest to contest!

Where’s Autumn?!


Dear Autumn,

RE: Where Are You This Year?

I write to you with a grave concern I felt compelled to express. I am consumed with sorrow, because of your absence.

May I enquire, why have you decided not to visit Madrid this year? What have we, the people of the city, done to offend you?!

It is the MOST horrible thing about living in Madrid, the fact I rarely have the opportunity to enjoy your company.

There has been this year, as last, a distinct lack in seasonal change, which is once again intolerable. In fact the only season that seems to last the duration here is summertime. Summertime never knows when it is polite moment to leave!

Snow, well, that too would be some kind of miracle. I think I saw some last year, but it was similar to someone with bad dandruff shaking their head nearby. Madrid’s version of snow sucks, just like their version of ‘Autumn’.

You Autumn are merely Autumn in name alone, and you should be ashamed of that fact!

The sun is unashamed, it remains fixed in the blue sky, mocking anyone who wants to feel a cold northernly wind scratch at their face! The temperature still hovers around 25 degrees, even though everyone walks around in coats, with runny noses, colds, and coughs. They, like me are willing you to put in an appearance and offer reprieve. Yet, regardless of this, you Autumn, are NOWHERE to be seen!

This for me is sorely disappointing. I mean, how can I truly enjoy Halloween, the highlight of your season, without a chill in the air, without a sense of the eerie or melodramatic?

It is unnatural, celebrating Halloween in a tee-shirt, and probably shorts. It sucks!  This suckiness is something YOU Autumn, are responsible for!

I want the cold, the rain, the icy mornings, the crisp evenings, the purple and red leaves, the thick wooly hats and scarfs, the coats, the extra socks and cold nose, seeing my breath in the air and feeling winter is on its way!

What is extra odd though, whilst mentioning the changes in leaf colour, or absence of such; that even if you Autumn are confused about the date, the tress aren’t. OK there are no dramatic leaf colour changes, because of your late arrival Autumn, but nevertheless the leaves vacate their branches. I feel deprived when leaves merely fade from green to brown, as here in Madrid, they just curl up and die! Every leaf on every tree falls by the wayside, they slowly just decide to give up the ghost! They realise it is October and they should be shed already, they hurry in their departure.

You see the trees know the seasons, even if the weather does not! Yet, you Autumn haven’t been involved at all, shame on you for shirking your responsibilities!

What I want, what I miss is the cold, is the sign Summer is over. So, please, please, please Autumn let it be cold soon!! I have had enough of the heat, the dry scorching air, the dusty roads, the parched vegetation, the hardly there attire!

You know what, to add insult to Autumns injury, today I saw a butterfly flutter past me whilst I was walking to the university! Yes, there it was as bold as brass, basking in the afternoon sun. It was just like summertime, summertime in the very nearly middle of October! Despicable! Absolutely despicable! What do you think Autumn? Are you now fully shamed into making your appearance?

Anyway, if you are by chance reading this, belated Autumn, get your bottom in gear and hurry up and arrive! Better late than never!

Yours sincerely,
A frustrated city dweller.

Updates!


Yes, well I thought it about time to update everyone, and anyone interested in recent and interesting events.

Things, seemingly, have settled down.

Is this the power of positive thinking at its best? I am inclined to think so!!!

OK, I have, *cough* and drum roll, officially become an English teacher. How the Hell did that happen?! She asks bemused!

I mean I had to be THE most unlucky and hap-hazard teacher in ALL of Madrid. Everyone else had floods of students, and me, well I couldn’t catch a fish if, well, if I fell in the river and, however the saying goes!

 

Yet, with a little ‘networking’; hehe, get me, a little networking, well I never! Seems that International Politics degree did give me some skills to transfer into my life after all! I’m being cynical, it has worked wonders for me so far, honestly.

What makes the work situation better, is that I am calling the shots. This is the great thing about taking on private classes! Oh, but I may have an interview on Friday.  Just thought I’d throw that one in the mix too! It has taken long enough, so I am EXTREMELY happy!

NO jinxing me, please! Remember, what goes around WILL come around.

So, from all of this soon to be teaching, there is money in the bank? Well, not yet, but it will happen! Yipppeeee! So, I can tick one ‘to do’ off my list then? Hoping so!

The social groups are revealing THE most interesting people. ‘Like attracting like’ (rules of attraction); there I go again, blowing my own trumpet, dear me.

I have met so many people who have just been able to open the relevant doors for me. I actually feel, although reticent to say it allowed, blessed.

For once in a long while, I feel my direction is going in a direction! I feel like I am walking on rose petals and not poisoned thorns, a little dramatic I know, but so true.

There is fertile ground, land ahoy, the storm is over – OK, not over, just a temporary reprieve and I am sure it will resume soon enough. So, I err on the side of caution, BUT, maintain a positive outlook!

I have also managed to meet some pretty cool friends too. I have been a bit of a social butterfly recently, and am loving it! Why not, I am young and although not single, I am free (not cheap, merely free).

The volunteering is still going well, I am chief researcher; ta dah! I maybe a real ‘geek’ , but I LOVE research.

Oh, and I am writing for ANOTHER blog, as a guest writer! This is great, as there is a ready made ‘fan base’. I am so unused to lots of people merely just liking my writing without prompt, I could get used to it!!!!

Finally, but not nor ever will it be THE end of it; my Spanish practice. Mas or menos igual; in other words, it is more or less equal to what it was. Though, I am feeling more confident.

Today I have had to speak to people in Spanish via the telephone. What the Hell has happened to me????!!!! Actually speaking on the telephone in a language I have been quite afraid of using!!! Telephone conversations were posing an obstacle for me on the confidence stakes. Yet, I managed it, although, not in a hurry to repeat it.

Oh, but I have found THE best ‘intercambio’ partner though. She is a Spanish teacher, and so nice. I do feel my confidence to increase my communication is on the rise, yes actual conversation, woo hoo! Watch this space people, anything is possible!

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Things That Shock Brits In Spain


This post has come as a response to a feature article from an online newspaper/magazine, which reports Spanish news in English. The publication is called ‘The Local’.

The article by reporter Alex Dunham; ‘Top Ten Things That Shock Spaniards In The UK’, made me immediately have a response with the opposite opinion.

What is shocking for us ex-pat Brits in Spain?

Well ponder no longer as I have constructed a list for you all to peruse!!!

Here are the top ten I have come across; not just me though, I am not that biased folks! Others I know have raised these points too, and they definitely make a worthy top ten.

Manners: Let us forget Spain as the traditional, quaint and quiet little idle, full of flamenco and sangria. This is not the Spain of today! The people in Madrid can be grumpy, rude, ignorant, pushy and annoying like any other nation’s inhabitants can be!! It is a shock to realise they say ‘speak to me’ upon answering a telephone or greeting a customer. People will normally reply with ‘I want’ and ‘give me’, which are demands many from the UK might be uncomfortable with! Yet, odd manners are replicated out on the street, metro and in general too. People will quite happily barge you out of way, won’t think twice about hogging the isles in supermarkets, and of course jump queues; all of which is quite normal in most countries though! They may not be Spain specific, but are still annoying!

Time: Lateness is normal in Spain. Meet friends and expect to wait at least 30 minutes for them to arrive. OK, the relaxed atmosphere surrounding social gatherings encourages this, but in business, not a good idea. Most nations respect and expect punctuality, otherwise how would any deal get done, and any work get completed? It is just common sense, be on time to the office!

Vacations: Some companies apply a summer timetable. In effect people begin work early and finish early. Great, and yet I don’t know anyone in the UK who finishes work at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, just because it is summertime. Not to forget the long lunch hours! Oh, and that some places close for the entire of August!

Binge Drinking V’s Drinking Everyday: Spaniards drink daily. They are allowed to have a drink during their lunch break, even on company premises! They can buy alcohol in the cinema! Drinking is encouraged; a sherry after dinner, followed by beer and wine and then finish off with cocktails after 1.00 AM. Alcohol is sold in any cafe, bar, restaurant and club until the small hours, but you won’t be able to purchase it at the supermarkets after 10.00 PM. That rule makes ALL the difference!

Shopping: Certain shops run on a repeat loop; every street you walk down seems to have the usual suspects – Tiger, Starbucks, H&M, Zara, Lefties, Cafe & Te, Bijou Brigitte, Bershka, and so on. Also, Pharmacies are BIG in Madrid. You cannot purchase a little pack of paracetamol from Carrefour (Supermarket), ONLY from a Pharmacy. Yet, from that same Pharmacy you can be sold a pack of highly addictive Codeine based painkillers without a prescription.

Skimpy Outfits: Now Spain has ample excellent weather for the women of the country to parade around in skimpy outfits, so just because they have to wear a coat in winter to cover up on the streets, doesn’t mean their dress sense has suddenly become demure. No-one is that easily fooled!

Home Design: Home decoration tends to favour flounce and frills, brown and pinks, flowers and dark wood. It is quite traditional, and dare I say, a little 1980’s! The other odd thing I have noticed is that wherever there is a bathroom, the make of the suite is always ROCA! A little weird!

Food: Wholesome and healthy, well, I suppose in some places it can be. Yet, a favoured Madrid dish, fried Calamari on baguettes, doesn’t constitute as such! Olives, processed pork, tortilla, chips and fries don’t fit that bill either!!

Make Under: Women in Madrid ARE tan fanatics. They sunbathe in local parks, and break the cardinal rule by not applying sun-cream! Women don’t often dress up (as in going out on the town) or differently. Let me explain; I see plenty of plain clothes such as jeans, shorts, little skirts and tee shirts. These are all over Madrid, they are the norm for summer and winter. Fashion seems to be quite regimented in many parts of Madrid, and for those who like to embrace expressing themselves via fashion, they will find people staring at them oddly! Britain’s urban chic is however slowly catching on in certain areas within Madrid, which is good news!

Tea: great if you happen to favour the green variety or flavoured fruit teas, not if you want milk and sugar! Oh, and they aren’t fan of kettles here in Madrid; microwaves are used to heat up drinking water. Their coffee, well, it is the same as ordering a coffee in any other bar (etc.) in any other country, it is just coffee!

OK, I had to add in another point for good measure, hehe!!

Personal Space: Now the Spanish air kissing or facial kisses are fine with me, well, ordinarily. Yet, meeting people for the first time, and them expecting to get up, close and personal, is a little off putting. I like close contact and am not afraid of hugging people, but I do love my personal space too. On the Metro people will come and sit right next to you, even if there are ample seats available elsewhere. They are there up and close to you; talking loudly, snogging their boyfriend/girlfriend, allowing their children to stamp all over your feet, or applying their make-up. Oh, and in the parks, expect to see extreme make out sessions in full swing!!

Don’t get me wrong here, I do enjoy living in Madrid. It is just that NO country is perfect!!! I would be THE first to stand up and say that UK has it’s own issues too!

Hope you like the list? Please let me know what are your top ten shocks from the countries you have visited or lived in. I would be interested to know your experiences and of course, opinions!