By the time I’m writing this it’s almost 2 weeks since I arrived to a small city in the south of Spain called Granada. Since April 2017 Japan and Spain have a working holiday visa agreement, it’s still pretty new and I don’t think that there has been that many Japanese that have taken this visa yet so there is still a lot to figure out. Contrary to countries like Australia and New Zealand that thrive on working holiday people I don’t think many Spanish people are aware of such visa and they don’t know how to deal with us.
Also, even though I am half Latina I still have a few times when I’ve been in a state of cultural shock, mostly in a good way though. Yes, this first week in Spain has been a roller coaster and I will try to summarize what I experienced these first weeks here.
First of all, I came to Spain AFTER spending 10 days travelling in Morocco so I arrived here exhausted. I was tired of sight-seeing, and tired of eating out. The food in Morocco was good but used too many spices for my taste, plus I ate so many new and strange foods and always ate at irregular hours, all this add up and so when I arrived in Spain I had a terrible stomach ache for almost 4 days. The sight of any kind of food made me sick and I didn’t feel like eating anything at all. This was terrible because my friend who welcomed me to his city Granada had all these amazing places he wanted to show me and a lot of delicious food he wanted me to try, he took me to the best tapas bars he knew, and it was truly delicious! too bad because I couldn’t eat much. Everything made me sick.
Worst timing to find a room…
I needed to find a place to live. The first few days in Spain my friend let me stay at his parents house until I found a place of my own, this was really kind of him, however, the house was filled with expensive looking antiques and fancy furniture and all the time I was scared that in a moment of clumsiness I would break something valuable or sentimental. I am famous for my clumsiness so I was scared all the time to break something and so I was desperate to find a room of my own as soon as possible.
I always try to find work first because then I can try to find a place to live near my work, or worst case scenario if I don’t find work I can easily move to another city if I don’t have any housing contracts but this time my priority was to find a room and find one fast. But as it turns out, I came in the worst time to find proper housing. I came at the beginning of October, right when school has already started and all the new students have already taken all the cheap and good rooms, every where I asked they didn’t have rooms and when they did there was a long contract period or they rejected me because I wasn’t a student. Apparently, Granada is a student city and so rooms and flats rent out by the school year or by semester so the shortest minimum stay is usually 6 months. It was impossible to find a place that offered a shorter stay of even 3 months… I must have contacted at least 30 different places and no one had a room for me! I was really feeling discouraged and hopeless. Luckily, some guy suddenly moved out of his room because he found work in another city and the minute the post came up on Facebook I texted the guy to rent me the room. Rent is just 167 euros per month. It was so cheap so even though it was a little bit of a walk from the center and a 9 month contract I decided to take it. I wasn’t going to find anything better.
One other thing that really surprised me is how cheap rooms are in Granada. Apparently, something like 250 euros per month is considered expensive by the locals, to me this was so weird (and happy) because in New Zealand I used to pay 190 dollars per WEEK.
I found a room and everything was good except that there was one more obstacle, the room I rented didn’t have any blankets and covers in the bed so I needed to buy some before moving in. The only problem was that I was moving in on a Sunday and nothing was open. I was honestly shocked that even the biggest mall in Granada is closed on Sundays!!! Where I’m from the weekends are the busiest days for shopping and it was unthinkable for me that the bigger shops were all closed but yeah, apparently Sunday is a resting day here and for the most part stores will be closed.
The best part of Granada is without a doubt the tapas. Apparently, free tapas when you order a drink are only something you find in 3 cities Malaga, Granada and Almeria. Other places you must pay for the tapas. So…I am lucky to be in Granada!
I used to think that tapas had to be typical Spanish food but no, it seems like they can be anything! You order an alcoholic drink and it might come with a mini pizza, paella, croquettes, a mini burger, etc, the possibilities are endless. Sometimes you can choose the tapa from a menu they have and sometimes the tapa can’t be chosen, and you are surprised with whatever comes, once the surprise tapas turned out to be these really amazing ribs! I loved tapas!!!
My drink of choice has been something called “clara” which is beer mixed with lemon fanta, it costs about 2 euros. I went to a tapas bar every day the first week and it’s the first time in my life that I have had alcohol every single day for a week, and for lunch hour.
Lunch and dinner hours
Speaking lunch hour…here is around 2-3 pm. This is so weird! I read about this but I didn’t think it would actually be true! I’m a girl who is hungry at noon because I’ve eaten at noon my entire life. But when in Rome do as the Romans do right?
These days I have been drinking claras and eating tapas sometime after 2pm, the wait is worth it though because I cannot say it enough. Spanish food and tapas are the best thing in the world.
Also, since lunch is so late dinner time is even later, I am used to eating dinner sometime between 6 to 8pm, and I usually get hungry around 7pm. This was a weird thing when I was watching a movie with my friend and around 7:30pm I couldn’t wait anymore, I was hungry, and I wanted to eat pasta so I paused the movie and suggested we start making dinner. His reply was something like “really? Right now? Are you sure?” then he proceeded to tell me that I would probably have to explain my “weirdness” to my new flatmates because eating dinner so early would seem strange. Still, he cooked the pasta and I was a happy trooper. Here dinner is eaten at least after 9pm and I think that is still considered a bit early?
On my first Saturday here I got invited to a home party where I only knew one person. I’m a shy introverted girl, I have never been good at being sociable and parties are my kryptonite. Still I went and I was surprised at how out of place I was! There were only 8 people there including me but it felt as if there was a whole stadium, everyone was talking at maximum volume and talking all at the same time. I didn’t know whose conversation to follow, and sometimes it didn’t seem like a conversation because someone would start a story then someone else would interrupt and start their own story and they both kept on going with their stories one on top of the other as if nothing. I couldn’t keep up and with my very low mouse voice I couldn’t get a word in even if I tried. I just sat there on the sofa trying to keep up. I was like a creepy doll that just smiled and nodded, still, everyone was so nice and made me feel so welcome. However, I think for a girl like me Spanish parties will be something I could not really ever get used to.
From the third day since I came to Granada I started a serious job hunt, I made my resume, printed several copies and started walking all over the city going from one massage spa to the next. Applying anywhere that offered massages. Most places gave me little hope, and just told me that they would keep me in mind if something came up.
But one place actually considered me right on the spot, I went to leave my CV and the owner asked me to give him a massage on the spot so he could test my abilities. He really seemed to like my technique unfortunately he wasn’t hiring just now but he gave me a hint of hope. The deal he offered me is to be a backup masseuse and whenever they had more clients than staff then he would call me. Better than nothing. But if life is cheap here in Granada then the wages are cheaper, for a 50-minute massage I would get paid 10 euros… not much, not much at all.
It’s been 2 weeks and the guy just called me that once to do massages and by now I think I have applied to almost every massage store, fast food restaurant and ad in the classifieds pages but nothing. It’s hard to find job here in Granada when even Spanish people are jobless.
I have just been to Morocco and I was so surprised to find Moroccan style shops in Granada. They sell everything they had in Morocco, slippers, leather bags, and even baskets. They even have the Moroccan attitude because when I was passing by and took a photo to show that I felt in Morocco even though I was in Spain this guy started harassing me (just like a true Moroccan would) because he thought I took a photo of his store. It was a bit scary…
Really, no one knows about working holiday
Since finding work has been so hard I decided to apply for a job delivering food and groceries by bicycle, its almost like working freelance because you are responsible for everything but to apply I needed a social security number.
I called the Japanese embassy to ask how to get a social security number and they said usually the company you work for should give it to you. Only problem is the company I would “work” for hires us as freelancers, so I need to already have a social security number…
I can’t work without a number but I can’t get a number without work. A real Catch-22 situation.
So, that has been my first weeks in Spain. Its been interesting and fun and I have loved most of it, the food, the scenery, the food again, the people. But other things like apartment searching and job hunting have been a real headache. Please wish me luck in finding a job soon!
But up until now I love love love Spain!!!!