For the modern day traveller, photos with a view are an essential part of any jaunt abroad. Looking longingly into the distance whilst your insta-husband snaps candids of you are essential for your photo album but unfortunately the tourism industry is well aware of the millennials thirst for likes and love for viewpoints.
With the industry charging extortionate prices for you to enter an area, other tourists photobombing the picture, or your friends feeds saturated with the same exact photo it can be hard to find the right shot.
If you’re looking for a unique, free and interesting view, Bunkers Del Carmel will be somewhere you want to visit.
Situated above the city of Barcelona sits the Bunkers Del Carmel, a site which once housed artillery and helped defend the city from air strikes during the Spanish civil war in 1937. The Bunkers offer beautiful 360 degree panoramic views of the city.
When the civil war ended and Franco seized control of the country, people began to seek refuge in the bunkers and created the Cannons neighbourhood, a makeshift shanty town where the poor members of society began to form a community. During the 1960’s nearly 10% of the population of Barcelona resided in the now dormant bunkers.
When the 1992 Olympics came to Barcelona massive regeneration took place and the government rehoused the occupants of the Cannons neighbourhoods in apartments throughout the city to improve the city’s image.
The bunkers were largely forgotten until 2011 when a small museum was built inside one of the bunkers.
Today the Bunkers are still one of the best secret spots in Barcelona but are increasing in popularity due to the incredible views to be seen and the beautiful sunset attracting locals and travellers alike to admire city and scenic views.
There are several ways to get to the bunkers which include, bus, driving or the metro.
If you choose to take the metro be warned that the ascent up from El Carmel station is 1.2kilometres up steeps steps and rocky paths. If you have a poor level of fitness or are suffering from an injury I would highly suggest that you take the bus.
If you choose to take the bus you can take the number 86 bus which will take you 90% to the top.
Those who wish to drive, you will just need to programme your sat nav to “Turo de la rovira” the name of the hill the bunkers are situated on. Take a picture of where you parked as once sun sets there is very little lighting on the bunkers and you may struggle to find it again.
Once you have caught your breath back (if you chose to walk) find a spot and open your picnic and bottle of wine. When the day turns into evening, the sunset is mesmerising to watch and photograph.
For now the site is still free and a beautiful treasure in the city of Barcelona, make sure to charge your camera and don’t forget a cork screw!
My names Chloe and I’m a packing procrastinator. There I said it and to be fair I feel no better for it. The thought of packing is enough to drive me to cold sweats and palpitations so imagine my dismay when I was faced with packing for an entire year, in a changeable climate with an allowance of only 20 kilos.
My make up at home is about 15 kilos!
I researched capsule wardrobes and packing cubes, wore a ridiculous coat in the summer sun to avoid charges and hid extra supplies in my laptop case.
But I still made mistakes. Even after hours of research and trying to place my suitcase precariously on the edge of the scale at the airport, I still had to pay the excess baggage allowance. There were things that I really wish I had brought and a lot that quite frankly could have stayed at home.
What I wish I had brought with me
An extra plug converter. Only being able to charge one electronic device at a time is severely aggravating when you need to facetime your mum at 10 but RuPauls drag race has just stepped it up.
Extra socks. Now this might be the most boring thing I have ever written but, seriously where do these bundles of cotton disappear to?
Flip flops. Somewhere I read that Spanish people didn’t wear flip flops, so I decided to avoid looking odd, I wouldn’t bring them. Guess who looks odd, strutting down the beach in a pair of kicks.
A hoodie. Now to be frank, it’s not exactly cold here but when you’re watching tv sometimes you want a snuggly hoodie to get comfy in.
Leisure wear. Now I’m going to contradict myself here but let me explain. I wish I had brought some tracksuit bottoms instead of pyjamas so that when I have to take the bin out, which in Spain are located at the end of your street not nearby I wouldn’t be doing it in bright pink unicorn pyjamas.
Kindle. I really miss reading since being here but couldn’t afford the weight in my case, if I had found my kindle, my lust for word porn would be fulfilled.
Straighteners. Although I embrace my natural wave during the week, I really miss being able to polish my look for a Saturday night. Shallow, yes. Truthful, also,
My bank card. I left it at home thinking I didn’t need it as I am paid in cash but now when I’m wanting to buy tickets for concerts, or book classes for school, guess what? I need to pay by card.
More cami vests. I did not realise how hot it would be and on more than one occasion does it look like my armpits have been swimming despite doubling up on roll on and spray.
Scarves. If I had brought a few scarves with me I could chuck them in my bag and throw them over my shoulders to get into religious monuments rather than sweating it out in long sleeves.
What I wish I had left
Trainers. The running kind. I do not know why in my mind I thought I’d have a personality transplant and decide to run whilst im here, so I wish I had left them canoes at home.
Photo frames. Yes, its lovely to look at old pictures when you’re far from home, but if I had an electronic frame I could have saved that extortionate charge at the airport.
Make up brushes. I could easily have saved weight allowance by ditching my make up brushes and using beauty blenders instead. Oh hindsight you’re a beautiful thing.
Tons of toiletries. It’s cheaper here for things like shampoo and facewash, that packing the full sizes to save money actually cost me money in the excess baggage charge.
Pocket dictionary. I haven’t used it once, it doesn’t fit in my bag and the google translate app works without internet. Should have ditched.
Multiple notebooks. Yes I love journaling, but it’s all in one notebook now and the others are just lying around surplus to requirement.
Nail polish. I haven’t used these once as it’s so cheap for mani-pedis out here, if you don’t think you can stretch to a professional paint job, maybe stick with bringing one not 8 like me.
Tote bag. I thought I’d use it for the beach, I don’t as its too small for a towel and to open to use for the day. I’d be purse dipped for sure.
By no means is this a definitive list, I would love to hear what you wish you had brought with you and what you wish you had ditched.
Writing this post goes against some vital life advice my Dad gave to me from a very young age.
No, it isn’t ‘don’t ride on a moped’ or ‘no more tattoos’
It was actually a phrase that has always served me well and kept me from destroying old friendships and from preventing new ones.
‘Never discuss religion, money or politics’ My Dad (ledge)
Seems pretty limiting for conversations right? Dad was right though, littering conversations with these social hand grenades has caused disasters and fall outs between many a loved one (Did someone say Brexit?)
However, the situation in my current home Catalonia is hitting the headlines globally and to be frank, there isn’t a lot of independent information out there about the facts.
We’ve been bombarded with images of brutality, doubts are held about the legality and cries of ‘Independencia’ are heard across the region.
Now I’m no political broadcaster, nor am I deluded enough to think that after a month of residency that I can begin to empathise with the Catalan people or stand with Madrid, but I am present. Present in a time that is a turning point in the history of Spain. Living amongst the sounds of pots and pans clanging at night as a voice for the people. I have watched the Kings speech (not the film) and have spoken to those for independence and to those against it.
So I might only have a Btec and I might still have to mentally repeat ‘righty tighty, leftie Lucy’, when opening a jar but that’s beside the point. The aim is not to make inflammatory comments or support a side but to post a balanced and unbiased account of what is happening and why it’s a pivotal moment in global history.
So sorry Dad, I’m about to throw that wise advice aside, here goes…
What is Catalonia?
Catalonia is one of Spain’s 17 regions in the North East of Spain, resident to 7.5 million people. The regions capital, Barcelona, often referred to Spain’s second city was home to the 1992 Olympic Games, which with extreme regeneration has become the epicentre for Spanish tourism.
Catalonia brings in 20% of Spain’s income and this is often redistributed to the less successful areas, causing friction. Catalonia itself has an economy as thriving as that of Portugal. Catalonia has its own language, food and customs with Catalan being taught in schools alongside Castellano Spanish. Signage and documentation is written in Catalan and is often described as a mix of French and Spanish. One of the reasons behind the Spanish civil war was the push to again become independent from Spain, the infamous Franco crushed the liberties of the Catalan people and the language was forbidden from being taught or spoken until democracy took hold in Spain in 1975.
A new constitution was created in 1978 and Catalonia was given the right to self govern to a degree but the current Catalonian leaders do not believe it is sufficient.
In 2010 Catalonia was presented with the opportunity to increase its autonomy but this was rejected by the courts, increasing tension and divisions in the region.
The build up
I arrived in Barcelona on the 3rd of September and from the moment I arrived the buildings were adorned with ‘Si’ banners and people wearing the Catalan flag on their back.
The topic was on everyone’s lips and most had an emotive stance on independence.
The Catalan people had scheduled a vote for the 1st of October, to ask the people if they wanted independence or if they did not.
However, according to the constitution this is unlawful.
Here’s what it actually says
The constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards; it recognises and guarantees the right to self-government of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity among them all.”
In layman’s terms, it’s unconstitutional to ‘divorce’ from Spain, therefore illegal.
So to simplify the very complex situation (so I can bloody understand it) it is an argument of ‘Democracy vs Constitution’
To add fuel to the fire, days before the vote, 14 political leaders were arrested and nearly 10 million ballot papers were seized. This was thought to be the total amount of vote papers.
Reports of this led to mass marches on the streets with cries of ‘fascists’ and the clanging of pots and pans to demonstrate the regions dismay.
The vote pushed ahead and took place on October the 1st. There is ambiguity of how these votes were cast and some have asked questions on how the vote can be credible if it is not independently adjudicated. The ballot boxes were held in schools and people camped overnight to protect them from being taken by Spanish authorities.
Videos were shared across the world of the national police preventing the vote which led to nearly 900 injuries.
90% of those who voted, voted yes to independence which equates to approximately 2 million votes.
“We have not seen such a brutal and disproportionate use of force since the death of the dicatator Franco” Puigdemont
The days that followed.
On the 2nd October a strike was declared and schools were closed. People once again took to the streets and chants of ‘Franco is back’ were shouted.
Subsequently King Felipe made a rare television appearance but this has only antagonised the situation further. The king was accusatory of the Catalan government and made no reference at all to the disturbing images of violence.
“attempting to break the unity of Spain and eroded the harmony and co-existence within Catalan society itself, managing unfortunately, to divide it.” King Felipe
As the broadcast went out, I could hear a strange noise. It engulfed the neighbourhood and is nothing like I had ever heard. After a few messages to friends, those who live with pro-independence families, I was told that was the sound of people jangling their keys to express their disdain.
What could happen next?
The Spanish Prime Minister, Rajoy has refused to rule out invoking article 155. This is unprecedented and would mean that central Government would overthrow the regional government seizing control.
Puigdemont, The leader of Catalonia has said this would be the “ultimate mistake” and has said that each time the Spanish government tried to stop the vote that the cause had grown stronger.
With tensions still running extremely high and with “Spain supporters” arriving in Barcelona on the 8th October to stage their own protest, there are fears that the situation is becoming out of control. Many international leaders have condemned the violence displayed and there has been criticism of how Rajoy has handled the situation.
Piugdemont spoke to the BBC following the vote and stated he was waiting for the votes from overseas to be counted before declaring independence. This is thought to be either this weekend or the start of next week.
If the total tally is declared on the same day that “Spain supporters” arrive there is likely to be huge flash points in the street and disorder. Enric Millo, a Spanish government representative in Catalonia has on the 7th October apologised for the violence used against the voters on the 1st October but this has done little to rectify the situation.
Numerous cooperation’s including Banco de Sabadell (who own TSB) have announced they are moving operations to Alicante following the yes vote, CaixaBank, Spains 3rd biggest bank has also indicated it will move. This is a blow to those who support independence but the political landscape has appeared to have changed. It was never just about money or culture or freedom. It was about democracy and the people having a voice. The voice has been shouted over with the power of Madrid.
For fear of gaining splinters from sitting on the fence, it appears to boil down to an argument of legality vs democracy or law vs human rights.
What side you agree with is a personal matter, but indifference to the situation is not a choice.
The situation has been called a domestic issue, a matter for Spain and the EU has allowed the situation to snowball out of control.
For fear of belittling the issue, to me it appears to be like an estranged couple in the midst of a bitter divorce with their dinner party friends, turning a blind eye “not wanting to interfere”
Now is the time I will offer up my only opinion in this entire post. It is time someone interferes. I am aware the EU has made it clear that they are unlikely to do this as they want to respect the constitution of the country.
With respect, the safety of the country and its people are more important than the rules that are written about it. Mediation is required and without action quickly, there seems to be no happy ending for either side.
Approximately 1 billion people globally are trying to learn English this very second.
Approximately 360 million people class English as their first language. Let that sink in for a moment.
Colombia is bang in the middle of its initiative to make sure, that it’s mandatory, that English is taught in all schools and that the country is officially bilingual by 2020.
Do I just like throwing statistics into posts?
Yes. That isn’t the point though
That isn’t the point though, the point is that there is a ferocious market out there for people wanting to learn English and as my earlier statistic shows, not enough people possessing that skill.
However, teaching English isn’t for any Tom, Dick, Harry or Jose. It takes commitment, dedication, innovative thinking and compassion.
What you don’t necessarily need? A degree.
Yes, I know right. Ground breaking. Well, let’s start by addressing the click bait title. Yes, you do not always need a degree. There are certain countries who due to visa requirements will require it but do not let this stop you. There are scores of countries willing to welcome you with open arms.
Let’s start first with EU citizens. If you are in the EU, you have the right to live and work in any other EU country free of restrictions. Some of the most popular countries to teach English in without a degree are; Spain, Italy and France.
Moving further afield, we have the beautiful continent of South America. Not only is it huge in its size and diverse in its climate, it is also the perfect place to teach English without a degree. I previously mentioned Colombia’s initiative but there is also an increasing demand for business English in the likes of; Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil and Chile.
Lastly but not least how could we forget beautiful Asia. This is where English Teachers head to earn more money with the likes of China and Cambodia paying above their national living wage to fill the huge demand for Native English speaking teachers.
This of course is not a definitive list but it is a good start.
So where do I begin?
Begin by logging onto www.tefl.org.uk and purchasing a course for a minimum of 120 hours. There are frequently deals online but be sure to select one that incorporates at least 120 hours. This is what the majority of companies will require.
My experience consisted of attending a 20 hour classroom based introduction, split over a weekend, where it presented teaching styles, key learning points, advice and assistance for undertaking the subsequent course work.
You have 6 months from the time of purchase to complete your TEFL, but I managed this in 6 weeks. I was studying full time however. There are 10 modules that all cover different parts of the English language and teaching techniques. These range from lesson planning to how to cater for different styles of learners. At the end of each module there is an end of module exam. These are timed and will cover the information you have previously learned. So be sure not to rush straight to the end hoping you can guess the answers.
The modules are tough, especially if like me you haven’t “studied” for 10 years. Just persevere, give yourself time and enjoy the experience of learning again.
After the 10 modules there are 2 assignments, which want you to show how you would plan and deliver a lesson. Take the knowledge you have previously learned and implement them, not only will it count towards your final grade but they are also a great reference for when you get on the road and start teaching.
So, there you have it folks, if you were looking for a sign, here it is. If you needed a push in the right direction, there you go and if you’re already booking your flights and your course, you’re welcome.
We’ve all been there, one minute you’re sipping champagne sangria, rolling out 50’s like there’s no tomorrow. Except, there is a tomorrow and a next day and a day after that. You’re down to using smash and there’s far too much month left at the end of your money.
So what do you do? Sit in your hotel, abuse the free wifi and eat a pot noodle made with the travel kettle in the room, that you were dubious about anyway as you read recently that people have been boiling their knickers in them?
Ignore that last tangent (you can see that this has deeply disturbed me) No, you get out there, armed with screen shots of this post and you explore.
But lets be real, Barcelona as gorgeous as it is, is huge and can be expensive. So unless you want to spend your day hopping on and off the metro, try and explore the areas by neighbourhood.
Your fitbit will be thankful for it and you won’t feel guilty for putting away another Magdalena.
What is the old town and how can you get there?
Old town is one of the oldest and most extensive medieval areas in the whole of Europe. The area itself is split into the following neighbourhoods;
The most famous avenue, in Spain, perhaps even in Europe is “La Rambla” and contrary to the advice given by Ed Sheerhan I will not “La Ramblas, I’ll meet you” because its 0.7 miles long and packed with people 24/7.
Anyway, I digress.
Here’s my guide on how to spend less than 10 euros in the Old town in one day.
You will need the following;
A portable charger (your phone will die, from taking gazillions of pics)
An outfit that covers your shoulders and your knees (bring a scarf if you’re not about that)
A bottle of water
Talcum powder (for the chub rub)
Also, to be able to take advantage of all the freebies, make sure your visit incorporates the first Sunday of the month when the majority of attractions are FREE. Top tip right there, yano.
The Spanish are not early risers, it’s a fact. However, by getting out a little bit earlier, you can get some beautiful pictures before the hordes of people arrive and ruin your Insta-shoots.
Head to We Bistrot on Ronda Sant Pere, It’s at the north of the neighbourhood itself and can be accessed from a short walk from the Arc de Triomf Metro.
We Bistrot opens at 8am on a Sunday so you will be able to pick your seat in this small but stylish café/ restaurant. There is seating outside, wide enough across the street that you can people watch but never feel that your space is invaded. The staff are warm and hospitable, happy to take pictures for you and if your Spanish or Catalan isn’t great, were happy to meet you half way with their English (please do try to order in Spanish or Catalan though) The food and drinks are very reasonable, with a coffee at 1.50, which considering where you are in Barcelona is very reasonable.
They offer vegetarian and gluten free options, with a vegan chocolate cake that is amazeballs but you are on a budget here, so perhaps opt for something that is more filling and will set you up for the day. Remember to order your coffee as “caffe con leche” if you like your coffee with milk. They’ll serve it without as default otherwise.
Cost of Coffee with a sandwich (think a 6 inch sub size) 6 euros
An hour and a half for a coffee and a sandwich seems long, but in Barcelona it’s all about taking your time and enjoying the good life. Mañana, mañana isn’t just a phrase, it’s a way of life.
From here, head to the Arc De Triomf, its approximately a 30 second walk from breakfast and you can’t miss it. Many countries have an arc de triomf, Paris and London spring to mind. However, Spain’s addition is notably different.
It was constructed in 1888 for the universal exhibition held in the park.
It is constructed in the classical shape and is momentous in its proportions but Josep Vilaseca decided to build the arch from brick and decorate it with Spanish Moorish style friezes.
Side note, a frieze is a posh word for a border. It’s used in architecture to describe a broad horizontal band of sculpted or painted decoration on a wall near to the ceiling. Extra side note, the one you had in 1998, from the bang on the door brand, doesn’t count.
If you look closely, then you can see that the frieze overlooking Passeig de Sant Joan shows Barcelona welcoming all nations to Barcelona #feels.
The frieze facing the park depicts the city presenting medals to those who participated in the exhibition. At one end is illustrations of agriculture and industry with the opposite symbolizing commerce and art.
It is a truly breathtaking spot and costs absolutely nothing to marvel at its architecture and snapchat to your hearts content (check your roaming though!)
It is also wheelchair accessible for those who need it.
Take a stroll down through to the Park de la Ciutadella. It is popular with locals and tourists alike. It was once the site to a huge Citadel which was built for Felipe V intended to house soldiers. It was never actually used for this purpose and became a prison during the Napoleonic occupation. The city of Barcelona hated this site and it was eventually pulled down by General Prim in 1878 and the park was given to the city.
Once you are in the park marvel at the entertainers who gather to perform musical styles from across the globe. Head to the bandstand situated near to the fountain. The bandstand was erected in memory of Sonia, a transexual woman who was brutally murdered by neo-nazis for her gender identity in 1991. The city of Barcelona condemned this horrific crime and erected this bandstand in her memory. Not only is this a beautiful and thoughtful thing to do, the bandstand brings true joy as music plays and couples dance salsa in the sunshine. Feel free to participate or just enjoy the beautiful moment.
This again costs nothing, but the bandstand is elevated. The park is wheelchair accessible but the bandstand is not.
Cost absolutely nada.
Right next Sonias bandstand is a magnificent fountain. It was designed by Josep Fontsere assisted by a then young Antoni Gaudi. It isn’t wheelchair accessible but it is very beautiful from ground level. You can spot some of Gaudis beloved dragons in the fountain and it is thought to have been inspired by the Trevi fountain in Rome.
Continue to walk around the park, enjoy the orange groves and the boating lake. There is plenty to see and do in the park for all price brackets but if you want to, you can enjoy this beautiful space without spending a cent.
You may be starting to feel a bit peckish at this point, but wait, you only have 4 euros left (I apologise in advance that I keep typing the word euros, but i’m not sure how to insert the symbol haha) Do not fear! Leave the park and head to La Ribera. Its only a few minutes away and its full of winding streets and brightly coloured murals and art.
Head specifically to Carrer del portou nou, and marvel at the locals hanging their washing from the gorgeous balconies. About 100 years down on the left stop at Forn De Pa Maria Martos. It’s a small little bakery with a whole lot of love.
“Abuela” the Spanish word for grandmother will be working behind the counter. Stopping here for a bite to eat is like stopping at your own nans house. She tells you, that you look hungry, laughs and jokes whilst introducing her family or showing you pictures. I select the ham and cheese pizza which is served whole, its about 4 British slices in size and she wraps it in tin foil, before warning you that it’s hot. The cost of this pizza is 2 Euros and it is out of this world!
You can take up a seat and chat away to “Buela” or sit out the front and people watch. I personally like to keep on the move as there’s so many independent art stores, or beautiful bars to explore and discover.
Money left- 5 euros
Start to walk to the Gothic quarter but take your time, stop to take countless photos. Drift in and out of small independent shops and soak it all up. Barri Gotic, is the heart of Barcelona. It is the oldest part of the city and dates back to 27BC. Placa de sant Jaume is now the seat of Catalonia’s government but was once where the Roman forum stood. This part of the city effortlessly blends the old with the new. The medieval architecture juxtaposed with people on Segway’s, taking in the vibes.
The walk itself is a ten minute walk but with all the shops and stores you will want to discover, I would allow yourself an hour and a half to do this comfortably and at leisure. You can of course do it quicker but remember nothing here is rushed.
Take yourself to Placa de la Seu and marvel at Barcelona cathedral. People often mistake La Sagrada Familia as Barcelona Cathedral but they are two very different things.
Barcelona Cathedral dates back to 1298 when work began on the foundations of a roman temple and a Moorish mosque. The cathedral was not actually finished until the start of last century when the central spire was finished. Free entry in the afternoon begins at 17:15 but by arriving at 16:30 it gives you a chance to take pictures without hordes of crowds and to be at the start of the queue.
It is absolutely breathtaking inside and in the crypt lies the body of St Eulalia who was martyred by the romans in 400 AD.
The heat is cooling off but it’s still buzzing in La Rambla, head to here to take in the atmosphere but do not eat or drink directly on La Rambla. It is ridiculously expensive and the quality of food isn’t the best. This connects Placa de Catalunya to Port Vell. The name comes from when it was once a dried up river bed which in time was turned into convents, monasteries and universities. Enjoy the crowds of people, watch your purse and get caught up in the buzz before heading to Barceloneta.
It is approximately a ten minute walk but with all the buzz allow yourself 30 mins. Stop in a supermarket and pick up a bottle of cava for 2 euros, yes 2 euros and a selection of crisps or nibbles for the remainder of the money. Do not worry about not having a bottle opener, every bar I visited was happy to open it for me. If you’re too shy to ask, cap bottles can be opened using one of the benches or if it’s a bottle with a cork, push down really hard with your thumb until the cork drops in the bottle. Top tip there from my Ozzie girl, Kira- Lee, hey boo!
Head to Barceloneta and stop in a supermarket on the way. Pick up a 2 euro bottle of wine, yes I know that is crazy cheap, but I’ve had worse. Pick up some nibbles and make your way to the water. Depending on the time of the year you will be about half an hour away from sunset.
If it’s a beautiful day you can of course get there earlier, the beach is always free! It’s perfectly accessible for those with wheelchairs, it has toilets and showers in case you do fancy a dip and is quite possibly one of the most vibrant, well kept beaches I have ever been to.
La Barceloneta was once only home to fisherman and those who worked in the metal trade, it was regenerated for the 1992 Olympics which has undoubtedly helped put Barcelona on the map as not only a city break but a beach break also. It is a bustling beach with people peddling all sorts, from drinks, to bikinis, to massages. However it doesn’t cost you a thing to sit there, take in the views and enjoy the sunset.
I hope you enjoyed this post and found it useful. This of course isn’t a definitive guide, there are far more places to see and visit but, if you are on a budget and still want to get a good vibe for this beautiful slice of history than please feel free to share away.
You can of course follow me on all the social medias and that, all your comments and feedback are always gratefully received.
So you want to be an Au pair? I’m pleased to hear it, it is one of the most rewarding experiences I believe anyone can undertake. Working as an au pair can provide you with opportunities that would just not be possible otherwise. For those who want to travel, perhaps you want to learn another language, maybe you just want to take a gap year and could do with a significant change. Au pairing can significantly help with those aims and ambitions.
It isn’t a decision to be taken likely and it may be that you are the first person you know to consider this as job. Perhaps you’re having some hard time convincing loved ones that this is the right path for you or maybe you’re not sure if you are up to the task.
It would be easy for me to sit and type away about my experiences but since arriving in Barcelona and socialising with other au pairs it’s become apparent that every experience is different.
I’ve rounded up a few of my new au pair friends and have asked them about their experiences; they range in age, nationality, experience and gender enabling you as the reader to identify with them in some way.
I hope you enjoy these accounts and if you would like to know more feel free to like, comment and share.
Without further ado,
What led you to the decision to become an au pair in Spain?
Ella – I thought it was a good way to live in a country I have always wanted to live in, without having to worry about the cost of finding somewhere to stay and food every week, It’s a big experience, it’s something you can happily put on your C.V
Knowing what you know now, what would you change or would have asked before you arrived?
Ella- I would have liked to have known a bit more about where I was going and more about the tourist attractions as I don’t really know that much and I would bring more money, I would bring as much money as I could.
What do you like and what don’t you like about the role of an au pair?
Ella- I’m quite lucky I have a really good family, who are very understanding. I think for me the only thing I don’t like is that I have to do long bus journeys. If that’s the worst part than I think that’s pretty good. I would also like to have known a bit more about working with kids.
Do you have any experience with children, do you think that would have helped?
Ella-I’d only babysat my mum’s kids and the neighbours kids, so it was kids who knew me, So I think going into working with kids I’ve never met before, is challenging but you just have to find new ways to go around it and if you persevere it gets a lot easier
How did you find your family?
Ella- I found them on au pair world, they messaged me. I would recommend aupair world, it’s a pick and choose thing it’s not you only get one choice, there is a wide choice of people
Was it free for you to use as an au pair?
Ella- It was completely free, it didn’t cost me anything to use
With this experience, what your plans for the future?
Ella- I want to become fluent in Spanish and then I want to use this opportunity to for later in life, for when I go to uni and to eventually study Spanish
Have you encountered any homesickness?
Ella-I think you’re always bound to encounter homesickness, if like me you’re moving away from home for the first time and leaving family members and boyfriends and friends behind that you’ve known for all your life. But once I met people and I realised they were going through the same thing it made it a lot easier and what I personally did was write down how many days there were until I get to go home, so every day I had a countdown, so you feel a lot better, I’ve only got a month left or I’ve only got 3 weeks or 12 days or 1 day. It helps you feel relieved because when you put it in perspective you’re like that’s actually only 20 days
Okay and anyone who’s thinking of doing it, what would you say to them?
Ella- Do thorough research on where you’re going, about the weather, the style of life, the cost of things. I would save as much money as you can and interact with your family as much as possible before you arrive
What made you become an au pair in Spain?
Anna-It’s a good question because I finished high school this year, because in Italy we have one more year than the rest of the world. I finished high school this year but had no clue what to do the year after. I was always sure I wouldn’t take a gap year and I would go straight to university because I am a very determined person. If I want something I do everything to get it, but in the end I was not sure what I wanted to do in life and what was important in life for me. So I started to think that a gap year was an option, I began to search for families on au pair world. I had the idea to become an au pair, because my mother did it as well and was 16 and she went to London. She always told me about her experiences as an au pair and she loved it, so I thought it would be a very nice thing and then I found this family on au pair world from Barcelona, which later became my host family. We skyped a lot and I felt really comfortable with them and they felt comfortable with me. I knew Barcelona already, I knew it’s a huge international city, an open city and a city where a lot of young people meet. That was really important for me, because I am a sociable person, I can not stay alone long term and I want to make new friends so that was really important for me. I thought if I do not take this chance I will regret it
So how are you enjoying Spain?
Anna- I love Barcelona, it’s a great city for young people and its very international. The locals are quite open and friendly. I think the public and transport systems are quite similar to the Italian systems, so for me it’s not that hard to adapt to this new reality and the trains are late as well in Italy so I know this kind of lifestyle. I don’t know, I enjoy Spain a lot, I like Spanish culture, I like Spanish as a language, I think it sounds really friendly and funny and yeah, I think it’s a nice play to stay
Is the role of the au pair what you expected?
Anna- Yeah, I think it is what I expected it to be, maybe I expected it to be harder, but I talked a lot to the host family before I came here, so we talked a lot about the chores and the things I have to do. So it’s more or less what I expected to be. I thought that, it might be the relationship with the children, maybe it’s just my kids but it’s not that close of a relationship, the children know that you are working for their parents and it’s not that close relationship I thought it would be, I was expecting to be like a bigger sister but my kids are not interested in that.
What’s the best and worst part of this experience?
Anna-The best part of this experience is that you have a lot of free time, you can spend with a lot of great people and it’s not hard to find people because all the au pairs are in the same boat. We all have to find new friends so it’s quite easy you can enjoy the city a lot because you have a lot of free time. Also you get to know people from so many different countries. I’ve made friends with people from America, Australia, Great Britain and without travelling, I stayed in one place. I think it’s really great, it’s nice to chat to those people.
The worst part of the experience, I think is sometimes you don’t know if you’re getting it right or if you should behave in another way because in the end you are living with strangers in their house and you don’t know how they are used to doing things and how they like the things to be done. You’re never completely comfortable, for the most part you are but at the same time it is a stranger’s house but this can also help you grow.
Did you have any childcare experience before this?
Anna- Actually yeah I had a lot of childcare experience because I did a lot of baby sitting in my village in my hometown I also did a programme in Italy, it’s like a summer camp and we went to the beach for 2 weeks and there I had to look after a group of 13 boys and they were between 11 and 12 years and that was a really great experience, I loved it. I feel that au pairing though is quite different because when I did babysitting or the summer camp, the children were normally happy to stay with me or were looking forward to staying with me. They were enjoying my presence, I’m sure they were angry sometimes but I always felt like they liked to be with me and sometimes as an au pair, I sometimes feel like the children do not want to be with me, they would prefer to be alone or stay with their parents but they have to be with me and they know that they have to so that can make it a little bit difficult to have a good relationship with the children
If you could go back and give yourself any advice before coming out here what would it be?
Anna-I would definitely tell myself to bring less stuff, because I brought too much. It is way easier to travel with less stuff, because you can find everything here. I should have started to find people on groups when I was in Italy because I came here and I was alone for one and a half month, because I didn’t put effort into finding friends before so and I think that is quite important
How did you find your host family?
Anna- I found my host family on au pair world, I think like most people did and I would totally recommend it because it’s free, it’s easy and it’s great.
Any tips for anyone considering this job?
Anna- I don’t know, try it, do it, do not be afraid, it is a really big decision, you do not know what is going to happen in your host family, if you’re going to like them, if you’re going to find friends but you should just try and be brave
What do you hope to do after this year?
I have my contract until the end of December and I go back to Italy and after that I’m still not sure what I want to do. My plan was to search for work and then go to university. I still want to go to university for sure but I’m not sure if maybe I’ll stay here and search for another opportunity, not as an au pair but another job.
What led you to considering to becoming an au pair?
Joseph- Ever since High School I have had the dream of teaching English abroad after college graduation. I had a lot of older friends who I watched move straight from college to their career field, and it didn’t seem appealing to me, even then. The feeling didn’t go away, and since I didn’t know what I wanted to spend my life doing yet, I decided to go through with it. The only problem: I never got my TEFL, and while the time it took to get one wasn’t necessarily an issue, the money I would need was. My friend and fellow comedy troupe performer, Bella Groff, had told me about her plans to Au Pair, and from there everything fell into place. The family I found had an Au Pair who had obtained, during her three year stay in Castellbisbal, over thirty private English students, and was willing to pass them, along with the €300 a week they earned her, on to me once I moved here. This was the proverbial nail in the coffin for me, and I committed to the family.
Tell me why you chose Spain?
Joseph- Spain seemed like an obvious choice for me. My brother-in-law is Mexican and even though he speaks English, I thought it would be cool to learn Spanish and be able to talk to him and his family members that don’t speak English. Besides Spain, most of the Spanish speaking countries are in America, and I wanted to come to Europe because there are so many different countries to see, and they’re all so close and so different.
Have you encountered culture shock yet?
Joseph- Not much. I really like the diet here, and it hasn’t been a weird adjustment at all. Aside from the language barrier, which is strong when you speak almost zero Spanish, I haven’t felt any culture shock.
What is your favourite part and worst part of the role for you?
Joseph- My favorite part of the role is that I can tell I’m having a positive effect on the two host boys. They have a single mom and begged her for a guy to be their Au Pair this year, so it feels good to sort of act like the big brother they never had. I feel like I fit right in with the family. The worst part is definitely not knowing when I’m supposed to be working and when I can relax in my room. I’ve finally just started going to my room when I wanted to, and decided that if my host mom needs me she will come get me.
How do you cope with homesickness?
I know a lot of people say calling loved ones makes their homesickness worse, but for me it is the opposite. I call my family or my girlfriend every few days, usually more. I have also put a lot of time into my creative pursuits. I want to use this year to really find the things I love in life, because I think many people rush into careers they don’t like. Recently I have been teaching myself to animate, and have been making a cartoon. Between that, reading, and playing my guitar, I stay busy, and being busy is the best cure for homesickness.
What advice would you give to other male au pairs?
Joseph- Definitely get to know your family and the responsibilities expected first! I was lucky enough to find a family that wanted an older brother type of Au Pair, and I don’t have to do a lot of cleaning or any diaper changing. I’m not at all saying those are jobs for women, but if you’re at all like me, you won’t want those types of responsibilities. Another piece of advice is not to care if people think it’s a job for girls or not. The point is, you’re getting payed to live in another country! And living for free! Yeah you’re not making a lot of money, but you can tutor for extra cash. When my friends call me a ‘Manny’ I embrace it. Hell yeah I’m a manny, and you are taking a year off to see more of the town we grew up in.
What do you want to do after this year?
Joseph- This is the question of the year. Really one of the biggest things I want to work towards answering by the end of my stay here. If I don’t know by then, I’ll give myself more time because I think that’s what humans need when choosing their entire life path. In the meantime I’m researching as many fields I can to see where I would fit l, and most importantly, be happy. I’m going on a road trip across the U.S. with two of my closest friends next summer, and after that, we will see.
Would you recommend becoming an au pair?
Joseph- If you find the right family, definitely. But I wouldn’t commit to the idea of becoming an Au Pair before finding a family you connect with. It also isn’t for people who need tons of privacy. You have your own room and a lot of alone time, but you’re living with another family, so it’s not like having your own apartment by any means. It’s a great opportunity for the right people though.
This is the second time you have worked as an au pair is that correct?
Naomi- Yes it is, I was an au pair in London last year for one year.
What made you decide to do it again?
Naomi- It was so good in England and I had a nice experience. The family was so nice to me I decided to do it again in Spain to learn Spanish
What advice would you give to a new au pair?
Naomi- If you want to do it, do it It’s a nice experience for you. You will make new friends with whom you’ll share wonderful moments with during this year. You can discover lots of things, improve your language. After this experience, you’ll gain lots of maturity. It’s just amazing.
What is the most important thing to do as an au pair?
Naomi- You can’t stay alone for one year, it is impossible, you need to make friends and it’s very easy to make some. You just post a message on an au pair group of where you are living and that’s it, you’ll get lots of girls who’ll answer it and you just need to meet them and the party will start. You’re weekend off will be very busy, I promise.
What do you do with your free time?
Naomi- I use my free time for seeing my friends, visiting the city or going to the beach of course
What is a typical day for you in your host family?
Naomi- Every morning I prepare the breakfast for the children, take them to school, free time, pick them up from school, cook their dinner and look after them till the mum and dad come home, then more free time.
So there you go peeps, I hope if you are a worried mother dealing with your teen daughter convinced she needs to live abroad that this alleviates some fears.
If you’re a guy who hasn’t heard of another lad taking on what is perceived as a female role (it’s really not, care giving crosses all genders) then have the confidence to follow your dream too.
Perhaps you’re a person who needs to turn 180 degrees on your life but want some security then this post can give you a balanced and honest view on what the role is like.
Well it appears that you have stumbled upon my little corner of the internet, for that I thank you. If I make it to the “About me” page on someone’s blog it usually means I’m enjoying what they have to say, or their images are some serious #goals. So I’m truly humbled you’ve happened upon this little blurb about me.
But it’s always a little bit cringey writing about yourself isn’t it? But you’ve taken the time out of your daily quota of cute kittens or memes, to read what I have to say, so it’s the least I can do.
So I have to be honest, I went and did a “Tina Turner” in the middle of 2017 and left a good job in the city. I jacked in a steady, well paid job that I had invested in for the last 10 years, to pursue; well I wasn’t quite sure. I knew I wanted to “scratch” the “itchy feet” a decade of responsibility and worry had left me with. I wanted to laugh passionately, I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and fall into my element. I dreamt about immersing myself into a rich tapestry of culture and leading a life that wasn’t regimental, routine and repetitive.
But where and how? I googled Australian visas and was put off by farming work, I dreamt of south Asia but remembered that I hate rice and I’m too tall and too chubby to benefit from the markets, I knew I wanted to live abroad but wanted it to be a productive year also. I felt like I was drifting. This lost feeling subsided when I messaged a cousin (well my grandads brothers granddaughter; how Irish) who explained she was working in Murcia and told me how to set about it.
Not that I had ever discounted Spain but it had never occurred to me that this might be the perfect chance for me to stretch my wings, but not too far (2 and a half hours on a cheeky Ryanair flight). I had enjoyed learning Spanish at school and loved being able to throw out a few Spanglish phrases whilst partying in BEEFA, back in the day. Yet, there was so much to Spain I didn’t know about and wanted to explore immediately. It was as if, a cloud dissipated, a weight lifted and I had found purpose again. I was going to go to Spain and for once, put my happiness as the main goal in every action I completed in the next 12 months.
I know, how millennial of me. Hit 25 and legit had a quarter life crisis #nojudging
So here I am, I’ve traded Tea for Tapas and I’m keeping this digital diary to ramble on about life on las ramblas, explain how I’m supporting myself in Spain and creating a space for expats and tourists in Spain to engage and interact, as I’m yet to find a proper brew over here.
I’m on the social medias and that. Give me a cheeky follow as I equate likes to my value and self worth. Joking!