Ben and Marina on

We had the pleasure of being interviewed this week for, a great videopodcast coming out of Madrid – Many thanks to Gwen for giving us this opportunity to talk about our work and our favourite place in Madrid, do watch the video here!


(Expat) Help Needed…

My friend Marielli is doing some really interesting academic work that includes research into expats living here in Spain, and could really do with a hand on a quick survey if you are:

1. US American or British
2. 18 years of age or older
3. Currently living in Spain, US or UK

As Marielli says:

“This research will require you to participate in a brief online questionnaire that will take less than 10 minutes to complete. The survey touches on the dimensions that are described extensively in the work of Geert Hofstede and Michael Minkov. They deal with key issues in national societies, known from social anthropology and cross-cultural research. By participating in this study, you will help contribute to more data in the field of cross-cultural research.”

I’ve taken the survey, it’s quick, easy to complete, so do please help if you fit the bill.

Here’s the link to the survey

Thanks! Ben


Spain in trouble?

Just got home via a 2 am cab ride, streets strangely empty. The cab driver said:

“It’s the news from the government, 4 million unemployed, over 17% of the working population, people are scared… wouldn’t surprise me if we reach 5 million…”

And I think Spain might well reach 5 million unemployed, I mean, it’s not as if the construction industry (which counts one way or another for over 30% of the GNP) is going to recover in the next 5 years… and what’s going to replace it?

Spain has troubled times ahead I fear…


Who Else Likes Spanish Wine?

Over at our super sister site we’ve put together a free report for Spanish-learning-wine-lovers (can’t be many of those around, surely 😉 )

Get the pdf now while it’s hot!

Saludos from Madrid,



We Won The Lonely Planet ‘Best Expat Blog Award’!

Yes! We won the Lonely Planet ‘Best Expat blog’ award, and I say ‘We‘, because all the comments over the years from ‘You‘ have kept this blog more than alive… the video below, made as the ‘acceptance speech’ for the ceremony in San Francisco last night (how posh is that!?) explains better:

Many thanks to you all again. If you are new here, do stop for a look around, and if you like learning Spanish, please do look at our famous Learning Spanish podcasts too!

Saludos from Madrid!

Ben (el contento)

P.S. Don’t forget our great Spanish podcasts site!


How to avoid being “an expat” in Spain

expat in Feria de Jerez
Photo: Me trying to ‘blend in’ and not to look like an expat (Fail?!)
OK, so technically if you live in Spain and aren’t from here, then you are either an immigrant, or an ex-pat – probably both. Nothing wrong with either of course, but there are certain aspects of ‘ex-pat-ness’ that it is certainly wise to avoid, if only for the benefit of your own long-term self esteem!

So, here is my quick guide to ‘How to avoid being “too expatty” in Spain’ – and, more to the point, really fitting in with the locals! Please add to the list in the comments!

1. Never drink in Irish bars, no matter what sporting event you just can’t miss and isn’t on anywhere else.

2. … and don’t say things like ‘I counldn’t half do with a decent pint instead of these tiny bloody caña beers they serve over here’.

Typical Spanish Bar
Photo: Try to drink in bars that look like this
3. In fact… only drink in bars with crap all over the floor, a few old Spanish men permanently stuck to the bar, and at least one well dressed barmen, over 50, who’s worked there since just after birth.

Drunk in Spain
Photo: Clearly NOT expats – expats wouldn’t bother with the matress
4. Don’t ever get obsessed about eating “at least one good meal from home” a week. Spanish food is much better for you. You’ll live longer. (4.b. Don’t do all your food shopping in the ‘gourmet’ section of El Corte Ingles).

Spanish market
Photo: Avoid El Corte Ingles – try food shopping in places like this!
5. Don’t spend more time on Facebook than you do soaking in your new surroundings.

6. Don’t wear white socks, shorts and tennis shoes in public.

Spanish football fansPhoto: To blend in, dress like this
7. Learn some more Spanish! Come on, you live here! Join in!

8. Swear more (and only in Spanish, joder).

9. What would you add for number 9?

Comments below please! (Later note on some comments below: I’m amazed that some people used this as an excuse to reinforce idiotic stereotypes about the Spanish – says a lot about a certain class of expat I’m afraid…)


Later Notes on Parenting…

Tireeeeeedddddd…. very very tiiiirreeeeeeeddd…. I’m told the sensation will pass in about 7 years time, when our son starts sleeping a little better, but right now, wow. Why did they do so many drugs in the 60’s? They should have just had more kids and experienced the joys of halucinagenic sleep deprivation for FREE!

So you may have noticed that this blog has been, well, a little quiet recently, and now you can guess why. Reserve energies left after parenting duties are being used mainly to keep everything running smoothly at, the website that really pays for the nappies. That doesn’t mean things over here at Notes from Spain are being abandoned, far from it – we’ve done more in the last 2 months to boost the wonderful forum than we’ve done in it’s entire history – do join in!

As I get increasingly used to life after few hours sleep, expect more blogging here soon, especially now the weather is so wonderfully inspiring – sitting at a cafe terrace table in Madrid’s Retiro park on Sunday, sipping Estrella Damn number 2 (rather it was Mahou), a sense of great happiness came over me – could have been the beer, could have been the sleep dep., but I think it was that wonderful sensation of ‘soaking up early spring sun in Spain’… and knowing there are 7 months of hot blue skies ahead…

Expect more Spain here this week and beyond, when I hope to be reporting on this wonderful country as well as my friend Richard does, with his excellent Spanish-Granny-Warrior post here: Chariots of Ire


Nice Spain Links

Great old friends of mine have moved to Seville. Matt works as a surfboard shaper (and a world-renowned one at that!) and Sheila, his wife, put together this website from scratch, with no previous knowledge of html, ftp etc, in a matter of weeks. Pretty impressive! Do say hi at:

Matt Barrow Surfboards

Meanwhile, Richard Morley discovers some quite unbelievable health initiative going on beneath Madrid:

In Training

Saludos from Madrid,



Notes in Spanish News: New Audio

For those keen Inspired Spanish learners amongst you, I just wanted to let you know that a big project I’ve been working on with a friend of Marina’s is finally ready!

Full details on the Notes in Spanish blog

Saludos from Madrid,



Busy Busy Busy Busy Busy

I’ll have to turn my oh so critical eye away from Spain for a few days to work hard on a project for, so things might be quiet here on the blog.

Suddenly I’m feeling a bit overloaded!! Even when we get to bed at 10.30 I don’t seem to get up before 8.30! In the meantime, don’t forget the wonderful forum is still as busy as every, do check in there.

Finally, if you are learning Spanish and can help us out with the new project by taking a super-quick survey, please read this post here. Thanks! Back soon!

Update: While I’m busy, check out Ivan’s blog enthused with all the wonderful energy of a new life in a new place in Spain…