Hola everybody and a big welcome to new visitors from Fluent in 3 Months, it’s a pleasure to welcome you all to my Spanish learning and culture site! What a wonderful Friday afternoon it’s turned out to be here in Granada. The sun is shining splendidly, I’ve been chattering away in Spanish with my housemate Giulio and there’s a general presence that everything is good in the world. Even better then that I’ve got this new chapter of My Spanish Lovers to end out the week!
In this new chapter I’m particularly honoured to host my most favourite “living in Spain” blogger, Hamatha. Now for those of you who don’t know about her fantastically named blog “Pass the Ham“, the shame is really on you. With her regular anecdotes on life in Madrid, life under Mourinho and everything in between, Hamatha’s blog is definitely one of my favourites on the scene with Hamatha herself one of the most approachable and fun-loving bloggers I’ve had the pleasure to connect with.
Yet there remains one problem with this Spanish-loving chica. Nobody knows much about the “real” her. Hiding behind her little nickname, she rarely gives much away about her self – not like this heart on his sleeve blogger! So with that then, I hope to unearth a few secrets about the curious Hamatha and find out just why she decided to swap her life in the States for life here in Spain.
Let’s go shall we?
Hola Hamatha! Thanks so much for speaking with me, as one of my favourite expat bloggers I love following your journey as you work and travel in Spain and always look forward to reading your lustful posts about Carlos Puyol. Now for those people who don’t know much about you or your blog could you give us a brief introduction?
Well, I’m Nicole, a.k.a Hamatha. I came to Madrid about 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia. I’m married to a cute, sweet Spanish man who does his best to tolerate me and all of my weirdness. I love life here in Spain and I’m always excited to see new places or revisit favorite pueblos. Spain has always inspired me in many ways. I’ve spent years thinking about starting a blog about my life here, but it’s only recently that I’ve had the time to actually do some writing and I’m still trying to find my voice.
And what a voice it is! Now you first travelled to Spain from your home in Atlanta. Why did you initially decide to make such a big leap? What was it about Spain that called to you?
I studied in Spain years ago (1999) and I loved the time I spent here. I originally came with my university, but I stayed in Europe for 4 weeks after my group had gone home. I spent some time exploring more of Spain and then I traveled around a few other countries in Europe. It was on that trip where I learned how to travel and how to communicate with strangers. I was traveling alone a lot of the time and ended up meeting so many fantastic people. It’s so horribly cliché to say that “I found myself in Europe”, but I have to admit that traveling and, more importantly, traveling alone, is the best way to broaden and open your mind.
Am I digressing here?
Anyway, after that trip I swore that I would come back to stay for an extended period of time. I had been toying with the idea of living outside the states for years when I had an apartment fire that totally destroyed all my possessions. At that moment I thought that maybe the universe was trying to tell me something. So, instead of rebuilding my life in Atlanta, I began to make arrangements to move here. I had no idea for how long I wanted to stay, but I came with an open mind and, 6 years later, here I am!
Well I’m glad you found yourself! We wouldn’t have wanted to lose you for too long now would we!? Now tell us, what were some of the initial trials and tribulations that you faced when you first arrived in Spain? Are there any ongoing challenges that come with this particular lifestyle of immersion in Spanish culture?
Honestly, I don’t remember any trials and tribulations when I first got to Madrid. I was running all over this town like a maniac and having a blast doing so. Nothing could have stopped me! It was all so new and so fun. I missed my family as much as I still do, but I completely blocked out any responsible behavior at that time and just concentrated on meeting new people and exploring the city.
Later, when I settled down a bit, I had (still have) the same frustrations as any expat. Sometimes you feel a little isolated, a little fed up with the system, etc. but you learn to love it or leave it. I choose to love it.
We chose the right pill, that’s for sure! So how much of the Spanish language did you know before coming out here? Where do you see your level now?
Well, technically I graduated with a degree in Spanish plus I have a post graduate in (SPA-ENG) translation so you would think that I was well prepared, right? Wrong. As soon as I stepped off the plane, it was obvious that I needed to request a refund from my university. I couldn’t understand anything! I lived on four expressions/words for the first two months I was here, café con leche, cerveza, donde esta, and of course, jamón!
Pretty much the same survival phrases I had then! So what would you say are your favourite things about the Spanish language? Any favourite words?
I really love the “honey” words. You know, those words you use with a loved one? “Cielo”, “Cariño”, “Mi vida” etc. Whether it’s between a mother and son or husband and wife, these terms of endearment all just seem so intensely sweet to me.
And of course, as you know, I have a love/hate relationship with the constant Spanish cursing, coño! I’m still trying to get used to it after 6 years, joder!
Well Hamatha, now I feel I’ve learned a lot about you and your husband with those terms of affection! Right, so what have been some of the biggest, major highlights of the past six years living and working in Spain? What places would you recommend people seeing?
The major highlight of my life here in Spain (or anywhere else) was meeting, dating and marrying my husband. Nothing else ever compares to that happiness. (I know – insert gagging motion here. Sorry!) Although Spain winning the world cup in 2010 was pretty awesome as well!
As far as recommending places to go, there’s just so many awesomely, distinct pueblos and cities in Spain. If I had the time and a good horse, I could happily spend my days slowly meandering from Galicia to Barcelona to Andalucía to Extremadura, and around again. Spain is a country that never ceases to amaze me with its history, art, architecture, lifestyle and the overall generousness of its people.
A horse is all you need – at least that’s what The Beatles said right? OK, so what things should people who want to move out to Spain, perhaps to have a similar experience, know about doing so based on your experiences? What advice would you give them?
Make sure you know what to expect in terms of employment. If you’re coming here to teach English, make sure that you actually like teaching English otherwise, it’s a little frustrating relying on something that you don’t like to do for a living. Oh, and if you’re American, the Euro will eat up all of your lovely savings in no time at all! Overall, just make sure you’re coming here for the right reasons. If you want a 6 months adventure, fine. Go all out! But if you’re in it for the long run, be prepared to adjust yourself to this country, because it’s not going to adjust to your needs. (Does that sound too harsh?)
Bang on the money, I’d say pretty much the same things! OK so how do you sustain your travels around Spain? Do you have any money saving tips whether it’s with travel, food, living or anything else that can help people out who are preparing for a trip or relocation?
If you don’t mind a few inconveniences and you have the time, Spain is pretty easy and budget friendly for travelers. The hostels here are, in my experience, really nice and pretty cheap so you can save money there. Also, there always seems to be a lot of free events that take place in Madrid on a weekly basis, so it’s a good idea to check out what’s going on in the city. You have to be prepared for the crowds, but there are free days at the museums, weekend concerts, and of course, taking advantage of the “free” tapas also cuts down on food costs!!
Spain’s all about the free events! Right so the culture. What are some your favourite things about it? What is it about Spain that makes you enjoy living here the most?
This is a hard one. Um, I guess I like the overall spirit of the people here? I know that they have a reputation for being a bit, um, rude and certainly direct, but I like to think they’re just playing hard to get. I’ve met so many people who, at first, seemed like real jerks, but then, those same people, over time, have turned out to be some of my best friends. Or maybe I just like jerks?
Apart from the obvious things like the history, the food, the sun, the beaches, the beer, the nightlife, etc. I really couldn’t pinpoint what exactly it is that I like about the Spanish culture. I just love it. For one thing, I know living here as an expat keeps me on my toes constantly, so I guess there’s that?
Great stuff! Any last words for people out there interested in immersing themselves in a foreign culture, learning a language and travelling the world?
I really think that more people should make traveling a life priority. And if you get the chance to travel, do it as much as possible. I’m so glad that my study abroad program left me with enough curiosity to come back to Spain, so I would recommend getting your toes wet on a quick trip to wherever you want to go before you make the decision to live somewhere. A quick little trip won’t be enough to get a good idea of how your life would be as a resident, but you can get a general vibe for the city. Anyway you do it, living outside of your comfort zone does wonders for your confidence and overall outlook on life. Besides that, living in a foreign country really makes you resilient to a lot of things. It’s good for your character.
Well, finally we shed some light on the mysterious Hamatha! Glad to know there’s a real lady there and not some teenage basement geek! Thanks to Nicole for being such a super sport and letting me interrogate her. Make sure you check out her ace blog Pass the Ham and follow her on Twitter.
Don’t forget to get in contact if you’d like to be my next Spanish lover!