I’ve yet to make it to South America, which is obviously their loss. But today’s celebrity guest here at My Spanish Lovers has, and that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg my friends. Rob Ashby, from the all-things-Spanish website Spanish Obsessed, has lived in Spain, South America and the UK. Sit back and relax as he tells us why the weather in Spain just can’t be beat, but the tv sure can.
Hi Rob! Thanks a ton for joining us over at My Spanish Lovers. For those who don’t know, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Thanks for having me!
I’m Rob, and I spent several years living and breathing Spain and South America, and since coming back to London have started Spanish Obsessed – a site where my Colombian girlfriend and I share our passion of the language through podcasts and pithy blog posts. We’re really interested in helping people get to know Spanish and Latin cultures, and think that the best way to do that is through the language.
You used to live in Spain before moving back to the UK in 2010. Where were you living? Where were some other places in Spain you managed to travel as an expat?
I lived in Valencia, and absolutely loved it. It has some of the best weather in Spain, which really impacts on the lifestyle you can enjoy. I travelled all over Spain. One particularly memorable event was a road trip from Valencia up to La Coruna in the North West – a journey which really covered the length and breadth of Spain.
Probably some of my favourite places I’ve been were the smaller villages during fiestas – I stayed with a friend in Tobarra during their “fiesta de tambores” at Easter. That’s a raucous fiesta, where the whole village comes out with their snare drums and drinks for three days straight.
What are some of the biggest cultural differences between Spain and the UK?
Cultural differences in terms of attitudes and people aren’t hugely different – I think around Europe people aren’t too different in their outlooks. The bigger differences come in some of the simpler things, which can have a big impact. Meal times, for example, take a lot longer and are taken a lot later in Spain. This then affects working hours, opening hours, socialising hours and so on – meaning that it’s not unusual to meet someone for dinner at 11pm, when last orders are often called in England!
Is there any one thing in particular about living in Spain that you really miss? Anything you were happy to say ‘adios’ to upon leaving?
The weather’s too obvious! But it’s so true – I only realised how big a difference sunny days make since moving back to monochrome London. I really miss the food, even though we have a huge number of Spanish restaurants in London, the whole experience of eating tapas in a hot, fragranced plaza at midnight is something that you can’t repeat here!
I don’t miss the TV. Sorry Spain, I love you but there’s very little you have on TV which was actually any good (with the possible exception of “Callejeros Viajeros”)!
You made your way back to the UK via South America. How long were you there, and what was that experience like?
I was there for about 9 months in total, although I only got around to visiting Ecuador and Colombia. I was in no hurry, and really wanted to take everything in that I saw. It was pretty wild to be honest! In Ecuador I stayed in the Amazon jungle for several months working on an education program for the local community, before travelling to Colombia. I travelled around Colombia for around a month, before winding up in the Caribbean city of Santa Marta, where I stayed for a couple more months. I really put roots down there, making great friendships and relationships which I hope will stay with me. It was so hard to leave.
How does living in Spain compare to your experiences in South America?
Spain is as different from South America as England is – the only thing they have in common is really the language and shared ancestry. Spain is a far older, more developed country, and provides a very comfortable experience for ex-pats. South America (at least the countries I visited) is on its way up, and has such vibrant and lively cultures – it’s a really exciting place to be at the moment. The flip side of that is its comparative lack of development and infrastructure, which can make living there more adventurous, to say the least.
You have a site called Spanish Obsessed, which helps people learn the Spanish language. Can you tell us more about the site and what its goal is?
Liz and I started Spanish Obsessed as we really wanted to provide a place where we could share our passion and knowledge of Spanish and its various cultures. It’s quite focused on Spain and Colombia at the moment, but that’s due to my living in Spain and Liz being Colombian! We hope to share our experience with our audience through a series of Spanish podcasts at various levels (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) which aim to teach the language through natural conversation, focused around the cultures we love so much!
Lastly, any tips or tricks you can share here for readers who are trying to learn Spanish?
There are all sorts of tips and tricks which have their various merits but for me the overarching key is to stay motivated, and the best way to do this is by using real material which you find interesting and engaging! So many people assume that studying a language means they have to rote-learn conjugation tables and word lists – this certainly has its place, but if you don’t enjoy using and learning the language you won’t get very far. Also, get out there and use it as soon as you can! Language doesn’t just exist in textbooks, and when we actually use Spanish to communicate for real it lends it a whole new significance. There’s not much more motivating than that.
Thanks so much for joining us, Rob! Don’t forget you can check out Rob’s site, Spanish Obsessed, here.