Will Peach is one of the site editors over at Gap Daemon, the gap year travel community website for backpackers and gap year travellers.
Little over two months ago I packed my bags in London and prepared myself for one crazy ride abroad in Spain. It was to be quite the transition.
Winding up in the arid, wild lands of Extremadura, and ending up in the small-sleepy city of Cáceres, I quickly had to learn to leave all thoughts of the Big Smoke, Big Ben and all the bring-your-own-beer Vietnamese restaurants of East London behind. Adjusting to small city living? Quite the challenge!
But I survived. And you can too! Allow me to help you prepare and cast off the shackles of those big city lights forever. Start embracing small city living in Spain now!
Embrace the Fame in Spain
When was the last time someone said “hi” to you on those big lonely streets of New York, Toronto or even Madrid? Can’t remember? Hardly surprising.
Get yourself in shape for small-town Spain then. Stardom and all the trappings of a fame-filled lifestyle are just around the corner.
Here you’ll need to get used to being accosted in the street, screamed at by young kids and have panties thrown at you from apartment windows above (those flimsy washing lines are purely coincidental).
Ok maybe that’s an exaggeration. Being the new face about town probably won’t cause Beiber-like fever, but you’ll at the very least be a curiosity. Better do away with those cold city manners now.
Show some warmth right back at those neighbourhood greetings and you’ll slip right into community life without a moment’s trouble.
It’s no surprise “Buenas” is the most commonly used Spanish word after all! Let it be the first to slip off your tongue.
Embrace the Siesta Shutdown
Cast off of any expectation you have for those round-the-clock shopping sprees you had going on in that big city you used to call home. Here in Spain the siesta rules supreme.
In fact you’ll have to adjust your body clock too. Popping out onto the streets between the hours of 2-5pm is likely to lead you into believing you’ve walked on to the set of a zombie apocalypse film. It’s that quiet.
Start sleeping in the day and fit it around your work schedule. Living is for the evening in this part of the world.
And don’t expect to be able to buy anything on a Sunday either. We’re talking traditional Catholic towns here!
Embrace the Bus
Got into the habit of treating your tube or metro ride in the big city as a moment of peace and a podcast? You better think again with your move to small-town Spain.
Riding public transport is exactly, as its name suggests, a very “public” affair. Expect rowdy, noisy, laughter-filled carriages that no background-noise filtering headphones known to man could ever hope to block out. Not that you’d even want to try. People actually talk to each other on public transport systems in Spain!
Shirk off your cold city sensibilities, do away with your suspicion of strangers and get chatting right alongside locals as you hop around your new hometown. Fun!
Embrace the Poster
Gumtree, Craigslist and all those hyperlocal news sites may do the trick for snagging an apartment, selling old electronics or even finding a job in the metropolis you call home, but in Spain community networking works quite differently.
Long live the poster, the wall, the adhesive and small-town telephone boxes, public noticeboards and boarded-up shops. Here in Spain these are the true foundations of breaking neighbourhood news and the go-to information source of choice.
Get used to using them and putting your laptop down or your mobile away. The quickest and easiest way you’ll find out about what’s happening in and around town.
Embrace the (Lack of) Variety
Chances are if you’ve come from a city of over 500,000 people you’re pretty used to being spoiled for choice when it comes to kicking back in your leisure time. You better scale down those expectations for life in small town Spain!
You’ll be lucky to find a cinema in some places, let alone a bowling alley. What does that mean for you? You’ll have to find new hobbies and new ways of entertaining yourself of course. But it’s not all doom and gloom.
Make the most of this great country and engage with the culture. Learn how to cook Spanish style, work on your language skills, even choose a Spanish football team to support and show up in a bar wearing the colours.
Keeping busy isn’t the challenge you’d expect, there’s plenty to explore in even the smallest of cities.
In fact making the transition from big city to small town living in Spain needn’t be tough at all. Approach it with an open mind and you’ll slip straight in.
There’s no going back to London for me.