|Mandatory first-day-of-school pic at my colegio in Elviña (A Coruña)|
I have been in the very green and rainy northwestern region of Galicia for almost 4 months now. This is my first time here but my third time in Spain (as I may have mentioned before) so while being in Spain is not new to me, being in Galicia is. It’s unlike any other region of Spain that I have ever been in to date and day by day I’m discovering more and more little aspects of the culture, languages and people that are quickly capturing my heart. However, when you arrive to a new country or new city, you’re bound to make a few mistakes on your own and I am no exception! Scroll through this post to learn the top 5 mistakes I have made and strive to not make them yourself should you visit or move here. Or do if you want to have similar adventures and have some stories in which you can laugh at yourself later on down the road, then by all means don’t take my advice, haha!
The top 5 mistakes NOT to make in Galicia are (in my opinion):
1. DON’T leave your umbrella in a a public paragüero (umbrella stand or holder) that’s near a door!
|The only thing I have left to show for from my first umbrella: the cover|
Chances are, if it’s a super cute or colorful umbrella, and it’s in the holder with all the rest, it will get stolen. When it starts to rain and someone else forgot their own umbrella and needs to dash on home, they’ll scoop yours right up and use it without a second thought. Having a good working umbrella is an essential part of daily life here. That is what happened to me when I accidentally left my super cute purple colored umbrella with silver hearts and a silver curved handle in the public umbrella stand at the library that’s right near the door. I have a slight vendetta against the person who took mine (which I highly suspect was a teenage girl or someone else who wanted it cause it was so cute – tear-). It was a rainy night and I spent the evening at the library working on a translation project and when I left for the night, I saw that all the umbrellas in the holder were gone – including mine. I still have the cover and hope that one of these days I will find it and get it back! I did buy another umbrella to replace the one that was stolen from me but I left that at my friend’s flat….in France! I just have bad luck with umbrellas these days. 🙁
Moral of the story: Buy a good sturdy umbrella (and rain boots) as soon as you arrive and keep an extremely close eye on them. You will need them both when the winter rain comes to stay!
2. DON’T take a long time to see the sights in your newly adopted region or city!
|The Atlantic coast and the grounds across the Torre de Hercules in October|
|With the Torre de Hercules on a cloudy day|
|Plaza de Maria Pita – where I finally felt like I was in Spain again!|
Castillo de San Antón on a gorgeous day one Saturday
Lighthouse in the middle of the Castillo de San Antón with beautiful flowers.
|Sailboats passing by the Castillo as seen from the top floor|
|The Torre as seen from distance on the huge walkway leading up to it|
|Playa de Riazor – one of my favorite views here!|
While there is still so much in Galicia I have not seen (Not to mention Northern Spain as a whole), I still haven’t seen everything there is to see in here in Coruña. I don’t live near the city center and my school is located way south of it so transportation and time are the biggest challenges I face. In fact, it took me almost a month to see the Castillo de San Antón and even visit the MUNCYT (Museo Nacional de Ciencias y Technologia) which is only a short 20 minute walk from my flat. I was always passing these places to go somewhere else so making time to go there and explore them took me well, some time, haha.
In the beginning of my time here I was also in the middle of trying to find a place to live and jet lag was sucking the life and energy out of me at the same time. There are many things you have to keep in mind when setting up in a new city or country but seeing the sights in your new home should be at the top of your list. If you don’t get to see them within the first few days or week of arriving, chances are you’ll develop a routine that you won’t deviate from a lot and then not be able to have time to go. However, if you’re the adventurous type and can keep the ‘carpe diem’ mindset, you’ll make sure you see all the sights and eventually be able to show them to visitors to your city, if you have some.
Side note: One of the downsides about living in Coruña is that the well-known historical sights are spread out in an already large city (in terms of land mass). The public transportation is good here but the buses stop running fairly early for a Spanish city which can make getting back from a trip to la cuidad vieja a little difficult if you don’t plan your time well.
3. NOT becoming a regular at a bar, cafe or restaurant
|A cup of tea with an actual lump of sugar at my favorite tapas bar|
When I first arrived in Coruña, I stayed in an AirBnb that was close to where my colegio was located due to its neighborhood and affordability. While it didn’t have the WiFi the host had promised it had, there was a bar with free WiFi just around the corner named TreBoBar where I sort of became a regular the first weekend I was here. I even had a slight problem one evening and the owner of the bar helped me out because he recognized me. However, since that weekend, there hasn’t been a cafe or restaurant that I frequent every day or week.
4. DON’T miss out on local/regional festivals and cultural events
|Pulpo a la gallega (pulpo a feira) at a pulpeira in Santiago|
Pretty self-explanatory. It took me a month to try the famous octopus dish here and I didn’t even try it in A Coruña! I spent Halloween in Santiago and ended up going to a well-known pulpeira there and feasted on a half ration of pulpo marinated in olive oil and sprinkled with salt and paprika. It wasn’t as if I wasn’t going to try it – because you have to- it was just a matter of did I want to shell out the extra money before we saw our first paycheck from the Xunta. Coincidentally, on the day we got paid, I tried it and was very impressed with the taste and texture of the octopus and plan to have it once in awhile. I don’t have the urge to eat it everyday but I do want to take advantage of having it once a month while I’m still here.
5. DON’T always plan to shop at well-known stores, shop local
|Torta de Santiago around Todos los Santos (in October/November)|
Almost all bigger cities in Spain have the most popular chains scattered around: Zara, MaryPaz, H&M, Mango, Bershka, Burger King, McDonald’s, Telepizza, Domino’s, Mercadona, etc. And while most of them provide good service and fast, affordable food or products, you might not get the best quality or service had you visited a local shop. I actually haven’t frequented the big chain stores here and have shopped at local stores almost since day one. I wanted to include this on the list as it’s something I believe is very important and can influence your time here in Galicia but also in every region of Spain.
BONUS: 6. NOT learning any of the Galician (galego) language
|Famous phrase about the Camino that’s engraved into the street in Santiago|
|The Biblia Galega that I purchased with my first paycheck from the Xunta back in November!|
|It goes well with the bilingual (English-Spanish) Bible I already owned, doesn’t it?|
While galego is more widely spoken in cities in the interior of the region like Santiago de Compostela and Ourense (perhaps Pontevedra), you will still hear it spoken on the streets of Coruña. You will most likely only hear it spoken by older people but there are places where young and old alike speak it (Santiago for example that practically functions solely in galego, haha). You will use and hear more Spanish than any other language in the region but knowing even just a few phrases or words in the Galician language will not only impress the people around you but it will help you understand the culture. There are some words that are unique to galego that don’t have an exact translation to another language but are fascinating to learn. A lot of words in the language are directly tied to the culture so when you learn the word, you learn more about the culture and how to understand the people around you and how they live.
You can certainly get around and function just fine without it (and you won’t need it when you visit other parts of Spain) but you may miss out on getting to know and understand the local culture. I often tell people that I am pro-local culture and being here in a country I know well makes no difference. I’m learning new things about the Galician language and culture everyday and it’s very fascinating to me. And it gives me more motivation to keep reading my Biblia Galega and thumbing through the kids’ books at my school’s library whenever I get a chance.
And all of the official announcements and paperwork at my school are always written in galego instead of castellano. It’s not common for a school in Coruña to do that I’ve heard but I like it! I learn a new word everyday. 🙂
Have you visited Galicia before and made your own mistakes? If so, what would be your top 5 mistakes? Do you make the same mistakes over and over again when you travel? Why? Tell me below in the comments!
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