You’ve been debating for months, weighing pros and cons, talking with family members and friends, saving money, and losing sleep, but finally you have decided to take the leap and move to Spain to become a Meddeas Language Assistant for a school year! After preparing all your paperwork and attending your visa appointment, receiving your documents, and booking your flight, there is only one thing left to worry about—CLOTHES! What will you pack for Spain if you are going as a Language Assistant? What will you not pack? How do you even think clearly about all the things you will need for nine months and four seasons?! You may be freaking out a bit, and if you’re anything like me, you are already overwhelmed as your overpacking self is tempted to shove your entire life into a luggage and pray it weighs 22 kilos. Not to worry! As one who has lived in Spain for a year and a half, there are plenty of do’s and don’ts I have picked up along the journey in this specific area.
Temperature Differences in Spain
There are 17 autonomous regions that make up the beautiful, diverse country you will be calling your home for the next year. Each area holds its own very unique qualities, including weather! In the north of Spain, rain and fog are quite common. Summer temperatures average from 19°C/66°F up to around 23°C/73°F, and winter temperatures with a low of 5°C/41°F and a high of about 11°C/51°F. A good rain coat, sturdy umbrella, and a pair of rain boots are probably an essential for places in the North. For example, in the Basque Country, Galicia, and Navarra, as they tend to be the wettest areas of the country.
On the other hand, the summer in the south of Spain can be scorching. Jerez De La Frontera in Cádiz reaches up to 33°C/91°F! For Americans from Texas or Arizona, this may sound like nothing, but for Spaniards it’s pretty hot. Why do you think siestas were created?! In Andalucía (southern region of Spain), people began to avoid the heat by taking these naps during the midday hours when the sun’s rays were the strongest. On average, the South experiences a summer between 28°C/82°F and 24°C/75°F, depending on the exact city. Winter tends to be milder in the South, with an average low of 6°C/43°F and high of 13°C/55°F.
Madrid vs Barcelona
In my experience, having lived in Barcelona for over a year and having visited Madrid many times, these two cities still leave me somewhat baffled with their weather patterns. Even currently, as I write this article, I am sitting cross legged on my balcony with the sun beaming down on me, a nice 21°C/68°F in February! However, winter in Barcelona can get pretty cold so, as most flats do not have central heating, be prepared with plenty of warm clothes. In both cities in the summer, August has to be the hottest month, and many madrileños escape from the blistering city center to join the Catalans on la playa. I’ve found that the key to survive the diverse temps in Barcelona is definitely layers! There are many days, especially in late winter and early spring, that can start off freezing and fold into a sweatshirt-stripping-sunglasses kind of day.
Something important to keep in mind: Meddeas places Language Assistants all over the country, so when you receive your placement, you can research more specifically your own city or town and nail down the weather averages in the exact place. You will have a better idea of what you can bring or leave behind.
Work Culture and Attire
Help teach! That’s what you came to Spain to do after all! I’m sure you want to make a great first impression at your school, dressing smart and professionally during your time as a Language Assistant. This can also influence what you decide to throw in your bag and what you decide to leave at home. At my school, the teachers dress pretty casually, even wearing jeans and All-Star converse. While it largely depends on your school, in my experience, it is always better to dress up than dress down. Look good, feel good! There also may be occasions where you will want to dress more business casual or professional, so be sure to keep that in mind and maybe bring a blazer or two.
In addition, throughout the year, regardless of your specific school placement, there will be hands-down be carnivals, parties, festivals, dress-up days, traditional school/religious celebrations, you name it. These days you might wish you’d brought that funky feather mask from your 8th birthday party, buried somewhere deep inside grandma’s closet, but don’t worry: Spain has plenty of places to buy cheap things like this you may need to join in on the school fun, which leads us into a very important section of this blog post…
What to Pack for Spain: Bring This and Not That
There are probably a handful of things you are staring at right now, saying to yourself… “What if I need this for something?!” I mean… a year is a long time… My advice: bring those clothes that mean a lot to you, the ones you wear most frequently and the ones you know you will continue to wear in your every day. Less is best! You will most likely acquire lots of things along the way and you don’t want to look back and see your pile has tripled in size. Also, in lots of cities during the post-holiday months of January and June, there are major rebajas (sales) in almost every store (danger zone for your suitcase)!
Another thing, leave your straightener, curler, or blow dryer, and opt to buy a cheap one when you arrive in Spain. In my experience, the voltages are different and we have broken them several times. Some other things you may want to leave at home include big books, room decorations, accessories like big purses, expensive jewelry, etc. Once you pack your bag away and move, I promise you won’t even remember that 300-page novel you just had to have with you on your flight. Bottom line, whether you will be living in the North or the South, roll those clothes and pack light!
On the other hand, it is important to remember that you will most likely be pretty far from home on this journey of yours in Spain and therefore might want a few mementos that remind you of your room, family, friends, etc. Likewise, your students may like to see things from your home country and you could even use them in class lessons possibly (example: American dollars). It’s also nice to bring photos from home to personalize your room and make it feel more cozy. Remember: don’t get stressed with packing as most of the things you might need, you can find here.
By Madeline C., 2018/2019
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