Friday, 18 March 2011

A Brit abroad in Sevilla, Spain

 This month's guest post is particularly close to my heart, as guest blogger Kim is currently living in Seville. In this post, she explains what took her from England to Andalusia and the reasons why she's 'becoming Sevillana'.

I was always a bit of a home-bird when I was a child. I even cried all night when I stayed at my neighbour’s house. Travel was never instilled in me either - my parents didn’t travel abroad until I was in my teens - but when I made my first flight from the nest at 17, embarking on a round-the-world trip, there was no holding me back. 

At high school my teachers claimed that I had linguistic skills and encouraged me to take Spanish at GSCE. I couldn’t understand the importance back then, but I am so grateful for their kind words as a Masters in translation later brought me to take a placement in a translation agency in Seville, Spain.
I had visited Seville and mesmerising Andalusia before: I fell in love with the atmosphere, and when I was offered a placement there in 2009, I couldn’t refuse. During the three-month stint, I was getting to grips with translation during the day and slogging away at my MA dissertation most evenings. I lived for the weekends when I would meander through the labyrinth of el barrio de Santa Cruz, the city’s old quarter, getting to know every nook and cranny.

Exploring Santa Cruz

 As my placement was drawing to close, I began to make friends and realised that there was so much that I still wanted to live (mainly the infamous feria de abril and solemn Semana Santa) which were still a few months away. With no other plans and a yearning to gain some more sought-after translation experience, I requested an extension. My boss accepted, offering a further six months, which later evolved into a “definitive” contract. 

Seville Cathedral

So, why did I take the contract? One of the main reasons was language: my passion for Spanish is so strong, and I know that if I were to go back home, I would speak a fraction of what I do day-in, day-out. Here, apart from one British colleague, all of my daily interactions are with Spaniards. My linguistic skills were relatively good before I made the move, but both professionally and socially, they have come on leaps and bounds. Andalusia and its regional accent fascinates me, so much so that I seem to have adopted a local (unfortunately rather rural) twang, lisping or eating “s” sounds: i.e. “athi, the dithen lath cothah –así, se dicen las cosas –that’s how things are said

The second reason was “experience”: very few UK translation agencies take on trainee translators, often requiring at least two years experience, so I really wanted to take the opportunity to improve my career. I am certainly doing just that: I work at least 40 hours a week and translate quite specialised material, although I get far fewer peanuts than I would back home. Despite my frustration about pay, I have to feel “lucky” in a way: Andalusia has been one of the regions worst affected by the crisis and many of my degree-holding friends are either unemployed, becarios (interns) or working voluntarily.
Lastly was culture: I thrive on exploring new places and trying to understand cultures. There is plenty to fuel my need here as Seville is filled to the brim with festivities and overflowing with culinary delights around every corner: despite financial woes, Andalusians love to eat out and the region has the most bars per metre squared in the whole of Spain. 

Getting out of Seville: Grazalema

Since being taken on, I have made sure that I immerse myself deeper into Seville and its surroundings. Most weekends are spent travelling to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the coast or mountains. Or, when Seville-bound, getting on the Sevici (community bikes) and heading to town to tapear (go for tapas). I love testing out a new tapas bar (no wonder I am somewhat heavier since I arrived) and have tried everything placed in front of me, from squid to snails. 

Tucking into tapas

However, the highlight of my time here so far has to be the festivals. Although I am not religious in the slightest, I was completely blown away by the Easter festival Semana Santa (Holy Week). The whole city comes to a standstill to allow the processions to pass through the streets – some of which take up to 12 hours to complete a circuit. Some of the locals’ passion is genuinely astounding.   

One of the pasos from a semana santa procession

 What captivated me more, however (and not because of the alcohol involved) was la feria de abril (April Fair). It is a week-long sensory overload of a celebration, revolving around meeting up with friends, drinking, eating and dancing sevillanas. And not to mention the wonderfully vibrant dresses that girls spend months planning – I had always wanted a traje de flamenca, and last year a friend was kind enough to lend me one. Many people complimented me, saying that they would never believe I were a guiri (foreigner) but I’m pretty sure they changed their mind when they saw my robot-esque dance moves.

Kim in her traje de flamenca at the feria de abril

I think that when friends and family see my photos of my mini adventures, they often think that life is like a holiday for me here, forgetting that it isn’t all sunshine and sangrias. There’s a lot to get used to, things that now I probably take for granted as I have come so accustomed to “their” way of life: simple things like eating tea at 10 o’clock at night. The heat – summer is scorching and 48 degrees is not something to be envious of. And personalities – people seem a lot brasher here and common courtesy is not, well, so common. I also often still get red-faced and a little annoyed when people jovially make fun of a mistaken pronunciation – proving I have still got a bit of Brit in me, taking myself a little too seriously at times.

But above all I live abroad, and life away from your loved ones is hard at times. I know that I am not a million miles away from the UK, and that travel is inexpensive in comparison to years bygone, but with limited holidays (I have the same as any local) and poor pay, visits home are normally saved for special occasions. I am in a constant tug-of-war wondering whether I should stay or not. I’m at an age when friends are settling down and starting to have children; children that will barely know their Aunty Kim, and grandparents that are slowly wilting. But I can comfort myself with the belief that the people who really care about me know that I love my life here and they are happy for me (and their free holidays!).

Kim is currently working as an in-house translator in Seville. She has a passion for Andalusia's language, culture and food, and enjoys writing about her experiences on her blog Becoming Sevillana


  1. Love this post and can completely understand your love affair with Seville. I came in 2001 with my husband, as we took a 1 year "sabbatical" from our stressful jobs. We have now been here 10 years!!! It's gets harder and harder each year to return to the UK. There is something very hypnotic about Seville.

  2. I really want to go!!!! In france on my year abroad (ironic that I want to go to Spain!) but have fallen in love with all the Spanish people and their language, and way of life here! They are just so fun. The french take themselves too seriously, like the English!


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