10 Random but Useful Things I Wish I Had Known Before Going to Granada

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Roma Sarathi
December 24, 2023

Bring cash!

Having physical euros on hand was so useful for me for paying for the taxi to get from the Granada airport to my homestay for the first time, and cash and coins are very often used in Spain, especially if you didn’t know that your credit card doesn't always get accepted in every store or restaurant like mine didn’t…it’ll also come in handy in smaller stores that sell little trinkets that may only be worth a couple little Euro coins, and personally, using coins made me feel like I barely spent any money at all (a dangerous feeling, but still worth it).

Make sure to drink water!!!

Water is not served free at restaurants like it is in the United States, and sometimes I forget to drink water if I don’t see it in front of me, so make sure to stay hydrated! Especially at the beginning of the fall semester when it can get extremely hot. It is a very American thing to carry your water bottle around with you but I highly support this and am still shocked that Spainiards don’t drink as much water. When it comes to a battle of wanting to blend in versus staying hydrated, there’s no need to conform to European standards of living here.

Mealtimes are gonna take a bit of adjusting to…

Much later in comparison to USA lunchtimes, Spanish lunchtime can range from anywhere between 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., sometimes earlier but more often later, and the siesta portion of the day follows. As far as I know, the post-lunch siesta isn’t practiced by all of Spain, but you might enjoy the period of relaxation after lunch to nap or just hang out in your room. And because lunch is later in the day, that means dinner is, too. A good portion of restaurants generally open around 8:00 p.m., however, the busiest dinner times aren’t until 9:00 p.m. hits, and if you go in too early to a restaurant or tapas place, you might find it decently empty. The nightlife in Granada, and in Europe in general, goes on for much longer in the nighttime, some students even party until 6:00 a.m. the following day, so this later dinner time is natural for most Granadinos.

These important everyday Spanish phrases

  • Con tarjeta = with (credit) card, a classic phrase, super simple and helpful for any purchases
  • Se puede…? = can I…?, generally used to ask for permission for things like entering places you’re not sure you can enter or if you're admiring someone’s dog and you really want to pet it
  • Porfa = shortened version of “por favor”, almost no one says por favor, or at least I feel like I didn’t hear it very much, but porfa or porfi are much more commonly used, even with professors at UGR (University of Granada)!
  • A ti, a vosotros, a ustedes = the response when you thank someone, most often used by wait staff who bring you food or items and dependent on how many people are thanking them

Granada has a lot going on!

The city has so much to explore and to do every day and every weekend and you’ll always find something interesting to do.  If you’re really stoked about going outside of Spain to different countries close by for cheap, definitely know that that’s an option and I, and others, have had great success with a little weekend getaway in another country in the EU. However, Granada has a lot of events going on all the time and so many little spots to be discovered, whether it be for food or for entertainment, and I would not knock the city until you try it. Not to mention, other cities in Spain have a lot to offer as well and are just a short (and cheap) bus or train ride away.

Make sure to greet people when you see them around or your host family when you get back home to your homestay!

I was surprised to find that saying “Hola” or “Buenas” was very common amongst people in your host family’s apartment building that you may have never met, as well as greeting the owner of a shop when you enter it. In the past, I thought that was only something you did in Asia, but I really enjoyed greeting the owners of shops and random strangers and feeling a small sense of community holding the door open for the people behind me. And if you live in a homestay, greeting your host family when you come home can even spark a little conversation about how your day went or what you were up to, which can help you practice your Spanish or help you get to know your host family a little more.

Get used to dressing in layers

Granada weather, especially when it gets to the middle of the fall semester, can be nuts. It’ll start out chilly when you’re walking to IES for your morning classes and by the time you’re heading out for lunch, the sun will be fully risen and you might be roasting a little by the window. And if you’re going out again in the night for a quick tapa or a late night class, it’s pretty guaranteed that it’ll be cold again. Wearing layers or purchasing an extra sweater from somewhere cheap and cute (like Mosaico) could definitely help you prepare for the ever-changing weather of the city.

Bring a small speaker!

I’ve seen this advice in other Correspondents' blogs and I was not smart enough to remember to follow it so I’m throwing it out there again. If you’re like me and you really enjoy listening to music, either with your friends or while you get ready to go out, etc, I would highly recommend bringing a small, portable speaker. For instance, my friends and I once had a picnic where we all pitched in on cheese, fruits, snacks, and crackers to share while we watched the sunset after a particularly hard day during finals week and the only thing that I think would’ve made it better was if one of us had brought a little speaker to put on some ambient music in the background. So if that sounds like something you would miss out on, definitely consider bringing a speaker!

Don’t worry about your Spanish skills

Everyone is going to feel a little more comfortable with their Spanish skills, even if just a little, by the end of the semester, no matter what your level is when you arrive. You might not even feel it, but if you’re a language person like me, you might notice the ease with which certain Spanish words pop into your brain and certain phrases that come much more naturally to you. So many of the professors and staff at IES Granada that I’ve had the pleasure of being taught or advised by will be able to notice just how much you’ve grown over the semester, and will also be able to help you out when you’re struggling along the way. My advice would be to just let yourself make mistakes and try to forget any embarrassment that might come up, especially in Spanish class where everyone’s learning together.

Make spontaneous decisions!!

One of my favorite nights out in Granada was a plan that my friend had to beg me to take part in. I remember saying, “No, I can’t, I might wanna have a night in tonight,” but once I was convinced and I managed to get out of the house, it was probably the best night out I had had that whole month. Sometimes, plans don’t always go the way you hoped and you might not feel securely in your comfort zone in every situation as it happens, but it’s always important to try new things, especially while studying abroad. I feel like I learned a lot about myself and the kind of person I want to be just by trying new things and letting go of some of the worries that were holding me back in Granada.

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Roma Sarathi

I am a Linguistics major at Bryn Mawr College with a vow to learn as many languages as I can. You can find me eating Trader Joe's Chili & Lime Flavored Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips and rewatching a comfort show or movie.

2023 Fall
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Bryn Mawr College
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