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Having spent a year in Spain, there were some things about the language that caught my attention. One of the more interesting things was the fact that some brand names have replaced names for the actual products. Now then, we have this in English so it isn’t a totally new concept. We say Tippex to refer to white correction fluid, Hoover to refer to a vacuum cleaner; Post-It to refer to sticky notes – the Spanish use this last one too but pronounce it with a silent first ‘t’, like ‘Posit’.
For those of you who have recently received an acceptance letter to study in Spain, you’re probably already daydreaming about la vida loca that awaits you: a new world where the hardest decision will be which tapas to accompany your glass of sangria, sunbathing on a beach as the sounds of flamenco and salsa music float through the air. For the most part, you won’t be disappointed. However, what the study abroad brochure fails to mention is that your year abroad will be soundtracked by the worst kind of music, that your favourite band would never dream of touring Spain… but also, that the music festivals back at home have been ripping you off for years.
The debate surrounding the Spanish tradition of bullfighting is one that continues to polarise, dividing people between those who see it as an antiquated custom that glorifies the torture of animals, and those who consider it simply as part of the country’s history and culture, with very little grey area in between. As a student on a year abroad in Madrid, a bullfight was high on my to-do list when I moved here. I wasn’t being naïve: I knew what the night would entail, but I thought the only way I could have an opinion on the topic was to experience it first hand, so fuelled by a ‘when in Rome’ mentality, last weekend I attended a bullfight at Madrid’s Plaza de Toros de las Ventas.
Why is Spain in a crisis? What is this ‘siesta’ nonsense? Why is the Mercadona jingle so catchy? These were just some of the seemingly unanswerable questions I asked myself when I started my Year Abroad in Spain five months ago, but perhaps the most pressing question, and the one that required the most urgent response, was: when is it socially/morally/ethically acceptable to give a besito?