In 2006 I went for one-year Erasmus to Granada in the south of Spain. It was the best time of my life and a real hard knocks for me. Find out how my moving and searching for flat looked like. It was a nice adventure.
Granada: in search of accommodation
As it usually happens when we move to a new place, first you look around for a contemporary place to stay. It can take some time when we finally find our “home sweet home”. Beginnings in a new city are never easy, but who said they would be. Around 3 thousand students come to Granada every year as Erasmus exchange. To compare, only about 300 to Warsaw. So a place which is much smaller that our capital city must accommodate all these people somewhere.
For a beginning, I suggest you spending a night in one of the hotels which are in loads here. For the unitiated, it’s a kind of a student hotel in which prices fluctuate from 20 to 56 € for a night. Frankly speaking, it’s not cheap considering Polish realities but let’s be honest, we’re in Spain where you pay in euro. We’re always left with an option of spending our night in one of staircases or in a car if we have one. The couple of Poles I met were camping like this in their 20-year-old car for a week! There wouldn’t be anything weird in that but for the fact that they didn’t take a bath for equally long, which they proudly talked about. This is the option, however, for thrill seekers or should I say smell seekers. I recommend hostels for mere mortals.
You can find plenty of addresses at Hostels or Hostelworld. I personally recommend ”Matilda” at Puentezuelas opposite facildad de traductores (the center). You should remember that the number of places is limited as well, so it’s good to book online or simply come as early as possible.
Meet former Erasmus students from Granada
Luckily for me I didn’t have to deal with it. Before I left I got an address of some Spanish girl from an Office for Foreign Affairs at my faculty and she provided a roof over my head at the beginning. Here I’d like to draw your attention to Spanish hospitality. At Anna’s, this is my Spanish friend’s name, I spent over four days having a room and a bathroom at my disposal. Besides, I could use the whole house- a TV set, the Internet, etc. The best part is that Anna’s whole family treated me as one of them or even better because I always got a double portion of food. I have to admit that I ate more than a host and a host mother kept asking all the time – “Tienes hambre todavia? (English: Are you still hungry?) Quieres beber?” (English: Perhaps you want to drink?). It was really lovely.
I could always count on a hug or a warm word as well. At first, the lack of language knowledge wasn’t an obstacle in communication at all. I don’t know why but Latino people have that special something that lets them explain everything without using words. At every turn I heard that Poland and Spain were very similar countries. I believe it’s really true. We have similar economic situation after we entered EU, great hospitality, talkativeness and the love for eating, drinking and having fun in common. In these terms, our countries will always get along.
Spanish hospitality and breakfast
When it comes to food, I’d like to highlight some differences here which everyone will notice at prima facie. Unlike Poles, Spanish people greatly value having meals together, especially breakfasts. Always the whole family sits down to it. As a standard, breakfasts are served sweet, so it’s something good for gourmands. Forget boring sandwiches. Here they eat cornflakes with milk, yeast cupcakes, crescent rolls with chocolate or croissants with jam. You drink juice or cocoa. Dinners, on the other hand, are very lavish and served between 12 and 4pm. Siesta is of course obligatory after such a meal, you usually sleep it over or spend it in front of TV. For Spanish people this type of rest is a standard routine, especially in the afternoon. They will always find time for it as it is simply their Spanish mentality. For this reason, all classes at university are divided into “por la mañana” (in the morning) and “por la tarde” (in the evening) so that everyone can have time for siesta. You can read more about it and my adventures here.
Granada: in search of a new home
Coming back to the accommodation issue, same as in Warsaw, it’s not an easy thing. At the beginning I want to highlight that you won’t find anything like dormitories for students here. This word is unknown for the Spanish. There are only the so called boarding houses (residencias) where besides a place to sleep you’re provided with food, washing, etc. The cost of such a pleasure in 2006 in Granada was 400 – 500 € a month, which is more than my entire scholarship.
The most popular form of accommodation is “piso compartido” – a room rented with others in a flat. In Granada, like in entire Spain, there are plenty of such flats. It happens because almost each Spanish family buys a flat for their kids when they go to study. In such a flat each person has a separate bedroom and at their and other flatmates’ disposal there’s a common living area with sofas and a TV set and a bathroom, a kitchen. Unlike Warsaw, for example, it’s not a problem here to find an advert about renting a flat (“alquilar”). They are basically scattered around the whole city on posts, fences or phone booths. The biggest number of them can be found at squares which are plentiful here. You can also go to ASEE office where you can obtain a list of available places to rent or use an agency (an average fee is 200 €). The less ambitious can visit such websites as: Compartepiso.com or Pisocompartido.com or Loquo.com.
Each flat hunt begins with walking around the city and collecting adverts which usually fill up the whole bag later. The next step is calling and making appointments to see a flat. In this situation, if you don’t have a friend with unlimited number of free minutes as it was in my case, you have to be prepare for bearing huge costs. Most phone numbers at adverts are mobiles and calling them from phone booths was a very expensive thing. Prices of phone cards at different operators were 5,10,15, 20 €. While sim card e.g. in Vodafon cost 15,90 €, in which I had 11 € for talks and a bonus for getting another 7 €. As you can see, using mobiles in Spain was expensive and I guess it still is. The Spanish themselves admit that phones take the most of their cash. I already spent 1/3 of my scholarship.
Do you want to live in Granada? You have to win casting.
Despite the fact that the selection of flats is really big, renting is not an easy thing. It doesn’t happen at once, even if we made up our minds. Usually there are ten or more candidates as it all depends on the flat standard. The only thing we can do is to leave our number and wait for somebody to call us. I know from my own experience that it’s good to try to say something in Spanish to a landlord just to endear yourself and win the casting. Due to the number of candidates, it’s important to visit as many flats as possible. Of course, sometimes everything is a matter of chance. My two friends- Kasia and Rita found a flat on the first day. The first on for 165 € and the other for 130 € a month without the so called “gastos” which are costs of water, gas and heating. These things cost around 30 -40 € a month.
Granada and my new home
I had to spend three days looking for my flat. I got it only because the Spanish girls who were living there decided to rent it to the first person who paid cash at once. It fell on me. As a matter of fact, the flat didn’t come up to all my expectations and I dreamt of a better one. However, the idea of staying without a roof over my head seemed even worse.
I have to admit though that the plat had some advantages as well- the Spanish girls were friendly and open to foreigners who didn’t speak Spanish, the rent was 136 € a month without gastos. Besides, you didn’t have to pay for the days you didn’t live in, and this is very rare in Spain. You usually have to pay for the whole month or the half just like in the case of my friends. The location itself is great as well, close to both my department and the centre. The location is of a great importance. Although Granada is not big and, as a matter of fact, you can go everywhere on foot, most students choose their flats in the centre. All social life is booming here. It’s not worth choosing districts that are further away because of an attractive look of a flat and a low price. You’ll surely regret that later.
Remember also that your first flat doesn’t have to be your last. During second semester after learning Spanish I changed mentioned flat for better one. You want to here more about it? Let me know in comments.