What to expect when raising kids in Spain

Raising kids in Spain is different, and it doesn’t matter how much research you put in to it, nothing can really prepare you until you experience it first hand. I certainly thought that I had a fair idea of what to expect, but I found out in time, some things are a lot easier to adjust to than others.

I’d like to look back and see how far we have come since we moved here. It’s been a journey of discovery and learning, we had some difficult times but the good times are far more memorable.Β I firmly believe that by exposing our children to different cultures, languages and traditions gives them a much better understanding of the world. This past few years have been a cultural learning curve and something that we feel very lucky to experience.

So with a positive and open minded view I would like to share some light hearted insights on my experiences,Β  how I have adjusted to raising my kids in Spain and how having a sense of humour and positive outlook has helped me through the times when I really needed it the most!

We get 12 weeks of summer holidays

Just the thought of the 6 weeks holidays back in the UK use to make me break out in sweats. What the hell do I do with the kids for 6 weeks?! With the weather being unpredictable most of the time and having to pay on a lot of days out I really need to be creative in keeping the kids entertained.

12 weeks of summer holidays sound really long, but with guaranteed sunny days everyday, the kids spend most of their time outdoors playing or cooling off in the pool. During weekends we invite our friends for BBQ or paella and with beaches only 20 minutes drive away, trips to the seaside whenever we want is a cheap and fun way to keep the children occupied.

Schools times depends on the type of school

My children attend a concertado school therefore their hours are longer, from 9:00 – 5:00. This was a big change for the boys because in the UK they usually finish at 3:20. Some public schools start a little earlier at 8:30-2:00 and an early finish time ofΒ  1:00 or 2:00 during the summer.

Public primary school starts at 9:00-12:00 andΒ 15:00-17:00, not forgetting the two and a half break for lunch and siesta. So if you have children at different ages, be prepared to do a lot of running (driving) around!

Lots of late nights outdoors especially during the summer

We watched Holland v Spain at last years World Cup with our Dutch and Spanish friends. We’re not fans of football, but any excuse to see our friends and to spend time with the kids is good enough for us!

Of course we weren’t the only one who came in with a large group of children, almost everyone in town were families. The kids played football in the streets while the adults cheered on in front of the big screen and even though Spain was sent out with their pride in tatters, the good atmosphere continued as the night went on that we decided to stay for longer. The best thing of all, not one person complained or gave out dirty looks just because we were out with the children after 10pm!

Be prepared to let your kids use fireworks

I nearly had a heart attack when my 7 year old asked me for a box of fireworks last year. But his friends had them, he told me. He never handled fireworks before only sparklers for goodness sakes! So I wasn’t about to hand him a box of something that can potentially blow his fingers off!

Fireworks and fire displays are a normal part of life in Spain, and during fiestas especially the Fallas, everyone enjoys letting off their own fireworks. Even kids. Last year was the first time I gave my son the permission to use mini petardos, bang snaps and smoke bombs. Anxiously and with very close supervision!

Swearing is uh, ‘normal’

Of course I’d go crazy if I hear any of my kids swear! So you can imagine my horror when I heard adults swear while my kids were around! I looked around to see if anyone thought the same, but everyone carried on like nothing happened. Spaniards love to express themselves whether it’s using hand gestures, talking at the top of their voice, and yes even swearing.

Two years later, I think I’m starting to become immuned to it and I try not to flinch as much as I used to. But it’s not always easy especially when I’m in the car with the children and an explicit version of ‘Thrift Shop’ comes on the radio. Solution: Don’t react. Let’s pretend we didn’t hear that shall we? Where’s the switch button!?!

Be prepared to do homework. And lots of it!

I bloody hate homework and I thought I passed this stage 20 years ago! In Spain children have a LOT of homework. My 7 year old get at least 2-3 homeworks a night and that doesn’t include the times when he also have to revise for exams.

Some things include pages of writing excercises, listening to CDs or memorising poems. They also get booklets of homework to do during the summer, Christmas, Easter Holidays, Fallas etc… FGS he’s 7 years old! Give him a break! I can go on about how they give far too much work for the kids to do, but I will mention that on another post. For now, I try to help them as much as I can even if it means helping with colouring…Shhhh….

Your child will go through personality ‘changes’

It’s inevitable that your child will finally adapt to their new life, their accents and mannerisms will change. It’s amazing how they can confidently ‘switch’ from one language to another in order to keep a conversation going between us and our friends, something that still impress me to this day.

My son has now developed an accent (which I think is super cute). Sometime he says words the wrong way around in English, he thinks that Barcelona is the greatest team in the world and he prefers prawns to chicken nuggets!

Are you an expat raising kids in Spain or anywhere else in the world? What is the hardest or easiest thing that you had to adjust to in your adopted country?

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7 Comments

  1. I love how the kids can spend so much time outside, even late in the evening. I’m interested in your experience of school in Spain as my oldest will soon be enrolling. I think even in the UK the little kids get more homework now than they used to – I got zilch until I was 11!

    1. I agree Georgia when I was at school (many moooooons ago) we didnt get as much homework either. My son who is 14 now (12 when he came here), didnt get as much when we were in UK, so coming to Spain was a shock for him. It took a while (and still does sometimes) to get him to keep on top of it. Bringing older kids to Spain can prove a little difficult, when it comes to different way of schooling and not to mention the language. Thankfully he has become fluent, his excuse only is that they give out too much work. I have spoken to many expats about this and they all seem to agree that the kids get far too much homework! In a way it’s a good thing, but also stressful when I have to keep pushing them to get things done! :D x

      However my other son who is 7 years finds it OK, he does have an occasional moan about it, but he’s used to it so it’s a lot easier! How old is your child? :D x

  2. Interesting post! I think the Spanish weather certainly helps define the parenting culture -an outdoor culture! And a sunny climate helps pass a 12 week summer holiday for sure……. I shudder even thinking about that with a Dutch or English summer!

    I recognise the swearing thing in the Netherlands too – but I’m still shocked at the words used around children fifteen years on. I’ll get over it one day. Maybe.

    Thanks for sharing and linking up #ExpatLifeLinky
    Amanda recently posted…The November 2015 Expat Life LinkyMy Profile

  3. We spent 5 beautiful years in Spain and all the things you touched upon here are what make it incredibly special. We’re now living in the Netherlands (which I think is probably relatively similar to GB culture wise compared to Spain at least!) and it’s just not the same. We just spent last weekend back in Barcelona and we really miss it!
    Julie M recently posted…A Quick Escape β€œHome” to BarcelonaMy Profile

  4. Wonderful photos. Love this post. My in-laws live in Spain so we go a lot and my kids love it there. We do too. As for living there though I’m sure that’s a different kettle of fish – as you obviously know! I love the late nights there siesta. Every country should have siesta! I’m American and raising my kids in Britain. But they were born here so have not had to adjust like yours have. One of the hardest things for me is learning the school system. I’m Ok with first schools now, having had all three go through that an my youngest is in year 2. I have two children in high school and my eldest is doing his GCSE years. This is very challenging for me because it’s totally foreign and a brand new concept for me. I think schooling does depend on which type of school. I know Americans who put their kids in International schools so they don’t have to follow the British school system and curriculum. They also have a longer summer! Mine are all in State schools and our experience has been very good, I’m so happy with the schools… but it is a learning curve for me. The kids seem to be fine with it all! So nice to meet you and discover your blog #ExpatLifeLinky
    Meghan Fenn recently posted…The Mothership Sleep Support for expat parentsMy Profile

  5. Oh that homework sounds wonderful. I am always complaining that my children do not get enough to do and have to set my own for them. They finish at 2.30 though so I feel they need more learning time in the day. With a 5 pm finish (which they have had in the past) I think they probably need a little less homework.

    On a completely different note what breed of dog is that? Is he an Andalusian Shepherd? We had one, years ago that we rescued in Nigeria of all places. He was a wonderful family guard dog and gave us many years of pleasure before the beatings of his former life caught up with him. I have never seen another!

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