I’m Mark, and my hometown is Toronto, Canada. I was born in 1995.

My mother is French, and my Dad is Canadian. I had holidays in Lyon, France, when I was 12 years old, and it was great meeting my European family and seeing the place where my mother was born. I fondly remember the old buildings and the French meals – some were too rich for me. I was 12 or 13 on one of those holidays, and I was at that time feasting on Big Macs! I’m better now. I don’t eat junk food anymore.

I’ve found a lot of similarities between France and Spain. I’m an English teacher in Madrid. I took my Trinity College CertTESOL course some four months ago. It seems like yesterday when I panicked about my teaching practice classes. My pad classes now are not bad at all. I find them easy. I guess I was well trained, so these classes I do are great, and I breeze through them, the preparation of my lesson plans and the teaching.

I use a lot of the material I made on my training course, so I don’t have to work a lot with my lesson plans. It sounds cheesy but I was well prepared on the course so now I am having an easy time.

Some weekends I take the train – the high-speed trains are great – to see other parts of Spain. There are some local holidays in two weeks, so I’ll visit my grandparents in Lyon.

Time

One of my first surprises about living and working here is how late everything is. I can notice this in many ways. For example, one of my first days here, I woke up at 08:00 and wanted some milk and jam for my breakfast. “No problem”, I thought, “there is a supermarket down the road”, so I put on some clothes and ran down there, only to find out that it was closed. “Closed!? Something must have happened.” I remembered having seen a smaller grocery store somewhere near here, but when I got there, it was also closed.

I was a bit confused, so I went into the local bar to get a coffee with milk and a croissant for breakfast on my way back. The waiter told me that the shops here open at 10:00 in the morning and are open until 22:00.

My second surprise came at lunchtime. I taught from 10:00 in the morning to 14:00, so I would eat my lunch at noon. I couldn’t see many people in the park having lunch, but I was so hungry I didn’t care if I was alone.

In one of my classes, we talked about meals and mealtimes, and my students couldn’t understand what lunch was….a meal at noon, only a sandwich or a salad, and then nothing more before going home at 19:00 or 19:30! That didn’t make sense to them. In addition, when I told them that we would eat dinner at 17:00 or at the latest at 18:00, they had problems understanding. The students claimed that nobody could eat lunch, the most important meal, as early as noon! And even more absurd; dinner at 18:00! What if you got hungry at night, like at 22:00? One more dinner, maybe?

Later

So, I got two new experiences:

Everything is much later than in Canada, and secondly, the meals are different.

Let’s have a look at this.

People in general start working much later than in Canada, and they also finish later. So at the weekends, you will find people of all ages being out at night. I was pretty shocked the first time I saw two parents on their way home with their small kids at 23:30. I have even seen adults having dinner with their children at a restaurant at midnight! What would people say and think if this happened in Toronto?

Breakfast is generally at around 08:00 in the morning and consists of a coffee with milk, a glass of juice and a croissant. Then some people have a sandwich and maybe a small glass of beer or wine at around 11:00.

Lunchtime is mainly at 14:30 or 15:00, which is the day’s main meal, quite like our dinner. So you usually have three dishes, a starter, a main dish and a dessert. So the lunch break lasts one to two hours and ends up with an espresso.

Some people have a coffee with milk and some biscuits at around 18:00, and then the last meal is at around 22:00, which is like our dinner. Some people have the second hot meal of the day, while others have a salad or a big, Spanish sandwich called “bocadillo”.

I don’t know if I will adjust to these things. I need a bigger breakfast in the morning, like some cheese and maybe scrambled eggs. I also find it strange to have dinner so late and go to bed directly afterwards.

Because dinner and most other things are so late here, you´ll find a lot of people going for a walk late at night, dropping by their local bar for a drink (or two) or just sitting on a bench watching people walk by.

The thing is that once you start working, you will slowly adapt to these mealtimes, and instead of the stomach warning you at noon or 17:00, it will start growling at 13:00 or 21:00. Strange things happen when you are abroad.

Some questions that I haven’t found the answers to yet are:

  • When do Spanish people go to bed?
  • Do they need less sleep than others?
  • Will I become like them after some time?

The food they eat here is somewhat different from the food back home, but that will be a different story. I’m full and drowsy, and I aim to be in bed by 00:30 tonight.