Spanish 101 for Guiris (From the Guiri Perspective)

Essential Spanish 101 aka Spanish from the Guiri perspective

Interesting Words/Phrases (literal translations in brackets if I know them Additional Spanish in Italics)

Friolera/o: A person who is always cold. Yes, there is a word for that. Amazing! A word that describes me! A person who is always hot is Calentita

Cono: It means pussy.. or ‘cunt’… however the meaning is far less rude than in English. They use it how we use fuck… not literally… just all the time. Its much less rude then c***

Que Cono! Joder!

Me cago en la leche. (I shit in the milk) Yup. If a Spanish person says this they are PISSED OFF. There is also ‘me cago en todo’ (I shit on everything)

La pera, la leche. (The pear, the milk) Basically this means something is THE shit. (But not just shit). ‘Eres la pera‘ (you are the pear)

La mierda de vida: (The shit of life.) AKA fuck my life.

Cutre: Encompasses the meanings of ‘shitty’, ’seedy’ and ‘dodgy’. A bar can be cutre, as can a road, or a person! You can basically use this word for anything… bad.(English doesn’t work quite the same way – a road can’t be ‘seedy’)

Culo: (Ass) The Spanish looove talking about asses. This includes the ass of the milk, the the bread, and other things. Basically it means the ‘end’, the ‘last’ piece. Quieres el culo? (Do you want the end/ass?)

However Toma por culo (take it up the ass) is a common Spanish insult.

Tienes un culo gordo!

La Verguenza: (the embarrassment) In a land of tapas, there is always the ‘last piece’ and this is called ‘la verguenza’ or in English… the shame/embarrassment…

Quieres la verguenza? (Do you want the shame?) 

Foca: (seal) I’m not sure whether this is commonly used in Spain or just among my group. But they use it the same way we use pig. FATTY.

Desaparecida/o: (‘Disappeared’ person) I like how we don’t have a word for this. Aka me when I lock my phone in a room and don’t reply to messages for a week.

Pirulo: Thingymajig according to wordreference 😛 Basically a word for when you don’t know the word.

The things I said all the time:

No entiendo (I don’t understand) Also no te entiendo, no lo entiendo

Que!? (What!?) / general exclamation/surprise/ couldn’t understand

Mi espanol es malo (My Spanish is bad)

No se…. Quizas … (I don’t know… maybe) The answer of a indecisive person (or someone who thinks about their actions)

Holaaaa (Hey!)

No pasa nada (Nothing happens) I’m not sure about this translation. Used like No worries!

De Nada (‘of nothing’) i.e. ‘You’re Welcome’

Que Asco! (How disgusting)

Ya lo se (I already know that!) haha I’m so rude

Que Pasa? (Whats up/Whats happened?)

Que tal?  (How are you/ How is… X)

Tengo que… (I have to)

Gracias (Thanks)

Quiero X (I want X)

Tengo hambre (I’m hungry)

Tengo frio (I’m cold)

Al menos (At least) I’m more optimistic than I thought

Lo siento (I’m sorry) I’m western and I have to apologize for everything.

No me gusta el tiempo pasado (I don’t like the past tense)

Did I leave out any interesting phrases?


Mejorada, San Fernando, Coslada

Mejorada, San Fernando, Coslada

During my first workaway (and during the weeks after) I spent a lot of time in the towns of Mejorada Del Campo and San Fernando De Henares. These places lie on the ‘outskirts’ of Madrid, and I would best equate them to suburbs. Although not  normal tourist destinations, my time spent there has been a highlight of my trip.While I was studying Spanish I took many trips via the metro or train to visit, and as a result I am now very well acquainted with Atocha train station, and the consequences of missing the last train back into central Madrid.

And so… Places I enjoyed visiting:

Mejorada Cathedral/ Catedral de Justo Gallego:

mejoradaThis is an interesting cathedral. My understanding is that one man, Justo Gallego, decided that Mejorada was in need of a cathedral and therefore he was going to build it. He started the work some forty fifty years ago, however the finish date still isn’t in sight, although the creator is approaching his 90s. He has worked almost entirely alone, although he now has help from volunteers, including architectural students.

Yes, it isn’t finished; Yes, it’s debatable whether it is safe; Yes, the council wants to take it town. However I’d definitely prefer to visit an unfinished cathedral (or broken down one) over a perfect completed one. Its also a kind of a cool story.

Here is an article from 1992  about it! And a video (in Spanish) which shows the interior & he creator.

Todo Tapas San Fernando

According to Facebook this awesome tapas place has moved to Coslada,although when I visited it it was in San Fernando.

Ahhh, Spanish hospitality. I could buy one drink and be brought ‘tapas’ and ‘pinchos’ all night. Although I’d normally buy more than one drink because… What? Beer is good, and they were nice enough to bring me free food all night anyway! (Perhaps thats the logic behind tapas?)

You can also buy a more substantial tapa for 1 euro, or a maxi-tapa for 2 euros, and be set for the night. Unless you were a total foca (seal/pig/fatty!) The food is simple but good (burgers, eggs, potatos, croquettes).

It was funny that almost everytime I visited this place it rained – in Spring and Summer….! It almost became a rule: Jade & Tapas = rain.

Hot chocolate place/bar

If you like coffee and chocolate and cream, and all of these things mixed together, you’d like the coffee/chocolate bar I went to. Unfortunately I can’t remember it’s name though. I had one the most awesome coffees of my life here, consisting of purely coffee and condensed milk.

Medieval Market

On a visit to Mejorada, while I was still attending Spanish classes, I  attended a Medieval market. The market wasn’t too different from other Spanish markets, but it was medieval themed, and there was dancing, costumes, music and things for sale. R + A’s parents were nice enough to buy me shirt as a gift of thanks, although I feel like they definitely did more for me than I did for them.

The cool thing about Spain is that always seems to be something on, be it a local market, medieval market, or a fair – all things I was able to attend in the area.

The Irish Bar

Although not a tourist attraction, my friends loved the local Irish bar. I think this was because there was a pool table, a foosball table, and cheap beer with tapas. Interestingly, the tapas weren’t cooked food and were things like lollies, nuts, popcorn and crisps.

I wouldn’t consider it was a ‘real’ Irish bar, and instead consider it a wonderful Spanish/Irish fusion. The Spanish part due to tapas, Spanish beer and the late closing time. I was never there too late – (~1/1.30am), however a bar in the suburbs in Australia probably would have shut by 10pm. I love this about Spain.

The area is perhaps not the place for a tourist – but it is full of great people, and great opportunities to experience the Spanish culture

My Valentine’s to Everyone

So I’m single on Valentines day. Whatever.

Today I was walking along the street ruminating this when I began to think about all the people that have been in my life this past year. And you know what, people are fucking awesome. So heres to my homies at home, the people I’ve met for a short while, and the people I’ve forged deep friendships with.


  • Your fascination and excitement with novelty and the entire world

  • Making me laugh every time I see you

  • Listening without judgement

  • Seeing though peoples bullshit

  • Your enthusiasm for life

  • Challenging my perception of the world and my place in it

  • Your open mind

  • Your determination despite adversity

  • Supporting me

  • Your self-confidence, and your determination to improve other’s confidence

  • Your kindness, which you do not draw attention to.

  • Your complete fucking weirdness and resultant hilarious stories

  • Making me laugh at myself. Uncontrollably

  • Your unconventional ideas

  • Exploring places with me

  • The strangest hypothetical & philisophical discussions (both at home at away!)

  • Your quiet braveness in what you say and what you do

  • Acting like an idiot with me

  • Introducing me to your culture (in ways you don’t quite realise)

  • Your unique and interesting perspectives

Hugs. I miss everybody in all their places.

The world is your oyster and travel is what you make it

I’ve recently moved to Vancouver, and as a result I’ve been reading the Vancity Buzz in an effort to familiarize myself with the city while sitting in front of my computer.

I stumbled across this article, The truth about backpacking Europe (and why I will never do it again) and although I agreed with a lot the author had to say… it really annoyed me.

She basically said: if you’re looking for culture, if you want to replicate anyone else’s experiences (duh), if like small comforts etc, etc… don’t go backpacking

To which I would like to say… Expectations are fine, but don’t go to Europe, or anywhere or even do anything with a one-size-fits-all approach while still holding expectations.


I started my trip mildly unconventionally. I completed a Workaway helping some girls with their English, took Spanish classes ,  took a brief trip to Salamanca, went on a road trip (to take videos/photos of possible filming locations!) , a few days in Lisbon, and then completed a volunteer program with Diverbo .

I think I was about two months in at this stage, and I decided it was about high time I did some ‘conventional travelling’. AKA Solo travelling through Andalucia/the South of Spain, staying in a hostel in each destination for 1-2 days and ticking off the sights before catching a bus to the next destination.

I am slightly to ashamed to say, I didn’t really like it so much.

I loved South of Spain, but I didn’t like the hostels. I also didn’t like moving between places by myself every 1-2 days.

I feel mean saying that because I’ve had some great times in hostels playing drinking games and exploring the locations with others HOWEVER….

There is often a snorer, a smell and an inconsiderate packer with a noisy plastic bag. If I’m late back at night, I’ll likely wake someone in the dorm up. However if I’m having an early night someone will likely wake me up when I’m coming in.

I like the freedom and the sleep quality of my own space.

However the real issue was the moving. Travellers are good conversationalists but eventually I did not want to tell anyone where I was from, what I did, where I was going and where had I been. Short stays means there is the potential to have this this conversation A LOT. Towards the end of these 2 weeks I began to avoid meeting people, purely so I could avoid this superficial conversation.  You’re hardly ever alone as a solo traveller, but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel lonely.

Disclaimer: I loved some of the people I met in hostels, and most people like hostels more than me! To each their own!

However, most likely on a meditative bus ride, I came to the realization that I could travel however I wanted. That I didn’t have to travel in a particular way, or even in a straight line was such a freeing idea. I was free to make decisions based on experiences and let my whims take me where they wanted; be that staying or going.

I did later ‘hostel-hop’ but I kept these trips shorter and in between longer stays. I’ve been away for (an anxiety inducing) approximately 300 days, and I can count 41 nights that I spent in hostels.

Instead some of the mildly unconventional things I did included:

  • Leaving countries, to return later

  • Au- pairing in a little village north of Barcelona

  • Visiting a friend competing in a sporting event

  • Renting a place in Barcelona with a friend I hadn’t seen in years and his odd housemate

  • Working on a permaculture farm… without power

  • Going out of my way to reconnect with friends I made earlier in my trip: in new cities or in their own

  • Staying with awesome locals on Airbnb

  • Taking Spanish Lessons again (in a new location!)

  • Crashing 2x birthday parties in France and in Spain and struggling through language differences

  • Staying with a Swiss family for a week and going hiking in the surrounding mountains

  • Visiting the middle of nowhere in Spain and Portugal. (Tiny towns without English speakers)

  • Travelling from Switzerland to Portugal through France and Spain by bus

  • Working on a campsite in the beautiful nature of South of France

  •  Visiting extended family and friends I made in England

Things I wanted to do, and could have: (but time and money are precious resources)

And I’m comparatively boring! I haven’t even:

If you think about it, travel is about moving your body from one place to another. Surely you can find some way to do this that is in line with your goals and interests.

If something is not working… change! If you’re burning out… stay still a while.

I definitely got to see my fair share of culture, and connected with people, nature and ideas more than I did buildings.

The world is your oyster people.

Lessons at Inhispania Madrid

I took Spanish lessons at Inhispania Madrid and loved it. I originally planned to stay for 3 weeks, but ending up extending my course to four weeks. I did sign up for accommodation with the course, but I ended up changing to a hostel (Mad4you) for the last week.

If you don’t think too hard, accommodation in the middle of the city sounds amazing. It was right across the road from the Callao metro station, just off Gran Via and a short walk to the absolute centre of Sol and it’s nearby entertainment. It was also only 7 minute walk to class (hello 9.30am sleep ins!)

2014-04-27 15.53.49
Not where the apartment was but Madrid all the same

However. NOISE. I did not think of this. TAPONES is the Spanish word for ear plugs; I had to ask for some in El Corte Ingles. I also can’t forget this oh so very useless word, because what I originally asked for in broken Spanish were “things for no to hear”.

Madrid IS a city that never sleeps, and although that might sounds romantic and lovely and fun (and it is for a time)… I fucking love sleep.

That being said, the location was geographically handy.

However the apartment had many other dealbreakers. It was cold and there was insufficient linen provided, the bed was uncomfortable, some appliances didn’t always work, the kitchen was always a mess. I also didn’t hate my room-mates but we were never going to be best friends. It is also worth noting that the shared accommodation provided is also shared with Erasmus students, not just students from Inhispania. That being said, my classmate had a much better experience with his accommodation.

The lessons were awesome though! My teacher was the lovely Laura and as everyone had different start and finish dates, there was anywhere between 4 and 8 people in my class at one time. The mix of people itself was interesting, as everyone was there for a variety of reasons. For example one guy was moving to Madrid for work and another was there on holiday in the city for a few weeks learning Spanish purely to meet other travellers. Others from nearby European countries simply came over to spend a few weeks learning the language. The age ranged from about 20 (in my class, younger in others) to late 30s, and the average age was probably somewhere in the late 20s.

2014-05-21 22.55.23
Necessary Evils

The lessons were a little under four hours a day, and quite frankly I found it fun to make up stories in another language about the life of a professional male dancer, or a village in which all the children get eaten by a wolf when they turned ten. Lessons included writing, conversation, vocabulary and listening and I actually progressed quite a lot during my four weeks here. I progressed from the middle of A1 to the end of A2 – which meant that I could conjugate in 3 of the 4 past tenses, (the most common ones), talk about the future in the most common tenses as well as use the present.

I essentially got to the level at which I could have a slow and basic conversation. (As well as be constantly frustrated/confused about which tense to use when and know nothing of the subjunctive – to be fixed partially with B1 lessons later on!)

However although I did think my teacher was great, someone in my class had had another teacher previously (at the same school), and had not enjoyed that class at all due to the teacher. So it perhaps depends on the luck of the draw.

The school also provided ‘after-school activities’. Although there were not always sufficient numbers to run these, they did provide a good opportunity to see some parts of Madrid, as well as meet others who were at the school. This was particularly nice, as people were attending the classes for numerous reasons including work. It allowed me to meet other people from other classes who also wanted to meet new people and socialize.

Some activities I took part in at Inhispania included the following, however many more were offered:

  • The Funicular/Cable car

  • A language exchange night at Cafe Galdos

  • Tour of the city in Spanish: (of which my A1 Spanish allowed me to understand very little)

  • Maritine Museum tour

I did attend another school in Spain about 4/5 months later when I came back, and although I enjoyed both I did enjoy the lessons at Inhispania more.


Spain is a really interesting place to travel in because it really has it all. The big cities, the smaller tourist-filled beautiful towns, smaller towns which aren’t tourist-filled but at least as beautiful, beaches and amazing natural landscapes. People think it is dry, but really, Spain is just schizophrenic with its beautiful greenery, mountains, and… dry areas.

Segovia is one of those beautiful yet tourist filled towns which also manages to remind me of a Disney movie. I went there on a day-trip with my Workaway family, who were nice enough to take me there. I had a great time, and it has actually been one of the favourite places I have visited.

Copyright 2015

The trip also reignited my forgotten love for alleyways. It’s lovely to look down tiny, ‘stony’ alleyways, to see beautiful scenery in the distance. However it doesn’t quite look as nice on camera.

We arrived and parked some distance, walked into town and then had a look at it’s famous aqueduct. IMG_4545

We had left quite late so it was already time for lunch. Everything on the main strip seemed to cost a bucket load; however a ‘promoter’ told us we’d be able to order a tapas menu, rather than an expensive set menu. We proceeded to sit down, and complimentary bread and some sort of tapa was brought to our table. However after further conversation with the waiter, it was revealed that it was all la hoax and we could only order from the set menu! Mouths ‘a-watering’ , we up and left the complimentary food and fled to a cheap, ‘cutre’ bar. However the company is what matters! (and the food wasn’t too bad after all… although the salchichon wasn’t up to scratch!)

We then proceeded to walk around Segovia and see the castle. A beautiful city.IMG_4582

On the car trip back to Madrid, we discussed various stories (including pieces of people left on roads…) and I was taught some Spanish phrases.  Which was hilarious because I am muy guiri and I knew even less Spanish back then.

“Que pasa Tomasa…

no hay nadie en casa”

Whats up Tomasa? There isn’t anyone home 😉

Teaching English

Helping people with English made me realise just how well I can know something, yet still be unable to articulate it. (For example: You can use this word here, here and here, but not there. Why? I don’t know)

General confusion
Semantics…. general confusion

The following are examples of a few of the questions (of 1000s!) I’ve been asked while helping people with their English

  • What is the difference between hardly, barely, hardly ever?

  • What is the difference is between realize and notice?

  • What is the difference between being seductive and making an advance?

  • What does ‘dodgy’ means?

  • Whether to use dodgy or seedy or ‘shitty’?

  • Can you teach me phrasal verbs?

  • When to use in and on i.e. why is something on a wall, but not in a wall? But why can you be on an airplane when you’re inside it?

  • What ‘kinda’ means? (kind of like = kinda like hahaha)

  • What is ‘tema’ in English? (subject)

I have explained:

  • The difference between shade and shadow

  • What the ‘crust’ of bread is. (My friend ‘understood’ this as crap)

  • What ‘hangry’ is

  • The difference between something being ‘shit’ and ‘the shit’

  • Puns: what they are (juegos de palabras), as well as actual puns.

  • What the word ‘pat’ means

  • All the meanings of the word ‘tip’ (I came up with 5 or 6, see what you can do)

  • Made fun of the Spanish (and other Hispanics) for being unable to distinguish between: beach & bitch, chip & cheap, ship & sheep, heap and hip etc.)

  • That you explain, say and reply TO people, although you only have to tell people

Yep. English is weird, and hard to explain. However I can now make an attempt at explaining most of these things.

First Stop – Mejorada Del Campo

AKA – Spanish Culture in the part of the Madrid that sleeps. (A Good thing!)

I arrived at Madrid airport to be picked up by my hosts and taken to Mejorada Del Campo straight away. Mejorada is something of a ‘suburb’ towards the outskirts of Madrid. It is still accessible by Metro and the majority of people live in flats/apartments or ‘pisos’. I had organized to stay with them with a website called ‘Workaway’, in which I had agreed to teach/ speak to them in English in exchange for food and accommodation.

Cue one of the greatest experiences/cultural exchanges I have participated in. As well as the start of some great friendships.

I had been in contact with my super friendly host Ruth for a couple of months beforehand (although most Workaway ‘placements’ can be organized in days- weeks), and was overwhelmed by how cute and friendly she was. She was quite excited that I was coming and even told me I could possibly join her on a roadtrip she wanted to do. To which my thoughts were … sure that sounds amazing, but you don’t even know me … I could be a psycho killer! (I have since learnt to trust strangers more :P) I had gathered they were a family of artists. The girls 22, and 25 studied film, and frequently made videos. Their father played in a band, and their mother made artisan crafts which the home was decorated with.

So I had high hopes. I love creative people and I love enthusiastic people.

However one of the funniest things happened once I arrived at the home. Their mother attempted to give me two kisses, a Spanish greeting where both people kiss the air and touch cheeks… twice. (I’m sure this can be explained better) However I had NO IDEA what she was doing. My reaction was laughable, and it continued to be laughable for many weeks until I grew used to it. I just felt uncomfortable being affectionate with complete strangers at first sight. British reticence I guess… and me. However, although I don’t like doing that, I love the Spanish attitude of hospitality and automatic closeness with each other. Truth be told I actually don’t mind the two kisses now, given that it is a catalyst for warmth between two strangers.

In the next two – three weeks I was able to:

  • Attend a Spanish Barbecue
  • Eat some Spanish food (Tapas)
  • Learn some interesting Spanish
  • Go to Segovia
  • View some places ‘behind the lens’
  • Explain some English
  • Go to a gig
  • Explore Mejorada & San Fernando
  • Explore Madrid

However what I did do immediately after I arrived was eat an amazing authentic Spanish lunch, and then sleep a jetlagged 12 hours… right through dinner. Something I felt terrible about.

After I left Mejorada I lived in Madrid for four weeks while I attended Spanish courses at Inhispania Madrid.

The flight over – Perth to Madrid

AKA – Nerves, people are wonderful & Y’all be ok

I’m writing this blog in retrospect. At the moment I’m actually sitting in a cafe in Edinburgh, using the internet and waiting for Claire to finish work so we can drive home together. I actually left my ‘homecity’ of Perth approximately 7 months ago. The past seven months have been the most intense and experienced filled months of my life, full of crazy highs and lows, experiences and lessons learnt. However the plus side to writing in retrospect is that I know what the good and bad things were, and which experiences have affected me even though I might not have realized at the time.

Annnnddd… Segue!

wing-221526_640I often think about my flight over. I hate flying. I get nervous when the plane takes off and compulsively scan the air hostesses’ faces for the slightest signs of distress, or over-friendliness which could actually be a concealment of distress in order to keep the passengers calm as the plane bursts into flames. I try to be asleep during landing so I don’t have to experience it.

However the scariest thing about this flight was that I was leaving my friends and family behind, and I wasn’t sure when I was going to return. The truth is I bought a round the world trip (at super-short notice – 2 weeks- also very cheap – cheers STA), but the dates were flexible and I always intended to change them.  All I knew was that I was going to arrive in Madrid, to be picked up by a girl who I had met over the internet on Workaway and I didn’t have much of a plan for the next year.

At 22, I felt like a child pretending to play ‘adult’. “Yeah, I got my shit together”

However on my last leg into Madrid (from Qatar) I met a woman on the plane who was returning from an extended stay in Asia. She was from Madrid and she was able to significantly improve her English during her time away.  I told her about my plans for Spain, I was going to help some girls with their English, and try to learn Spanish. She told me Madrid was great for young people and I was going to have fun with the girls. I loved her enthusiasm (and I now love the enthusiasm of Spaniards in general!) and she gave me a real confidence boost. 

After arriving in Madrid I spoke to a guy while waiting to pick up my luggage and considering the possibility of what might happen if my lift and accommodation didn’t show up. What would I do? However I was already speaking to another solo traveler, who would have happily spent time with me, yet I’d been in the country all of 5 minutes. I’d be fine.


I then walked through to arrivals to meet Ruth and Alba, and we said our quiet hellos.

How times have changed!

One day I want to be the friendly traveller on a plane who makes the travel newbie feel better, or the airport random who makes the nervous traveller realize they’ll be OK.

And on average, everything was ok!