Printed books, e-books or audiobooks?
This blog post goes through the pros and cons of printed, e- and audiobooks. While people are different and some religiously stick to printed books, others rarely read from anything else than their e-reader. And then there’s the group that never sits or lies down to read but always does something else while listening to audiobooks. Many people use more than one of these ways of reading, while some use all three.
+ The plus of printed books is the feeling of a real book in your hands, the possibility to turn pages, the smell of the book and the ability to annotate. You can also save your favourite books at home and look at them whenever you feel like it.
– It’s easy enough to take printed books around, but once you finish one, you’re out of reading material (unless you brought more than one book). They can be pricey, especially hardcovers.
* I love printed books, especially when it comes to books that I really like: I have to own them, keep them on my bookshelf and be able to look at them, touch them, and go through them again. I usually choose paperbacks because they’re cheaper, but if I really love a book, I buy a hardcover (I bought a hardcover version of Wuthering Heights after listening to the audiobook and reading it on Kindle).
+ On an e-reader, it’s easy to access many books in many languages from anywhere in the world in a matter of minutes. Once you buy an e-reader, the books there are cheaper than printed editions. There are many ways to get them, legal and less legal. On my Kindle Paperwhite, I can buy them directly through it (with an internet connection) or transfer a PDF from my computer to the kindle. You can take an e-reader anywhere and have access to almost any book out there. The books stay on your e-reader once you finish them (until you delete them).
– You can’t physically turn the pages, smell or hold an individual book in your hands. You can’t have specific books on your bookshelf.
* I bought my Kindle in 2016, and since then, I’ve had periods when I read it constantly and periods when I didn’t touch it at all. Right now, I’m trying to get through the printed books that I’ve accumulated throughout the years.
+ The biggest plus is definitely the fact that you can listen to them while doing something else: sport, cooking, cleaning … anything that doesn’t require much thinking, really. By doing that, you save time; you’ve just gone for a run and read for 45 minutes as well!
– Listening is not the same as reading, and while I think it can sometimes be better (when the readers are also amazing actors), it still lacks something. Seeing the words and sentences and reading them for yourself is different; it has the essence of a book that gets lost in an audiobook.
* I listen to audiobooks all the time, and they’re the main reason why I read as much as I do (I get through them more quickly). This is simply because I do sport (or at least take a walk) and cook every day, and this can amount to a couple of hours of listening almost every day (unless I opt for a YouTube video, a podcast or sometimes even a TV series – while I cook). I do read printed books every day too but normally just before going to bed, sometimes for just ten minutes, sometimes for an hour. I can finish a good audiobook in a few days, while a good printed (or e-book) can still take more than a week. The reason for this is that I have a busy day-to-day life, like you probably do. Still, some people are great at taking the time to read for a few hours at a time, at least for the weekend. For now, I’m not, and audiobooks really are a lifesaver.
Try it out: all of it
If you’d like to read more, I suggest you try out all of these and see what you like best and what works for you. I usually buy my printed books at airports and in various bookshops. I also get them as birthday or Christmas presents. As already said, I use a Kindle for e-books (which I find on Amazon and other platforms). I get my audiobooks on Audible, where I pay a 10-euro monthly subscription, which gets me one free book of choice per month. There are also other free books on there, available with the subscription (you can read as many as you want, but the choice is limited). If you want more books that aren’t free with the subscription, you have to buy them (they’re usually ten euros each, which is one credit). There are also other options, such as Scribd, Google Play Books (many free books), Kobo, Audiobooks, etc.
What’s your favourite way to read books? Where do you listen to audiobooks? Tell me in the comments!
3485 km away
I grab my phone to turn off the alarm, then, still lying in bed, I start reading the news. 𝒜 𝓌𝑜𝓂𝒶𝓃 𝓂𝓎 𝒶𝑔𝑒 𝒾𝓈 𝓈𝒾𝓉𝓉𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝑜𝓃 𝒶 𝓉𝓇𝒶𝒾𝓃 𝒽𝑒𝒶𝒹𝑒𝒹 𝓉𝑜 𝒫𝑜𝓁𝒶𝓃𝒹; 𝓈𝒽𝑒 𝒽𝑜𝓅𝑒𝓈 𝓈𝒽𝑒’𝓁𝓁 𝓈𝑒𝑒 𝒽𝑒𝓇 𝒷𝑜𝓎𝒻𝓇𝒾𝑒𝓃𝒹 𝒶𝑔𝒶𝒾𝓃. I wake my boyfriend up and take a quick shower. 𝒜 𝒻𝒶𝓂𝒾𝓁𝓎 𝒾𝓃 𝑀𝒶𝓇𝒾𝓊𝓅𝑜𝓁 𝒽𝒶𝓈𝓃’𝓉 𝓈𝒽𝑜𝓌𝑒𝓇𝑒𝒹 𝒾𝓃 𝒹𝒶𝓎𝓈, 𝒶𝓃𝒹 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝒾𝓇 𝒽𝑜𝓊𝓈𝑒 𝒾𝓈 𝒻𝓇𝑒𝑒𝓏𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒸𝑜𝓁𝒹. I make coffee for myself, tea for him and cook some porridge. 𝒜 𝓂𝑜𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓇 𝑔𝒾𝓋𝑒𝓈 𝒽𝑒𝓇 𝒸𝒽𝒾𝓁𝒹 𝒶 𝓉𝓊𝓃𝒶 𝒸𝒶𝓃 𝒶𝓃𝒹 𝒶 𝓅𝒶𝒸𝓀 𝑜𝒻 𝒸𝓇𝒶𝒸𝓀𝑒𝓇𝓈; 𝓈𝒽𝑒 𝒹𝑜𝑒𝓈𝓃’𝓉 𝒽𝒶𝓋𝑒 𝒶𝓃𝓎𝓉𝒽𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒽𝑒𝓇𝓈𝑒𝓁𝒻. I kiss him goodbye before he leaves for work, then sit in front of my computer. 𝒜𝓃𝑜𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓇 𝓇𝑒𝓈𝒾𝒹𝑒𝓃𝓉𝒾𝒶𝓁 𝓃𝑒𝒾𝑔𝒽𝒷𝑜𝓊𝓇𝒽𝑜𝑜𝒹 𝒾𝓈 𝓈𝒽𝑒𝓁𝓁𝑒𝒹; 𝒻𝒾𝓋𝑒 𝓅𝑒𝑜𝓅𝓁𝑒 𝒹𝒾𝑒, 𝒾𝓃𝒸𝓁𝓊𝒹𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝓉𝓌𝑜 𝒸𝒽𝒾𝓁𝒹𝓇𝑒𝓃. I finish my translation and make pasta for lunch while listening to an e-book. 𝒜 𝒻𝒶𝓂𝒾𝓁𝓎 𝒻𝓁𝑒𝑒𝓈 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝒾𝓇 𝒽𝑜𝓂𝑒𝓉𝑜𝓌𝓃, 𝒷𝓊𝓉 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓎’𝓇𝑒 𝓉𝒶𝓇𝑔𝑒𝓉𝑒𝒹, 𝒹𝑒𝒶𝒹 𝑜𝓃 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝓈𝓅𝑜𝓉. I take a 15-minute power nap, then make coffee and teach Slovenian for an hour. 𝒜 𝓂𝒶𝓃 𝓉𝓇𝒶𝓋𝑒𝓁𝓈 𝒷𝒶𝒸𝓀 𝓉𝑜 𝒽𝒾𝓈 𝓃𝒶𝓉𝒾𝓋𝑒 𝒦𝓎𝒾𝓋 𝓉𝑜 𝒻𝒾𝑔𝒽𝓉 𝒻𝑜𝓇 𝒽𝒾𝓈 𝒸𝑜𝓊𝓃𝓉𝓇𝓎; 𝒽𝑒 𝒹𝑜𝑒𝓈𝓃’𝓉 𝓀𝓃𝑜𝓌 𝒾𝒻 𝒽𝑒’𝓁𝓁 𝓈𝓊𝓇𝓋𝒾𝓋𝑒. I start working on an article about how expensive renting a flat is. 𝒜𝓃𝑜𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓇 𝒽𝓊𝓂𝒶𝓃𝒾𝓉𝒶𝓇𝒾𝒶𝓃 𝒸𝑜𝓇𝓇𝒾𝒹𝑜𝓇 𝒾𝓈 𝓈𝒶𝒷𝑜𝓉𝒶𝑔𝑒𝒹. My boyfriend plays a new song he wrote on the guitar, and then we go for a run. 𝒯𝒽𝑒 𝓅𝑜𝓁𝒾𝒸𝑒 𝒷𝑒𝒶𝓉 𝒶 𝓌𝑜𝓂𝒶𝓃 𝓊𝓅 𝒻𝑜𝓇 𝓅𝓇𝑜𝓉𝑒𝓈𝓉𝒾𝓃𝑔. I call my mom, and we discuss the war but also our dog’s new haircut. 𝒯𝒽𝑒 𝓃𝑒𝓌𝑒𝓈𝓉 𝓃𝑒𝑔𝑜𝓉𝒾𝒶𝓉𝒾𝑜𝓃𝓈 𝑜𝓃𝒸𝑒 𝒶𝑔𝒶𝒾𝓃 𝒹𝑜𝓃’𝓉 𝒷𝓇𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒶𝓃𝓎 𝓉𝒶𝓃𝑔𝒾𝒷𝓁𝑒 𝓇𝑒𝓈𝓊𝓁𝓉𝓈. We have Spanish omelette for dinner. 𝐵𝑜𝒹𝒾𝑒𝓈 𝓁𝒾𝑒 𝑜𝓃 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝑔𝓇𝑜𝓊𝓃𝒹, 𝒷𝑒𝓉𝓌𝑒𝑒𝓃 𝓅𝒾𝓁𝑒𝓈 𝑜𝒻 𝒹𝑒𝒷𝓇𝒾𝓈. I brush my teeth, humming a song by Rosalia. 𝒜 𝒻𝒶𝓂𝒾𝓁𝓎 𝓁𝑜𝓈𝑒𝓈 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝒾𝓇 𝒽𝑜𝓂𝑒; 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓎 𝒹𝑜𝓃’𝓉 𝓀𝓃𝑜𝓌 𝓌𝒽𝑒𝓇𝑒 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓎’𝓁𝓁 𝓈𝓁𝑒𝑒𝓅 𝓉𝑜𝓃𝒾𝑔𝒽𝓉. I laugh at a meme on Instagram. 𝒜 𝓌𝑜𝓂𝒶𝓃 𝓁𝑜𝓈𝑒𝓈 𝒽𝑒𝓇 𝑜𝓃𝓁𝓎 𝓈𝑜𝓃. I read an exciting thriller. 𝒜 𝓈𝒾𝓍-𝓎𝑒𝒶𝓇-𝑜𝓁𝒹 𝒷𝑜𝓎 𝓁𝑒𝒶𝓋𝑒𝓈 𝒰𝓀𝓇𝒶𝒾𝓃𝑒 𝓌𝒾𝓉𝒽 𝒽𝒾𝓈 𝓂𝑜𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓇; 𝒽𝒾𝓈 𝒻𝒶𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓇 𝓈𝓉𝒶𝓎𝓈 𝒷𝑒𝒽𝒾𝓃𝒹 𝓉𝑜 𝒻𝒾𝑔𝒽𝓉. My boyfriend kisses me goodnight. 𝒜 𝓈𝑜𝓁𝒹𝒾𝑒𝓇 𝒾𝓈 𝒸𝑜𝓁𝒹 𝒶𝓃𝒹 𝓈𝒸𝒶𝓇𝑒𝒹, 𝒻𝒾𝑔𝒽𝓉𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒶 𝓌𝒶𝓇 𝒽𝑒 𝒹𝑜𝑒𝓈𝓃’𝓉 𝓌𝒶𝓃𝓉 𝓉𝑜 𝒻𝒾𝑔𝒽𝓉, 𝒽𝑜𝓅𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒽𝑒 𝓌𝑜𝓃’𝓉 𝒹𝒾𝑒. I’m comfortable, and I fall asleep. 𝐸𝓋𝑒𝓃𝓉𝓊𝒶𝓁𝓁𝓎, 𝒹𝑒𝓈𝓅𝒾𝓉𝑒 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒻𝑒𝒶𝓇, 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒸𝑜𝓁𝒹, 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒶𝓃𝓍𝒾𝑒𝓉𝓎, 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝓃𝑜𝓉 𝓀𝓃𝑜𝓌𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝓌𝒽𝑒𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓇 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓎’𝓁𝓁 𝓌𝒶𝓀𝑒 𝓊𝓅 𝓉𝑜𝓂𝑜𝓇𝓇𝑜𝓌, 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓎 𝒻𝒶𝓁𝓁 𝒶𝓈𝓁𝑒𝑒𝓅 – 𝒶𝓉 𝓁𝑒𝒶𝓈𝓉 𝓈𝑜𝓂𝑒 𝑜𝒻 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓂 𝒹𝑜.
Since people who don’t live in war zones and people who do live completely different lives, here are the sentences divided into two separate texts:
I grab my phone to turn off the alarm, then, still lying in bed, I start reading the news. I wake my boyfriend up and take a quick shower. I make coffee for myself, tea for him and cook porridge. I kiss him goodbye before he leaves for work, then sit in front of my computer. I finish my translation and make pasta for lunch while listening to an e-book. I take a 15-minute power nap, then make coffee and teach Slovenian for an hour. I start working on an article about how expensive renting a flat is. My boyfriend plays a new song he wrote on the guitar, and then we go for a run. I call my mom, and we discuss the war but also our dog’s new haircut. We have a Spanish omelette for dinner. I brush my teeth, humming a song by Rosalia. I laugh at a meme on Instagram. I read an exciting thriller. My boyfriend kisses me goodnight. I’m comfortable, and I fall asleep.
𝒜 𝓌𝑜𝓂𝒶𝓃 𝓂𝓎 𝒶𝑔𝑒 𝒾𝓈 𝓈𝒾𝓉𝓉𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝑜𝓃 𝒶 𝓉𝓇𝒶𝒾𝓃 𝒽𝑒𝒶𝒹𝑒𝒹 𝓉𝑜 𝒫𝑜𝓁𝒶𝓃𝒹; 𝓈𝒽𝑒 𝒽𝑜𝓅𝑒𝓈 𝓈𝒽𝑒’𝓁𝓁 𝓈𝑒𝑒 𝒽𝑒𝓇 𝒷𝑜𝓎𝒻𝓇𝒾𝑒𝓃𝒹 𝒶𝑔𝒶𝒾𝓃. 𝒜 𝒻𝒶𝓂𝒾𝓁𝓎 𝒾𝓃 𝑀𝒶𝓇𝒾𝓊𝓅𝑜𝓁 𝒽𝒶𝓈𝓃’𝓉 𝓈𝒽𝑜𝓌𝑒𝓇𝑒𝒹 𝒾𝓃 𝒹𝒶𝓎𝓈, 𝒶𝓃𝒹 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝒾𝓇 𝒽𝑜𝓊𝓈𝑒 𝒾𝓈 𝒻𝓇𝑒𝑒𝓏𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒸𝑜𝓁𝒹. 𝒜 𝓂𝑜𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓇 𝑔𝒾𝓋𝑒𝓈 𝒽𝑒𝓇 𝒸𝒽𝒾𝓁𝒹 𝒶 𝓉𝓊𝓃𝒶 𝒸𝒶𝓃 𝒶𝓃𝒹 𝒶 𝓅𝒶𝒸𝓀 𝑜𝒻 𝒸𝓇𝒶𝒸𝓀𝑒𝓇𝓈; 𝓈𝒽𝑒 𝒹𝑜𝑒𝓈𝓃’𝓉 𝒽𝒶𝓋𝑒 𝒶𝓃𝓎𝓉𝒽𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒽𝑒𝓇𝓈𝑒𝓁𝒻. 𝒜𝓃𝑜𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓇 𝓇𝑒𝓈𝒾𝒹𝑒𝓃𝓉𝒾𝒶𝓁 𝓃𝑒𝒾𝑔𝒽𝒷𝑜𝓊𝓇𝒽𝑜𝑜𝒹 𝒾𝓈 𝓈𝒽𝑒𝓁𝓁𝑒𝒹; 𝒻𝒾𝓋𝑒 𝓅𝑒𝑜𝓅𝓁𝑒 𝒹𝒾𝑒, 𝒾𝓃𝒸𝓁𝓊𝒹𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝓉𝓌𝑜 𝒸𝒽𝒾𝓁𝒹𝓇𝑒𝓃. 𝒜 𝒻𝒶𝓂𝒾𝓁𝓎 𝒾𝓈 𝒻𝓁𝑒𝑒𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝒾𝓇 𝒽𝑜𝓂𝑒𝓉𝑜𝓌𝓃, 𝒷𝓊𝓉 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓎’𝓇𝑒 𝓉𝒶𝓇𝑔𝑒𝓉𝑒𝒹, 𝒹𝑒𝒶𝒹 𝑜𝓃 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝓈𝓅𝑜𝓉. 𝒜 𝓂𝒶𝓃 𝓉𝓇𝒶𝓋𝑒𝓁𝓈 𝒷𝒶𝒸𝓀 𝓉𝑜 𝒽𝒾𝓈 𝓃𝒶𝓉𝒾𝓋𝑒 𝒦𝓎𝒾𝓋 𝓉𝑜 𝒻𝒾𝑔𝒽𝓉 𝒻𝑜𝓇 𝒽𝒾𝓈 𝒸𝑜𝓊𝓃𝓉𝓇𝓎; 𝒽𝑒 𝒹𝑜𝑒𝓈𝓃’𝓉 𝓀𝓃𝑜𝓌 𝒾𝒻 𝒽𝑒’𝓁𝓁 𝓈𝓊𝓇𝓋𝒾𝓋𝑒. 𝒜𝓃𝑜𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓇 𝒽𝓊𝓂𝒶𝓃𝒾𝓉𝒶𝓇𝒾𝒶𝓃 𝒸𝑜𝓇𝓇𝒾𝒹𝑜𝓇 𝒾𝓈 𝓈𝒶𝒷𝑜𝓉𝒶𝑔𝑒𝒹. 𝒯𝒽𝑒 𝓅𝑜𝓁𝒾𝒸𝑒 𝒷𝑒𝒶𝓉 𝒶 𝓌𝑜𝓂𝒶𝓃 𝓊𝓅 𝒻𝑜𝓇 𝓅𝓇𝑜𝓉𝑒𝓈𝓉𝒾𝓃𝑔. 𝒯𝒽𝑒 𝓃𝑒𝓌𝑒𝓈𝓉 𝓃𝑒𝑔𝑜𝓉𝒾𝒶𝓉𝒾𝑜𝓃𝓈 𝑜𝓃𝒸𝑒 𝒶𝑔𝒶𝒾𝓃 𝒹𝑜𝓃’𝓉 𝒷𝓇𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒶𝓃𝓎 𝓉𝒶𝓃𝑔𝒾𝒷𝓁𝑒 𝓇𝑒𝓈𝓊𝓁𝓉𝓈. 𝐵𝑜𝒹𝒾𝑒𝓈 𝓁𝒾𝑒 𝑜𝓃 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝑔𝓇𝑜𝓊𝓃𝒹, 𝒷𝑒𝓉𝓌𝑒𝑒𝓃 𝓅𝒾𝓁𝑒𝓈 𝑜𝒻 𝒹𝑒𝒷𝓇𝒾𝓈. 𝒜 𝒻𝒶𝓂𝒾𝓁𝓎 𝓁𝑜𝓈𝑒𝓈 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝒾𝓇 𝒽𝑜𝓂𝑒; 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓎 𝒹𝑜𝓃’𝓉 𝓀𝓃𝑜𝓌 𝓌𝒽𝑒𝓇𝑒 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓎’𝓁𝓁 𝓈𝓁𝑒𝑒𝓅 𝓉𝑜𝓃𝒾𝑔𝒽𝓉. 𝒜 𝓌𝑜𝓂𝒶𝓃 𝓁𝑜𝓈𝑒𝓈 𝒽𝑒𝓇 𝑜𝓃𝓁𝓎 𝓈𝑜𝓃. 𝒜 𝓈𝒾𝓍-𝓎𝑒𝒶𝓇-𝑜𝓁𝒹 𝒷𝑜𝓎 𝓁𝑒𝒶𝓋𝑒𝓈 𝒰𝓀𝓇𝒶𝒾𝓃𝑒 𝓌𝒾𝓉𝒽 𝒽𝒾𝓈 𝓂𝑜𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓇; 𝒽𝒾𝓈 𝒻𝒶𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓇 𝓈𝓉𝒶𝓎𝓈 𝒷𝑒𝒽𝒾𝓃𝒹 𝓉𝑜 𝒻𝒾𝑔𝒽𝓉. 𝒜 𝓈𝑜𝓁𝒹𝒾𝑒𝓇 𝒾𝓈 𝒸𝑜𝓁𝒹 𝒶𝓃𝒹 𝓈𝒸𝒶𝓇𝑒𝒹, 𝒻𝒾𝑔𝒽𝓉𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒶 𝓌𝒶𝓇 𝒽𝑒 𝒹𝑜𝑒𝓈𝓃’𝓉 𝓌𝒶𝓃𝓉 𝓉𝑜 𝒻𝒾𝑔𝒽𝓉, 𝒽𝑜𝓅𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒽𝑒 𝓌𝑜𝓃’𝓉 𝒹𝒾𝑒. 𝐸𝓋𝑒𝓃𝓉𝓊𝒶𝓁𝓁𝓎, 𝒹𝑒𝓈𝓅𝒾𝓉𝑒 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒻𝑒𝒶𝓇, 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒸𝑜𝓁𝒹, 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝒶𝓃𝓍𝒾𝑒𝓉𝓎, 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝓃𝑜𝓉 𝓀𝓃𝑜𝓌𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝓌𝒽𝑒𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓇 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓎’𝓁𝓁 𝓌𝒶𝓀𝑒 𝓊𝓅 𝓉𝑜𝓂𝑜𝓇𝓇𝑜𝓌, 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓎 𝒻𝒶𝓁𝓁 𝒶𝓈𝓁𝑒𝑒𝓅 – 𝒶𝓉 𝓁𝑒𝒶𝓈𝓉 𝓈𝑜𝓂𝑒 𝑜𝒻 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓂 𝒹𝑜.
- The title is the number of kilometres you’d have to drive to get from Valencia, where I am right now, to Kyiv (if you took the first route Google Maps offers).
- Disclaimer one: I realize that this isn’t the first war that is happening in the world in my lifetime. I also realize it’s not fair that the media and the rest of us are giving it more attention than we gave other wars that happened in recent years or are happening right now. There are several reasons for this, which this article describes better than I could. I’m also adding a Wikipedia page with a list of ongoing armed conflicts, just because we should all try to be aware of the fact that they exist.
- Disclaimer 2: I know this is not a real short story, but I put it in this category because I don’t feel like a have a better one. Also, I intend on posting actual short stories here in the future.
- Disclaimer 3: The events described are a mix of news that I heard and read in the past few weeks, not something that actually happened on one particular day. Some of them are what I imagine could be happening to someone due to the info I’ve been exposed to (the woman on the train, the tuna can, the soldier, etc.).
The Pros and Cons of Living in Dublin
My boyfriend, Alvaro, and I moved to Dublin last summer because he got a job there. I didn’t particularly want to go because I’m a big fan of his Spanish hometown, Valencia, and was reluctant to leave it. Also, Dublin isn’t well connected with my own hometown, which is in Slovenia. But love often requires adapting, so I moved with him. Dublin wasn’t my best experience abroad (how can anything be once you’ve done Erasmus?), but it was interesting and memorable all the same.
I spent a little bit less than six months in Dublin (I left twice for three weeks). We spent the first month living in Howth, a gorgeous peninsula in the northeast of Dublin, and the following five months in Tallaght, a dodgy but also modern neighbourhood in the southwest.
In Dublin, I visited sights like the Guinness factory, the Temple Bar area (including Temple Bar itself, which was incredibly crowded), Phoenix Park (I didn’t manage to see the deer), Stephen’s Green Park, Grafton Street, Molly Malone Statue, the Skyview tower, etc.
As for the rest of the island, I travelled the most in September when my mom came to visit for five days. Besides Dublin and Howth, we managed to take an organised day trip to Galway (lovely) and the Cliffs of Moher (stunning) and another one to Belfast (interesting and sad from a historical point of view) and the Giant’s Causeway (breathtaking) (the last two are in Northern Ireland). We went to Kilkenny for a day by ourselves and really enjoyed the castle and the surrounding park. Alvaro and I went on a day trip to Wicklow (Glendalough, Powerscourt), which isn’t far from Dublin, to Galway for a whole day and to Cork for the weekend (we also visited Cobh (gorgeous) and Kinsale (overrated)).
Needless to say, there were more things on my list, such as the Ring of Kerry, Waterford, etc., but I ran out of time. Still, I feel like I’ve managed to visit quite a lot of places.
Pros of living in Dublin/Ireland
English: the fact that English is spoken everywhere in the city (there are signs in Irish, but nobody really speaks it in Dublin – you’d have to go to some other part of the country for that) makes things like taking courses and joining different activities more accessible. English also makes getting a job easier for most people.
Nature: because Ireland is an island, it has kilometres and kilometres of a very interesting coastline. The cliffs (especially the Cliffs of Moher) are amazing, and there are several beautiful beaches too. Howth is a gem and so close to the city center (just about 25 minutes by train or bus away).
Live music: it’s easy to find a pub with live music, even if it’s not the evening yet, even on a Wednesday (it’s the most common in the evenings for the weekend, but this is also when the pubs are the most crowded).
Irish people: the Irish are mostly funny, approachable and interested in other cultures. They’re also very proud of being Irish.
The writing culture: Dublin is a city of old book shops (Hodges Figgis), libraries, amazing writers and writing courses. I participated in a writing course organized by BLOCK T Studios and led by Caileann Bradley (pen name: Rachel Ryan). I also read novels by several Irish writers, including Sally Rooney.
The accent: Once you get used to it, it’s kinda cool!
Cons of living in Dublin/Ireland
Prices: Dublin is expensive. An average room will cost you about 700 euros, a studio 1200 and a small flat more than 1500. We lived about 35 minutes by public transport from the centre and were paying 700 per month (plus bills) for an en-suite room (we had our own bathroom). Most flats aren’t renovated and have humidity issues, and most owners don’t care about that. They can do whatever they want because there’s a lack of housing in the city. Everything else is expensive too, from meals in restaurants to drinks in pubs to public transport. Of course, the salaries are higher than in most other EU countries; the minimum is 1600 euros. Still, renting remains really expensive. People in their mid-30s or older, with degrees and full-time jobs, often still have flatmates.
The city itself: Dublin isn’t like Paris or London. It’s not a huge, beautiful, flashy capital with all the possible events you can think of. It doesn’t have tall buildings or many nightclubs, it’s kind of grey and not very big, and after a while, it’s not that interesting anymore.
The weather: summer only really comes in July for a few weeks. The weather changes a lot, but wind and rain (at the same time) are pretty common. It can also get quite cold, even though it usually doesn’t snow.
Public transport: Even though different parts of the city are well connected, buses and trams are often extremely late or leave you midway because of construction work on the tracks or something similar. Also, other Irish cities aren’t well connected with each other; you usually have to travel through Dublin.
Crime: some areas of Dublin can be quite dangerous, including Tallaght, where we lived.
Crazy teenagers: Dublin is full of youngsters (12-17 I would say), who are drunk in the center at like 7 pm, peeing in the middle of the street, throwing bottles at people, and shouting obscenities. One once threw a small stone in my head for no reason, and she seemed sober (it was a group of teenage girls on a bus stop in Tallaght).
Xenophobia and racism: I’ve heard stories about people speaking in their own language (on the phone or to each other) and being told to go back to their country because «English is spoken here». There have also been several racist attacks in the city.
Food: Scones are literally the only good food I had in this country. Fruit and veg from the supermarket aren’t the best, while restaurants are overpriced and the food isn’t tasty. There’s no good traditional food except scones, in my opinion (I’m vegetarian, though, so there are lots of things I didn’t try). As for Guinness: I don’t even like beer, but I like Guinness!
All in all, I liked living in Dublin. I made some really good friends (who were expats just like me – this always seems to happen), took an amazing writing course and got to know how beautiful Ireland is. Still, I was happy to go back to Spain. It turns out that bad weather influences my mood more than I thought it did; I feel like I was made for the Mediterranean, and I don’t think I’ll miss Dublin much.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: Books vs. Films
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a YA series by the American author of Korean descent Jenny Han, published between 2014 and 2017. Lara Jean has two sisters, Margo and Kitty, and they live with their father, while their mom died years ago. Whenever Lara Jean is disappointed in love, she writes a love letter, addresses it and puts it in a box. One day, all the letters get mysteriously sent out, which gets her in trouble.
In this blog post, I compare the books to the films, giving my opinion on both. The spoilers are in italics.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (1)
I listened to the audio versions of the books, and it took me some time to get used to Lara Jean’s voice; I found it a bit annoying at the beginning. It sounded like a very dry, emotionless description of how she likes her sister’s boyfriend. However, I now think that it works, that her way of speaking/thinking is how a 16-year-old would speak and think. Still, the writing tends to be quite repetitive (My whole body went …). Also, Lara Jean acts younger than her age; it seems like her only true passion is baking. I know that people are different, but she’s probably not all that relatable to most teenagers. Lara Jean’s friend Chris, who is categorized as “easy and wild”, seems more like a normal teenager: she parties, flirts and is rebellious. In a way, this is good because we get a variety of different teenagers (Lara Jean, her sister Margo, Chris, Peter, Gene, etc.), but we’re still stuck with Lara Jean’s cookies and ridiculous Valentine’s cards most of the time.
I found it kind of ridiculous that the two sisters made a pact that they won’t have sex before marriage when they were in middle school. Who makes a pact like that? It’s not even about religion or about some Korean tradition because their mother sounds like she was pretty liberal, and she’s been dead since they were kids anyway, so it’s not like she’s influenced them much in their more grown-up years. Another funny part is when both sisters are so appalled by the fact that Peter cheated on a test. They talk about it as if he robbed a bank or something. He cheated on a test, throw him in jail! Have you ever cheated on a test? Wait, did you have sex before marriage?? Oh my god, did you have sex with someone who wasn’t your boyfriend? You can’t sit with us. Go away.
The main actors are good, especially Peter (Noah Centineo) and Lara Jean (Lana Condor). It’s a bit weird that Lara Jean looks so much more Asian than her sisters, like she’s not mixed race at all and they are (which is because Condor is 100 % Vietnamese, while Anna Cathcart (Kitty) and Janel Parris (Margot) are actually mixed race). I don’t think this is a big problem, but they don’t really look like sisters. Lara Jean looks too perfect most of the time, her outfits are always spot on, as are her makeup and hair. I know that the book version of the character also pays attention to that, but I doubt that she wakes up with fake eyelashes and lipstick every morning. It feels like they were afraid of filming her with her eyes looking natural or something. Both Kitty and Margot are much younger in the books, the actresses are too old to play them. Also, Kitty is supposed to be more savage and less quirky, while Margot more serious and bossy. As for Chris, I imagined her to be more badass and Gene to be more bitchy. Peter was too nice, nicer than the book version.
P.S. I Still Love You (2)
The worst part of this book is the unnecessary love triangle. It feels like John Ambrose McClaren is added just to create some drama, while Peter is still seeing Gene all the time. I found their relationship a bit odd: it’s unclear at what point he stops being interested in her and whether she’s still interested in him. The main good part of this book is the nostalgia. What I love about Lara Jean as a character the most is how deeply she feels everything, how afraid of change she is and how much nostalgia she feels for middle school and then for high school, even before it ends. I enjoyed reading about the treehouse and time capsule thing, remembering middle school and old friends getting together again.
I think that the film did what it could with the story. In the book as well as in the film it seems like John Ambrose is perfect for Lara Jean, better than Peter. I definitely liked the book version of him better than the book version of Peter. Then again, Peter is exceptionally nice in the film, so he seems like the better choice because he was there first.
What I didn’t like was how the film handled the whole Gene thing (in the third film too). In the books, they’re enemies, and they never become friends again. In the film, they meet to talk and it’s all so honest and emotional, which just never happens in the book. I think they shouldn’t have done that because some friendships just end and there’s no need to sugar-coat it.
Always and Forever, Lara Jean (3)
I enjoyed the topics in this book (they were more relevant than in book 2): finishing high school, getting accepted to university, leaving home, and long-distance relationships. I love Lara Jean’s anxiety about being accepted to university and about being long-distance with Peter. This is the book in which she finally becomes relatable to me.
However, it was predictable that she wouldn’t be accepted to the university of her choosing. She, however, really grew as a character because she decided not to listen to what her mother said about going to uni with a boyfriend or to imitate what Margot did with Josh (break up). She decided to be herself and do what she feels like, and that’s great.
Lara Jean’s fear of change and leaving home is probably related to her mother’s death. She doesn’t want to leave her father and sister because she feels guilty and wants things to stay the way they are. As someone who also lost a parent as a child, I can relate to all those feelings. Still, I think death isn’t discussed enough in this series. Eve Song died from a head injury caused by slipping on a recently mopped floor and hitting her head. If this happened in the house (which I presume it did), everybody would be scared of it happening to someone else, and the place where it happened would never be the same again for the family. Also, Lara Jean would probably be paranoid about her dad or one of her sisters dying. The dad would probably have had more trouble handling his job as a doctor and raising three daughters, twelve, ten and three at the time of the mother’s death. This is a lost opportunity for some realness.
As for sex … oh, god.
Sex is replaced by baking in this book. Would Peter, a hot 18-year-old who has been having sex since the age of 14, really have waited for Lara Jean this long and without one complaint? I’m not saying that I expected him to try to push her into doing it, which would obviously be wrong, but he never even mentions it. But okay, let’s make it romantic, pretend that we’ve never met a teenage boy and say that Peter would be extremely okay with it. Would Lara-Jean, an 18-year-old who has been with Peter for over a year, really not want to sleep with him, though? Why not? She’s not religious, her family isn’t either, her father literally gives her condoms, and she doesn’t even seem to be very scared or anything like that. The pact with Margot is off, she broke it years ago, and Lara Jean is crazy about Peter. I still don’t understand her reasoning behind it.
There’s also this mad scene when Margot comes home from Scotland, where she’s been for almost two years, she’s almost twenty and she brings her boyfriend. Her dad doesn’t want them to sleep in the same room, and Kitty and Lara Jean are shocked because Margot doesn’t agree with or obey him. The dad has literally given Lara Jean, who’s two years younger, condoms. I don’t get it.
The film handles the story well again. Everything else I have to say is spoilers.
I think that losing your virginity is an important topic in a teenage novel. Why did the author decide to leave it out? It’s not like she’d have to give a full description of a sex scene, but the event actually taking place would’ve improved the book. There’s this scene when they’re on holiday and Lara Jean finally decides that she wants it, but then Peter doesn’t want it because he thinks she’s leaving him. At this point, I became convinced that the author just didn’t want to include it, even though she discussed the idea of it throughout the book. I don’t know if this has something to do with the book being YA or with Korean culture, but I really think it wasn’t the best way to handle it. She could’ve done it without being explicit, which the film managed brilliantly: they do it after the wedding, but we don’t actually see any action, which is completely appropriate for a teenage film.
The third film did an exceptionally good job, not only when it comes to sex, but also to wedding planning. The first was included (even though it never happens in the book), while the second was just briefly mentioned. In the book, Lara Jean is extremely annoying with the wedding planning, and I’m glad that I didn’t have to relive this in the movie. As for Gene, they make it seem like the girls will be BFFs in college again because they’re going to the same one. Lol.
In general, I’d say that the films are better than the books. They leave out some unnecessary things and focus on the important stuff. They also add the unnecessary Gene thing, but I forgive them for it because they weren’t scared of including sex, which can be and often is a part of teenagers’ lives, and it shouldn’t be taboo.
Despite all my negative comments, I did enjoy the books. They were lighthearted, presented a family with one parent, a life with sisters, which I never had, and made me think of elementary and high school times, which were sweet and cute; the book made me as nostalgic as Lara Jean. I also enjoyed all the bits of American and Korean culture that I got out of the books, all these things about food and clothes and cosmetics. I did find some things very predictable, like the university thing, all of Gene’s appearances, the love triangle …
All in all, I don’t regret reading the books, even though I sometimes wished they would finish already. I kind of enjoyed watching the films too, even though I didn’t manage to do it without scrolling through my Instagram feed. If you have nothing better to do and want to take your mind off life and take a trip back to high school (unless you’re still in one, in which case you’re the target audience), I think both the books and the films are a good choice. But they’re nothing more than that, I’ll never read or watch this series again.
You can find my review of a very different (and much worse) YA series here.
Sally Rooney: Why You Should Read Her Novels
Sally Rooney is one of the few authors whose books I read that are millennials just like me; she’s actually less than three years older than me. This makes her words feel a lot closer to my own life and her characters much more relatable. She discusses the things that our generation wonders about daily and writes about them very naturally and beautifully.
In this blog post, I talk about the three books she has published so far. I always warn you before the paragraphs that contain spoilers and they are all in italics.
Like most people, I heard of the TV adaptation first. Only after I binged on that, I read the book. I loved both, and I think the series reflects the book very well and is pretty faithful to it. After all, Rooney co-wrote the script. In the book, I found the lack of quotation marks a bit weird and annoying at first, but not enough to not enjoy the book. I found both main characters relatable and interesting, and the story of their love and friendship captivating.
Most of all, I enjoyed Rooney’s writing style, how naturally the dialogue flows, and how she makes you feel like you’re in the room with the characters, listening to them or watching them having a cup of tea. Another thing Sally Rooney is great at is writing sex scenes: she makes them hot but believable, bold but fragile. I don’t think I’ve ever read better ones anywhere. E. L. James and Anna Todd could really learn something from Rooney’s novels.
(The following paragraph contains a partial spoiler, go ahead and skip it if you’d like.)
However, I must say that I found the ending a bit unnecessary: why make their happiness ambiguous, why not just let them be? She could have let Marianne and Connell stay physically and emotionally together. After all, they have just finished their bachelor’s studies at the end of the book, which means they still have plenty of time to break up. I’m sure the readers would know that, and it would’ve left the ending “open” enough if this is what the author was seeking.
Conversations with Friends
This is the first novel Sally Rooney published (she was only 26), but it’s the second one I read. Actually, I listened to the audio version, and I decided to do it quite randomly and after reading some quite unfavourable reviews, so I didn’t have great expectations. People were saying that the characters are unlikeable and unrelatable, that the main character doesn’t make any sense, etc. I found it to be quite the opposite, after finishing it I felt like I love it more than Normal People. I’m not sure if I do; Normal People is so completely intertwined with the series in my head that I’ll probably have to read it again.
(The next three paragraphs contain spoilers.)
I think that some people hate this book because one of its main topics is cheating. The main character, Francis, is having an affair with a married man, Nick. However, Francis is only 21, while Nick is 32 and fighting depression. Francis isn’t doing that great mentally either, and Nick’s wife had admitted to cheating on him twice before Nick and Francis even met. The couple was sleeping in separate bedrooms when Nick and Francis started sleeping together. I’m not saying that all this makes cheating right, I’m just saying that circumstances do matter. I didn’t feel like Francis and Nick were bad people, they just seemed human to me.
I found Francis very intriguing as a person; she was quite bold for a 21-year-old. She seduced Nick and not the other way around. The friendship between the married couple and the two friends is very intriguing throughout the book. The relationship between Francis and Bobbi is interesting on its own too: the girls are ex-girlfriends who have remained friends.
While the chemistry between Nick and Francis definitely convinced me, the one between Bobbi and Francis didn’t, at least not the sexual part of it. They just seemed good friends to me, whatever romantic and sexual feelings they used to have for one another stayed in the past. I think this might be because Rooney never describes them having sex, while there are several great sex scenes involving Nick. Sex between people of the same sex is mentioned in her novels but never described, even if some of the main characters are bisexual or gay.
The things that are good in Normal People stand out in this book too: the style, the dialogue, the sex scenes, and the intelligent and observant conversations about the world and the society (there are actually more of those in this book, I think). This novel doesn’t have quotation marks either, but I actually didn’t notice that because I was listening to it. This time, I kind of loved the ending. It was surprising and to me it made sense. Again, it left all the options open, even though we can imagine it probably won’t work out the second time either, probably not between any of the couples in the story.
Beautiful World, Where Are You
Sally Rooney’s last novel is gorgeous. This time, the protagonists are a bit older, in their late twenties and in their thirties. The most interesting character is probably Alice, who’s a young famous author, just like Sally herself. Even though Alice’s story is not Sally’s story, I’m sure that Alice says many things that Sally thinks. The most addictive relationship to read about, at least to me, is the one between Eileen and Simon. It comes close to the one between Nick and Francis, but there’s even more caring and love.
I feel like this book is divided between the stories of Eileen’s and Alice’s love life and the emails that the two friends from university exchange. The idea of writing emails to a friend sounds so cool but also something not many people would do. Most people exchange WhatsApp audios these days (including me). Anyway, the emails mostly discuss the world we live in: the environment, having children despite the possibly shitty future they might have to live in, consumerism, capitalism, faith, and love. They are intelligent and interesting, but at times I found myself waiting for them to finish just so that I could learn more about what happens between the characters next.
(Spoilers in the next paragraph.)
Just some random observations
I kind of wished I could’ve found out more about Alice’s breakdown, how exactly it happened, etc. Also, I think Felix is extremely weird at times, and I don’t think I was entirely convinced by the attraction and the love that the two are supposed to feel for each other. Eileen and Simon were much more understandable to me in that sense. The fight between Eileen and Alice in the kitchen was phenomenal and so real. Long friendships between women are hard but also beautiful and so worth it. I also love the parts where Rooney takes the reader out of the room and describes the outside world: the moon or the sea or a street in Dublin.
What the books have in common
Conversations With Friends is written in the first person, while the other two books are in the third person. Normal People is in the present, while the other two are in the past. A big part of all three books takes place in Dublin. All the novels also involve a trip to some kind of holiday house that is either abroad or on the Irish coast. All the protagonists are Irish. Literature is somehow important in all the novels: Marianne loves to read, Connell is a writer, Francis is a poet, Melissa is a writer and journalist, and Alice is a (famous) author. Literary events in Dublin are often mentioned, the main characters talk about politics and society a lot and there’s a lot of (straight) sex.
All three books read fast and easily but are beautifully written and touching. The last novel is the one with the most humour, and the first one might be the most striking one (I guess because affairs are so controversial). I believe that Sally Rooney truly manages to represent the world in which millennials live, the thoughts we have, and the decisions we make. Her novels are wholesome: they talk about difficult family relations, the importance of friendship and sex, the uncertainty and ugliness of the world but also the beauty of it. The characters aren’t the nicest or the most moral and perfect of people, but they seem human; she could be talking about you or me. And this is what makes her novels so great.
How to get a NIE number in Spain?
Getting a NIE number can quickly be complicated, annoying and nerve-wracking, at least it was in my experience. There isn’t enough information about how to obtain one online, and I know I really needed it when I wanted to get mine. The process can be a bit lengthy and complicated (or not, it really depends on your circumstances and luck), but I’m sure it’ll be worth it, at least it was for me.
What’s a NIE number?
N.I.E. is an abbreviation for Número de Identidad de Extranjero (Foreigners’ Identification Number). This number (that you get as a foreigner) is essentially what Spaniards have on their IDs. The same number also works as a tax number (with ES written in front).
Why do you need a NIE number?
You basically need a NIE number for all official processes in Spain: to get employed, to open a bank account, to rent a house or an apartment long-term, to open your own company, to buy property, to buy a car, and to pay your taxes. Even if you just want to buy property (and not actually live in Spain), you need a NIE number.
Temporary vs. permanent NIE number
If you’re planning on staying in Spain for more than three months, you should apply for a permanent NIE number. You can also first apply for a temporary one and then for a permanent one (but avoid doing that if you can, it’ll just take more of your time). If you want to get a permanent NIE, you have to provide proof that you’re staying in Spain for longer than three months (for example a contract of employment).
While a temporary NIE number is just a number (usually given to you on an A4 sheet of paper), a permanent NIE number is a small green card (made of paper too) with your NIE number, address, issue date, date and place of birth and nationality written on it. It doesn’t expire. It’s also cold Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Union Europea or tarjeta verde (green card). The permanent NIE should not be mixed with the TIE. Only non-EU nationals (who need a visa to stay in Spain) have to apply for a TIE number.
Getting a NIE number: EU. vs. non-EU
To my best knowledge, both EU and non-EU nationals have to apply for a temporary NIE number, but only EU nationals can apply for a permanent one (while non-EU nationals can apply for a TIE number). I haven’t been through the TIE process myself because I’m from Slovenia, so I won’t try to describe it. You can get some useful information here. Keep reading to find out what you need to obtain a temporary NIE (as an EU national vs. a non-EU national).
What documents do you need?
For a temporary NIE number:
- two copies of the EX-15 application form (filled in, of course)
- an original document that states your reason for applying (contract of employment, a private purchase contract for a property, deposit contract, a mortgage approval, etc.)
- proof that you’ve paid the fee of about 10 euros for the Tasa modelo 790 Codigo 12: fill in this form and pay at a bank or at an ATM (in both cases make sure you can prove that you paid)
- your passport and a photocopy of the main page of your passport (I don’t think you can use your ID)
- your passport and a photocopy of your entire passport (all pages)
- proof of your legal entry into Spain (a landing card (declaración de entrada or título de viaje or cédula de inscripción); sometimes a valid entry stamp in your passport is enough
- two small photos of yourself
For a permanent NIE number (just for EU nationals):
- two copies of form EX-18
- again, proof that you’ve paid the fee of about 10 euros for the Tasa modelo 790 Codigo 12: fill in this form and pay at a bank or at an ATM (in both cases make sure you can prove it)
- your passport and a photocopy of the main page
- a document justifying your request: this really depends on what you’re doing in Spain for more than three months. It could be your info vida laboral (you get it from the social security) if you’re employed in Spain, a certificate from the Spanish Study Centre if you’re a student, a Spanish Internship Agreement if you’re a trainee, a marriage certificate if you’re married to a Spaniard or proof that you have at least 5125 euros in your bank account if you’re not any of the above.
- maybe: proof of residence (empadronamiento). Not all offices ask for this, but some might.
How to make an appointment?
This website is your friend. Don’t bother going to the police/extranjería (office for foreigners) without making an online appointment first, they won’t accept you. I’m not sure if the following is true for all the communities, but it’s true for Comunidad Valenciana: new time slots appear every Friday at 9:30. This is when you should be online, booking your slot. Give yourself enough time to prepare the documentation and pay the fee (don’t forget about the proof). Sometimes slots become available because someone cancels, so it doesn’t hurt to check at other times if you’re in a hurry.
What if you don’t speak Spanish well enough?
I came to Spain with a B1/B2 level, and I wasn’t able to do this on my own. My (Spanish) boyfriend helped me fill in all the documents and went to the office with me (a few times). This is totally legal, and you can bring anyone there: a friend, a translator that you paid; whoever you want to, basically. Don’t expect the officials to speak English because they most probably won’t (which is a bit funny since they literally work at a foreigners’ office; welcome to Spain).
This guide might help you book your appointment.
This translation might help fill you in the EX-15 form.
And this one might help you fill in the EX-18 form.
Alternative ways of getting a temporary NIE number
You can also get a NIE if you’re not physically in Spain, but just a temporary one. You can either get it through a representative, which is expensive, or through the Spanish embassy in your current country of residence. There are many websites that offer to get you a NIE number without you having to do much (except for paying, of course). As soon as you google anything about NIE, you’ll probably notice some. Be careful because some of those are scams.
Getting a NIE through an embassy is still a better option, at least in my opinion, even though it’s not the best. I considered getting mine from the Spanish embassy in Ljubljana, but then I decided that it was actually easier to just get it in Spain (it takes less time). The embassy simply acts as a post office: you bring your documents, they send them to Spain and then you come again to collect your NIE number. In Slovenia, you have to wait for about two weeks.
How to get your empadronamiento?
Empadronamineto, also called Padrón, is a town hall registration to inform the municipal register where you live. It’s mandatory to register (empadronarse) if you’re planning on living in Spain for more than six months per year. You’ll need your empadronamiento to get your health insurance (including your card), to buy a car or other vehicle, to get married or form a civil partnership and *maybe* to apply for a NIE.
You can register at your nearest town hall (ayuntamiento). Check the town hall’s website beforehand to see what procedure they have when it comes to booking a slot (In Valencia, you have to call the town hall and book one).
The documents you’ll need:
- your passport (original and copy)
- NIE number (if you already have it)
- a bill that proves that you paid the rent (unless you own the flat or aren’t required to pay bills for some reason)
- if the property is yours: original copy of the title deeds (escritura)
- if you’re renting a flat: an original copy of the rental agreement in Spanish (the contract must be for more than six months)
- if you’re renting a room: a written document from the owner of the flat stating that you reside at the address + a signed copy of their ID or a document signed by a person already registered at your address + a signed copy of their ID
The empadronamiento is free of charge and should be renewed every five years for EU nationals. It should also be renewed whenever you change your address.
Be careful: the Certificate of Empadronamiento shouldn’t be more than three months old in order to be considered valid. You can always get it quickly if you have a digital certificate (here’s how to get one). You can also always ask your local town hall for a copy.
My empadronamiento experience was pretty good: I got registered at my boyfriend’s parents’ house where I was living at the time. My only proof was his mother’s statement with a copy of her ID and her signature (she owns the flat)
Things to think about before getting your NIE number
Triple check if you have all the correct documents. Don’t forget to book a time slot. Get a Spanish speaking person to help you; they’ll be much better at looking for info online, filling in the forms and talking to the officials. Just bear in mind that they never had to get a NIE number themselves, so they won’t just automatically know things.
It’s a good idea to join some FB groups (preferably for expats in the city/area you’re moving to). Don’t be shy and ask questions, most people are usually happy to help. Luckily, there’s a lot of useful info in English online too.
Getting a temporary NIE number
I got a job before coming to Spain, but I applied for a temporary NIE because I didn’t have all the documents yet (info vida laboral, for instance). Also, I was under the impression that the empadronamiento was absolutely necessary. I only knew that I had to make an appointment online and how to do it because they told me in this FB group! This should really be written on the official websites or on the form itself.
I literally went to the extranjería right after I got to Valencia, but my boyfriend forgot the proof that he paid the fee. He somehow managed to get it and come back before the office closed (he had about twenty minutes), and I got the temporary NIE.
Getting a permanent NIE number
After that, I got the empadronamiento and the health insurance. The latter caused me some trouble because my company registered me at the social security with my passport instead of my NIE (because I didn’t have a NIE when they did it). I also had trouble obtaining a permanent NIE because of this. I think I went there about three times before I finally got it. The first time, I only brought the contract because I thought it would be enough. Of course, it wasn’t. I was alone that time, so I didn’t understand exactly what they told me to bring and brought the wrong thing next time too. The third time, I finally got the info vida laboral, but only after my company finally registered me with my NIE number (which also allowed me to get the real health insurance card, I was using a paper one before that).
When the guy at the office finally gave me the green piece of paper (the so-called permanent NIE), I thought that it still wasn’t over and that I would also have to get a TIE number. He said that the TIE was just for non-EU nationals. I was so happy that the whole thing was finally done. I know that my encounters with the Spanish bureaucracy are by no means over, but at least I don’t ever have to ask for a NIE number again.
Love and Feminism in Wuthering Heights
I first read Wuthering Heights last year, and if I had been unsure what my favourite book was until then, I’ve been absolutely certain ever since. Many books have made quite an impression on me, but none as big as Emily’s first and only novel. Emily Bronte was a brilliant writer, and I’m sorry she didn’t get to write more books.
(This blog post contains *many* spoilers.)
I know there are people who hate Wuthering Heights, and I think I understand why. It’s cruel on many occasions, both main characters are pretty much mad at some point, one just before her death, the other for a couple of decades. Cathy and Heathcliff aren’t telling the story, so the reader never knows what they’re really thinking or feeling. There’s no happy ending, at least not for these two. However, I think all these facts serve the story.
In this blog post, I touch on the four main reasons I’m such a fan of this book: the frame narrative, Heathcliff, the love between Cathy and Heathcliff, and feminism.
“He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” – Cathy to Nelly, about Heathcliff, on the day she accepted Edgar’s hand in marriage.
“Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I can not live without my life! I can not live without my soul!” – Heathcliff, freshly married to Isabella, to the dying Cathy.
The frame narrative in Wuthering Heights
First of all, the frame narrative, typical for gothic novels, is brilliant. Mr Lockwood opens the story: he leaves his new lodgings (Thrushcross Grange) to visit his landlord Mr Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. After an unusual encounter with the unkind Heathcliff, Lockwood returns home and asks his housekeeper, Nelly, to tell him about his landlord, for whom she had previously worked. Along with Lockwood, the reader gets to hear the story of Heathcliff and Cathy, from when they were children until the present situation. Lockwood doesn’t stay at Wuthering Heights long and ends up leaving it for eight months. He takes over the story when he returns, but only until he meets Nelly, who tells him about Heathcliff’s death. Lockwood says the final few words.
Nelly is proof of how much housekeepers knew about their masters. Whether she is a trustworthy narrator or not is still being debated; she definitely influences the events, for example when she lets Cathy speak of Heathcliff when she knows he is listening, when she lets him meet her in secret, and when she doesn’t tell Edgar about Isabella’s elopement. I still think there’s no doubt that she cares for both of them in her own way. She also advises Cathy against marrying Edgar, which is the only reasonable thing to do since it’s clear that she merely likes him but doesn’t love him. The other narrator, Lockwood, is an outsider with whom anyone can identify. I can imagine myself being in his position: I would’ve thought Heathcliff was a weirdo, I would’ve been scared if I had to sleep in Cathy’s room and I would’ve definitely been curious about the family. Nelly would’ve received similar questions from me as she did from Lockwood.
I think Heathcliff is one of the best characters ever written. One of the main reasons for this is the secrecy and mystery that surround him: we don’t know where he came from, how he became wealthy or what he really thinks (since he doesn’t narrate the story). There’s also the question of what he might be like had Cathy followed her heart and married him instead of Edgar. Could he have been good if he had her, if he were loved by her? Could he have loved their children like he was never able to love Linton, just because he was Isabella’s? We can only guess, and my guess is that yes, he would’ve been a better person.
Heathcliff might be a villain, but everyone who’s ever lost anyone they loved must be able to understand his pain, maybe even some of his madness. He would’ve done anything to see Cathy, talk to her again, and feel her presence. The fact that he didn’t get to spend as much time with her as he wished while she was still alive (or to be what he wanted to be to her) as well as the fact that it was then too late because she didn’t exist anymore, drove him mad and made him cruel. He lost his touch with reality, and his only hope was to meet her again, in whatever form. Good for Heathcliff that he believed in life after death or in ghosts or whatever it was that he believed in. This probably helped him survive all those years without Cathy, despite all the what-ifs and could-have-beens.
Heathcliff treats Cathy’s brother horribly, but Hindley used to treat Heathcliff horribly too. Hindley is the main reason for how things turned out for Cathy and Heathcliff. He would have never agreed to his sister marrying «the servant», and he encouraged her to marry Edgar because of his social status. It’s understandable that Heathcliff hates him and wants revenge. It’s horrible (especially because Hindley already got his fair share of suffering when his wife died), it’s not right, but it’s understandable. However, what he does to Isabella (and consequently to Cathy), to Linton and to Cathy’s daughter Cathy, is pure cruelty and essentially what makes him a villain.
The Love in Wuthering Heights
I’ve heard people say that Wuthering Heights isn’t a love story at all, that it’s actually about revenge and hate, and that a relationship this toxic cannot be considered love. I disagree. How can it not be about love? Please read the two quotes at the beginning of this blog post. Even better, read all of them here. I think that only people who have never truly, passionately loved and been loved can say that feeling like your own soul isn’t entirely yours, that you share it with someone else, isn’t love.
Love is complicated as it is, now imagine living in rural England at the beginning of the 19th century. Imagine your older brother plays the paternal role in your life and hates the guts out of the guy that you love. Imagine that the guy you love is bad in everyone’s eyes because his skin is dark and he’s of questionable origin. Also, he has no money, and you’re a woman, which means you cannot inherit anything. How well you’ll live depends solely on who you’ll marry.
And then imagine always being frowned upon because you lack a surname and money, and your skin is too dark and you’re too dirty and your manners aren’t the best and you haven’t had a good education. Imagine that she loves you despite all this, at least you think she does. But her tyrannical brother degrades you more and more every day. And she spends less and less time with you and wears pretty dresses to see that idiot, Edgar Linton. And then you overhear her talking to the housekeeper, and she says she can never marry you, but you don’t heart the part when she says how much she loves you…
It’s all downhill from there for Cathy and Heathcliff, and yes, it’s partly their own fault, partly Nelly’s, and partly a series of unfortunate events. But most of all, it’s a consequence of their position in Victorian society. Essentially, they are victims of society’s expectations and of the inequality between men and women. But there definitely is love in Wuthering Heights, this isn’t even a question.
The Feminism in Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights was seen as a controversial novel when it was published in 1847. Several female characters? Strong female characters? Passion? And then it turns out that Ellis is actually Emily, which means that the author is a woman? How dare she!
Emily Bronte, who herself lived in a society in which women were highly inferior to men, expressed her own views through the novel, the plot of which is contradictory to the Victorian ideal of women. The Victorian period, surprise, was not particularly easy on women. They had to measure up to what was expected of them and be “the angel in the house”, a virtuous, feminine figure that ensured hospitality and a moral guide.
As a child, Cathy can be seen as a feminist role model: independent and separated from the female norms of the period she lives in. She doesn’t care for dresses or looking pretty, all she wants to do is run around the moors with Heathcliff. There’s a conflict between who she really is on the inside and who she’s expected to be on the outside.
After their dog injures her, she’s forced to spend some weeks with the Lintons at Thrushcross Grange. She comes back looking and behaving differently – a lot more woman-like. Cathy is in her early teenage years at the time, so this may have something to do with her transformation too (many girls are more «wild», sometimes referred to as «boyish», as kids). She begins to spend more time with Edgar Linton and less with Heathcliff. It’s like she realises what is expected of her, how she should look and behave, and who she should focus on.
Cathy is more motivated by social ambition than by passion and love; she thinks about who she’ll be and what she’ll have if she marries Edgar. Eventually, she accepts to marry him, even though she merely likes him but doesn’t love him. She tells Nelly that marrying Heathcliff would degrade her, so he will never know that she loves him. The quality of her life and her social status depends on who she marries. The inequality between men and women doesn’t only affect Cathy’s life; Heathcliff is disempowered because he “looks like a gipsy” and isn’t heir to any money or property. Next to Edgar, he’s not eligible, he’s an outcast, a servant to Cathy’s brother.
A Failed Marriage
Cathy marries Edgar for money, property and reputation. She even has ambitions of helping Heathcliff out financially with her husband’s money. However, both she and Heathcliff end up frustrated, unhappy with whom they married, with unfulfilled passions and desires. Cathy dies almost two decades before Heathcliff, but they are in a similar condition before their death: unable to eat, feverish and a bit mad. Cathy says «he is more myself than I am» just hours after accepting Edgar’s marriage proposal. When Cathy is dying, Heathcliff says: “Do I want to live? What kind of living will it be when you – Oh, God! would you like to lie with your soul in the grave?” Heathcliff arranges for his own body to merge with Cathy’s after death; if they didn’t get to be “one” when they were both alive, they will be eternally together in their death.
When Cathy is only eighteen, she’s pregnant, mentally and physically unwell, not on speaking terms with her husband and heartbroken because Heathcliff ran away with Isabella. When she married a wealthy man, far superior to Heathcliff in society’s eyes, she, as Heathcliff put it, betrayed her own heart. Things didn’t turn out the way she wanted them to; the money, the house and the surname Linton didn’t make her feel happy or fulfilled. She didn’t have the chance to help or save Heathcliff because he ran away and returned changed: wealthier and more powerful but hurt and in search of revenge. In the last weeks of her life, Cathy says: “I wish I were a girl again, half-savage and hardy, and free”. She longs for her childhood when she was free of society’s expectations, when she didn’t care about how she looked, how much money she had or how Heathcliff was seen by others. When she still had Heathcliff and was true to herself.
Obviously, the fact that Heathcliff and Cathy could not be together is needed to truly portray the feminine inferiority of the Victorian period. Situations like theirs were probably common. As the novel begins, we can already see Cathy’s struggle through Lockwood’s eyes as he sees the different combinations scratched on the paint: Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Heathcliff, Catherine Linton. Not only is this a brilliant beginning that captures the reader’s attention right away, but it’s also unusual for a woman from that period; it represents her inner struggle. Even as Catherine Linton, Cathy still desires to be Heathcliff’s wife and regrets her past choices.
The Hope for a Better Future
As it’s evident from Heathcliff’s and Cathy’s relationship, not only women gain by women having equal rights; men gain too. Had Cathy had the chance to marry who she really loved, Heathcliff wouldn’t have run away, Isabella wouldn’t have had to suffer, and Edgar wouldn’t have had to spend his life as a widower. Two people would never have been born, but two other people would’ve been happy instead of miserable. Heathcliff was clearly capable of gaining money and power; he would’ve done it either way. Instead of misery, revenge, jealousy and pain, there would’ve been love, independence, and courage. It’s evident that Cathy was wrong when she didn’t follow her heart, but also that the state of things didn’t leave her with many other choices.
Many readers and literary critics view Cathy’s daughter, also called Catherine/Cathy, and Hindley’s son Hareton as what Cathy and Heathcliff could’ve been had they ever got the chance to be together. Hareton is inferior to Cathy in society’s eyes too: he’s illiterate, uneducated, had bad manners and is basically Heathcliff’s servant. Cathy is from a wealthy family and has good education and good manners. Despite these obstacles and differences, Cathy follows her heart and chooses to be with Hareton, making both herself and him happy. It’s easier for Cathy than it was for her mother; there’s no older brother controlling her, while Nelly is in favour of their marriage. Also, Cathy already has experience in marrying someone whose social status is appropriate, and it wasn’t a good experience, to say the least. To a reader, who so desperately wants to see Cathy and Heathcliff together, Cathy and Hareton are a form of consolation. Also, their relationship can be interpreted as a hope for a better future, for both women and men.
Which Brontë Sister Was the Best Writer?
(This «ranking» is obviously just my opinion!)
I guess I first heard about the Brontës when I was in high school and then studied them properly at university (I studied English). However, I only started reading them last year (was too busy partying at uni, I guess). In this blog post, I don’t go into great details about the novels, but I do explain why I love/don’t love them and list some interesting facts about the authors’ lives.
Emily only wrote one novel: Wuthering Heights. She was the second youngest of the surviving Brontë siblings; her younger sister Anne was also her best friend. Together, they created the fictional world of Gondal, wrote poetry and read it aloud to each other.
Emily is thought to have lived a secluded life and made few friends throughout her (short) life. She was close to her family and very attached to her home in Yorkshire. She was shy, quiet and kept to herself, even though she was interested in other people’s life stories. Emily Brontë died when she was 30 from tuberculosis. Who knows what other amazing stories she would’ve written had she lived longer.
As far as we know, Emily never formed a romantic relationship with anyone. Yet, she wrote one of the most passionate novels of all time. People keep stealing love quotes from it (ahem Anna Todd), many not realising that they don’t want the relationship that Cathy and Heathcliff had (and didn’t have).
Wuthering Heights is a gothic novel, influenced by romanticism. It’s a combination of two speakers; they outline the events of the plot in a framework of a story within a story. Many critics were appalled by the savageness and selfishness depicted in the novel. They questioned the morality of the story because of how passionate it was. They, however, had to admit that it was both powerful and imaginative. Throughout the years, critics began to recognize that Wuthering Heights is at least as great a literary work as Charlotte’s Jane Eyre (if not better).
Many people see Wuthering Heights as a love story, while some argue that it isn’t about love at all. I personally think that it is about love, but also about class and money, childhood, morality, religion and race. There is as much selfishness and revenge between Cathy and Heathcliff as there is love. And then there are many questions that Emily left unanswered and are still being debated today: Were they half-siblings? Was their relationship really sexless? Not to mention the feminist theme in the novel.
Charlotte was the oldest of the three sisters, the one who lived the longest (38) and the only one who got married. After her mother’s death, she, with the help of her aunt, became a motherly figure for her younger siblings. The children created the magical worlds of Angria and Gondal, and the sisters published poetry together. Charlotte worked as a governess and spent some time studying and teaching in Brussels with Emily.
She was of a petite frame but of a determined character. She saw herself as a poet and a writer despite the general view that these weren’t appropriate professions for a woman. The three sisters published under the names Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell to avoid any possible problems. After the death of her sisters, Charlotte had some control over the publication of their works; she is believed to have rewritten some parts (especially in Emily’s poems) and suppressed the republication of Anne’s second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Also, Charlotte is believed to be an unreliable source of information about Emily; she might have exaggerated the shyness of her sister.
While living in Brussels, Charlotte developed feelings for a married man, Constantin Héger. She had written many letters to him, but he only responded to some. Charlotte got married to Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father’s curate, when she was 36, got pregnant soon after her marriage, but died just before her 39th birthday with her unborn child. She died from dehydration and malnourishment due to vomiting caused by severe morning sickness.
Jane Eyre is the first novel that Charlotte managed to get published, even though she had written one before (The Professor). It’s the most famous of all her works and in my opinion the most likeable one. It combines romanticism, naturalism and gothic melodrama. Just like Wuthering Heights, it was very innovative at the time. The crazy wife, the fire, the brave girl, the scary house and, of course, the love story. Jane Eyre is a story that’s compelling from the beginning till the very end.
Jane Eyre is essentially a bildungsroman. It starts with Jane’s miserable childhood, then takes us to Thornfield Hall, where we are witnesses to her falling in love with Mr Rochester. The fact that it’s written in the first person makes it a lot more personal. It feels like Jane is inviting us to join her and hear about her life story.
The Professor was Charlotte’s first novel, but it was published posthumously, in 1857. “The Professor” is William Crimsworth, a young man who starts working as a clerk for his rich brother. Because the latter treats him horribly, he takes an acquaintance’s advice and travels to Brussels to teach English. The rest of the story is about how he nearly falls in love, is deceived, and then falls in love with someone else. Just like with Jane, we witness how he grows up, finds a profession he enjoys, a girl who loves him and settles down.
The Professor is another bildungsroman, also told in the first person. However, it lacks the passion, the mystery, and the gothic vibe of Jane Eyre. It isn’t half as exciting. It was difficult for me to identify myself with William, while it was very easy to do so with Jane. Maybe because he’s a man? Who knows.
Villette is Charlotte’s third novel, set in the fictional Belgian gothic town of Villette. This novel is written in the first person too and is also a bildungsroman. It follows the life of Lucy Snowe, who is a somewhat passive and observant character. Just like Jane, she’s described as plain. Contrary to Jane Eyre, this novel explores Lucy’s psychology (isolation and displacement especially), gender roles and repression. Jane is the one who seems braver, more decisive, and the one who knows what she wants, but Lucy is the one who truly breaks free of the expected domestic fate in the end.
At times, Lucy can be sarcastic and funny (especially when she talks to Ginevra). Sometimes, though, when she’s thinking and observing, the prose is basically stream-of-consciousness. This explains the novel’s length (993 pages). I sometimes wished the story would unfold faster, the events happen more quickly. I did enjoy the book, especially because it contains real experiences from the time Charlotte spent in Brussels; there’s probably a lot of Constantin Héger in M. Paul Emanuel. In my opinion, though, Villette is not nearly as gripping as Jane Eyre.
To be completely honest with you, I haven’t finished this book. I started listening to the audio version, but I had a little break to listen to Villette instead. What I’ve heard so far hasn’t really convinced me; I found it boring, and it was hard for me to concentrate on it. This might be because Shirley, Charlotte’s second published novel, is narrated by an omniscient but unnamed third-person narrator, which makes it more impersonal. I’m quite sure that it’ll be my least favourite of all Charlotte’s novels. It’s about a mill owner, Robert Moore, his cousin Caroline and the heiress Shirley. There’s also a guy called Louise, and I have yet to find out who ends up with whom.
I think that the omniscient narrator and the larger-than-usual number of main characters are what makes this book less fascinating. (If I change my mind once I finish it, I’ll definitely edit this blog post.)
Anne was the youngest of the Brontë literary family. Just like her sisters, she spent most of her life at the parish of Haworth on the Yorkshire moors. She also attended a boarding school and worked as a governess. Like Charlotte and Emily, she was a writer and a poet.
Anne and Emily were very close; when Anne was 11, she and Emily broke away from Charlotte and Branwell’s world of Angria to create and develop their own fantasy world, Gondal. Charlotte’s friend Ellen Nussey described the girls as “twins”.
Anne died at 29, probably of tuberculosis. After her death, Charlotte edited Agnes Grey to fix issues with its first edition and prevented the republication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. This is one of the reasons why Anne is not as well known as her sisters. Nonetheless, both of her novels are considered to be classics of English literature.
Agnes Grey was published together with Wuthering Heights in December 1847 but was outshone by Emily’s more dramatic novel. It’s largely based on Anne’s own experience as a governess. Agnes is a young woman who decided to become a governess to help her family out financially. She has a hard time working as a governess due to her unreasonable employers and their spoilt children (which was Anne’s experience too). Agnes Grey is a love story: the main protagonist falls in love with a curate, Mr Edward Weston. It’s somewhat of a bildungsroman too, but not entirely because Agnes never transforms for ideological reasons.
Agnes Grey is written in a simple prose style, which is witty and easy to read. It’s a “nice story” in all aspects, but it isn’t striking like Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the second and final novel of Anne Brontë. At the time of its publication (1848), it was considered shocking, which is probably why it had instant and phenomenal success. The novel consists of a series of letters from Gilbert Markham to his friend about his meeting a mysterious young widow, Helen Graham. The story is told from Gilbert’s point of view, except when Helen gives him her diary. This is when we get to hear her story, also told in the first person.
Helen is the exact opposite of what a woman was expected to be at that time: she lives alone with her son and makes an income by selling her own paintings. When Helen left her husband and took away their child, she violated not only social conventions but also early 19th-century English law. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is now considered to be one of the first feminist novels.
I absolutely loved The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The themes in it are extremely innovative for that time: alcoholism, domestic violence, adultery and female artists weren’t easily found in works of the early 19th century. In both novels, Anne opted for realism and not romanticism (which prevails in her sisters’ novels). Wildfell Hall isn’t a haunted house like Wuthering Heights or Thornfield Hall, it’s just old, damp and unwelcoming. Arthur Huntington is not intelligent or strong like Heathcliff or fundamentally good like Rochester, he’s just a violent drunk.
- Wuthering Heights
- Jane Eyre
- The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
- Agnes Grey
- The Professor
- Just to be clear, I think that all Brontë sisters were extremely talented. I haven’t read their poems yet, but their prose is fantastic. Charlotte might have written more novels (she had more time, to be fair), but I find Emily to be the best writer. I’ve read Wuthering Heights twice, and I’m sure I’ll read it many more times. Heathcliff and Cathy as characters are both so fascinating, Nelly’s narrative so wholesome, Mr Lockwood’s irony on point, the setting so attractively gothic and, of course, Cathy’s and Heathcliff’s quotes, the declarations of love, often masked as passionate arguments, are absolutely wonderful. I also love all the shady parts of the plot, such as the possibility of them being related, all the unanswered questions, all the frustration and the could-have-beens. I’ve never loved any book more.
- To me, Jane Eyre is a much calmer book, which you can easily read and enjoy, without feeling like your heart’s being ripped out. But it’s still filled with love and passion and mystery and is gothic to its core!
- I love The Tenant of Wildfell Hall for its feminism. Anne ought to have been appreciated as much as her sisters because she was a great writer too. I also think that she as a woman managed to make Gilbert a much more believable character than Charlotte did William in The Professor.
So there, I absolutely love one novel from each of the Brontës, while I just like the rest. Villette, Agnes Grey and The Professor are good books but not extraordinary. As already explained, I still have to get through Shirley, so I have nothing else to say about it.
The Brontë sisters didn’t have an easy life. Their mother died when they were children, their two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, died as children, and their aunt died when they were young women. They weren’t doing well financially either. They all wanted to do something that wasn’t considered to be an appropriate profession for women at the time. Out of the three, Charlotte’s been through the most as she had to witness her brother’s and her two sisters’ death in the course of eight months. However, she was also the only one who got to experience an author’s life and some sort of writer’s fame.
Despite all the obstacles, they never stopped writing, and never gave up on their dreams of becoming published authors, which they ultimately all achieved.
So, which one was the best writer? Without a question: Emily. Not just the fact that Wuthering Heights is a masterpiece to which few can be compared, but Emily herself is an intriguing literary figure. Someone who loved the moors so much she felt physically sick whenever she was away from Yorkshire for too long. Someone who made few friends and no known romantic attachment and was still able to come up with Heathcliff and Cathy and their insane love for one another. Emily Brontë was a poetic genius.
Athus, Luxembourg, Arlon and Trier
My five-month stay in Athus has come to an end. You can read more about my experience working and living in Belgium and Luxembourg here. In this particular blog post, I go through the main things to see and do in Lux City, Luxembourg (as a country), Athus, Arlon and Trier. The »beauty« of living in any of these cities/towns/countries is that you’re very close to a bunch of other countries, which makes taking trips abroad easy (or at least it did before corona decided to make it difficult). Despite the pandemic, I managed to do a couple of day trips.
I chose to live in Athus because it was kind of convenient. The house I lived in was very close to the train station, and the rent was cheaper (500 per month) than in Lux. Plus, the landlord allowed my boyfriend and me to stay in one room together (for the 2 months we did so, the rent was 600). This is where the convenience of Athus ends, though. Supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi are kind of far, and you can literally see everything there is to see in the town in twenty minutes.
Why is Athus such a miserable town?
Athus is a small town of 7227 residents which was known for its steelworks factory until it closed in the 1970s. I realise we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and no place on earth is exactly fun right now, but honestly, Athus doesn’t seem like it’s ever fun. It’s just something between a suburb and a village. Most residents work in Luxembourg (you can tell from how empty it is and from a selection of beautiful houses and expensive cars). On the other hand, some houses are literally falling apart. Certain areas are very dirty, trash lying everywhere, especially close to the big industrial zones.
Before they closed all the bars and restaurants at the beginning of November, there were very few of them that actually worked (this could be a consequence of the first lockdown back in the spring, though). Also, nobody seems to pick up dog poo in this town. It also rains 70 % of the time, but this goes for all the other cities I mention here as well. On top of that, the rumour has it that Athus it dangerous, and I think it actually is. I’ve been followed three times, twice by the same man. It’s supposed to be full of drug addicts and drug dealers (which is connected to all the trucks and cargo trains that go in and out of the industrial area).
Is there anything to see in Athus?
I do have a favourite place in Athus: it’s an animal park, which was closed for most of my stay there because of Covid. They have different kinds of birds and some interesting-looking goats and sheep there. I was a regular visitor until they closed and became best friends with a tiny sheep (which I couldn’t find when they opened up again, she must have grown up). I know it’s not exactly vegan-friendly to like a park which is basically a small zoo with no entrance fee, but I’m not gonna lie: those animals gave me life.
Another cool thing is Saint-Etienne’s old cemetery and church; at least it’s cool if you’re into old cemeteries like I am. And then there’s river Messancy, along which you can run or walk (and feed the ducks) and a forest, which is pretty nice. Feeding ducks, birds and stray cats have become my favourite things to do there. Food-wise, Athus is home to two excellent friteries: Dewit and ALAIN. However, be careful if you’re vegan or vegetarian: Belgian fries are usually fried in animal fat. I had them in a random fast food place that fried them in vegetable oil (but I forgot the name, obviously).
Luckily, Luxembourg City is only a half-hour train ride from Athus, and it’s free! Luxembourg has had free public transport since last March (which must be the only good thing that happened that March), and the train station in Ahtus belongs to Lux’s railway system. This is honestly pretty amazing. I’m sure I’ll forget to buy a ticket at some point in the future, in some other country, because of it.
Luxembourg has 626 thousand residents and three official languages: Luxembourgish, French and German. Luxembourg City is small too: it has around 122 thousand residents. Every day, about 200 thousand workers commute to the city from neighbouring countries, almost tripling the number of people in the city (or at least they used to before the pandemic hit). There are 160 different nationalities in Lux City with the Portuguese being the largest group of foreign citizens. There are many EU institutions, banks and companies in Luxembourg, which attract many foreign workers.
Exploring Lux City
Luxembourg’s capital is manageable on foot. Lux city is a picturesque place with charming old buildings and long walking paths by river Alzette. The Old Town of Luxembourg is full of narrow streets and offers spectacular views of the stone bridges across the river, as well as the former fortress of the original city walls. In the centre, you’ll also find the Grand Ducal Palace, the official residence of the Grand Duke and the royal family, and other impressive buildings, such as Notre-Dame Cathedral and the concert hall of the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Luxembourg Viaduct offers panoramic views of Luxembourg City. You’ll get more of these if you visit the Pfaffenthal Panoramic Elevator, which is free and also includes a transparent platform on the top. If you have acrophobia, consider staying away. Another important sight is the Bock Casemates, a subterranean defence system made of kilometres of tunnels. When you get tired of old buildings, get yourself to Kirchberg, which is also the home of some of the EU institutions and a big shopping centre. As for museums, I only visited one: Casino Luxembourg, a forum for contemporary art. It was weird but interesting.
What to see in Lux as a country
Luxembourg doesn’t have any big cities (the biggest is Lux City, and it’s pretty small). It mostly has villages, which they refer to as towns, and actual small towns. There are no mountains, but there are many fields, forests, parks and villages with castles. One of the most famous natural sights is Mullerthal, where you can go for a hike and see the waterfall. As for the villages with castles, there’s Vianden, Beaufort, Larochette and so on. I’ve only seen these three. Mick Jagger has apparently been to the chairlift in Vianden, so that must be worth doing. Another important sight is the village of Schengen, where the Schengen agreement was signed in 1985.
Trier is the city in which I tried and failed to find accommodation for my internship (which I often regretted). I visited Trier twice, and it appealed to me the most out of all these cities. Maybe it’s because Germany feels more like home to me than Belgium or Luxembourg, perhaps because of the architecture or shops like DM and Muller, which we also have in Slovenia.
Trier has around 111 thousand residents and is a university city. It’s considered Germany’s oldest city; it was founded by the Celts in the late 4th century BC as Treuorum and conquered 300 years later by the Romans. Both times I visited Trier, the weather was good and there were lots of people on the streets despite the pandemic (but wearing masks). Trier’s streets are cute, and there are many interesting small shops. I had amazing pretzels and falafel there!
What you should definitely do if you ever decide to visit Trier is walk by the river Moselle, go up to the amazing viewpoint next to St. Mary’s Column (Mariensäule), see Porta Nigra (the largest Roman gate outside Italy), visit Karl Marx’s house (he was born in Trier), see Aula Palatina (the audience hall for Emperor Constantine’s palace) and visit the Trier Cathedral. Other interesting sights include the Imperial Baths, the Amphitheatre, the Electoral Palace and the gothic church Liebfrauenkirche. Most of these are just a short walking distance from Hauptmarkt, the marketplace of medieval Trier.
Compared to Athus, Arlon is wonderful, but just on its own, it’s honestly nothing special. It’s a town of 28,000 people, which has a huge, pretty impressive church (Saint Donat’s church). The streets are cute, and there’s a wider variety of shops, bars and restaurants than in Athus. However, we weren’t able to go to any bars or restaurants, and the town was kind of empty both times I went there. I haven’t visited any important sights in Arlon, I just wandered around, but the archaeological museum and the Jewish cemetery are supposed to be worth seeing. I bet you can also get good waffles there, but we didn’t because everything was closed.
- Lux City
- Athus (it shouldn’t even be on this list but anyway)
I regret not having been able to go to Brussels, Paris, Strasbourg, Frankfurt and so on. Throughout my five months in Athus, it was either not allowed to travel or it seemed pointless because everything was closed. It’s hard to sightsee when it’s cold and rainy, and you don’t even have anywhere to pee or warm yourself up. I’m sure I’ll visit these places at some point, I just doubt Athus and I will ever see each other again. Or Luxembourg and I for that matter.
Living Abroad and Disliking it: Traineeship in Luxembourg
If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’ve always loved travelling and have loved living abroad ever since my Erasmus exchange in London. In the years that followed my ten-month exchange there, I lived in Valencia and Moscow for shorter periods and loved every minute of it. Last year, I was accepted for a traineeship in Luxembourg and decided to rent a room in a border town in Belgium called Athus. I didn’t enjoy the experience, to say the least.
Translation traineeship at the European Commission in Luxembourg
I applied for this traineeship for several reasons. My master’s in translation sadly didn’t include any practice, and despite having worked in translation before, this traineeship was to be my first full-time «job» as a translator. The second reason is that a traineeship at an EU institution is something that’s supposed to look great on a CV. The third one is simply that I didn’t have any better opportunity waiting for me. Also, my family encouraged me, and so did my boyfriend, Alvaro, and my friends.
Thinking about it now, I think I applied and went for all the wrong reasons. Even before applying, I knew that I didn’t want to work as a full-time translator. I love languages, and I enjoyed my bachelor’s in English and Russian (which included lots of literature too). But even though my master’s studies were focused on translation, I didn’t see it as my profession. Also, I never saw myself living in Belgium or Luxembourg. I wanted to visit Brussels as a tourist, but nothing more than that.
How to apply?
If you’re interested in working for one of the EU institutions in Luxembourg or Brussels, you can apply through this website. At the bottom of the page, you can see the deadlines, the vacancies and the locations (there are some other cities too). If you have any questions, feel free to contact me!
Just a disclaimer: traineeships have nothing to do with EPSO exams. You only need to pass the exams if you want to work for the EU as an actual employee. I know very little about them because I knew this wasn’t the job or location for me about three weeks into the traineeship.
It could’ve been an amazing experience if …
there was no pandemic
Many ex-trainees describe EU traineeships as “like Erasmus but better”. Well, it obviously wasn’t like this for us. We were only able to go to the office in October and spent the remaining four months working from home. I did meet some of the other trainees for lunches, drinks or trips in the first few weeks, but that also stopped in November. Consequently, the main similarities between this and Erasmus were gone: no parties, no travel, and no hanging out.
Also, there are lots of activities in which the trainees are supposed to be able to participate: lectures, webinars, trips to Brussels to see the other EU buildings, etc. We didn’t go to Brussels, while everything else was cancelled or done online. We didn’t have the opportunity to go to the office, talk to colleagues and meet people there either.
I hadn’t chosen such a lousy place as Athus
Athus is a shithole. It’s small, ugly and boring. I wrote about it, Lux and some other places in this blog post.
I actually liked Luxembourg
Lux and I just weren’t made for each other. I liked big cities and beaches, Lux is basically just fields and villages. It rains all the time.
I enjoyed the work more
In all honesty, this traineeship made me realise that full-time translation isn’t for me. The texts that I was given to translate were very technical and official (obviously, it’s the Commission). I did learn a lot about using Trados Studio (a translation programme), I got to see what kinds of texts the Commission produces and deals with and visited a couple of the EU buildings in Luxembourg. Working from my room every day meant that I didn’t ask as many questions as I would’ve otherwise and that I didn’t get to chat with people or change my environment. However, my mentor and coworkers were all very kind and helpful, and I think that as a whole it was a valuable experience.
my boyfriend was here all the time
Alvaro only ended up spending two months here because of the travel restrictions, the expensive tests and the lack of work. This hit me especially hard when I came back after Christmas.
I lived with more people
The accommodation situation was a bit funny. At the end of September, I moved into a house in which the renovation wasn’t finished yet. Until a week ago, I only had one other flatmate, a fellow trainee with whom we get along very well, but it was still just me and her in this huge house. If we had more flatmates, we would’ve been able to organize parties or at least get-togethers, just like we used to with my flatmates on Erasmus. Four people moved in last week, but we’re moving out in two.
I spoke French
I wanted to learn French when I first came here and even bought some books and got into Duolingo, but I gave up after about a month. The thing is that I already speak five languages, and there’s room for improvement in each of them (in some plenty). Also, I don’t see myself living in a French-speaking country any time soon. However, if I spoke French or really wanted to learn, I’d probably be happy to be here because it would give me the opportunity to practice. But I don’t, and I’m also not that into Belgium or Luxembourg (or France for that matter).
I’m 100% that this would’ve been a lovely experience if not for covid and if I had perhaps chosen a better location than Athus. I still think that the whole thing has taught me a lot. I am now sure that I cannot work as a full-time translator because the lack of creativity and communication with other people makes me miserable, nor do I want to live in a place with no coast, shitty weather and where a language that I’m not interested in is spoken.
This experience also made me realise how fundamental it is to be surrounded by the people you’re close to. I haven’t missed my family, my friends and Alvaro this much ever before.