As part of our ongoing series about just how much it costs to live in different areas of Spain, we’re pleased to have Trevor Huxham, another Texan who loves living in a country whose flag was once Spain’s. After a year in Úbeda, Jaén, Trevor relocated to the rainy northwest of Spain, and will be returning to live in Santiago de Compostela for a third school year.
Name: Trevor Huxham
City and Comunidad: Santiago de Compostela, Galicia
I’m an auxiliar de conversación (language assistant) at a primary school in Boiro, which is on the Atlantic coast of northwest Spain about one hour from Santiago.
Living situation: Last year I shared a 2-bedroom apartment with another American language assistant.
How did you find your flat? Actually the same way I found my housemate, Noé: I met him while going out for dinner with some other recently arrived assistants in Santiago and he mentioned there was this one place he really liked but couldn’t rent all on his own. I hadn’t had much luck on the apartment hunt at that point, so after I got the chance to check the place out, we decided to move in last October.
Rent: The whole apartment costs 350€ a month, so 175€ shared.
Average spent a month on utilities: The bills end up being around 50€ a month divided between the two of us. We go through two standard bombonas (butane tanks) each month, which cost 17,50€ each; electricity only comes every two months and ranges from 30€ to 100€ per bill; and water comes every quarter, maybe 20€ per bill.
Cell phone company and plan: I’ve been with Orange ever since moving to Spain two years ago. I can’t remember what plan I started with, but at some point I switched to the tarjeta (prepaid) Ballena 12 plan, which gives you 1GB of data, 1,000 texts, and calls at 1 cent a minute for 15€ a month. However, I think they’ve recently changed their prepaid plans so the specifics might be a little different now—but compared with American plans it’s a steal. I can recharge my plan online or in any Orange store so it’s very convenient.
Internet company and monthly cost: We got a plan with Movistar that was 35€ per month for fairly slow internet, although they claimed it was because our apartment unit/neighborhood was so old…whatever. We were forced to pay for a landline but we never even had a physical phone in the house so it was just money down the drain. And we had to pay a pretty big early cancellation fee when we moved out at the end of the school year. Booooo.
What do you spend on average a month on groceries?: It depends if I’m eating rice and lentils all week or buying out the seafood section at the market, but my monthly food budget ranges between 80€ and 120€.
Other sources of income?: I gave a few private English classes on the side for 12€/hour.
Are you able to save any money?: I guess it depends on how you define “save.” In February I managed to save half of my auxiliar paycheck, but I promptly blew it on a trip around the region of Aragón at the end of the month. Since I went home for the summer at the end of May, I wasn’t able to even touch my last paycheck for the school year that arrived June 1st—so I’ve got 700€ waiting for me in my Spanish bank account right now.
In all seriousness, I’m planning on saving up 2.000€ this coming school year by teaching half a dozen private English classes on the side, as I’d like to spend a month traveling China before heading home.
Eating out: Although it’s closed on the weekend, I love going to O Cabalo Branco (“the white horse” in Galician), a tiny tavern whose terrace sprawls across a tiny plaza near the Mercado de Abastos. I often order a crisp glass of Albariño or a refreshing tonic water and anxiously await their dependable tapa of a slice of Manchego cheese, some cured ham, a bit of bread, and a heap of fried potatoes with garlicky ali-oli sauce on the side. Since tapas come free with your drink in Galicia, the whole ticket comes to 1,90€.
Favorite afternoon coffee joint: Hands down, my favorite breakfast joint is Café Tertulia, a five-minute walk west from the cathedral square along the Camino to Fisterra. This is about the complete opposite of your stereotypical old-man bar: warm wallpaper, cozy chairs and booth seating, trendy music, soft lighting, a wide selection of loose-leaf tea (!!!), and quality toasts and breakfast plates.
I usually order a teapot of Earl Grey and a toasted croissant with butter and preserves—a mere 2.70€.
Going out: I’m not much of a “night on the town” kind of guy, but I am a fan of El Atlántico, a pub that specializes in all sorts of gin & tonics. Depending on the gin you like (or if you want a premium tonic water), they range from 5€ to 10€ each. One of their creations even comes with flowers floating on top!
How did you get around?: To get to work, I carpooled with my bilingual coordinator, but there were a few times where I had to take the Arriva bus (6€ one-way) to my coastal village.
Within Santiago, I mostly walk everywhere since it’s on the smaller side of a Big City, but if it’s absolutely pouring rain or I need to go to the mall, I take the bus, which is 1€/ride without a bus card and 0,60€/ride with the bono card. A monthly pass for the Santiago bus system costs 26€.
What he likes about Santiago: The Galician cuisine is Spain’s best-kept secret: delicious, fresh, affordable, unique, and rich in seafood, pork, and veggies. The town’s Mercado de Abastos is one of the premier markets in Spain, and I love that bars and restaurants here serve you free tapas with your drink.
Apart from the food, I love this historic city’s many granite Baroque churches, its narrow streets (many of which have overhanging soportales to protect you from the rain), and the never-ending flow of pilgrims arriving from the Camino de Santiago.
And what he dislikes: The rain—it really is as bad in Galicia as they say it is. Although it’s really only bad in the winter, as fall and spring have dry spells and it rarely rains at all in the summer. But when it rains, it pours. Like, it literally rained every. single. day. in January and February due to back-to-back borrascas or low-pressure systems. Still, the rain really makes you appreciate (and make the most of) sunny days when they do come around.
How easy was it to travel around Spain and Europe from Santiago? Galicia has been historically isolated from the rest of the country, mainly due to the rolling mountains in the east that make train travel a slow affair. The AVE, though, is slowly but surely making its way up here, and the high-speed train system is already on line in Galicia, connecting the Eje Atlántico (“Atlantic Axis”) of A Coruña, Santiago, and Vigo and linking Santiago with Ourense in record times.
There are three airports along the western coast of Galicia, but I personally found it a lot cheaper to get a Promo-price ticket for the train and fly out of Barcelona and Madrid. (Oh well.) Portugal’s second-biggest city, Porto, is just a few hours to the south, too. And a myriad of bus routes traverse the region and the peninsula via the strong highway network.
His guilty pleasure splurge: There’s this one bakery on the Rúa do Preguntoiro in the southern half of the old town that always lures me in with the distinct aroma of anise that floats down the street. Within, I give into temptation and fork over 2€ for a fresh, crisp mini rosconcito (ring-shaped, bread-like cake) with clusters of sugar rolling off the sides and chewy candies dancing on the top. Aaaaah I want one now!
Must sees in Santiago: Obviously the cathedral is a must-see, as it’s the end of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route and it houses the supposed remains of St. James. The Romanesque-style cathedral is medieval and moody on the inside, but a magnificent Baroque-style façade decorates the west front.
The town’s Mercado de Abastos is the perfect introduction to Galician cuisine, as you can gawk at the variety of seafood, drool over all the ham legs and cheeses, and marvel at the high-quality fruits and vegetables. A restaurant will cook your food for you on site (for a small fee), and another “no fridge” bar serves up whatever is fresh that day straight from the market.
I wish someone would have told me… I always thought people were joking when they told me, “You’re gonna hear no pasa nada a lot when you get there”—but they were right. This attitude of “no worries” is pervasive in all areas of Spanish society from bureaucracy to friendship, and it’s worth embracing when you’re moving to Spain. Realize that everything will (probably) all work out in the end, and try not to stress about stuff too much. You’re living in Spain! Woohoo!
Would you like to be featured along with your adopted town in COMO’s Cost of Living Series? Holler at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll send the questions along!