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Expat Books v Expat Blogs

By Mr Grumpy - Fri 8th Jul 2011

I usually try and make it a personal rule never to read, let alone buy any 'Expat Book' that promises that it is full of 'many amusing anecdotes' or that it is 'highly informative'.

I briefly scanned through one of the many generic copies a few weeks back (I can't remember which one as they are all basically the same story, the same anecdotes and the same characters just re-written with different names & locations) and thought about demanding my money back under the terms of the trade descriptions act (When I say 'My' money, I think my Mum bought it for me from one of the Rastros for about 20 cents...). The cover of the book promised me 'humour' and 'amusing' and to be honest, unless you laugh at an Episode of Terry and June, you would be hard pushed to find anything vaguely entertaining. Or indeed informative.

The 'Hilarious' anecdote of trying to persuade the local shepherd to stop his herd of goats from destroying the vegetable garden was neither particularly informative, well written nor funny, neither was the incident in the local store where they had to resort to frantic sign language to explain to the shopkeeper in broken Spanish that a pumpkin was required.

Oh, how I laughed.

(And also how the guy that sold the book to my Mum probably laughed as he trousered his 20 cents.)

I wouldn't mind so much apart from the fact that 90% of these books are churning out a well worn and generic blueprint. Sure, the first couple of books, if not 'amusing' may have been useful guides to would-be expats, but then came the flood of publishers cashing in on their success during the mid 1990's and so came another generation of books written by expats who, quite frankly had nothing better to do with their time than to write such a book and were perhaps inspired by Peter Mayle's 'Year in Provence (amongst others).

The arrogance of actually charging money for a collection of ramblings about one person's perspective of life in Spain confuses me. I know that I have a hard time persuading anyone into reading my Blogs for free - let alone handing over hard earned currency to read a book stacked with nothing other than page after page of my drivel. In the age of the web there are literally hundreds of blogs on Spain out there : some of which are very well researched and informative; some supported by fantastic photography; some very funny (In a non-Terry & June Styleee) and some just weird (In an entertaining way). Quite a few of them are all of these things.

These Blogs are more often than not updated weekly, they don't pretend to be anything they are not and don't push themselves on anybody, nor do they charge an exorbitant sum for the privilege of being read. They are just a good resource for the expat, whether newly arrived or long in the tooth and are usually a 'labour of love' as opposed to some cynical attempt to cash in.

I try and put a couple of hours a week aside to read a few blogs and it's surprising how much about Spanish culture, traditions and the language I pick up just by reading a few brief paragraphs.

Granted, there are loads of Professional and 'Industry' blogs out there that are a pretty useful read, but here's just a small selection of ' life in Spain ' blogs that I am visiting at the moment (In no particular order, no favourites here - calm down children ) :

Cadiz : La Vida Alcalaina

Madrid : MadridMan

Alcala de Henares : Spainstruck

Madrid : A view of Madrid

Madrid : South of Watford

Valencia : Not Hemmingway's Spain

Almeria : David Jackson

Madrid : La Tortuga Viajera

Madrid : Beyond Madrid

Edit : This is just a small sample, but it has just dawned on me that 75% of the blogs that I peruse are either done by Women, Canadians / Americans, or by Madrilleños (or a combination of all three) - If I have forgotten to include anyone then feel free to give yourself a 'shout out' in the comments box, below...

Comment on this Blog

Sr Hemmingway, you have lost me ... ?... as far as I can make out your Blog - like most of the others on my list - just proves the point that Blogs are generally a much better resource than many books are...
Mr Grumpy - Thu, 6th Sep 2012
"[T]hey don't pretend to be anything they are not and don't push themselves on anybody" ... I beg to differ! And to prove my point, I insist your readers visit my blog:
Not Hemingway's Spain - Thu, 6th Sep 2012
Hmmm... you wouldn't happen to have one particular author / book in mind here would you ? ... Lol
C Shaw - Sat, 1st Sep 2012

Thanks for your reply Rod,

The last thing I want to do is come across all "Anti-Book", but I stand by my opinion that there seems to have been a tidal wave of crap on the market over recent years. However, I fully appreciate the value of a well researched and well-written classic.

I also read many of the Blogs you have listed (and often pestered the Mods with the odd comment), but your post has reminded me that I really ought to pay tribute to them here.

Thanks again !

Mr Grumpy - Tue, 12th Jun 2012

Hi Mr Grumpy - couldn't agree more about the fact that vast majority of (recent) ex-pat books are regurgitated, formulaic and unoriginal. However, as Paddy Walker (The Artichoke Adventures) pointed out yesterday there have been many very good books written about Spain by foreigners over the years. I expand on this in our blog HERE.

Re: missing blogs from your list here are a few more :

Becoming Sevillana

Scribbler in Seville


Annie B Spain

Sunshine and Siestas

The Spain Scoop

KR Rod

Books For Spain

Rod Younger - Tue, 12th Jun 2012
Oh Mr. Grumpy, thanks for including me! And I´m cheaper than a book too!
Mo - Fri, 25th May 2012
Five years plus ago expat books had a huge part to play in the lives of any potential Expat, however I agree that today they are indulgent and unneccesary given the wealth of information available from reading such blogs. Keep up the good work all you Expat bloggers !
Peter Dickinson - Sun, 20th May 2012
A nice looking site you have there Catherine. Some very interesting photos !
Mr Grumpy - Wed, 31st Aug 2011
Hola! Here I am at Please take a look if you have a moment. Thank you! Catherine.
Catherine Hart - Wed, 31st Aug 2011
Mr. Grumpy, from what I´ve seen you should definitely keep up the videos. And congrats on two people building such a big broad site! I love your writing, you´re really talented with that dry wit I love. OK, enough slobbering, back to Glaswegian hard-woman hardness.
Mo - Tue, 26th Jul 2011
Mo, I do the writing stuff and the other guy does all the tecchie stuff. Just the two of us. I'm the the smaller shiny faced one with the big hands (as in the two spokesmen video on the homepage)
Mr Grumpy - Tue, 26th Jul 2011
Will check them out. But I have a question. Are you "All things Tumbitty" or only Mr. Grumpy? Not that it matters, really, but I like to know the name of The Talent!
Mo - Tue, 26th Jul 2011
Mo, if you search ' Tumbit ' on YouTube you will be able to see a few Mr Grumpy Video Blogs. Bit of an experiment, not sure if I will continue with them or not !
Mr Grumpy - Tue, 26th Jul 2011
Señor Tumbito, nearly swallowed my false teeth to see me on the list! Big, big thank you! Also, and as I too repeat myself, even bigger big thank you! I see what you mean about the memoir approach since many rely on the disfasia (or something) between modern UK and backward Spain. Then again, many writers are very good, as was "Terry and June". I like Deborah Fletcher´s humour as it´s intelligent, self-deprecating and as she is dealing with a particularly isolating set of circumstances. I´ll check out the blog list. If I had to quibble with your writing in any way it would only be make the print a wee bit bigger! (And reveal your identity, oh masked one!). Need to post soon but all dried up so....better get drunk and edit it later!
Maureen Dolan - Tue, 26th Jul 2011
How do we find your Blog Gazpacho ? - I've seen the RSS on other sites... drop us your URL pls...
Mr Grumpy - Fri, 22nd Jul 2011
I do so agree about the books. In the Beginning there was Chris Stewart's Driving Over Lemons, which was original, funny and informative, but the wheels fell off the ensuing bandwagon a long time ago. Blogs are great because being non-commercial you aren't under any pressure to conform to what the market wants (or what the publisher think the market wants). And of course you can add your own comments and enjoy other people's. I will go and look at some of your recommendations now!
Alcalaina - Wed, 20th Jul 2011
Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting succinctly into a simple post what has been so evident for over a decade. Go back a few decades and you saw some decent writing about spain. Go back a century and you find adventure and courage. Today, there seems little other than humiliation and cultural ignorance. Worse, it seems to to sell.
Gazpachomonk - Sun, 10th Jul 2011

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