Monday, July 27, 2015

Why Do We Love Jaén?

I told my mom I'd renewed for a third year in Spain, to which she replied, “You must really love it there.” She has a good point. Most people do the auxiliary thing for no more than two years, then return home to start the careers they studied for, pay off student loans, make more money than what NALCA pays us, or because they miss friends and family too much.

I can understand people wanting to stay for several years in Spain. It's an exciting country, so different from our lives back home. What I don't understand is why my friends have chosen Jaén, year after year, over more popular cities like Granada, Sevilla, Málaga, Madrid, or Barcelona. I know many foreigners in Jaén who have chosen to be here for three years or more. The usual reason is that the foreigner has met a local, and wants to stay for the sake of the relationship. However, amongst my friends in Jaén, that is the exception rather than the rule. 95% of us are single, and have been for a while (I'm talking about a minimum one-year drought, y'all).

It certainly isn't money making us stay here. Sure, Jaén is one of the cheapest cities to live in in Spain. Rent is extremely low, and you can literally walk out of the house with 5E and eat and drink like a king. However, our low salaries as English teachers match that cost of living.

We also aren't exactly overblown by awe-inspiring monuments. We have some, albeit on a much smaller scale than the mezquita of Córdoba or the Alhambra of Sevilla. Jaén's cathedral is okay, and the Santa Catalina castle is worth the strenuous hike, but that's all that comes to mind. True, the entire province is littered with fantastic castles, but not everyone has a car nor is interested in that sort of thing (I am a nerd so the castles make me very happy, but not having a car puts a serious dent in my plans).

Travel can be a nightmare. The closest airport is Granada, but it has limited flights. There's Málaga, but that is 2.5 hours (by car) or almost 4 hours (by bus) away. Buses take even longer. Trains are the same, plus expensive.

Wanna dance? If you're old like me, Jaén gets a thumbs-down. Mind you, I tend to ignore the youngness of the crowd and dance my heart out, 'cause that's why I go, not to take someone home. But there are only THREE places here to dance, and the music is not great. We also don't normally get exciting bands coming to town to perform. (I heard recently that Bob Dylan came to Jaén several years ago. Who the heck convinced him to come here?)

With all of my complaints about this city, in terms of personal goals this place suits me. Firstly, I love that very few locals speak English, which has helped me reach my goal of having high fluency in Spanish. Also, as a food lover, you can't beat the (somewhat) complementary tapas that come with each beverage, alcoholic or not. Last but not least, I (almost always) like Jaén's small-town feel, rather than the craziness that comes with big cities.

And you? What's your reason for choosing Jaén? Comment below.

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