Archive for December, 2013

So You’re Having a Spanish Wedding…

Posted on December 31st, 2013 by Samuel Max in Uncategorized | No Comments »

You’ve found the person of your dreams, fallen in love and now, you’re on your way to a traditional Spanish wedding. First, congratulations and best wishes for your life together; second, make sure you’re prepared for the customs associated with a Spanish wedding, you don’t want to get caught off guard or embarrassed on your big day right?



Of course not, so here to help you I’ve laid out some of the main differences between the weddings your most likely accustomed to, and those of the Spanish variety:

  1. It’s going to be a big affair, the extended family will be there, sometimes the rest of the village too, so be prepared to have a lot of eyes on you.
  2. It’s going to start late. This really just coincides with Spanish culture and the way they operate most social events. It stems from the heat in the middle of the day, so don’t expect the ceremony to start earlier than 7pm, to avoid the hot sun and to take the perfect pictures with the sunset — Don’t forget you’re likely to be going into the early morning.
  3. There is often the use of the ‘mantilla,’ somewhat similar to the wedding veil but much longer, sometimes reaching several feet behind the bride.
  4. It’s common for the bride and groom to exchange 13 coins, called ‘arras,’ that represent commitment and support of each other.
  5. In Spain, the wedding ring is known as the ‘alianza,’ meaning aliance, and it’s worn on the ring finger of the right hand, not the left.
  6. The ‘banquete de bodas’ — the wedding reception — is a little different, in that the bride and groom often travel between tables and guests to hand out ‘detalles,’ which are wedding favors. Men are most often given cigars or alcohol while women are gifted some of those common soap/perfume/bathroom additions.
  7. The reception is followed by the guests reciprocating the generosity with a gift of their own — money, and it’s usually placed in an envelope.
  8. There is a custom whereas the grooms closest friends will cut his tie into pieces and auction them off for good luck — So try to avoid the expensive ones.
  9. Orange is an important color for Spanish weddings, often there will be orange blossoms in the brides hair and in the bouquet. The orange blossom is a symbol of everlasting love and purity.
  10. Lastly, a Spanish wedding will not commonly include groomsmen, ushers, bridesmaids or flower girls; there are not the traditional speeches involved from the father of the bride, groom or best man — That doesn’t mean people are discouraged to speak, because they will…


810095_74168754Something that might make your wedding seem even more traditional and Spanish, is if it is all in Spanish! Makes sense right? Of course for this to happen you’d need to be rather well versed in the subject, but we can help with that — Take some classes to take your Spanish up a level, or send us an inquiry and we’ll get right back in touch!







Pack for Peru: What to Take on Your Trip to Machu Picchu

Posted on December 26th, 2013 by Samuel Max in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Yes, if you’re going to Peru I will assume you shall be seeing Machu Picchu. You are, right? I hope so, and if that’s the case, if you are going to scale the mountain to the Incan high-rise, you should remember to pack this list of all-important additions to what will be an experience of a lifetime.


file000861919256Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Take a camera. I recommend a good one, a photo will never do justice to the actual experience, what you see with your own eyes; but a good camera will certainly be a big improvement over a phone for instance.

Good footwear. There are a few different ways to get up there, but for the sake of this article let’s say you’re doing it the hard way, the 5-day trek along the Inca Trail from Cusco. You’re going to be walking, a lot, so pack a pair of comfortable, reliable, sturdy and waterproof shoes.

Speaking of waterproof, you need to be. While the area doesn’t normally experience a lot of rainfall, you don’t want to get caught out if there is. The rainy season is November to April, so if you’re heading there during this time take sure you take a raincoat and other waterproof materials to protect your belongings, in case of a downpour.


Layers. Take those nice thermal under layers, they’re light and effective. It’s important not to forget you’ll up nearly 2,500 metres above sea level, the air can be brisk and chilled, the last thing you want is to catch a cold!

Sun screen, insect repellant, hand sanitizer, toothpaste/brush, toilet paper and a first aid kit. This is a trek, there are no shops or hotels for those accessories, so pack them yourself. All those things that you take for granted each day are in short supply up there, so arm yourself with anything you think you’ll need.

Pack light. While I might be giving you a list of things you should take, it’s important to remember that there’s a lot of walking, so be careful to only take what you need. It’s also important to take your patience with you, the walk up is traveled often by many tourists but it is regulated so that only a certain number can go each day. What’s more, it is closed whenever there is maintenance that needs to be done, or the weather conditions are unsuitable.



A couple of final notes: Due to the popularity of the trek, you’ll need to book early, as there is a limit of how many can travel each day, it is very necessary to book your place to avoid any disappointment upon arrival. Another thing to note is that, while there are English speaking guides to take you up, knowing a little Spanish will improve your experience; this is especially true if you plan on seeing more of Peru than just Machu Picchu — Something I also would recommend — So take a look at some classes or inquire for more info!

Feliz Navidad: Spending Christmas with the Spanish

Posted on December 24th, 2013 by Samuel Max in Uncategorized | No Comments »

In the spirit of the holidays I thought I would talk about the holidays and how they’re spent in the Spanish speaking communities around he world. The Spanish have a long and rich history, filled with traditions and special occasions; so while you’re no doubt preparing yourself for the festivities, on holiday from work and readying your home for the relatives, take a moment to see how it’s celebrated elsewhere.



The first thing to note is that it’s a very religious event in most places, for the obvious reason of the birth of Christ. As a result you’ll find that the churches for the most part pack themselves out, there are services at multiple times throughout the day and on through the night.

While most of us are used to finding presents at the end of our bed on Christmas day, many Spanish families Christmas celebrations reach until January the 6th, which is known as the Epiphany. This is the day when the Three Kings arrived to Bethlehem with gifts, and as such is the day most of the gifts are given.

On December the 28th, there is a celebration known as ‘Dia de los Santos Inocentes,’ Day of the Holy Innocents. It resembles April Fools as many people play practical jokes on one another; It is in remembrance to the children that were slaughtered by King Herod.

Spain has a rather large lottery drawn on December 22nd, known as ‘El Gordo,’ the fat one. It’s one of the largest lotteries in the world with an offering of €2.5 billion this year; each of the winners receive €400,000, while those who come second get a comfortable €125,000.

In Colombia the Christmas festivities begin on December the 7th, on ‘Dia de las Velitas,’ Day of the Little Candles. This is the day that marks the Immaculate Conception, people place candles and paper lanterns on their windows, balconies, sidewalks, streets and anywhere else they’ll be visible.


In Colombia and Venezuela, all the presents are brought by ‘El Niño Jesus,’ Baby Jesus, rather than Santa Claus, which in Spanish is ‘Papá Noél,’ although the latter still plays an important role during the holidays.

As we’ve come to expect, food and drinks play an important role in the festivities, and there’s little difference in the Spanish communities. Many countries have their specialties, such as Puerto Rico, which has the ‘Coquito,’ a drink somewhat similar to eggnog; with rum, coconut milk, condensed milk, cinnamon and other additions to make a creamy holiday supplement.

Why not give yourself a little gift these Christmas holidays with some Spanish classes? Or, you could send an inquiry about making it a gift for someone else! In the meantime, Merry Christmas! I hope you all have an incredible holiday and that El Niño Jesus brings you all the gifts on your list.

8 Tips for Dating a Spaniard

Posted on December 19th, 2013 by Samuel Max in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The ever-present dream of falling in love with an exotic beauty from a far-away land, it exists in almost all of us yet not every body gets to realize it. You want to be part of that group that does find it, you want to find your perfect match while walking the crowded streets in Spain, on the beach under the scorching sun, while dancing flamenco on the side of a road under the moonlight.


1155447_44693080The good news is it’s all possible, with a little luck and a lot of effort, the tricky part comes when you’ve found that potential partner…What do you do?

  1. Be prepared to become a big part of the family. The Spanish are very committed to family, and if you want to keep your new-found love on your arm, you’ll want to make a good impression.
  2. Be a romantic. It’s still very much appreciated, being a gentleman is not only recommended but almost expected; so break out the roses, chocolates and wine, candle light dinners and long beach strolls.
  3. Pay for that meal. Following on from being romantic, it’s a good idea to take care of the bill for the meal, while it’s becoming more popular these days to split it, taking it on the chin will show that you’re willing to go the extra mile, that they mean a little more to you.
  4. Go dancing. It doesn’t matter what type of dancing, it can be slow, to the soft guitar player in the corner, or at a club with bass-booming house music. The point is, the Spanish love music and dancing, so get in on it.
  5. Loose the argument. We’ve probably all encountered one of those moments, maybe in person or on the screen, when someone looses an argument — right or wrong — simply because they were out-passionestockvault-spanish-tapas131024d. Don’t make the same mistake, if the conversation’s getting heated, let it go and enjoy the rest of your day.
  6. Be careful of the subject. There are naturally good and bad things to talk about while you’re out together. Try to keep it polite and friendly at least in the beginning, don’t talk about your previous relationships or that time you had too much to drink.
  7. Drop them off. If you hadn’t noticed, things are still rather traditional in Spain, so it shows good form to pick her up and drop her off, it can make or break a second date.
  8. Learn some Spanish. It will make a great impression if you show a wanting to learn their native tongue; don’t be afraid of making a mistake, the Spanish are friendly and after a light chuckle will be more than happy to help.

On that last point, Spanish will come in very handy in more than one way, assuming that your date can speak English, there’s also the matter of talking with their family,  and getting yourself around the country when their not there to help. For this reason it might be a good idea to take some classes, or inquire about how you can get your Spanish up to scratch.

8 Reasons You Should Move to Spain

Posted on December 17th, 2013 by Samuel Max in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Wherever you live I’m sure you’ve once dreamt of living in one of those beautiful countries in Europe, assuming of course you’re not already there! Spain is one of those countries with a particular enigma wrapped around it, rich in history and culture, and oozing charm and appeal.



Even without my help you can probably conjure up your own set of reasons to move, but just in case you need a little more of a push, here’s a list of reasons Spain is a destination worthy of your inhabitance.

  1. If you know where to look, you can find some nice, affordable accommodation. There is of course plenty of expensive places too, but if you’re earning a modest income and don’t need to live next to the beach then there are options available.
  2. Living expenses can also surprise you, phone, power, internet are all well within most budgets. Grocery shopping won’t leave you empty pocketed and you can even go out for a few drinks on the weekend stress free!
  3. Spain has a good healthcare system. Iberia boosts the highest rate of organ donations in the world, and for legal residents, in particular the ones that are working, the health care is modern and comprehensive.
  4. When you do actually get out and about, you’ll see some of the most beautiful architecture in Europe. Giant churches, museums and even the lovely houses that line many streets.
  5. When you get past the houses you might find yourself at one of the finest beaches in the world, filled with thousands of other tourists from every corner of the globe to soak in the hot summer sun and take a dip in the serene waters.
  6. A little further out, sitting in the Mediterranean Sea, is Ibiza. I don’t know if there is a better known party destination, so if you’re the type that likes to take your mind off of work by dancing in the middle of a crowded, bfile0001760934266ass-booming club on an island with other drunk party goers, this is for you.
  7. Spain is pushing the learning of English more and more, and there is an abundance of opportunities in the workplace for those that can speak it; whether from tutoring, babysitting, a school teacher, or if it be in a business looking to communicate with those outside Spain.
  8. This gives you a perfect opportunity to learn the Spanish language. It’s no secret that immersing yourself in the culture and throwing yourself into situations where it’s needed can be one of the best ways to pick up a language…

However, you’ll want to know the basics first, it’s no good running in blind. So in order to get your skills up to the required level, you should consider taking some classes, or sending a quick inquiry about what it takes.

5 Bands That Will Help You Learn Spanish

Posted on December 12th, 2013 by Samuel Max in Uncategorized | No Comments »

By now it’s no secret that listening to music is get great aid to your language learning; through the strengthening of associations in your brain, just as you remember musical melodies from when you were a child, or those pesky tunes that replay over and over in your head even when you want them gone; music’s effect on language can be of the same memory boosting ability.

So let’s look at a few of the bands best suited to get you singing along in Spanish.



  1. Patricio Rey y Sus Redonditos de Ricota — From Buenos Aires, Argentina and making it big in the 1980’s. Los Redonditos found a cult following by using lyrics infused with politics, drugs, sex and alcohol, all the while drawing heavily on the 80’s glam rock style. Pick up something from their early years, such as ‘Gulp’ or ‘Oktubre.’
  2. Manu Chao – We are talking about learning Spanish here, but for anybody that’s into other languages too, Manu Chao sings not only in English and Spanish, but in French, Italian, Galician, Arabic and Portuguese! What’s more, he blends many styles together in his music, pop, salsa, reggae and more; you shouldn’t have any trouble finding something to sing along to.
  3. Chavela Vargas – A Costa-Rican singer whom fled to Mexico at age 14, to involve herself in the music scene. She plays many Mexican rancheras, and been called “la voz áspera de la tenura,” ‘the rough voice of tenderness.’ Her voice has a bluesy, whisky drenched appeal to it, so I recommend singing along with a glass of your finest in one hand, and your Spanish-English dictionary in the other.
  4. Charly Garcia – Another Argentine, another rocker. Considered by many as a musical genius, he has been involved in successful rock groups such as Serú Girán, but also boasts a prolific solo repertoire. He has a thing known as ‘absolute pitch,’ which is the ability to recognize a musical note without any reference note. I recommend the track Seminare.
  5. Silvio Rodríguez – Cubans best folk singer who’s sometimes referred to as “Cuba’s John Lennon.” His lyrics, while often very political, are notably introspective, ambiguous and eloquent; he helped lead the ‘Nueva Trova’ music movement, which was heavily influenced by the Cuban Revolution.


There you have it, 5 rockin’ artists to get you grooving to. In case you don’t quite possess the required Spanish vocabulary to grasp what you’re singing about, check out these classes, or inquire here for more information.





Top 8 Tourist Spots in Panama

Posted on December 10th, 2013 by Samuel Max in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Situated in the crowded, cultural paradise of Central America, Panama knows how to please the peaceful tourist looking for a place to relax and unwind. It’s a country of over 3.5 million, most of which sit in the capital Panama City; there’s no shortage of activities and sights to keep you occupied on a trip through the country, highlighted here by the top 8 things you just simply ‘have’ to see.



  1. To start we have Ancon hill, it overlooks Panama City, reaching up to 654 feet in height. Get your jogging gear on and hike up the popular track to find a perfect picture opportunity, looking out across the beautiful skyline of the capital city.
  2. Panama Viejo, or ‘Old Panama,’ is where you can find old Spanish ruins and structures from what used to be the capital city. It’s located in the suburbs of Panama City, is part of a World Heritage Site, and dates back to 1519.
  3. Isla Taboga sits just outside the capital, sandy white beaches, jet ski rides and a little village with the second oldest church in the western hemisphere. Travel out of town for a bite at the picturesque restaurants or relax and catch some food of your own and the popular fishing spots.
  4. The Panama Canal stretches across the Panama Isthmus and is commonly regarded as one of the modern-day wonders of the world. The passage allows ships to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and can be viewed best from the Miraflores Locks platform.
  5. Boquete is a small, cultural town not far from the boarder to Costa Rica. It’s 1,200 metres above sea level, and boasts some incredible views and natural scenery, lively music and arts, a volcano in Volcán Barú, and the Caldera River which you can raft down.
  6. The Bridge of the Americas was constructed in 1962 at a cost of $20 million US dollars. Approximately 35,000 cars travel across it each day, to compensate for the crowded traffic there is also the Centennial Bridge; both of these are great sights if you enjoy engineering marvels.
  7. Bocas del Toro consists of six forested islands, natural beauty, and plenty of outdoor activities. Take a boat between the islands, as you go you can try your hand at surfing, snorkeling, jungle trekking, watching dolphins and other marine life, or trying to catch a glimpse of the array of exotic birds.
  8. Santa Catalina is a popular surfing spot, unspoiled natural scenery, sandy beaches, and is rather quiet – We all like to escape from the other tourists sometimes. Relax, take in the sunset, surf, eat at the surprisingly numerous eateries, take a ride on horseback, fish, you name it.


There’s plenty more spots that will make your jaw drop, all it takes is a little curiosity, but things can be made much easier and all the more enjoyable by upgrading your Spanish through our classes, or inquiring for more information.

Buen Provecho! Mexican Dishes Every Kid Will Love

Posted on December 5th, 2013 by Samuel Max in Uncategorized | No Comments »

It’s no secret that the Mexican cuisine is present all around the world, and for good reason. No doubt you’ve all encountered a classic dish once or twice, one might even be your meal of choice, your signature plate, something the whole family will enjoy and never tire of.

Mexican cuisine often relies on a staple of a few ingredients, of those there’s the tortilla, a flour based wrap that’s used in different ways; there’s also refried beans, rice, guacamole, salsa, and lot’s of cheese — You’ll find these to be common throughout the best Mexican dishes.



Everybody knows nachos, crunchy tortilla chips topped with cheese, salsa and the optional meat, avocado, jalapeanos and peppers. Everybody loves getting their hands dirty, a common theme in Mexican dishes, nachos are no exception.

Enchiladas on rice and mole sauce, wrapped around beans, meat, cheese, and much more. The idea of rolling tortillas around other food has existed since the time of the Mayans, and is now a staple of many other foods.

The chimichanga, a popular deep-fried burrito in Southwestern U.S. and some Mexican areas such as Sinaloa and Sonora. Commonly filled with rice, cheese, shredded chicken or other meat, then folded, deep fried to golden perfection, and topped with salsa, guacamole, sour cream and more cheese.

The common theme of tortillas continues with the quesadilla, in which the tortilla is folded in half, filled with savory ingredients and the ever-common cheese, often with the addition of vegetables.

Tacos are another classic everyone knows and loves, a crispy tortilla filled with whatever type of meat you want. A versatile meal many people can create their own version of — great for the kids! — And always eaten with the hands.

Burritos is a tortilla (Surprise!) filled and folded completely, sealing inside the mouth watering Mexican meats, salsas, guacamole, beans and cheese. It’s an amalgamation of Mexican cuisine with that of the U.S. but a popular and delicious addition to anybodies repertoire.


As long as we’re talking about foods the whole family can enjoy, we simply must include some desserts right?

Churros are somewhat similar to donuts, but long and thin, covered in sugar and often dipped into a chocolate sauce. The theme of using ones hands continues…

Mexico, as with other Latin American countries, also has Dulce de Leche; a sweet, caramel like substance that, while not a dish on it’s own, can be deliciously combined with almost anything — Cakes, ice cream, on toast, with oats, you name it!

Become a true Mexican chef, delighting all who have the pleasure of dining with you, by learning some of the Spanish language, take some classes or inquire here for more info.

Top 5 Hostels in Mexico

Posted on December 3rd, 2013 by Samuel Max in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Millions flock to Mexico each year, to relax, to party, to learn of the history and to see the many beautiful landscapes and buildings once inhabited by ancient civilizations. If you’re lucky enough to be headed on your way there any time soon, and looking to save a little money by putting up in a hostel, then here is a list of the best places to stay in the highlight spots around Mexico. (Please note, all prices are in US dollars)


  1. Hostel Tequila Backpackers is situated in Guadalajara, in the heart of the city and close to the historic downtown area. A city of 1.5 million people, it remains a colonial city with a distinct architectural style, many museums, cathedrals and plazas. Hostel Tequila Backpackers has a pool, a pool table, games room, and provides breakfast, wifi, cable tv and more; cost ranges from $14 to $35 depending on if you’re happy with a mixed dorm or want a private room with an ensuite.
  2. Hostel Akumal is centrally located in San Cristóbal de las Casas, a small valley city whose tourism rests on the city’s history, culture and indigenous population. Akumal contains the usual amenities however they boast a delicious breakfast with homemade wholemeal bread with homemade jam, an egg-dish, organic regional coffee and fresh milk and butter. Akumal’s prices start at $8.79 for a mixed dorm and $10.39 for a private twin.
  3. Hostel Ka’beh Cancùn is a relaxed, stress free hostel in one of the most well-known Mexican tourist destinations. Picture sublime beaches overlooking the serene Caribbean Sea, and being able to sleep in as long as want after a big night out at one of the many bars, and not missing breakfast! That’s possible at Ka’beh, as they have no time limit for the most important meal of the day. The hostel only provides mixed dorms, but at $12 – $14 in the heart of Canún one shouldn’t complain too much.
  4. Mexico City Hostel is, as you might have guessed, in Mexico City, and situated 20 meters from the Catherdral and Zocala — the main plaza. No list would be complete without a hostel in Mexico’s capital city of over 8.8 million, the economic hub is right in the middle of the country, and contains an incredible history that can be seen all around the city in the architecture, museums and more. Mexico City Hostel has a range of rooms, from a single private with ensuite at $40, down to the usual mixed dorm room at $14.
  5. Finally we have Bajas Cactus Hotel & Hostel, the first property in Cabo San Lucas to combine both Hostel and Hotel. The city is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, living down on the tip of the Baja California peninsula it boasts some incredible beaches and a vast array of marine life. The hostel provides a relaxed atmosphere, great beds, a tour/travel desk and BBQ area, prices start at $17 for a mixed dorm and $23 for privates.


If you want to make your trip to Mexico even more fruitful and fun, you might want to consider taking your Spanish to the next level, jump over and check out our classes, or send an inquiry for more info.