Saturday, March 8, 2014

Living in the Canary Islands Part 2

Continuation of my previous post, Living in the Canary Islands Part One

12. Restaurants are plentiful on the island of Tenerife, but really good restaurants are hard to find. This might be arguable by some, but in my opinion the food is mediocre and serving sizes will disappoint the American who is used to big portions at reasonable prices. In all fairness, we don't eat out a lot, but our limited experiences have been disappointing.

 Once we went into a Mexican restaurant with a group, and they put luncheon meat ham in our burritos and tacos. That was all they had on hand. If a restaurant isn't busy, don't go there! If the locals don't eat there, it is for a good reason.

There are no big chains such as Olive Garden, Longhorn steakhouse, Cracker Barrel, but we do have McDonalds, Burger King, and a few Subways.

American style breakfasts are unknown, mostly because the Spanish aren't breakfast eaters. If you order pancakes at McDonalds, you won't get pancake syrup--they will put the same sauce as you get on ice cream sundaes--chocolate or caramel. Coffee is strong, espresso style--and in my opinion tastes rather bitter--even if you order the "Americano" it won't be like your favorite cup of brew in the US. The Spanish love their coffee and often go out to cafes on a daily basis for a cup with friends.

Dinner is served very late--probably after 8 pm. Maybe that is why they aren't big breakfast eaters! If you go out for dinner around the typical American dinner hour, you will have the restaurant to yourself, and the waiters might not be ready to serve you. By the way, tips are not mandatory, and if you leave one, it doesn't have to be 15%. A few coins will suffice.

13. I feel safer here than I do in the US. I let my girls walk to the park by themselves without worrying about them being kidnapped or molested--they are more afraid of a stray dog than anything. I have had my wallet stolen, and a group from the US had their rental van broken into and personal items taken--and tourists are a target for pick pockets. That being said, there is far less serious crime such as homicides--or at least if seems that way, maybe because I don't listen to the news much.

14. Family is important, and their social life revolves around birthday parties, baptisms, first communions, Sunday barbecues, and they all pull together for their own. Most married couples only have one or two children at the most, and a family with three children qualify for the "large family" discount.

The islands are mainly Spanish, but are very culturally diverse with immigrants from Central and South America (Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil) Cuba, Romania, the Philippines, and West Africa. It is also a favorite destination for Europeans, particularly among the British, Scandinavians and Germans. We encounter very few Americans. You will need to learn Spanish in order to get by, although most people study English in schools. The Canary accent is very distinct and have a dialect of their own. One island, La Gomera,  has a language of whistling which they still teach in the schools.

15. The island is predominantly Catholic, and holidays, traditions, and rituals are important to their culture but many young people are atheistic, or humanistic. The Virgin Maria and saints are the icons of their worship. Most people don't really "practice" their religion, but perhaps cling to it for their parents or grandparents sake, baptizing their baby, celebrating the first communion, and going through confirmation. Most are familiar with the word "evangelicals" which to them translates something other than a Catholic. Most have never heard of a Baptist. To them we are all thrown into the same category as "sects" or cults which can't be trusted or considered mainstream religion. It is not like the US where you see churches of various denominations on every other corner. We have to overcome a lot of preconceived ideas that are buried deep in their heritage. Immigrants are much more open to the gospel than the Spanish people.

16.The Canary Islands are very modern and cosmopolitan due to the internet, cell phones, television, and global travel. Medical facilities and hospitals offer modern technology and clean, sanitary facilities. Medicine is socialized, and for the most part everyone has their basic needs met although they may have to wait for longer than you would in the states. Private medical insurance is fairly affordable, for example, our family pays about $300.00 per month for a policy which covers doctor visits, hospitalization, and many lab tests and procedures. That being said, we pay much more for other consumer goods, such as food, gas, electricity, and clothes.

17. Tourism drives the economy here (second is agriculture, producing bananas and tomatoes). There are two international airports on the island of Tenerife. Right now we are having 30% unemployment rates, but there is a slight improvement in the past few months as tourism is on the rise. Many people have been unemployed for several years during this time which the islanders refer to as the "crisis." They collect approximately $500 per month in unemployment benefits.

18. Many here are passionate about soccer, or futbol as they know it. People are divided as to whether their favorite professional team is Barcelona or Madrid. The islands are a sport enthusiast's paradise, with biking, surfing, tennis, golf (if you can afford it as 18 holes will set you back around $100), hiking, and plenty of sunshine to cooperate with outdoor endeavors.

19. We don't have any poisonous spiders or snakes to worry about here. Our worst plague is a cockroach, the big palmetto bugs like they have in Florida. We don't have screens on the windows, but have fewer mosquitoes in our area due to the drier climate.

20. The people are well educated yet very traditional in their approach to education. Home school is not an accepted method of education and you would have a difficult time incorporating your child into the university system if they don't possess the certificates given in the lower grade levels. Most think that home schooling is illegal, but that is open to discussion depending on how one interprets the law. On mainland Spain some have gone to court and have won their legal battle to "educar en casa" but I haven't heard much being done here in the Canary Islands yet. We had to put our daughters into the school system here last year in order to receive our Spanish residency.

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