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LIVING IN ANDALUSIA AND INTEGRATING IN CASARES

If you buy a house in Spain, in our case we chose Casares, and you start to live there with your family, your first wish would probably be that your children will fall into the right hands, right? That they make friends and become accepted in the local environment? My parents were therefore certainly happy when I, as a 5 year old, came home with an invitation to my first birthday party. And, I can tell you that Spanish birthday parties are something you shouldn’t miss out on! They are known for having a lot of food, and a lot of children.

 Birthday Party in Casares Andalusia

I received my first invitation for a birthday party from Alejandro. I happily ran out of school with the invitation high up in the air: “I have a party, mum! It’s Alejandro’s birthday”. It was one of the best moments in my life, receiving an invitation did mean that I was part of ‘the group’. My mum, however, pulled an awkward face when she read the invitation. Now, don’t laugh, but this is what it said (translated from Spanish):

Party: Alejandro’s Birthday.

When?: Today at 5pm.

Where?: In my house.

Banging on the door of the toys shop in Casares

My mum and I therefore had two problems: how on Earth would be get a present within 2hrs? And, in which of the many streets in Casares does Alejandro live? In the end we found out through asking my friend’s mother, whose cousin’s boyfriend was the neighbour of Alejandro. Also, she directed us to a local toy shop where we could just bang on the door at 4.45pm to get a present (even though they open at 5pm). When we arrived there were already many people there: mothers helping to make sandwiches and preparing the cake, and some kids playing on the streets. My mum started helping the mum-gang, and I started to search for someone to play with. After an hour it was packed! Well, it was normal; Alejandro had invited the whole class! Besides, he also invited some cousins, neighbours and more family, plus everyone invited could bring someone else too! I ought to remember we were all cropped together in a room of 3x5m. To be honest, to me the situation of being crumpled up in such a small room only made me go quieter and quieter, it was so busy!

Eating, eating and more eating

It’s a whole new experience, a birthday party like that. The presents are pulled out of your hands by the birthday boy/girl, quickly opened and thrown on the pile of presents behind them.  Anyway, once everyone arrived, the food would be placed on the table: sandwiches, crisps, sweets; and for drinks we had Fanta and Cola. I realised afterwards that asking for water wasn’t the right thing to do, as everyone drank soda. While my friends and I would run around the street, completely hyperactive, playing games and testing the birthday toys, our mothers would be babbling back inside.

Once everyone is literally stuffed with sandwiches, sweets and crisps, the cake comes on the table. I think Spanish cakes are within my top 10: homemade, beautifully decorated and topped with cream and chocolates. On my birthday our neighbours helped my mum to make my cake, they forbid her to buy one at the supermarket as it was “so easy to make one at home”. If not, the local bakery would supply you with any kind of cake you wanted: you indicate what type/theme you wish and how many kilograms it should be. Normally, they are around 4kg. At the party, the cake is served with hot chocolate. No, this isn’t the typical milk and cacao drink; this is actually melted chocolate with a spoon of milk! And don’t worry; they are constantly checking if you have had enough (according to their standards, of course) so you won’t be hungry after that afternoon! They found us Dutch very conservative when eating; they said “we hardly eat anything”.

As soon as the cake has been eaten completely, and not before, the party is  over. Of course you can still play outside a little, and you can surely have some more food. My mother and I were done with it though. We took a deep breath after this party; there was so much food and so many people… Our ears nearly snapped, and our stomachs nearly exploded. We were overloaded. Yet, we smiled. “That was fun, right mum?” I said, “but can I have a Dutch birthday, please? With games and so…” My mum directly knew an answer to that, and if you might have already guessed, with a sigh she said “I much prefer that!”

 

Nienke Ernstsen 17-02-2014 Living in Andalusia