Political Awareness in Spain

When traveling in Spain, you will surely notice a much greater sense of political awareness and involvement among the people, particularly in Madrid, Barcelona, and the Basque Region in the north.

The regions of Spain

The greater sense of political awareness is due to the division of the Spanish country among various autonomous communities based on geographical and societal differences. Much like different regions of the US, there are distinctions in the language, gastronomy, and cultures. The difference is due to the fact that each of these areas is recognized as a self-governed region, based upon the different historical nationalities living in Spain, such as the Spanish, Basque, Galician, or Catalonian peoples.

Conflicting Ideologies

Because of the large mix of different nationalities among one country, there has been significant conflict throughout the history of Spain. During the rule of the dictator Francisco Franco, the autonomous communities that did not adhere to or follow the Spanish nationalist cause were severely oppressed. The ETA, which stands for “Euskadi Ta Askatasuna” or, “Basque Homeland and Freedom” in English, is a terrorist group that was formed to fight for the creation of a free country for the Basque people. Although they have renounced their militant tactics, they, and many other similar nationalist parties around Spain, continually work to influence the central government in Madrid. In Madrid, on the other hand, there is a strong pride in the Spanish state and many locals view the non-Spanish nationalists groups as detriments to creating a wholly united Spanish country.

After the fall of Franco

As the years have gone on since the fall of Franco, progress has been made to help these historical nations within Spain gain identity and representation in both local and central government through parties such as a Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) or the Galician People’s Party (PPG), although their own autonomous governments are usually split on votes to support full independence from Spain.


In addition to these regional differences, socialism has always had a strong presence in Spain. The Spanish Socialist Worker’s Part (PSOE) has existed since 1879, and experienced equal oppression during Franco’s dictatorship, exiling and executing many prominent members. In the last decade, the PSOE has won the Spanish general election multiple times, however they lost in November due to a severe weakening of the Spanish economic climate. Socialist groups and worker’s unions are constantly active in Spain, and general strikes are common among transportation, airport, and other workers. Be aware of news headlines and flyers handed out on the streets so your travel plans are not affected.

The bottom line for travelers to Spain

When traveling in Spain, be aware of current political events, and try not to get into politics with locals; their opinions are usually greatly varied and extremely passionate. Wearing Spanish colors, flags, or other things can draw very negative attention in some regions, while wearing non-Spanish nationalist logos, shirts, or other things can draw equally negative attention from the other in areas with strong Spanish pride.

The Best Korean Phrases to Know

Image credited to Joaquin Uy

One of the best parts of traveling to South Korea for school, business, or pleasure is that you are not required to speak Korean. In fact, it is quite easy to get by in South Korea with a limited vocabulary.

Speaking English

Many Koreans speak English quite well. In fact, many foreigners living in South Korea are there teaching English. English to Koreans is like Spanish to Americans. More and more people are learning English. However, it is always nice to pick up another language. Here are few basic words and phrases you might find come in handy during your trip to Korea.

Image credited to Joaquin Uy

Image credited to Joaquin Uy

1. Hello!

  • Annyeonghaseyo (ON-young-HA-say-yo).
  • Korean Script: 안녕하세요.
  • Translation: Hello!

This is the formal way to say hello. If you are among friends, however, it is common to say “Annyeong” (ON-young). If you are speaking to someone older than you, you must use “Annyeonghaseyo.”

2. Thank you!

  • Gamsahabnida (COM-sah-mi-DUH).
  • Korean Script: 감사합니다.
  • Translation: Thank you very much!

You can simply say “Gamsahabnida,” but to show respect, you have to emphasize the middle and end of the word. So when saying it, you have to say gamsaaaaaahabnidaaaaa. You may think you are sounding condescending, but in all reality, you are better expressing your gratitude.

3. Give me water.

  • Mul jooseyo (MÜL jü-SAY-YO) ( ______ jooseyo).
  • Korean Script: 물주세요.
  • Translation: Give me water (Give me _________).

You may find this disrespectful to say to waiters or people working in retail, as you probably feel like you are demanding from them without saying “please.” “Please” is rarely used in Korean day-to-day life, so it is not a big deal to demand something just so long as you say “Gamsahabnida” after!

4. How much for this?

  • Olmahyeyo (OL-MA-ye-YO).
  • Korean Script: 얼마예요.
  • Translation: How much for this?

This phrase can be counterproductive, because if you ask how much for something, they will tell you in Korean. It’s a smart idea, though, to ask how much and carry around a calculator with you. This way they can type the price into it for you. Also, it’s not a bad idea to learn a few basic numbers for these situations.

5. Excuse me (formal).

  • Sillyehabnida (she-LAY-ah-me-DUH).
  • Korean Script: 실례합니다.
  • Translation: Excuse me (formal).

South Korea is a crowded place. So when you’re trying to navigate through the mess of people, saying this will hopefully give you some wiggle room to get by.

6. Where is the bathroom?

  • Eodi e hwojangsil? (oh-dee e ha-WONG-SHE).
  • Koran Script: 어디 에 훠장실.
  • Translation: Where is the bathrom?

It’s pretty self explanatory as to why this is a must-know phrase. However, sometimes, just saying “toilet” will do the trick.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Take the time to learn the name of your school, hotel, or business associates and learn how to pronounce them in Korean. This will be the best way to purchase tickets at the bus station and communicate to taxi drivers. Also, if you have a business card with the address on it, that will help you get around, too.
  • If you are in a restaurant and require service, you will use a less formal version of “Excuse me,” rather than the formal “Sillyehabnida.” Instead, shout “Yeogio!” (YO-ge-YO) at the wait staff. They don’t come to you to “check in” like wait staff does in the States. They either have buttons on the table you hit to call them, and if they don’t, you shout this phrase.

Throughout your trip, you’ll pick up many more words and phrases. Regardless of how limited your vocabulary may be it is still relatively easy to get around and communicate with those around you.

Kicking Off Summer with the Fête de la Musique

Nothing is more sacred than long vacations in France. To kick off the summer season, the French pull out all the stops on June 21, when the annual Fête de la Musique takes place in celebration of the summer solstice.

History of the Fête de la Musique

From its charming quaint villages to the Louvre in Paris, everyone is in the streets all night long for the Fête de la Musique.

In 1982, Jack Lang, Minister of Culture, conducted a study on French cultural habits. Inspired by the results indicating that one out of two French youth played a musical instrument, he decided to launch the first Fête de la Musique, an all night event in the tradition of the Saint Jean Festivals. The idea took off with free concerts around the country and is now one of France’s most popular cultural events and is also celebrated in major cities around the world.


Take a look at one of the previous years’ performances by Patrick Bruel…

This year’s 31st edition has something for every music taste in every quarter in Paris and throughout the country, from classical with the Paris Symphony Orchestra playing at the Louvre, to jazz, rap, world music and pop singers.

More from Deb Dutilh

Deb Dutilh is Relationship and Communication Maven who spent 30 years living in Paris and in Pau, France. Now living in Los Angeles, she helps clients around the world reignite their relationships and get back to talking, sharing and loving again.

Check out her website at www.debdutilh.com, read her articles on Your Tango, follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, or on Twitter.

Ready to dive into French language and culture?

Check out our France ForeignIQ service. Make the best of your trip to France by learning how to communicate and what (not) to do when you get there.

ForeignIQ is a unique subscription service that shows you how things get done in foreign places. Need to shop for clothes? Get directions? Schedule a meeting? ForeignIQ will get you ready.

Bar Culture in Spain

Image credited to Mitch Engelking

Drinking is socially acceptable and even encouraged in Spain, although “drinking” does not bear all the same implications as it does in American society.

Casual Drinks

It is common to see men and women gathered in the early afternoon, or even in the late morning at a bar or outdoor patio sharing small glasses of wine or beer (generally a lager).

This is highly communal and casual, where the crux of the Spanish social life happens, because it’s rare to have friendly gatherings in the home. Adults will gather around the drinks while their kids run around playing fútbol or riding scooters through the plaza, and it’s not uncommon to see babies and young children sitting in the bar with their parents.

Image credited to Mitch Engelking

The Spanish Bar

In Spain, a bar or tavern (“bar” and “taberna” in Spanish) bears little resemblance to the dimly lit joints serving warm pints one would find in the UK, or the 5 o’clock, after-work spot where folks like to unwind with a stiff one.

In Spain, bars are open essentially from the morning until night, and cater to all ages of clientele. This is due to the fact that these establishments sell a limited range of alcohol, with usually only one beer on tap and numerous bottles of some sort of regional wine or cider. However, they do offer a large range of food, such as the Spanish tortilla, chocolate con churros, sandwiches, burgers, tapas, and more.

“Menu del Día”

In the mornings, an average Spanish breakfast will be a quick cup of coffee or hot chocolate and a small, sweet pastry. Then it is off to work until lunch, which is the main meal of the day known as “la comida”.

It is common for these bars and taverns to serve a “menu del día”, a cheap three-course meal consisting of bread and a mixed salad, potatoes or rice and a meat dish, and finally some sort of dessert or fruit bowl. One of the dishes will often include fish or seafood, fried or in a paella or stew. French fries are also common, as well as chicken, lamb, and pork. This is generally regarded as the most economic way to eat well in Spain, as these meals can be found easily anywhere and cost from 7€ to 15€.

Image credited ornello_pics

Image credited to ornello_pics

A Stiff Drink

Even though bars are not where people go to get drunk, you can still find a stiff drink in Spain. At night, most bars will begin to serve hard alcohol around 8 or 9pm. Common drinks are the gin and tonic, mojito, rum and coke, and sangria.

The wine and beer still flows, but there is also another uniquely Spanish drink called a kalimotxo, which is a delicious mix of 50% red wine, and 50% cola. Be advised that in a culture where even many teenage youths drink, people in Spain can hold their liquor. It is very obvious and embarrassing to be sloppy or belligerent while drinking in Spain, as well the rest of Europe.

A Guide for Transportation in Seoul

Image credited to Jacob Wucka

Seoul is the capital of South Korea and home to more than 10 million people spread across 25 different districts. To say Seoul is a big city is an understatement. That’s why you need to learn how to use Seoul’s extensive transportation system to your advantage.

Getting T-Money

Image credited to Jacob Wucka

The metropolitan area of Seoul encompasses nearly 25 million people. There is way too much history to absorb, traditional cuisines to try, and a raucous nightlife to explore. And you will spend most of your time here. Fortunately, the transportation system here is extensive and affordable.

First and foremost, make sure you have a T-Money card. This card will make traveling easier. Without it, you will have to purchase tickets for the subways, which is just a waste of time and money when one can simply scan the card to board a train instead. Also, unless you have exact change, you can’t board the buses. Just get a T-Money card at a conveinence store and load it up.

Using the subway

Buy a map of the subway system or even get the map downloaded to your smartphone. The subway is expansive and the best way to get around so you need to learn which lines go where and where to transfer.

To make matters easier, the lines are color-coded: line 1 is dark blue, line 2 is green, line 3 is light orange, line 4 is light blue, line 5 is purple, line 6 is dark orange, line 7 is brown, and line 8 is pink. The lines to Bundang, an affluent suburb, and Incheon Airport are yellow and pale blue, but those lines are isolated from the main subway system as they lead out of Seoul.

Image credited to Adam Raoof

Image credited to Adam Raoof.

Here is a piece of good news for you about the subway system– all signs are in English as well as Korean. This includes signs that tell you what attractions are around your subway station and what exits to use. The best way, however, to expand your knowledge of subway system and to find out where the best attractions are is to go with Koreans.

Using the bus system

Another option for travel is Seoul’s bus system. Although this is less favorable compared to the subway, it can be less cramped, albeit occasionally, and can go places the subway does not.

There are five bus terminals in Seoul: Express Bus Terminal, Central City Bus Terminal, Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, Nambu Bus Terminal, and Sangbong Bus Terminal. All are hubs for buses to travel around the city and also have buses to take you around the peninsula. If you’re traveling north, to Pyeongchang or the Demilitarized Zone, buses from Seoul are a viable option. However, when traveling south, there are better options for travel, especially when traveling further than Daejeon or Pyeongtaek.

Image credited to Erica Thomas

Using the train

Seoul Station is a train hub where subway lines 1 and 4 both meet. It is also where one can board Korail, South Korea’s bullet train. The Korail, referred to as KTX, can take one from Seoul to Busan, the second highest populated metropolitan area in Korea on the southern coast, in three hours compared to the never-ending traffic jam that would be a bus ride from Seoul. KTX also has stops in other large metropolitan areas Dongdaegu, Gwangju, and Yeosu-Expo.

Taking a taxi

Transportation in Seoul and Korea is an enormous system that can be daunting. However, it really is not as difficult as it may seem. If, however, none of these transportation options work for you, there is one option left: take a taxi. Between four people, it costs 3,000 won per person to travel 30 minutes distance in downtown Seoul. You’ll never find a taxi that cheap anywhere else.

Top 5 Italian Grocery Store Treats

Image credited to allison.hare

It’s hard not to be a lover of Italian food. The pizza, the pasta, the gelato—all of it is wonderful! Of course, these are all treats that are well known, and loved, by many. But some of the best Italian treats may be things you’ve never heard of before, ones you might find on the shelves of an Italian grocery store.

In fact, all of the treats listed in this blog have made their way to the USA. Some, at big name chains. Others, you might have to do some digging to find, but a local Italian food mart will definitely have them. Here’s the top five “must-try” goodies:

#1 Chinotto (kee-noht-oh)

This fizzy, dark brown drink comes in small glass bottles, usually in a pack of six. Sounds like classic Coca-Cola right? It definitely looks the same, but the taste is much different. Chinotto has a much darker flavor—it’s less sugary and leans more toward bitter. It also has a hint of orange taste to it. If you’ve ever had chocolate covered orange peels, you are familiar with the taste: sort of bittersweet. The drink is very crisp–an excellent refreshment for a summer day.

#2 Nutella (new-tell-uh)

Image credited to allison.hare

Image credited to Allison Hare

Nutella has become very popular in the USA, but that is not at all where it originated. Nutella’s home is Italy. This hazelnut flavored spread is very rich and sweet, almost like frosting, but not as thick. It’s used a lot like how peanut butter is in the USA: Spread a good sized dollop on some crunchy toast or crusty white bread, and it’s heaven in your mouth. You’ll definitely want a glass of milk on the side for this tasty treat.

Oh, and here’s a little hint: though they probably don’t do this in Italy, try mixing your Nutella with some peanut butter… it tastes like a Reese’s peanut butter cup!

Image credited to Total City Girl

Image credited to Total City Girl

#3 Pizzelle (peet-zell-eh)

These snowflake shaped goodies are very addictive. They are kind of a cross between wafer and cookie–they are very thin, like wafers, but their taste is similar to butter cookies. They snap easily between your fingers and are fun to nibble at. A lot of times, they are covered with powdered sugar to make them extra delicious.

#4 Taralli (tah-rah-lee)

Taralli are comparable to potato chips in America—they come in all sorts of flavors, and they are a favorite salty snack among Italy’s inhabitants. Taralli have a texture similar to bread sticks, but they are shaped in knots. They can range from teeny-tiny to quite large. Popular flavors include fennel and pepper, but you can also find varieties that are lightly frosted if you have a sweet tooth.

#5 Pannetone (pahn-eh-tone-eh)

Image credited to trupastilla

Image credited to Trupastilla

Pannetone is a classic Italian favorite, especially around Christmas time. Think of a giant muffin the size of a round birthday cake. That’s what Pannetone looks like on the outside. The inside is not very cakey, however. It’s more like a bread, but it tears apart well like cotton candy. Pannetone also comes in a variety of flavors, the most common one being filled with spots of candied orange peels and raisins. There are also kinds with hefty globs of chocolate splattered throughout.

Are you hungry yet? Venture out to a local Italian market (or, if you’re bold enough, get on that plane to Italy!) and try some of these treats for yourself!

Russian Manners with Winnie the Pooh

If there’s one place you can make a cultural faux pas, it’s definitely at the dinner table. Today we’ll go over some of the crucial missteps to avoid at the Russian dinner table, with the help of none other but Winnie the Pooh! Just forget about that soft-spoken friendly yellow bear you may recognize from your childhood… Russian “Vinni Pukh” has a totally different attitude.

Winnie the Pooh in Russia

Russian culture is notoriously hard to pin down, but an “us vs them” mentality often prevails. It should come as no surprise then, that where Disney saw a lovable, cuddly, soft-spoken teddy bear, Soyuzmultfilm, the makers of the Soviet cartoon “Винни Пух (Vinni Pukh)” saw a psychologically complex character who constantly fills his head with plans that are too grand for the uncomplicated existence which he lives, causing him to face many comedic pitfalls when his imagination and reality collide.

Unlike his American counterpart, Vinni Pukh shows a streak of wild cleverness as he plots his grand schemes towards honey with the help of his best friend “Пятачок (P’atachok),” that is, Piglet. In the second part of the original Soyuzmultfilm trilogy, Vinni Pukh goes to visit his stereotypically nerdy (right down to the speech impediment), but exceedingly polite, philosophizing friend “Кролик (Krolik),” that is, Rabbit.

Russian Manners

So have you guessed from watching Vinni Pukh what are the biggest mistakes that you can make when visiting Russian friends?

Well, for starters, As Krolik pointedly mentions, you should always wipe your feet before entering someone’s house. You’ll also want to take your dirty, mucky, snow-covered shoes off at the door, and put on a warm pair of comfortable slippers for the house, which your host can almost always provide.

Obviously eating your host out of house and home is not very polite. Know when to take the cue to leave, or your host may feel obliged to entertain you longer than s/he can afford. As P’atachok mentions at the start, people don’t usually go visiting in the mornings, but prefer to come in the evening when there will be plenty of time to eat and relax with a glass of wine (or a few shots of vodka). Taking a moment to wash your hands before coming to the table is a must, and slurping your food is considered rude, as Vinni Pukh finds out when Krolik gives him a shocked look for his rude behaviour.

Of course, destroying your friend’s house during your visit is also not considered very polite!

More Vinni Pukh

Now that you’ve learned the basics of Russian table manners from Vinni Pukh, take a moment to explore the other portions of this charming trilogy from Soyuzmultfilm, which has been the favorite of Russian children since its inception in the late 1950s.

[Thumbnail image credited to 50 Watts]

The Meaning Behind “Alouette” and “Frère Jacques”

Music plays a critical role in both culture and childhood, and the great thing about it is that it can transcend cultural boundaries. On the downside, lyrics might get lost in translation, like in the popular French children songs “Alouette” and “Frère Jacques.”

Translating “Alouette” Lyrics

We all remember playing sing-song games like “Ring Around the Rosy” as children or crooning “Hush Little Baby” to a newborn sibling—songs like these help color those rosy memories of being young and innocent. And the funny thing about being young is you don’t care about what the words behind the song are saying. It’s just fun to sing along with the bouncy rhythms and dance to the cheerful tune.

Perhaps you remember singing the popular French children song “Alouette.” It is a playful melody that consists of several rounds of repetition and rhyming. Traditionally, the song is sung as a group, and children point to the body parts that correspond with the lyrics. It’s a great learning tool for young ones who are just beginning to develop their vocabulary, and it’s fun! But you may be surprised to learn what “Alouette” is really about—plucking a bird in preparation for cooking!

Alouette by Henri Dès on Grooveshark

Translating “Frère Jacques” Lyrics

Then there’s “Frère Jacques,” a song that’s typically accompanied by kids pressing their hands together and placing them to the side of their tilted heads in order to symbolize sleeping. The song tells the story of a sleeping monk who needs to wake up in order to ring the church bells for morning mass. In the US, a slightly different version called “Brother John” was created as inspiration from the original French song. Changes were made in order to maintain the rhyming:

Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
Brother John, Brother John,
Morning bells are ringing, Morning bells are ringing.
Ding, dang, dong, Ding, dang, dong.

So what did the original French children’s song sound like? Check it out:

So now that you know the meaning behind these children’s classics, go out there and impress your French friends (or their children)!

Ready to dive into French language and culture?

Check out our France ForeignIQ service. Make the best of your trip to France by learning how to communicate and what (not) to do when you get there.

ForeignIQ is a unique subscription service that shows you how things get done in foreign places. Need to shop for clothes? Get directions? Schedule a meeting? ForeignIQ will get you ready.

Top 4 Spanish Getaway Destinations

Image credited to Mitch Engelking

Mention of Spain conjures up images of bullfights, flamenco dancing, and sangria on hot, sandy beaches. These descriptions may hold true if you are headed to Andalusia in southern Spain, but the rest of the country’s regions have a vast variety of cultures, food, drink, and even language– particularly when it comes to these top four Spanish getaway destinations!


Madrid is a large metropolitan city like any other, which is good if you do not have an extensive Spanish vocabulary. You can generally find someone here who will understand English. If you speak Spanish, you will encounter standard Castilian Spanish.

Madrid is the perfect Spanish getaway destination for city lovers. It has a good mix of standard restaurants, bars, and clubs, so you will surely be able to find something to suit your social tastes. Madrid is also home to magnificent art in the world famous Prado and Reina Sofia museums, as well as the Royal Palace.

  • Be aware that Spain is a very progressive society in terms of relationships, and the Chueca district of Madrid is acknowledged as the gay and lesbian area.


Barcelona is a big city on the coast of the Mediterranean. It is an eclectic area that draws in a wide variety of travelers, making it another top Spanish getaway destination. You won’t feel too far out of your element here, because there are still a good number of English speakers.

  • Travel tip: Be advised that in Barcelona, the street names and major destinations are usually written in Catalan, the language spoken by the locals.

When you go, don’t miss the boulevard of the famous La Rambla in Barcelona, which carries an eccentric mix of street performers and vendors. Also keep an eye out for Gaudi’s Segrada Familia and Parc Güell.

  • Travel tip: Be wary with your pockets here, as it can get touristy and crowded.

Granada and Seville

As far as Spanish getaway destinations go, Granada and Seville fit the stereotypical Spanish mold– with a little bit of Arabic influence thrown in to the mix. You’ll enjoy this area if warm weather, dark skin, and beautiful plazas with local bars fit your idea of the perfect Spanish getaway.

Here the “tapas” culture is in full-force. Tapas are small dishes and finger foods that (in southern Spain) come with the purchase of a beer or glass of wine. These can be small sandwiches with meat or tuna, olives, or potato dishes depending on the restaurant. When you go, make sure to try as many of these uniquely Spanish finger foods as you can get your hands on!

Basque Country

Finally, el País Vasco, or the Basque Country, is the region bordering northern Spain and southern France. It is embodied by its mountainous, green coastline and amazing Basque cuisine.

Image credited to Mitch Engelking

The city of Bilbao in this area is the top spot for business and technology, primarily computers and biotech. It also holds many modern architectural triumphs such as the Guggenheim museum, and beautiful natural wonders such as the amazing beaches on its coastal outskirts.

San Sebastian lies further north, and is home to both the world’s best “pintxos” (the Basque version of tapas, pronounced “pinchos”), as well as two more of the prettiest beaches in Europe.