For some reason, I’m not big on writing posts unless there’s some sort of message or lesson I learned behind it. However, I’ve realized that once in a while it’s okay, and also that perhaps some of my readers are curious about what life is like in Gijon, Asturias.
To be honest when I first laid eyes on Gijon, I was not at all pleased, and thought about living in Oviedo instead. It didn’t help that my first experience with Gijon was the busy and noisy Avenida de la Constitucion and I was running everywhere without a map to handle my NIE paperwork. However, after a tour of the prettier parts of the city, and seeing the beach I luckily decided to stick to Gijon.
Honestly, I’m so incredibly happy. The size of Gijon is proving to be perfect for me. With a population of about 275,000, the city is big enough for you to always have something to do, and small enough that it isn’t a pain to try to get to different places. There’s plenty of life here, from exercise or dance classes outdoors, to surf competitions, to trivia nights in pubs. Of course, you’ve got to keep your eyes peeled to find out about these events, but there are usually fliers in a lot of places.
Though some parts of the city aren’t necessarily that attractive, the neighborhoods themselves are quite lovely. They are quiet and are smaller communities within themselves. I was super lucky to find a beautiful one bedroom apartment right off the beach in the neighborhood of La Arena. It’s a great area with bars, hip cafes, supermarkets, and everything else in between within a ten minute walking distance.
With the exception of those who blatantly stare at me when they pass me on the streets, the people of Asturias are generally very friendly and considerate. Though I’m still trying to figure out how to meet some locals, everyone that I’ve interacted with has been quite nice. While I’ve also come across people who enjoy talking to you for the sake of talking to you, like the woman who opened my bank account or parents who call to ask for classes, I’d say that it happens less frequently here than down south. Down south, every single person wanted to know your life history, in a genuinely curious way. Though the difference in friendliness between Andalusians and Asturians isn’t immediately noticeable, I’d say that it’s definitely there. Andalusians have a way of embracing you with open arms and in a very…loud and happy manner. So I can understand why the Asturians are seen as a bit more “reserved” according to Spanish standards. While I am beginning to miss the general openness of the Andalusians, it’s not for a lack of friendly people here.
Asturias is definitely a bit more modern too. Gijon manages to have a hint of character to it that seems a bit more hip, but it’s also more natural and not forced. It’s quite common to see young people with tattoos, for example. And the dress code is a lot more casual. In the south I remember seeing woman grocery shopping wearing what they would wear to a wedding. But here, you can walk around in sneakers and a sweater and people wouldn’t look at you twice. I think it definitely helps when you have a surfer culture, it brings a nice flavor into the mix, and brings a level of casualness that is kind of relieving from the super formal dress code of the south. I also really enjoy seeing the bits of character that dot the city, like the Rockabilly clothing store, the Honky Tonk Bar, or IPA, an artesenal beer bar. And the fact that there are music festivals, movie festivals, etc., and they can do things like bring in jazz bands from Brooklyn (!!!) gained Gijon a lot of brownie points.
When I found out that I was going to Gijon I scoured the internet trying to find blogs of expats who lived here . I suppose many people just don’t move to Gijon. But I also think it’s because the city is so great with so much going on that maybe there are plenty of expats but they were just too busy enjoying the city to write. I know for me that’s been the case too!
Either way, I thinkthe north of Spain really isn’t given nearly as much credit as it deserves. Spain is automatically associated with the south, but if you haven’t visited the north of Spain at all, I think you’re really missing out. So, if you’re in Spain, or going to visit Spain, make sure to set aside enough time for the cities up north. 😉