Jade Lewis-Jones is a Head of Department in a secondary school in Valencia after taking the leap to move abroad from the United Kingdom. In this article, Jade talks about the difference in lifestyles and the impact it is having on health and wellbeing…
There are some significant differences between lifestyles in Spain and the UK in terms of diet, exercise, routine and lifestyles. In education, the amount of technology available to staff and students to assist teaching and learning is brilliant in both countries depending on the school, budgets etc. However, in Spain, it is rarely used for entertainment purposes. More often than not you will see children playing games without electronic devices, interacting socially, playing hopscotch or dancing. It can be argued that the weather plays a big part in promoting a more ‘outdoors’ lifestyle in Spain but the weather is not always sunny! From October to March, it is cold and coats are a necessity, but it doesn’t stop outdoor play. I think weather can often be seen as an excuse to stay indoors in the UK which then becomes the norm to adopt a more ‘dormant’ routine.
The Spanish culture is orientated around socialising and family is an integral part, meeting on a regular basis to eat and enjoy each other’s company. The typical routine in Spain is to eat five or six times a day, in comparison to the three daily meals in the UK. Spaniards eat little and often, which is where the ‘tapas’ idea comes from, and it means they never get to a point of feeling hungry – unlike the overindulging that the British diet lends itself to! Chocolate, crisps and fizzy/energy drinks fill aisles in the supermarket in Britain, a contrast to the small shelves in Spain. Marketing of confectionery is far more common in the UK, whilst the Spaniards prefer fresh bakery treats. Sweet items are a staple part of diets for a large number of the UK’s population, whereas in Spain they are replaced with breadsticks, fruit and yoghurts. This may be due to the fact that fruit (especially oranges!) are much cheaper in Spain than they may be in Britain.
Spain has a carbohydrate-heavy diet, with a longer school day, a longer lunch hour and a more intensive study programme. It is questioned whether children in Britain could benefit from the opportunity to rest and socialise at break and lunch times for longer, allowing for a siesta if they wish. Would this improve wellbeing? The short time that students are given to eat in Britain could be a contributing reason to eating ‘on the move’, choosing the quick, easy and often unhealthy option.
I am not for one second saying that Britain has the worst obesity rates in the world but they are certainly not improving (nor are Spain’s for that matter). However, recent statistics show that by the year 2030, obesity rates will have risen in the UK to 35% and in Spain to 21%. It is important for anyone working with the next generation that they understand the importance of exercise. A lot of people can argue that obesity is down to genetics. Although this has a part to play, to a certain extent, it is not solely responsible. Students in Spain are in the minority if they are not involved in an extra-curricular activity of some form, during the school day or in their free time. Evolve are ultimately working with schools and educational establishments to provide this valuable opportunity to children in Britain and the chance to increase their fitness and happiness. It is important to identify that the success you have when educating and working on improving mindsets and wellbeing of children differs depending on the resources available to you in addition to the age, background and the previous understanding of the students; regardless of where you are in the world!
A bit about Valencia…
Valencia is situated on the East coast of Spain and is proud of its one-of-a-kind annual ‘Fallas’ festival – Europe’s largest street festival that lasts four days and shows some spectacular pieces of art and architecture. It is a city that prides itself on being home to two La Liga football teams, a basketball team that is part of the Liga ACB and the Euro League. It is also where the England ladies hockey Olympic winners trained and was the host of the World Championship half marathon event.