Picture the scene: beautiful parents in oversized shades sipping wine and politely conversing under the late afternoon Spanish sun. A venue dressed to look like a scene from a fairytale, and an ‘animation team’ waiting to cater to each child’s every whim, as an army of catering staff bustle around ensuring that everybody has a glass in one hand and a canapé’ in the other. Life as an expat in Spain.
It is at this point that I make my grand entrance: straight from work, ID tag still round my neck, stressed, hot and dressed like a quintessential secondary school teacher (because I am, not because I channel that particular fashion) complete with sensible shoes and a hastily wrapped present in a supermarket carrier bag. How on earth did I manage to infiltrate this world I hear you ask?
I was a teacher at an international school in Marbella, and one of the ‘perks’ of the job was that my children were able to attend the school for free. It did essentially mean that my children were in classes alongside the offspring of millionaire entrepreneurs, ex-premiership footballers and local celebrities, and along with that came many an invitation to birthday extravaganzas. These weren’t just ‘drop offs,’ these were five (precious weekend) hours of wining, dining and entertainment, that you were encouraged to attend with your whole family.
Whilst it sounded amazing, it was a steep learning curve. Like when I was really proud of myself for spending ages finding a nice ‘decorate your own mirror’ set on Amazon as a present, and then having to slot it in onto a gift table adorned with Dior and Gautier gift bags (next to a full sized gifted handcrafted tipi?!), spending the next four hours praying that they were not going to have some sort of ‘present opening ceremony.’ Or spending the best part of a year wondering WTF I was going to do for my two children’s birthday parties?
My daughter’s favourite party was based at a Marbella mansion where they turned the swimming pool into a giant foam party (I still recall a whole team of lifeguards looking slightly concerned when there were thirty seven year olds in a swimming pool disappearing beneath what looked like a giant bowl of fairy liquid bubbles!). And don’t forget the parrots. A full on show that involved parrots riding bicycles and lounging on deckchairs (ethically wrong in my humble opinion). They had guest spots at three separate parties. By the third time, my daughter actually got bored of watching it, and it was another one of the times when I pondered the effects of what were essentially ostentatious shows of wealth.
In case you were wondering, we generally stuck to self-catered home parties for our kids, with a bouncy castle and a couple of rounds of musical statues. Did our children enjoy these as much? Of course they did. Give any five year old an opportunity to eat junk food all afternoon and run around the garden with their mates, and happy memories will always be made.
Links for further reading:
- What you need to know before teaching in Spain by Andrea Palmer2. Where to find the best parties in Puerto Banus 3. Guide to Pool Parties in Marbella 4. The Ten Commandments for expats living in Spain 5. Spain expat forum 6. Teach in Spain 7. Visit Gibraltar 8. 10 reasons for Living in Malaga and the Costa del Sol. 9. International Schools in the Marbella Area 10. Marbella Party Supplies