From Stockton to Santander – letter from Spain

BORN prematurely at 25 weeks, Liliana Rose Dalbins spent four months fighting for her life in the neonatal intensive care unit at the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton.

Now age 23, she speaks five languages and is currently living in Santander, Spain, teaching English to children.

Here she explains why she loves the Spanish lifestyle but but misses English tea, Suggitt’s ice cream and the Teesside ‘parmo’.

What prompted you to move abroad? I recently graduated from Newcastle University with a BA in Modern Languages (I speak German, Spanish, Dutch, a bit of Italian and English of course!). I’ve loved languages since a really young age but when I started to take it more seriously and decided to study it at university I sadly realised that the North-East was not a place where I could live permanently and still come in contact with all the languages I speak.

I moved to Berlin, Germany to teach English for 12 months. In that time I taught around 100 children between the ages of three and 10. I had to return to Newcastle by September 2014 but I think I was only back home for three weeks and I decided to au pair for a lovely family with three kids in Santander for the remaining three months.

When did you leave the North-East and how long have you been living in Spain?

I left the UK for a second time after I graduated in June 2015, coming back to Santander for six months with the same family I was with last year. I’m here until December then back to Stockton for Christmas and Berlin for New Year.

I will be back living in Stockton for six weeks in January and February then at the end of February I’m moving to Chiari, Northern Italy to teach English for four months! I’m currently planning a move to Austria in October 2016 for a year plus.

FLOWER POWER: Liliana at the Fiesta del Pilar (festival for the patron saint of the city) in Zaragoza.

FLOWER POWER: Liliana at the Fiesta del Pilar (festival for the patron saint of the city) in Zaragoza.

How easily did you make friends/find work? I find it really easy to make friends and find work as I move to countries where I can speak the language (Italy will be a bit more difficult as I’ve only studied Italian for a year). I made friends in Berlin that I’m still friends with now and know I will be for a long long time.

Work has been easy for me to find as everyone wants to learn English! Parents are especially keen for their children to learn English, as it is proven that it’s easiest to learn a foreign language in the first six or seven years of life.

I love teaching, especially young children but there isn’t a strong need for foreign languages to be taught to younger kids in the North East.

Did you feel homesick? Not really homesick as such, but I miss my family a lot. My parents, sister and aunt have all visited me a few times wherever I’ve been and although they say they don’t like me living abroad I think they secretly do as they get lots of really really cheap holidays!

Sometimes when I know there are birthdays or family parties back home I get a bit sad but sometimes I’m able to get home for them so it’s ok.

ABROAD: Liliana enjoying a Spanish sunset.

ABROAD: Liliana enjoying a Spanish sunset.

What have you achieved that you wouldn’t have done back home? I know I’m certainly happier doing what I love, exploring, travelling, and living in different places. I really love telling people I’m from the North-East and especially Stockton as it sometimes gets a bad reputation.

I think if I’d have stayed in the UK I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today, I love my home but there is just nothing there for me to pursue as a career in something I would really love.

What have you learnt about yourself? I have learnt that I’m maybe a little crazy! But I really do love my life. After fighting to survive for  four months after I was born, and having laser eye surgery at 16 weeks I was released from hospital to finally go home with my parents.

Despite my unexpectedly early arrival into the world, I have proved everyone who didn’t think I would make it wrong! I had some other issues with my health when I was younger due to me being premature and still suffer with a bad back, but other than that I am totally healthy, happy and crazily moving around Europe!

Who would have thought that tiny 2lb baby would be travelling to different countries and speak five languages?! I know I have a serious case of wanderlust, I’m addicted to booking flights and my life is a suitcase. I have learnt that I need a good cuppa more often than I thought! But here its impossible to recreate a true cuppa as nowhere sells English teabags!

Does the English accent get you far? Most people don’t realise that I’m English until I tell them but when they realise I am and where I’m from all they can think of is Geordie Shore! If I have met other Brits they’re mainly confused about where I am from, Middlesbrough, Newcastle? Are you sure you’re not a Geordie?!

What do you miss about home (excluding family and friends)? I miss parmos! No one has a clue what I’m talking about even if I’m in the UK never mind abroad! It’s just such a foreign concept (ha) to them and they can’t get their heads around why you would combine chicken, béchamel sauce and cheese.

I also miss knowing how to get to places without having to think to hard about it, don’t get me wrong I love exploring but sometimes when I’m in a rush I wish I could just turn on autopilot and get to where I need to go without thinking about it.

I would say I am an expat but not in the traditional sense, I still call the North-East my home but I move around Europe frequently, always wanting to experience living in a new culture, exploring and sharing my knowledge of the English Language with whoever will listen to me!!

What three (good) things should be imported from the North-East to Santander? Good British tea bags! I need them asap!
Suggitt’s ice cream from Great Ayton – I’ve eaten my fair share of ice cream living in a coastal city but nothing beats a Suggitt’s ice cream and a wander around Great Ayton!

The Christmas buzz that we get in the North East, eagerly anticipating the opening of Fenwicks Christmas Window in Newcastle – Christmas in Germany was beautiful with traditional markets at every turn but nothing beats the build up to Christmas in the North-East.

In Spain there isn’t such a build up and I really miss it, I hear from my family everyday that more lights have gone up or they’re starting Christmas shopping but here there isn’t anything like that.


LUNCH: A giant paella made for 2,500 people at a livestock auction.

What three good things would you export from Spain to make the North-East a better place? The Spanish lifestyle should definitely be imported to the North-East, everyone her is just so relaxed about everything all the time, there are no worries, no rush to do anything.

I would also export Churros, they’re a fried dessert (a bit like doughnuts) that are served with a cup of chocolate for you to dip them into. And paellas -the family I’m living with create giant paellas for all kinds of events, the one in the picture (above) was for 2,500 attending a horse and cattle auction!


Liliana can be found blogging at