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Eight great podcasts all about Spain

Paul Burge rounds up his favourite English language podcasts that offer fun, informative and entertaining insights into Spanish culture. From football to wine and politics to travel, he discovers there’s something to suit everyone’s ears.

Eight great podcasts all about Spain
Photo by Michael Oeser on Unsplash

When I first decided to start my own podcast called When in Spain nearly two years ago many of my friends thought I was dabbling in some kind of dark art and signing-up to some mysterious and geeky internet underworld. “What’s a podcast? Who’s going to listen to you? How does it work?”, they puzzled.

Podcasts were the brainchild of Apple. iTunes was launched in early 2001 and later that year the iPod portable mp3 player followed. Anyone remember those? Although, originally designed for listening to music, audio producers gradually adopted iTunes as a platform to share spoken word content. What was perviously called audioblogging became known as podcasting and by 2004 the podcast was born.

Since then podcasts have outgrown their niche status and exploded into the mainstream. There are now 800,000 podcast shows in existence and an estimated 30 to 50 million episodes currently published, the vast majority completely free. Nowadays, you can find podcasts not only on Apple but also on Spotify, Google, Android, Pandora and dozens of other online platforms.

When in comes to Spain, there are tonnes of podcasts about learning the Spanish language. But what if you want an English language podcast about Spain? Well, look (or should I say listen) no further!

I’ve rounded up my favourite podcast shows about Spain. Food and drink, travel, history, sport, news and practical advice, there’s un poco de todo for Spain fans out there. So why not brighten up your daily commute and transport yourself to Spain with these fantastic free podcasts.

When in Spain


Click on image above for itunes link to podcast

I started When in Spain originally to share my observations on life in Spain for anyone thinking of moving here to live and work. Since then I’ve wanted to help transport listeners to Spain through the power of audio. Whether I’m wandering around a market, ordering tapas or attending one of Spain’s many ferias, I aim to take you with me!

With 63 episodes and counting, the podcast has evolved to include programmes about, food and drink, travel, history, society, cultural insights as well as practical advice.

My weekly episodes regularly feature in-depth interviews with special guests who know best, often looking at a lesser-known side of life here. For example, veganism in Spain, refugees or the stand-up comedy. My favourite episode? Probably the one about wine or the Arabic influence on Spanish. The most controversial? The one when I went to a bullfight for the first (and last) time. So, if you’re looking for a detailed yet general podcast about all different aspects of Spain, tune in!

The History of Spain podcast

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David Cot takes us back through thousands of years with his fortnightly History of Spain Podcast. In each episode he guides the listener chronologically through the comings and goings on the Iberian peninsular that have united and divided. Peoples, dynasties and kingdoms.

From the Paleolithic and Bronze Age in Iberia to The Roman conquest, the arrival of the Barbarians, Visigoths, the Caliphate of Córdoba, The Reconquest and beyond. The depth and breadth of David’s knowledge is incredible with each episode thoughtfully researched, well-paced and passionately told. If you’re a fellow history buff this a must-listen.

Spanish Wine Experience


Click on image above for itunes link to podcast

Hosts Luke Darracott and Roque Madrid (Yes that is his real name!) take us on what they call “a fun and boozy journey through Spain and its wines.” Yep, it does exactly what it says on the bottle. Luke and Roque are experts on Spanish wine and through their podcast guide us around all of Spain’s D.Os (Denominación de Origens) and wine regions, bottle by bottle. Tasting notes are included as well as recommendations and insights into Spanish wine history and culture. Their level of knowledge and detail is beyond impressive. After a year-long podcast hiatus while they opened their very own Spanish wine shop in Madrid, the vino duo are back with new episodes. And these guys are very entertaining too. Great banter and great wine. What more could you ask for?!

¿Qué?

Click on image above for itunes link to podcast

Want to keep up with the weekly news in Spain by listening? This is for you. ¿Qué? is a podcast by the Spanish national newspaper, El País and hosted by Simon Hunter who is also the editor of the English edition of El País online. An entertaining and often humorous weekly digest of what’s happening in Spain from Catalan independence to pensions, Brexit to pollution all the news stories are broken down analysed and put into an easily understandable context.

The Spanish Football podcast

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If you’re a Spanish football fan, tune in to this award-winning weekly LaLiga podcast hosted by commentators and sports journalists Sid Lowe, Phil Kitromilides and Alex Kirkland. They live and breathe Spanish football and share it with us every Monday during the season. Now in its seventh season TSFP is the definitive English-language podcast on Spanish football. The trio are all based in Spain and attend all the big games (and plenty of less big ones) to bring us the lowdown and of course the results.

Notes from Spain

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Before I even moved to Spain I was listening to Ben Curtis and his Spanish wife Marina Diez. Spain podcast pioneers, they produced the first ever podcast in English about Spain back in 2005. Think insights, observations and frustrations all about life in Spain with a bit of travel thrown in for good measure. I’ve always enjoyed the relaxed and conversational style of the show which brings us chats between husband and wife and Brit and Spaniard. Also, lots of sounds which transport you to all corners of Spain with a focus on Madrid. Sadly for us fans, Ben and Marina stopped making the podcast in 2011 to focus on their successful Notes in Spanish podcast. But it’s still available and still relevant nearly ten years later. Notes in Spain in part inspired me to follow in Ben’s footsteps and make the move to Spain and start my very own podcast.

Speaking of Spain



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In this quirky podcast series Paul Reid aka The Gazpachomonk tells us how to live, work and sweat in Spain through what he calls his ’garlicky commentaries’. Unfortunately, Paul only ever made 20 episodes of the show but they are well worth a listen. He talks about about tapas, Semana Santa, politics and his thoughts on authors, Laurie Lee and George Orwell who both wrote extensively about Spain. Paul also includes readings from his own serial about a character called Gerald whose Spanish dream turns into a bit of a nightmare. Listen out for the amusing sound effects throughout the podcast.

Spain Uncovered

 

Click on image above for itunes link to podcast

Refreshingly hosted in English but by a Spaniard. Pilar Orti lives in London but endeavours to show what life is really like in Spain. She examines Spanish traditions, language, culture and the Arts and has regular guests on the show too. There are even some parallel episodes which Pilar produced in Spanish and English, which is useful of you’re learning Spanish. The series ran from 2014 with last episode published in 2018 but all are still available and really worth listening to, especially if you want to learn some funny Spanish expressions and sayings.

 

Paul Burge is a former BBC journalist who moved from Oxford, UK to Madrid in 2013 where he now hosts the highly entertaining When in Spain a weekly podcast show about life in Madrid and beyond. He works as a freelance journalist and English teacher.  Follow Paul's observations and advice about living in Spain on FacebookInstagram, Twitter and his new YouTube channel.

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MONEY

Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.

READ MORE:

Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 

 

Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.

Santander

Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.

BBVA

The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.

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