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How I've Changed Since Moving to Spain

Monday, March 3, 2014
1. I can actually stay out late

In Seattle, I was pretty much an abuela, or "grandma". I was lucky if I could stay out until closing time, which in Washington is between 1:45 and 2:00 am. It was a real struggle to stay awake past midnight. As many of you already know, here in Spain people don't even start heading to the clubs until about 3 am, and eventually they head home around 6 or 7 am. Needless to say, I've had to adapt. Now, when I go out on the weekends I'll usually stay out past 3 am, and about every other weekend I'll have one big night where I stay out until 6 am. I'm sure many of my friends back home won't believe this, but I've actually changed my ways. Thank goodness for siestas, am I right?

Spaniards are notorious night owls, so I must caffeinate accordingly.

2. The way I speak English has changed

Despite being hired as a native American English speaker, at my elementary school I'm required to teach British English. Between teaching British English at work and always hanging out with my posh British roommate outside of work, this different way of speaking has proved to be subconsciously contagious.

My Pacific Northwest accent has stayed the same (I'm desperately clinging to my Washingtonian habit of pronouncing my "t"s like "d"s - "I'm from Seaddle, where there's lots of wader"...), but the way I structure sentences has changed. For instance, instead of saying "Do you have any tomatoes?", I inadvertently copy the Brits and say, "Have you got any tomatoes?" I've also started to say things like, "I can't be bothered to go proper grocery shopping right now." The Spice Girls and the Royal Baby would be so proud.

But I suppose I must admit that the language I speak most often here is Spanglish. I find myself saying the following phrases to my fellow expat friends on a daily basis: "I just don't have the ganas today", "I'm going to echar the &%$@ outta this siesta", and, "I'm so tired of his tonterĂ­as." 

3. Fashion has taken a backseat

Being a foreigner in Spain, I already get a lot of intense stares that make me feel as if I'm an animal in a zoo. Sure, it could be a lot worse; like many Spaniards, I'm short, tan and brunette - so I get a lot less attention than say, my two gorgeous German roommates who are tall and blonde. Nevertheless, I stick out... and I get stared down a lot. Any you know what? People gape even more when I dress like a total foreigner.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've temporarily traded in my preppy, all-American J.Crew and Kate Spade ensembles for a more convenient Zara-inspired look, simply because I'm sick of being gawked at. I miss my pearls, gingham button ups and Sperry's, but they'll be waiting for me back home at my country club where people don't look at me like I'm some sort of rabid wildebeest.

I miss you, preppy stripe collection.

4. I'm not a healthy eater anymore

RIP long lost Paleo baking supplies

Last year when I was living at home, I became a really healthy eater. I was even Paleo for four months, for crying out loud. I only ate organic fruits and vegetables, I only bought hormone & antibiotic free/free range/organic meat, and I would exclusively shop at Whole Foods, PCC & Trader Joe's. (Okay, so I got kind of obsessive about it when I moved back in with my parents. But there are worse compulsions to have.)

Anyways, all of the good habits that I accumulated back home all went to hell when I moved to Spain, because everything here is fried, artery-clogging and addictive. Fried potatoes have become a weekly staple. Finding decently priced organic food is a headache. I can't even remember the last time I drank a green smoothie. Who am I? I mean, it's not my fault that I can't find kale because it isn't grown here, nor can I take the blame for the fact that a tiny box of quinoa costs a whopping 9 Euros. I guess I could work harder to find more creative solutions, but see point number 5...

I've traded in kale chips for these bad boys. And I mean "bad" in the literal sense, as in someday they'll probably kill me.

5. I'm less conscientious

This is probably the laziest I have ever been, for better or for worse. Spaniards get a bad rep for being lazy, and while I can't speak for the population of an entire country, I can definitely speak for myself. I'm still generally a productive person, but considering how gruesome of an overachiever I used to be, this is the worst that my work ethic has ever been. In turn, I'm a lot less stressed out and I've found a much healthier balance in my life. But still, my American conscious is constantly plagued with guilt by my intermittent unproductiveness.

I used to define conscientiousness. Now, I'm always running 10 minutes late, efficient time management is a capricious mood rather than an abiding skill, I don't make my bed everyday, and if I really need to get something done, chances are I'll take a very long nap first. If you knew me back home, this is a really big deal.

6. I'm more flexible and patient

Having to adapt to living in a new culture takes a lot of patience as it is, and then when you add in a job that involves working with children all day... well, it just skyrockets from there. Even the littlest things like going to the grocery store, mailing something at the post office, or setting up a bank account require a ridiculous amount of patience compared to doing those same mundane tasks back home.

This doesn't mean that I'm chill and Zen all the time (spoiler: I'm not), but living in Spain and dealing with many frustrating circumstances has taught me to take things as they come and accept the things I can't control. It's truly been a challenge at times, (okay... at most times, especially when it involves dealing with painfully inefficient Spanish bureaucracy...) but overall it's made me a stronger individual, so I really can't complain now, can I?

Patience is: teaching 50 screaming kids how to make Thanksgiving turkey crafts, and then coming home to find art supplies in your hair.

Have you ever lived abroad? 
How did it change or impact you?

11 comments on "How I've Changed Since Moving to Spain"
  1. I agree with sooo many of these things. I just said yesterday how much I miss my juicer and my post-gym green smoothies with chia seeds and coconut water. I cannot WAIT for a Whole Foods/TJ's run come June. And my English is definitely different, but in a different way...I don't teach English here and rarely speak it since in my MA we can only speak Spanish as well, so now I find myself saying "I don't know Sevilla" (no conozco Sevilla) instead of I haven't spent time there. And adding "no?" to the end of so many sentences. The verguenza! As my Spanish gets better, my English gets slightly worse.

  2. Is it bad that I judge the study abroad students who dress like they're on an American campus? I am so jaded (and snobby).

  3. You've def had to make a lot of adjustments! Food, clothes, staying up...the whole lot! All hopefully for the best though....minus maybe the health aspect. I just started a routine to get healthy again. I have been eating so badly and have been so lazy. It is not good!! My fashion has also taken a backseat....but mostly because I'm poor now! haha

    Regardless of the adjustments, may they be positive or negative, Spain sure is a fantastic place to spend some time. I'm sure it'll take us years to truly evaluate all the ways we have changed from it :)

  4. Love this post! I feel the same about being more patient and flexible. As a native New Yorker, I can defintely say those are two things I need to work on. Living in Spain has helped me realize that not everything needs to be a rush ALL the time. =]

  5. I love your number one. When I lived in Spain, I'd be skyping people back home after getting in at 8 am from the clubs. I'd then need a full two days to recover ;) Once again, you've captured life in Spain spot on!

  6. I recognise number 2 in myself. Although I'm the opposite- I'm British and I tend to speak in the American way now. I blame my American husband. My actual accent has turned kind of Aussie for some reason. I live in Beijing and don't know many Australians... Last time I lived abroad, when I went home I had a South African accent (I was working in Korea, so not sure why....). I guess my accent just subconsciously changes!

  7. I agree with all of these! Minus the food part. I'm from the South so I'm used to fried foods. However, now that I'm in France...I only eat healthy things! Local markets are just so wonderful. I plan on taking that habit back to the States with me. Oh and the clothes? Gosh I'm so ready to get back to my normal outfits I'm used to wearing!

  8. Love this post. I can relate to so much having lived abroad myself. One of the British-isms that I've picked up and maintained, for example, is saying "straight away" instead of right away. Americans always comment on that. And then, there is the fact that your example sentence, "I can't be bothered to go proper grocery shopping right now." sounds completely normal to me and exactly like something I would say. Ha.

    I'm currently in the U.S. for a year between stints abroad and I am totally getting addicted to Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Paleo recipes, juicing, and all sorts of other things I know I won't be able to maintain come August. The one addiction I will be able to keep up though is CrossFit as I've already scoped out my new gym in Budapest!

  9. hahah love this.. completely agree on so many of these. before i lived in Spain I was always the first one to bail on nights out and always in bed by midnight on saturday nights. Now, I'm like 2am?? no way, after party!!! hahah

  10. I remember when I visited Madrid going out to eat at 7:00 and everyone looking at us like we were weirdos. The next night we held out until 9 :)