Expat Voices: Jasmine Hong on living in Madrid
Singaporean expat Jasmine Hong enjoys living in Spain; unhealthy fried food, cheap shopping and well-connected metro network but doesn't understand why Spaniards have to eat late in the evening.
Name: Jasmine Hong
City of residence: Madrid
Date of birth: 14 October 1980
Civil status: Married
Occupation: PhD student / English teacher
Reason for moving to Spain: Family unification
Lived in Spain since: September 2006
What was your first impression of Spain?
Laid-back but relaxing.
What do you think of Spanish food?
Unhealthy because they are mostly fried and oily, but I do like them. Tortilla (Spanish omelette), bocadillo de calamaries (calamaries sandwich), orejas de cerdo (fried pig's ears) are some of my favourites.
What do you think of shopping in Spain?
Extremely good for cheap bargains during summer and winter sale. It is cheaper to shop in Spain than in Singapore even in non-sale periods.
What do you appreciate most about living in Spain?
Simple, not too cosmopolitan or even dynamic. There is no apparent class differentiation, cheap school fees, a very well-connected metro network and free medical services.
Travelling around the city is cheaper than in Singapore as you can buy monthly ticket that allows you to take unlimited rides. Stations and trains can be a bit old and run on an irregular frequency but is well-connected.
What do you find most frustrating about living in Spain?
Bad manners that happens everywhere in the world; laid-back and no pasa nada (doesn't matter) attitude, in my opinion, give Spaniards the excuse to be less hardworking or even irresponsible. You can also look at it in a different light and say they are flexible; do not provide good customer service but this happens everywhere and not just Spain.
What puzzles you about Spanish culture and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
Spaniards have lunch and dinner at such a late hour. I will probably die of hunger if I follow suit. Food from home is all I missed. Not friends, not family - thanks to the internet.
How does the quality of life in Spain compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
Higher quality of life for me personally because I can now dedicate my time to concentrating on doing what I want and have to do.
Back home, I find it too distracting as there are friends you constantly want to go out with. However, if I were to have more friends in Spain – fortunately not – I guess there isn't any difference.
Nevertheless, I find the standard of living lower here as we are due to efficient services in Singapore.
If you could change anything about Spain, what would it be?
There is nothing I would like to change about Spain. I hope to be flexible and adapt myself to a foreign environment.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Enjoy what's there for you, otherwise go home.
1 April 2009
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