Expat Voices: Johan Boberg on living in Madrid
The Swedish expat finds Spaniards friendly and ever ready to help even when you don’t speak their language.
Name: Johan Boberg
City of residence: Madrid
Date of birth: 16 April 1984
Civil status: Single
Occupation: Software Engineer at Tuenti
Reason for moving to Spain: To take a break from the studies, experience a new country and learn a new language
Lived in Spain since: January 2009
What was your first impression of Spain?
How warm it was! I was coming from a dark and rainy Sweden in October for a job interview and I was not able to sleep because of the heat.
The second thing I noticed was that nobody spoke English. I think it was pretty funny to watch me the first couple of months when I tried to communicate using gestures and by pointing at stuff. Fortunately there was often a helpful Spaniard close by who tried to explain the thing I was having trouble with. The only problem: they talked Spanish too...
What do you think of Spanish food?
I haven't tried much of the day-to-day food that my colleagues bring for lunch but what I have tried and like a lot are the various tapas served everywhere. There are always too many to choose from, although I have some favourites such as patatas alioli and croquetas.
I also like the idea of sharing a couple of smaller dishes among your friends instead of everyone choosing his or her own. In a way it’s more social and at the same time you get to try a lot of different food.
What do you think of the shopping in Spain?
I live right next to a greengrocer and a big market with a lot of fresh groceries. I love to be able to just go out and get everything I need right before making dinner.
What do you appreciate most about living in Spain?
The weather! It's almost surprising if it is NOT sunny outside, which is quite the opposite to most months in Sweden. In the rare case of rain, you can be sure it will end within an hour.
I also like the people here a lot. They are always very friendly and helpful. I wonder if it has something to do with the weather.
What do you find most frustrating about living in Spain?
The different sense of time here. Being 15 minutes late is commonplace and not seen as rude, which I'm not used to, but I'm slowly adapting.
What puzzles you about Spanish culture and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
Bright bars. There seem to exist an infinite amount of them with these bright, cold fluorescent lamps and they seem to be very popular too. I would prefer a warm, cosy café with dimmed lights where you can have a cup of coffee or tea with your friends but I guess the taste differs.
The things I miss are those cafés, my friends and family that I can't see as often as I had wanted and the nature in Sweden, which is much more green (thanks to the rain) than here.
How does the quality of life in Spain compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
I have been living in Sweden and Austria and it's hard to say anything in general. The bureaucracy here is the same as in Austria. There is always one more paper that needs to be filled out.
There are also more number of restaurants and bars in Spain than in both Sweden and Austria. Here everyone can find his or her own favourite place.
Internet seems to be more common in Sweden and if not anything else, cheaper.
If you could change anything about Spain, what would it be?
To mute all the horns of the cars or even remove the cars altogether. The traffic in Madrid is very intense which makes the air polluted and the days quite noisy.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Take your time to learn Spanish if you haven't already. It's the key to fully appreciate and experience Spain and Spanish culture.
One of the best ways of quickly learning Spanish is to share a flat with a Spanish person or persons. In that way you are forced to speak Spanish and at the same time you will have a fun time getting to know new people.
If you would like to share your perspective about life in Spain and contribute to Expat Voices, send an email to editorES@expatica.com with 'Please send me an Expat Voices questionnaire' in the subject line.
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