Expat Voices: Nellie Huang on living in Granada
She left Madrid two years ago but the travel writer who is drawn to Spain’s cuisine, diversity and people like a moth to a flame is now back and enjoying gastronomic travel throughout the country.
Name: Nellie Huang
City of residence: Granada
Date of birth: 25/09/1982
Civil status: Engaged
Occupation: Freelance travel writer
Reason for moving to Spain: My fiancé is from Granada. Since we met, we’ve been moving around quite a bit, from Miami, London, Madrid to Singapore. We’ve decided Spain’s still the place for us, so we’re back.
Lived in Spain since: September 2009 (Previously I lived in Madrid for 1.5years.)
What was your first impression of Spain?
I was struck by how diverse the country was and how much personality it had. The modern sky-scrapers in the city centre contrasted against the ancient bull-fighting rings – Spain had so many different facets that immediately drew me in deeper.
What do you think of Spanish food?
Spanish food has got me hooked. It’s got lots of variety to choose from and some very characteristic flavours. Each city has its specialty and that makes gastronomic travel in Spain a particularly exciting one! Simple breakfast like tostadas con tomate and a home cooked traditional platter of migas satisfy me endlessly.
What do you think of shopping in Spain?
It’s easy to find what you need, although most shops are closed for lunch in some of the smaller cities. I like to visit the mercadillos that have cheap and quirky stuff on sale.
What do you appreciate most about living in Spain?
The laid back Spanish culture and its liberal and open-minded people are what I appreciate most. Living in Spain is relatively more relaxing, with a slower pace and a less serious approach in life. The smiles I see on people’s faces everyday remind me why I live here. It’s also a country with so much personality and charisma, that’s something particularly important to me.
What do you find most frustrating about living in Spain?
The bureaucracy and inefficiency sometimes drive me insane. The crazy amount of paperwork needed for every little governmental request and the reluctant civil servants frustrate me endlessly.
What puzzles you about Spanish culture and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I like to tease my Spanish friends about their pride in their country and culture, they’d often say, ‘Spanish food is the best, we’ve got the best football team and parties’. I find that intriguing more than puzzling, but a great attitude nonetheless. Since I’ve moved here, I miss spicy food the most – it’s almost non-existent here!
How does the quality of life in Spain compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
There’s a reason why tons of people move to Spain every year. There’s definitely a higher quality of life in Spain as compared to many places in the world. Who doesn’t like the year-round sunshine, welcoming people and plenty of vacation days to get off work?
If you could change anything about Spain, what would it be?
Perhaps customer service. It’s not unusual to wait for a shopkeeper to finish chatting with her colleague before she can finally tend to you.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Learn the language, don’t be afraid to speak it and get out of your comfort zone. Many expats tend to mix with fellow English-speaking people and forget to break out of that circle and get to know the Spaniards a little deeper.
There is so much more to Spain that its major cities. Explore the rural villages and mountainous towns to get a real feel of it.
Would you like to add anything that we haven’t addressed in the questionnaire?
Don’t expect the Spaniards to speak your language, eat at the same hours as you do or sleep at the same time as you do (they can party till dawn). Spain is different in so many ways and to completely enjoy it, live like a Spaniard.
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