MadridMan: Are you still happy to be living in Spain?
Yes, says this American expat who even feels somewhat sad each time he has to leave Madrid to visit his family and friends back in the US.
This article is reprinted with permission of MadridMan.
People often ask me: "Now that you've been living in Spain for awhile, are you still happy?" It seems they expect me to be fed-up, on the verge of packing my bags and return to the US - but nothing could be further from the truth.
I also realise I'm one of the few who feel truly "at home in Spain".
I've been living in Madrid for four years and still feel very stimulated walking the streets of Madrid, getting my hair cut, going to the dentist, doing the shopping or just chatting with store owners. The word "stimulated" could mean several things, of course, but in my case it's a positive word. I've never felt so alive in my life. Now, people in the neighbourhood know me and seem to like me - or at least see me as a good-natured curiosity.
On the other hand, my trips "home" to the US are usually bittersweet. I love visiting family and friends but feel anxious and somewhat sad to leave MY Madrid and am nearly ready to return immediately. When that plane touches down on the tarmac of Madrid Barajas Airport, a relief rushes through me. Even last year's return made me misty-eyed.
Surely I'm an oddity, or at least that's how I feel. Maybe I'm "special", a case like no other. Surely there are others.
Since moving here, I've met so many Americans and even some Brits whom have had plenty of difficulty assimilating themselves into the daily life and ways of Spain. Many of them fail to grasp what Spain is for all its good and some of its bad. Many others can't let go of their home countries and/or families and friends. Many are so attached to "home" that they can't live anywhere else successfully. Others just can't live without Taco Bell. (Yeah, I hear this one a lot!)
But one doesn't have to let go completely and can live both worlds and both cultures at the same time to some extent, if necessary. Here, we have American/English-language television on both satellite and (now) the new free TDT-digital television, we have nearly all of the American-made movies in English or VOS (Versión Original Subtitulado). We also have products and restaurant chains from the US, daily front page news on the Spanish newspapers, and, of course, the internet opens all doors to media and news to the US as well.
In Spain and throughout the world, no doubt, you can't escape the US, no matter how hard you may try.
Neither Madrid, nor Spain, is perfect. Not by far. But it has enough of the wonderful, glorious characteristics (at least for me) to make it the place to be, the place for me, the place to live a good life full of social interaction, genuine brotherhood, incredible food and drink, an outdoor life I've never known before, and people whom are not afraid to tell you how it is.
My best advice to those considering a move to Madrid or Spain is the following (abridged, of course):
* study the history, the landmarks, and even the streets before arriving
* form an exchange of ideas with local people who live there already (use social media sources)
* learn the language
* read local & national newspapers
* watch local TV & webcams via the internet
* learn to love the food
* make your future home your current hobby
* learn to, to some degree, "let go" of your home country (this can be hardest)
* visit your future home country/city as often as possible before moving
* have an open mind to different ways of life & values
Doing all of the above (and maybe more) can help you feel "at home" before arriving at your future home in Spain. You'll feel less foreign, already knowing the restaurants, streets, plazas, landmarks, and maybe even have a few friends waiting for you when you get there. All these things will help you be happier.
My website, in great part, is a creation of my hobby to learn about Madrid and Spain. It served to bring all the above-listed things together in one website. Researching all the information, history, and websites included on my website helped me feel more Madrileño long before I moved here in 2005.
In closing, yes, I'm still over the moon to be living in Madrid and Spain. This is my home now and I'm not at all sure I could live anywhere else.
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