Living in Spain

Y Mucho Más: 12 things I never did before moving to Spain

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Living in Spain changes you in little ways you don't even realise.

You never really realise how much you’re changing while in the process of living abroad, but looking back I realised I have changed quite a bit over my years in Spain. Here are just some of the things I didn’t do before moving to Spain.

1. Wear slippers

I used to never wear slippers, and going barefoot was okay – even in the dead of winter – which according to Spanish belief, could cause you a host of sicknesses. Now, after many years of coaching by Spaniards, I’ve started to wear slippers. I even put them by the side of my bed in case I wake up and walk to the bathroom. What has happened to me?

2. Worry about what I wear to the grocery store

In Madrid, since I feel anonymous, I wear my workout clothes to the store. But in Zamora? Absolutely not – there I have to be properly outfitted, and sweatpants are definitely off the list. Someone might see me, and what you're seen wearing says a lot in Spain.

3. Ask for drinks without ice

Why do we drink super-cold icy drinks in winter in the US? Especially when the restaurant decides to keep the heat at 66F/19°C! I start shivering immediately when I drink one of these beverages in mid-December. Of course, drinking ice water in summer is different – put more ice in my drink, Spain!

4. Buy bread daily

I don’t eat that much bread but I do live with a Spaniard and he’s used to his daily ration of bread. In Spain, you don’t 'put meat on the table', you 'llevar el pan a casa'. Bread is the lifeblood for many Spaniards. Just check out the numerous idioms related to bread.

5. Say hello to people in the gym locker room

Can someone please clarify why this is a thing? I still can’t get over the fact that, while I’m partially undressed (awkward!), I’m supposed to say bye to you as you leave the room. I don’t even know you!

6. Eat lunch at 3pm and dinner at 10pm

I remember when I first came to Spain in 2008. Oh, how I hated even waiting until 1:30pm to eat (when our residence’s cafeteria would open). I was always starving. Nowadays I shift easily between the Spanish timetable and the American one. It doesn’t feel weird to eat lunch at 12:30pm back home or 3pm in Spain. It’s just how it is. Now I secretly love eating dinner late at night, and I vow never to become the person who eats at 5:30pm.

7. Think about how to say everything in Spanish

Whatever my partner and I are doing, I’m always wondering how to say such-and-such word in a sentence. We might be watching our favourite television show and I’ll be wondering how to say something in Spanish, especially if it’s a word Mario doesn’t know in English. I think about this a lot: when reading a book, when talking to friends, when at the supermarket. Spanish has invaded my head and thus my life.

8. Think about wasting water

Why do toilets in the US have so much water in them? It seems like such a waste to me now, after years of seeing tiny European toilets with their 50mL of water. A friend said the newer toilets in the US are going to be more similar to Europe’s, which I count as a step in the right direction.

9. Use public transportation

Sure, every once in a while I took the bus in college, but before that? Never. It’s shocking to Spaniards how little public transportation we have in the US. As much as I love the freedom a car provides, it would be nice to have better public transportation options in mid-size cities. In Madrid, there are so many options: buses (inter- and intra-city), trains (short, medium, and long distance), and the metro. The price is super cheap too. I am struggling to imagine how different our lives might if we ever moved to a smaller-sized US city.

10. Hang things on the line to dry

Unfortunately, at our house in Madrid, we don’t have an outside clothesline. We don’t have a dryer either. So what do we do? We hang ours on a tendedero (see picture). But many Spaniards do have a clothesline outside to hang their things to dry. Before living in Spain, I had barely seen this – we always dried our things in the dryer.

11. Worry so much about having my stuff stolen

I don’t mean to be negative about Spain, but I grew up in a small town where people did (and still do) leave their car doors unlocked when they stopped at the store or diner. Here in Madrid I’ve become very protective of my stuff. Once I was going to leave my clothing in a bag in the gym locker room but an older lady advised me not to, telling me that she’d had her old, practically worthless flip-flops stolen there along with a hairbrush. A hairbrush! Who steals that sort of thing? Lesson learned: I had to be protective of not just things like my wallet or phone, but also my hairbrush. Hmm.

12. Use earplugs to sleep at night

Even when I lived in an apartment in college, I never slept with earplugs. I was lucky to have good neighbors who didn’t blast their music but I suppose our walls weren’t that thin either. Here? I have the trash truck that comes at midnight. I also have neighbours with really great surround sound who always seem to be watching epic movies, a downstairs neighbour with a yappy mutt, and an upstairs neighbour with high heels. Noise pollution – it’s real. So I sleep with earplugs. That way I won’t be kept up by the yap-yap-yapping of Chaval the dog.

So what about you? What are some things you do differently because you’ve lived in a new country?


Reprinted with the permission of Y Mucho Más.

Kaley is the blogger at Y Mucho Más, a website about living as an American expatriate in Spain. She enjoys Spanish food and wine, hiking, and talking in Spanglish. Find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


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1 Comment To This Article

  • RebeccaWatters posted:

    on 22nd November 2016, 09:14:39 - Reply

    "Except for meal times, I would say that all of the points you mention are valid for most European countries, they are definitely not unique to Spain. Number 11 is interesting, the Spanish really are afraid of theft and burglary, but in my experience, it's unjustified, while there might be slightly more petty theft in Spain, especially in tourist areas, the level of crime in general is low and violent crimes are among the lowest. %u201C