Daura Carballo on returning to Madrid

Daura Carballo on returning to Madrid

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Spaniard Daura Carballo is back in Madrid and enjoying the food and shopping at home. But she sure doesn't like the bureaucracy in her home country.

Name: Daura Carballo Flores
Nationality: Spanish
City of residence: Madrid
Date of birth: 20 September 1979
Civil status: Married
Occupation: Nutritionist
Reason for moving back to Spain: I was looking forward to be back in the capital. I have missed the vibrant city life, the night atmosphere and the cultural activities and events all year round.
Been away from Spain for: the past four years. I was born in Spain and lived here till I graduated. Due to work I left and returned in July.
What was your first impression upon returning to Spain?
Arriving in Spain during the summer period is not ideal. When we arrived this July, things were still ok. But when we finalised unpacking after a couple of weeks and had the chance to walk about, we realised quite some businesses were close. Towards mid-August, there were no shops open; no grocery stores, no hairdressers.

What did you miss most about Spanish food when you were away?

Simplicity and choices in supermarkets and restaurants. After so much time out of the country I’m putting on weight already! You can find everything here, from raw and fresh products to the most charming restaurant menus.

At supermarkets you have a wide range of raw and unprocessed food products that allow you for creativity at the kitchen. There is such a huge variety that you won’t need to repeat the same dish in weeks.

The choice of menus and variety of dishes at restaurants is also great and simple.

Photo © Daura Carballo
Typical paella - Photo © Daura Carballo

What do you think of the shopping in Spain?
Nowadays, shopping for clothes in Spain is just like everywhere else in Europe. Spain has been overload with franchises and stores such as Next, Primark or Pinkie and Spanish ones are also known in other countries like Mango or Zara.

A different thing is shopping for shoes. In this area, the Spanish are still leading the market. Every fourth shop is a shoe one, no kidding. Coming back from Ireland I find this astonishing.

And the best is leather bargains. Long coat, true leather, below the three digits would be unthinkable elsewhere.

What do you appreciate most about returning to Spain?
What I like most is the variety in Spain. It has an incredible mix of people, migrant workers, foods and activities. There is something for everyone. No matter what you fancy, what your hobbies are, you will find stuff for you and people like you in Spain.

What do you find most frustrating about returning to Spain?

The pace of life.

The most frustrating thing is that you have both opposites at the same time. On one hand, when you try to have things done, people are laid back. But on the other hand, when people ask you for something you have to deliver ‘by yesterday’.

While Spain is famous for its ‘siestas’ and the inherent culture of being quite relaxed, it’s quite the opposite when you work in a Spanish company or have a Spanish boss.

When you receive an assignment and you tell your boss you will hand it in by the next morning, the answer you would most likely get is that the following morning is too late.

And if you were to say you would complete the assignment in the next few hours, your boss would most likely say even an hour is too late too. Instead, he or she would say: “I want it for yesterday”.

I would also like to mention  bureaucracy  as I find it is also very slow. You ask for a 2009 grant and the money will arrive at the end of 2010 if you are lucky.. And if not, trying to complain about it is a waste of time as there is no contact person and letters are delayed endlessly.

Photo © Daura Carballo
'Gay Parade' last July 4th upon my arrival in Madrid - Photo © Daura Carballo

Has the Spanish culture changed in the time you were away?
Nothing has drastically changed in the last years. Spanish people are not demanding people. Because they don’t demand, quality and quantities of the services and products that can be obtained in the country remain the same.

For example, I have missed being able to buy water bottles with the rubber top in the lid where you have to sip in order to drink. This is very handy for people that do sports or good for toddlers that are not proficient in drinking from ordinary bottles.

Another example is the variety of food sold in Asian shops. In Ireland, more than 20 different types of beans were sold in one Asian store while a Spanish store would just sell a few different beans. Spanish people will need to demand more to get more. 

How does the quality of life in Spain compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
If you are lucky enough to have some free time, living in Spain is great. You can enjoy the numerous activities going on, and above all, you can enjoy them with good weather!

If you get ready for a summer picnic you will have for sure good weather and if you get your skis ready for the snow in wintertime you won’t have pouring rain when you arrive. You can trust the forecast, and there are four clearly defined seasons after all.

In northern Europe you would get mostly cold damp weather all year round, but in Spain you get a combination of rain, cold, dry and hot times throughout the year.

If you could change anything about Spain, what would it be?
I would prefer that Spain goes more in line with the European culture where things can be done with less paper work and in an efficient manner.

Discard the thought that becoming a civil servant is the best profession and if you are not one, then it is not worth working.

'Oso y Madroño', emblematic statue at Km 0, Spain´s centreBut at the same time Spain shouldn’t lose its roots. Tourists come here to see Spanish people and culture, thus it could be sometimes frustrating to see the same McDonalds that you left back home.

What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Take it easy. It might take you time to understand the Spanish culture and values, but it is definitely worth trying. Once you made friends they will be for life.

If given the chance, would you leave from Spain again?

This question is definitely the most difficult to answer. I have returned to Spain with high expectations – and it is not all about the good weather.

If I don’t get them fulfilled, I’ll definitely search for them elsewhere, even if that means leaving the country again. But I still hope I don’t reach that moment. I enjoy my country and the weather is after all really unbeatable.




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