Life in Spain

How Spain ruins you

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How do Spaniards live the fourth longest in world? Once you've experienced the secrets of the Spanish lifestyle, it's hard to return to your home country.

There's a reason why travellers and expats alike are drawn to the Iberian Peninsula; it's not just for Spain's top beaches and islands, with clear aqua water and fine sand, but also for the relaxed Spanish lifestyle that centres around creating a high quality of life. If it's not enjoyable, you probably won't find it in Spain. This inevitably makes it harder to go home. Here are nine ways Spain ruins going back to your home country.

1. I’m not expected to be on time

In Spain, the phrase 'no pasa nada' is heard more than anything else. Well, unless politics are involved, then 'qué m-erda!' just might take the upper hand. This is because Spaniards are some of the most relaxed and easygoing people you will ever meet. If you’re running late, chances are they’re running later. Y por eso, no pasa nada (so no worries, or literally, nothing happened).

2. I make less but I live better

By American standards, I’m supposed to be just inches above the poverty line. But you’d never guess that by the amount of times I’ve travelled to other countries, had my lunch on the beach or experienced some of the most adrenaline-rushing activities life could offer

In America, some people work just to afford to continue working and barely scraping by — the vicious cycle of 'keeping up with the Joneses'. The only cycle I’m trying to keep up with in Spain is the third round of cava (Spanish sparkling wine) after our second round of cortados (Spanish coffees).

3. Daily naptimes in the middle of the day

Although very cliché, it’s also very true in some parts of Spain that stores shut down between the hours of 2pm and 5pm for a midday break, and usually a nice and well-deserved siesta.

I understand this wouldn’t be an acceptable thing in American culture after the age of three but I can't wait until the day I can turn on my automatic e-mail responder to let people know I’m away from the office for a few hours to tend to my inner-toddler need of an afternoon nap.

“I’m away from the office at the moment and I’ll get back to you all when my more-refreshed self wakes after a siesta. Thanks for understanding.

Warm and professional regards.”

4. Having my home be other people’s vacation spots

Getting used to the fact that people would spend up their year's savings and holiday leave just to spend a few days walking around a city that I’ve called home is mind-boggling.

Spain is filled with gems in every corner and region, and even though I’ve never truly grasped the beauty I was surrounded with every day, I could never help but chuckle at people frantically taking selfies in every angle imaginable with La Sagrada Família on my daily commute to work.

5. Discovering what is a real tortilla

A Spanish tortilla looks and is nothing like the flat and circular flour-tasting wrap you used to stuff your eggs, bacon and onions in at home.

Spanish tortillas, or potato omelets, are not only my favourite and preferred choice for any meal but it also trumps what I associated with the word 'tortilla' in the past.

6. Having a beer on the metro makes me a social butterfly, not an alcoholic

Open containers have spoiled me rotten. Not only are most beers about a euro, but being able to pre-game with friends on the metro en route, at the park, on the beach, or anywhere else we deemed fit is something that’s become a bigger part of the nightlife experience than the bars or discotecas themselves.

In America, drinking on the streets might get me a fine or citation, in Spain, it might get me more friends.

7. The instant-celebrity status that comes with being foreign

It only makes sense that all the hard work that resulted in me being birthed in the country of America should grant me instant fame, right? Being told on a regular basis that my English is so clear and it’s not 'so fast like in the movies' isn’t a phrase that should pump my ego.

English is my native language, yet every time a Spaniard reminded me of how clear they understood me, it made me feel like some superior speaker who had mastered the English language. Again, never mind the fact that I’ve only had 25 years or so of practising my native tongue.

8. Charging more just because I’m American

I didn’t have a teaching degree to begin with but being born in America was good enough to let me help Spaniards improve their English language skills.

Learning there were Swedes who were charging more than EUR 25 per hour for teaching English was only motivation that there truly was a market to make a decent living by doing nothing more than being fluent in my native language.

9. Bartering for the things I want

Can you imagine me walking into Target, picking out a cute shirt and telling the clerk that I’m only willing to pay USD 3 for it because, take it or leave it, I’m probably the only one who’s willing to buy it. Yeah, right.

In Spain, you can find hole-in-the-wall shops or markets that are locally-owned and everything is up for negotiation. You barter once, then you become a barterer for life. Nothing is priced as low as it should be and your stubbornness to pay only what your pocket deems worthy is both a blessing and a curse. At least, in America, that kind of thinking might stop me from spending money on material things that will be forgotten anyway, so I can spend it on something more valuable, like how to get back over to Spain.


Gloria Atanmo / Reprinted with permission of Matador Network.

Gloria Atanmo Gloria Atanmo is a gal with expensive dreams and an affordable hustle. After booking a one-way ticket to Barcelona, now in between lapses of regularly butchering basic Spanish jargon, she can be found playing semipro basketball and travel blogging about her 15+ countries of adventures. You can follow her journey at The Blog Abroad.


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1 Comment To This Article

  • John posted:

    on 1st March 2017, 17:43:09 - Reply

    Talking the price of something down is not "bartering", it's "haggling". Bartering is exchanging goods without the medium of money.