Leading a life of 'holidays' in Spain

Leading a life of 'holidays' in Spain

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Expatica Spain's latest blogger left her city three years ago and has since been living in a less than “real life’’, or so say her friends.

Spain is a sunny country. Most months average less than two inches of rainfall, some less than one. It ain't Seattle.

This delightful meteorological fact has created a widely believed myth perpetuated by my umbrella-toting friends at home: I must be on holiday. All the time.

I've spent three years here in Madrid; long enough to establish that I'm not on perpetual holiday, one would think. I've got a healthcare card, I can vote in the mayoral elections. I work in an office five days a week.

Granted, the café con leche breaks are liberal and it isn't New York's nine-to-five, but it is a full workday. I make phone calls, I send emails, and I frequently deal with Ricky Gervais-style office tedium.

But, by living and working in a popular vacation destination, everyone assumes that I get to enjoy the museums, the plazas, the nearby beaches, seven days a week. Because I have chosen to live in a place where people often jet for a weekend of fun and sunshine-filled debauchery, I am constantly told how oh-so-lucky I am not to have to be a part of the maddening daily grind.

A friend of mind recently called and vented about her recent work headaches - run-of-the-mill moanings about working in customer service that anyone who's dealt with the public has experienced and can empathise with.

I began to commiserate, telling her about the stressful changes brought about by a new boss. She politely listened for approximately 90 seconds before interrupting, "Yes, but at least you live in Spaaaain."

Does geographical location really make me incapable of experiencing life's daily stresses? Clearly, this friend has never waited in line to renew her NIE.

Relaxing on the beach
Contrary to my friends and family’s' beliefs, I do not spend my days sipping sangria and fanning myself while they strap on neckties and keep the world spinning and the chequebooks balanced.

I may live in a beautiful city with a laid-back atmosphere, but I also have to go food shopping, pay the electric bill, scrub the toilet and deal with a Andalucian landlord who I'm pretty sure thinks I'm mentally retarded.

Not only do I work, but I do it in a foreign language. You'd think would win me workaday bonus points, yet I'm constantly being told how I couldn't possibly understand how tough it is in the 'real world'. My friends tell me they envy my locale, my adventurous spirit. I thank them, and remind them that they, too, could move here if they like.

My family has finally begun to realize that being broke and young in Europe, while seemingly romantic and exciting to them, is often lonely, and tough. Living far from home in a cosmopolitan hub with great weather has fantastic perks, but it is not for the faint of heart.

When I first moved here, some relatives didn't even treat it as a move; it was a 'phase' I was going through -- I was 'finding myself'.

Actually, I chose to live in Madrid for the same reason most people elect their chosen city: I felt at home here. It has great public transport and relatively low rent. It's got culture, nightlife, good restaurants, an international environment and fantastic people.

I don't need to 'find myself' - I know where I am: I'm in Malasaña, and the backs of my knees are sweating, and I've just ordered a caña because it's Friday and the weekend's begun. And I can't wait to unwind and soak up that marvellous sun that my friends in London covet, because I've worked hard all week. Just like them.

[Artwork by Sebastian Castillo, Flickr contributor by Poldavo Alex]

The writer, Kristen Bernardi, is our latest blogger on Expatica Spain.
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1 Comment To This Article

  • Mike posted:

    on 15th May 2008, 11:51:15 - Reply

    About the most balanced article I´ve read as one who has also made Spain "home". Well done, hits the proverbial nail on the head! We too have experienced the same reactions from friends and family which made reading the blog almost spooky!