After three good (English-speaking) friends leave Spain, MadridMan thinks about the value of cultural ties, roots, and the often transient nature of migration.
This is not a tourism-focused blog entry. Clearly! But I often have “feelings”, other experiences, which really have nothing to do with tourism. I guess any non-Spanish-native has these longings, these deep, inexplicable yearnings for sound, safe, familiar grounds. This, I found in these “lost” friends.
When friends return to their home country
These days I’m feeling somewhat melancholy about the three friends I’ve “lost” these last 12 months. All three, non-Spaniards, have returned to their home-countries due to these difficult Spanish economic times. Two are English and one is Irish. Sure, I have a number of Spanish friends but, somehow, it’s different. I’m not sure if it’s simply the language or the common culture from hundreds of years ago, but I miss their proximate friendship, their association, their company.
Amazingly enough, in my 6 years living in Madrid, Spain, I’ve yet to make one American social friend. I have American Facebook Friends who live in Madrid – and they’re wonderful and supportive – but none with whom I socialize. Maybe, simply, because the percentage of Americans is so far inferior to those British/Irish living in Spain.
Surely there are Americans living in Madrid with whom I could get along. The British/Irish have something different for me, however. To Americans, they’re exotic. I’d never had a British/Irish friend while living in the USA – apart from one English woman, Michelle, on the Costa del Sol, with whom I’ve been friends since the beginning of the Internet – and still am!
Two Brits and one Irish, all returning to their home countries because they either couldn’t find work in Spain OR because they couldn’t find “meaningful” work in Spain. At least two of the three returned because they knew they could make two-to-three times what they could in Spain. One, the Irish person, told me recently, that the money she’ll make in Ireland would more than pay for some fantastic holidays (“vacations”, in American English) in Spain.
Everyone has a different story. Sometimes I feel like I’m the ONLY American-in-Madrid, but I know there are others out there. Some, a tiny few, are married to Spaniards. Others are students. More, still, are toiling as English teachers making a less-than-living wage. Then there are the “illegals”. Sure, there are many “illegals” in Spain and, even, illegal Americans and British living in Spain. Believe it – or not!
Today I refer to Steve, Sally, and Ide. All have had to return to England or Ireland in order to “buscar la vida” (“find their futures”) in their home countries. Everyone must consider their own security and their futures seriously. I understand that. But those left-behind do tend to suffer for the loss of their friends.
Nearly weekly I receive emails from (mainly) Americans which desire to “live the dream” of living in Spain. When I reply to them I do so with a kind of restricted conscience. I want to encourage them, but, at the same time, be totally honest for what they have ahead of them. I’ve done it, yes, but it wasn’t easy. Well, it was easier in my situation. But for many, coming to Spain “COLD” is something very very different. Unless they have some significant savings or support from the family, it’s difficult to make a living in Spain unless their skillz are special, particular, and desirable in this wonderful country. Short of that, it’s challenging to realize a comfortable life in Spain.
These “lost” friends are missed. That’s what happens when you leave or when you’re left behind. That’s nature for ya’! People come and go from one country to the next and back again in order to find the best environment for themselves. I understand that. Several immediate family members have moved to Europe, Asia, and even Africa in order to find their futures. That’s the world in which we live. I look forward to the next visit to Madrid by Americans and, more specifically, Midwesterners, who may someday visit Spain, in order to re-connect to my roots. MadridMan is an Ohio-boy, afterall.