So, you’re going to Spain. Your visa paperwork is all (almost) sorted out, you’ve bought your plane ticket, and now you’re just counting down the days until you can pack and hop on the plane! You spend all of your time daydreaming about what life will be like abroad. You picture yourself strolling down cobblestone roads in the setting sun, relaxing on beaches, drinking your little café con leche while laughing at a new friend’s witty and wordly observations… well, maybe that was just me. Either way, you’re probably itching to say those last goodbyes and to set off on the adventure of a life time. And I’m here to say HOLD UP!! Spend the last few weeks enjoying and appreciating the perks of your home town and country, many of which you probably don’t realize you will soon be without. But not to worry; like the adventurous and adaptable people you are (which I’m going to assume because you’re moving to Spain), you will cope and learn to love things about Spain that you never knew existed.
I’m here to help you mentally prepare. So here’s my list of the top things you’ll miss about the US while in Spain and how to cope. Keep in mind I’m in a relatively small town, and I’m also in the south.. So maybe some of the things unavailable to me will be available to you if you’re in a bigger city, but I can’t say for sure.
1) Carpets and Rugs
In Spain (at least in my experience in the south) the carpet never matches the drapes, because there is no carpet. Gone are the days of curling up on your fuzzy rug in front of the TV with pillows and blankets and your girlfriends to have a movie night, or spreading out your stuff on the floor to work on lesson plans or DIYs. I mean, I guess you could do that on the stone floors here, but it would be awfully cold and uncomfortable. That being said, comfy indoor footwear is a must, especially in the winter! I recommend flip flops for the warm months and warm fuzzy slippers for the cold months .
How you’ll cope: Revel in the fact that you will never have to vacuum while you’re in Spain. Imagine the electricity savings! Heh. Of course to make up for this you’ll probably have to mop at LEAST once a week, and sweep daily. If you have dust allergies, though, I think you’ll quickly see the pros of a no-rug lifestyle, as most wall to wall carpeting in the US traps dust mites inside and even the most expensive vacuums fail to remove the majority of the dirt and dust. But be aware of the floor taboo! If you ever visit a Spaniard’s home you’ll see that they are always wearing shoes… you can never go barefoot in the house! And don’t even think of putting your purse on the ground ever! My first time eating out on the patio of a restaurant in Arcos I had my purse on the ground next to me by my feet and 2 minutes later these women walked by and yelled at me! I had no idea what was going on, but apparently it is a TOTAL faux pas to put your purse on the ground because it’s supposedly super bad luck. Eh, you live and you learn.
Wow, you have no idea how much I’m craving eggs benny right now (read: eggs benedict). And pancakes. And bacon. That’s probably because as I write this it’s late Sunday morning and there’s pretty much nothing better than throwing your hair up in a messy bun and heading out with your friends to the local diner to recap the goings on of last night. Of course, diners don’t exist here, let alone eggs for breakfast or delicious crunchy bacon as you know it (you’ll see what I mean when you get here). And even if there were a diner, you definitely wouldn’t be able to wear your Sunday morning sweats to it.
How you’ll cope: You’ll become a pro omelette maker (okay maybe just the occasional scrambled eggs) and you’ll teach your Spanish roommates that eggs are an anytime food! In Spain, eggs are definitely not a breakfast food but I DO WHAT I WANT! I still remember the first time I made eggs for breakfast when my boyfriend had slept over the night before. And he was all like (and I quote) “what the fuckkk?” in English. And he doesn’t really speak English. Eggs aside, if you go out for breakfast you’ll quickly learn to love the Spanish breakfast: toast. A nice mollete (I would say it’s kind of like a bagel without the hole, but it’s not and oh yeah, also no bagels here) with olive oil, tomato (sliced or mashed up) and some salt. Also available: cured ham, liver paté, butter and jam, or flavored pig lard.
3) Your backyard
And basically grass in general. If you’re lucky, your town/city will have a nice park with some grass, but the grass just isn’t as soft and watch out for dog turds. If you come from a city you might be more used to this, but growing up in the suburbs I’ve always been used to having grass and tall trees and just seeing green things in general and I totally miss it! Seeing a bunny or a squirrel or even a deer out in my backyard used to never phase me, it was so normal. But here in Spain where suburban sprawl doesn’t really exist, there isn’t lots of space within the towns for wild animals to exist either. Also, backyard barbecues! Sadface.
How you’ll cope: You’ll make friends with someone who has a house out in the campo and you guys will have a grand time at a Spanish-style BBQ (lots of meat and beer, and then liquor and more meat). You’ll also buy a plant for your window to bring some greenery into your life and then you’ll discover you’re a pretty bad plant mom and opt for a nice succulent or a cactus that you pretty much couldn’t kill if you tried.
4) Your dryer
In the middle of winter isn’t it just the best when your clothes finish drying and they’re still nice and warm and smell like dryer sheets and you put on your sweats and a hoodie and just kind of snuggle yourself? Is that just me? Well sorry, the vast majority of Spanish homes don’t have dryers. The sun and the wind are your new best friend, and yes, it does suck in the winter when its raining and you have to do laundry and then you can’t hang it outside so you buy an indoor tendedero to hang your stuff in your room or the middle of your living room and then it takes like 2 days to dry and maybe even gets that funky smell cause everything is so damn MOIST *deep sigh*. I could also add your dishwasher to the category of “appliances you’ll miss” but I don’t want to get too melodramatic.
How you’ll cope:
You’ll strategically plan your laundry days around the weather, and you’ll make sure you give yourself enough time to wash and dry the clothes in the same day. You’ll also quickly discover that the absurdly long “normal wash” cycle (2 hours and 35 minutes) is totally unnecessary and you’ll opt for the “quick” 53 minute wash. Cold water is better for the environment anyways.
5) A large variety of foods
Although a few of the following MAY be available if you live in a big city with a Corte Inglés or an American Product store, they’ll definitely be expensive. And if you’re in most other places they’ll be even more difficult to find. Cool Ranch Doritos, Dr. Pepper, good hot sauce, maple syrup, vanilla extract, bagels, flavored cream cheese, anything pumpkin flavored, fake meat products, ranch and bleu cheese dressings, pretty much any salad dressing of any kind, Skittles, Reese’s, Cheez-its, the snack that smiles back Goldfish, Hershey’s Kisses, Hint of Lime Tostitos, Cookie Dough ice cream, slice and bake holiday cookies, pop tarts, chocolate syrup… I suppose I could go on but I don’t want to depress you too much.
How you’ll cope: First and foremost, you’ll realize that these items are actually not that vital to your everyday life (unlike Lori Beth Ginsburg’s Vital Information For Your Everyday Life). Of course the comforts of home will be missed and there will be times when your craving for (insert item here) will nearly kill you, but soon it will pass and you’ll have survived. Besides, didn’t you move to Spain to experience new things? You’ll make do, learn how to improvise the important things, and more likely than not discover new Spanish foods that you love and can’t get at home. When you’re feeling especially homesick you’ll find the nearest Starbucks and down a Chai Tea Latte and you’ll be back to normal in no time.
What things from home do you miss when you’re abroad? If you had to choose would you prefer to import the food or would you rather have the other comforts of home?
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