One thing we expats love to do when we get together is talk about all the things we miss about home. Don’t get me wrong, I love living in Spain more than anything in the world, but sometimes when you are in a serious relationship, you just need to get together with your girlfriends and chat about the things you miss when you were single. Am I right, or am I right?
I have made my choice of living on a diet of pinchos and Spanish ham bocadillos with Rioja red wine over a big fat juicy Shake Shack burger washed down with a cold Magic Hat beer. But man, sometimes you just gotta reminisce about the good ol’ things back home. I have been mentally compiling a “things I miss about America” bucket list in my head for years, and I thought, now is the time to finally share it with you!
1. The food
It’s always the food! What would I do for a real American burger right now? What the heck do they feed cows in Spain? Because beef just isn’t the same here. Food variety in general is pretty limited; they have amazing fresh, cheap organic everything, but when I want to try a new recipe or want some ethnic food that isn’t doner kebabs, it’s pretty impossible to find the ingredients or restaurants unless I hike my hungry self over to Madrid or Barcelona. I would also kill for some spicy tuna rolls or a fully loaded burrito. Or a Shake Shack burger! Sigh. 3 months to go.
2. “Fancy” appliances
Very few apartments in Spain have dishwashers or dryers. What would I give not to have to spend ages washing my own dishes or having fluffy warm towels straight from the dryer! I wish I could dry my jeans so they wouldn’t stretch out so much, or have to wait two days for dry clothes in the winter. Maybe it’s just me, but I have also never seen a garbage disposal in Spain, you know, in the sink. One of my students pointed it out to me in class, asking what that thing was you see in the movies in the sinks that always chews up forks and cuts people’s fingers off. Have you ever seen a garbage disposal in Europe?
3. No cash
In America, you can pay for literally everything, everywhere with a debit or credit card, but in Spain they make a big stink about it. Except for big stores or grocery stores, I almost always have to pay in cash. And even cash isn’t enough, they usually want exact change, at least the cents side of it and they always make faces if you try to pay with big bills. Coming from a country where I almost never carry cash and you can even pay for taxis with a credit card, the adjustment hasn’t always been easy.
5. Air conditioning/heat
This one isn’t so bad now that I am living in the more temperate north of Spain, but last year living in Córdoba with no heat or AC was just torture! Freezing cold in the winter and melting hot in the summer, I am shocked I came out alive! Sometimes I just miss the temperature-controlled American lifestyle, where you walk from your heated home, to your heated car to your heated office. And vice-versa.
106° F in May? WTF!
6. Screened windows
This one is kinda ridiculous, but I really miss having screened-in windows. Since I don’t have AC, I have to leave my windows open trying to catch a breeze or two. However, I also usually catch a ton of unwanted insects, debris, smoke, feathers and the occasional bird. This is the only downside to having floor to ceiling windows.
7. Store hours
Speaking of money and stores, this reminds of banks in Spain, which are usually only open until 2pm, so annoying! For being a country with literally a million banks to chose from, I don’t understand why they don’t have longer hours, especially when you can’t always do everything you need to at an ATM. This year I chose a bank that is open on Thursday afternoons (la caixa) which has saved me several times, but when are you supposed to go if you actually have a full-time job?! I wish they were open on Saturdays, a revolutionary idea here. And everything is closed on Sundays. Except for the chinos (Chinese dollar stores) and the bars.
8. Customer service
Living in a country where customer service has yet to be invented has taken it’s toll on my chipper personality. Whenever I have some customer service complaint come up, it’s somehow is always my fault. Whether a bank teller makes me cry because they accidentally charged me a 30 euro fee, to having all of my winter clothes detained in customs in Madrid for 4 months and being sent back home for no reason, to having to traverse the entire Spanish peninsula TWICE in a month to hand in paperwork I could have just mailed, I don’t even know where to begin with this. In general it’s the I-don’t-really-give-a-s*** attitude I find almost everywhere here.
Whether having to wait in line while a teller talks to her son on the phone for 5 minutes, or waiting an hour to be waited on at a cafe or being told no, it’s impossible for things you know are in fact possible. When someone is friendly and pleasant and solves whatever problem I have, it feels like a freaking miracle. Gone are the days of threatening to speak to someone’s supervisor and getting what I need done. Customer service is pretty much appalling in Spain, and it has to be the thing I miss most about the USA. Along with everything bagels and decent guacamole.
Rough translation: “We are a communications company, but we don’t allow clients to communicate with us.” (source)
9. Public drinking fountains
Is it just me or are there almost no water fountains in Spain? There are none in my schools, and definitely not visible in offices or buildings or malls. I am a thirsty person, and I am always looking for a nice cold drink or water that is, uh, FREE. Spain has so many free public things, I mean they even have free health care! But man, I would certainly love some more water fountains. I’m gonna write a letter to Mariano Rajoy.
10. Abundant to-go coffee
I love the cafe culture in Spain, going out and sitting in the sunshine with friends over a nice cuppa, really enjoying the moment. But at the same time, I am a busy girl! I’ve got places to go, things to do, people to meet. Maybe it’s the American in me but sometimes I just need my grande skinny 120 vanilla latte from Starbucks clutched in my hand as I run off to a meeting. Yes, I am that freak with a long specific coffee order, though most of the time I don’t even need to say it because the baristas know me. I get to-go coffee here, but it is not the same. Especially since it comes in a cup the size of an espresso shot. I also miss American cafe culture, with cozy coffee shops with smooth jazz playing in the background and wide comfy chairs to read in. Here I feel like a big weirdo if I go to a cafe alone, which, incidentally, doesn’t stop me from going!
I have every Starbuck’s location in Spain memorized. I am not joking.
11. Going to the movies
This one is also kinda silly and maybe it’s just me, but I almost never go to the movies in Spain, except to see Spanish movies. Spain is pretty much the only country in Europe that dubs all of its foreign films instead of putting subtitles. It translates all of the big Hollywood hits into Spanish, and this drives me absolutely bonkers. Even though I understand it perfectly, what could be more annoying that listening to a high-pitched Spanish voice coming out of George Clooney’s mouth? Maybe I am just a stubborn pain, but I refuse to see English movies dubbed in Spanish, which means I have missed the openings of some of my fave films, most notably Harry Potter 7 pt. 1, which I will probably never get over.
12. Personal space
Personal space is defined very differently here in Spain, if it exists at all. I still remember the first time someone gave me the double cheek kiss here. I about fell down the stairs in shock. I am American, remember? I like my personal bubble maintained at arms-length! In general, people are more touchy (physically not mentally haha) here than back home. They touch you on your shoulder or arm when you talk and give lots of cheek kisses (I about died on NYE when I had to meet my friend’s family, about 20 new people, kiss them at midnight, and then goodbye-that’s 120 kisses in a day! Just too much!) But they don’t hug. That’s just off-limits. People here will also talk a lot closer to you, like half a foot away from your face. “Excuse me, señor, you are in my bubble. Please step back a foot, wait, I mean 30 centimeters.”
Do you live abroad? What do you miss most about your home country? Are you an expat in Spain? What else have you noticed that you miss?
*Now that I am back in the US, check out the 12 things I miss about Spain!
**I can’t believe I have to add this, but apparently some of my readers don’t understand sarcasm. Disclaimer: I am a sarcastic writer. This post is sarcastic. Move on. Clearly I love Spain enough to still be living here no matter how much I miss my Starbucks. I’m not speaking in absolutes or making sweeping generalizations. This is not a hate-on Spain post, rather things I miss about home. If you read carefully you’ll see this. So chill out, laugh, enjoy it and be nice. Ya está.