12 Things I Miss about America

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Things I Miss about America

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! 

Things I Miss about America

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.

Things I Miss about America

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.

4. Bagels

 Enough said. 

Things I Miss about America

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.

Things I Miss about America

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. 

Things I Miss about America

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.

Things I Miss about America

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!

Things I Miss about America

Things I Miss about America

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.

Things I Miss about America

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  1. I love Spain and so many things about it. But YES on personal space and YES on customer service. I just got into with someone at my bank today….won’t go into the details but it makes me want to jump off my balcony. Personal space is just a cultural issue. I can’t get used to it…I think it has something to do with being a WASP from Oregon. I need big open spaces, I need you to step back about 3 feet sir, when we are in the store checkout line. It’s my issue, and overall I think it’s nice that people are so ‘touchy’.

    1. the banks are the worst!!! luckily this year one of my students wife works at my bank and helps me out. gotta have someone on the inside. I miss big open spaces and personal space a lot too. i need quite time sometimes!!

  2. Again, I buy great beef at the butchers and make burgers myself at home, but they still don’t taste the same. its not a big deal, its just something that I occasionally miss about home. Again, i don’t know where you live in spain, but the majority of people I know don’t have dryers or dishwashers, Spanish families ect. and like I said before talking about to-go coffee, I love the cafe culture in spain and sitting down with friends, but I work long days and a lot of time I don’t have time to go and sit down for a coffee. these are silly little things I miss about life in america, not meant to be taken so seriously. and if you read my blog a lot you would know that I am a sarcastic writer. I dont know how long you have been in spain for or where you live, but I have been here for several years, and customer service continuously, unfailingly is atrocious. I am not talking about returning items. im talking about being charged fees accidentally, no one answering phones, being told no because the attendants are too lazy to go look for something. mostly with the funcionarios though. they’re the worst. ect. i could write a whole post about bad customer service in spain. at least its dependable, I can always rely on it to suck.

    1. I hope you didn’t take offense at what I wrote, It’s not that I’m criticizing your post, and your point of view is valid, but your experience is totally different from mine. Most Spanish families that I know, and I’ve been here nearly twenty years now, do at least have dishwashers. In fact, my husband’s parents have had one for over thirty years, and they’re a pretty average family. Although it’s true that not as many people have dryers. They are more common up North, because of the weather. And truthfully, I haven’t had all those problems with customer service. When there has been some sort of mistake, which has rarely happened to me, it’s always been fixed promptly and the funcionarios I’ve come across have always been pretty helpful. Maybe I’m just lucky. I do live in Pamplona, so maybe that’s why. Things are very well organized here and people keep to deadlines. The year I spent in Málaga was slightly different, but the truth is I can’t complain because I didn’t have any real problems there either, and I’ve always been treated well when I’ve gone to customer service about something. So, I guess it just depends. I’m crossing my fingers that it stays just as good for me…and I hope it gets better for you. 😉

    2. it sounds like you have had an incredibly lucky experience in Spain. Navarra is supposed to be very with it! It was actually my first choice of region to live in, but I ended up in Logroño, close by. and I am very happy here. the majority of my problems have come from when I was living in andalucia, but ive definitely had some here in la rioja. most notably when the consejeria de educacion in la rioja didnt pay me for 4 months this winter, and being told it wasn’t the problem of my bosses to sort out before hanging up on me. that one definitely took the cake. though a doctors secretary made me cry in front of the entire waiting room once in the fall for asking how long i would have to wait to sign a form. that was a close second. I’m here all on my own which makes things infinitely harder. whenever i make my spanish friends come with me to sort out things, it goes a lot better. though I have heard the problems have gotten a lot worse in recent years.

      who knows abou the electrodomesticos. I have lived in 7 different apartments all over spain and I have never had a washer or a dryer. and i give lots of english classes, and very few of the places ive been to have them either. i dont really care, i was just reminiscing that i wish i could dry my towels and jeans sometimes haha

  3. Okay, some of these things are true, but I have to disagree with a few. If you buy good meat, quality veal, in a butcher shop, where preferably you’ve gotten to know the butcher, you can have amazing hamburgers…I should know, because my husband, who is Spanish, makes the best ones I’ve ever had. You can also find good ones in some restaurants, you just have to know where to look. About appliances, people who own their homes do have dishwashers and dryers, and in some rental apartments you can find them as well, but not in the cheapest flats. And personally, Spanish coffee beats Starbucks hands down. I understand the convenience of it, but the quality (and price) is just not the same. Besides, to me, the nice thing about having a cup of coffee is to have it sitting down, in a real cup, with a friend, while having an interesting conversation. Customer service really depends, but the truth is that if you go to good establishments, and you are polite, sure of yourself without being aggressive (and definitely not whiny), usually you’ll solve whatever problem you have. I’ve rarely had any trouble in shops with customer service, but you do have to realize that in many of the smaller ones they don’t give you your money back if you want to exchange something, that’s just policy in a lot of places. I guess it’s all a matter of how you look a things. I think Spaniards are more laid-back in general, and once you’ve been here for a while, you either get used to it, or spend all your time being annoyed. I guess I’m more Spanish than American after all the time I’ve lived here…and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I do miss bagels, though. 😉

  4. 1) I eat great hamburgers here. Just learn to buy the right kind of chopped meat at your local butcher and cook them yourself.

    10)Sit down for a few minutes and drink your damn coffee at the bar like a civilized person. Every time I see a guiri with a freakin Starbucks cup I want to smack them upside the head. Do you really have to walk around slurping all the time?

    5) “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.” Perhaps that’s because the US (along with Afghanistan and The Sudan)still hasn’t signed the 1997 Kyoto protocol. And why the rest of the world sees us as wasteful slobs.

    1. What is the “right” kind of meat then? You can’t leave us hanging like that … not that I’ve eaten a hamburger in like eight years, but Mario would like that.

      I do have to slurp all the time. SLURRRRRRRRRRP. But I prefer burping because then my boyfriend tells me “Que aproveches.” SLURRRRRRRRRP. I mean BURRRRRRRP.

      I think the whole energy thing is relative. If we had to, we’d learn to do without. Just like if Spaniards had the ability to drive anywhere, they just might. I mean, I always take the stairs but not because I’m lazy or better than anyone, I do it for exercise. But my lazy Spanish MIL takes the elevator up and down one flight of stairs. I mean, if she were American, we could just shove her into the lazy American category, but she isn’t, so I guess we’ll have to invent a new category!

    2. But it’s okay for Spanish people to walk around with Starbucks? Why can’t someone write about the things they miss? Don’t be a jerk.

    3. @Lee WTF??!!! I am ashamed to have you as a reader. You clearly missed the entire point of this post, which was NOT to complain about things in Spain but to say sometimes I miss certain things back home. Clearly I don’t miss them enough since I have been living here for years. And FYI I do in fact buy great beef at the butchers here, but it doesn’t taste the same, and sometimes when I am out I wish I could order a burger like back home. Sue me. And some of us are really busy working and I dont always have time to sit down and have a coffee. does that mean I shouldnt have coffee? What the heck is wrong with you. Chill the hell out and learn to understand sarcasm. Also learn what the word “sometimes” means. sheesh.

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