In the beginning of last summer, riled up by all my problems with Spanish bureaucracy, I wrote a post entitled 12 things I miss about America. Little did I know I hit on such a hot and controversial issue! Fights were breaking out in the comment section and on twitter about touchy topics like to-go coffee in Spain and customer service disputes! Now that the tables are turned and I am back home in the US for a while, I thought I’d go ahead and share with you 12 things I miss about Spain (and see how many more of you I can inadvertently piss off)! Just kidding 😛
1. La vida tranquila
I think the thing I singularly miss the most about Spain is the lifestyle. It is completely different way of life there that I love. I always feel like there are enough hours in the day to get done what I needed to, and I don’t feel as stressed or as pressured as I do back here in the US. I feel like I can be spontaneous in Spain and make spur of the moment plans, whereas my life in the States is so planned out down to the hour and I feel guilty if I don’t get everything done. I know that speaks VOLUMES about Spain’s economic crisis, but whatever. Truth be told, it’s nice living in a country where your own life and happiness come first and your job second.
2. The food and wine
Good lord, where do I even begin? I miss the simple, delicious healthy (and unhealthy) food and wine to be had all over Spain. I miss how diverse every region is when it comes to comes to food, and how every city has it’s famous local dish. But by far I miss the tapa and pincho culture. In Logroño, it was pretty much standard practice to meet up with your friends after work on a Thursday and Friday and go pincho bar hopping downtown for dinner.
I love getting to try all different things for very cheap prices. Living in the Rioja wine country last year didn’t help, and I was very spoiled when it came to drinking fine wine for low prices. Most of the time we would get a decent glass of red for under 2 euros paired with a pincho for 1,50. Can’t beat that!
3. The low cost of living
Damn, I had forgotten how expensive America is! I went from paying 25 euros a month for my cell phone to over $100. From 1.20 euros for a cup of coffee to $4, and let’s not even get into rent and grocery costs! Spain is a cheap country to live in by European standards, and I felt like I could do and buy a lot for little money. Now that I am home I feel like I throw money away left and right and I can’t even remember what I bought!
4. Tortilla de patata
Spanish potato omelette is a fundamental food group in my opinion, and not being able to find it at every bar, restaurant and cafe around town for $1 is actually killing me.
In Spain we give two kisses when we meet up with friends or when we are introduced to people for the first time, kiss on the left cheek, then a kiss on the right cheek. These besos are a fundamental way of life in Spain, and one of my favorite little nuances of Spanish culture. It reflects how warm and touchy Spaniards are, and shows how welcoming and affectionate they are to everyone. Though not with hugging, people get awkward when it comes to hugging in Spain.
In America we shake hands. Then wipe our hands on the back of our pants and sanitize them as soon as we leave the room. Sometimes when I meet new people here, I wonder how they would react if I ignored their outstretched hand and grabbed them firmly by the shoulders and smacked two big kisses on their cheeks. I would probably would get hit with a lawsuit.
6. Free healthcare
Can’t argue with this one, unless I have some secret die-hard republican readers. When I was in Spain and I got sick, I would go to the doctor and pay NOTHING. No copay, no big fat doctor’s fee, no test charges, nada! Then I would take my prescription down to the pharmacy and pay under $10. I don’t think I have ever payed more than 10 dollars for medication in Spain.
Since being home I got very sick twice and had to go to urgent care. I also have “good” health insurance in the States through my dad in the federal government (thanks Obama!), and can you guess what I have sitting on my desk right now? Over $200 in doctor’s bills! WTF?! That isn’t even including the $100 I dropped on all the medication and prescriptions. Living in the States I feel like I can’t afford to go to the doctor’s when I need to, which is a horrible and twisted idea, right?
7. No tipping
I love NOT having to leave tips in Spain for anything. I do realize that no tips is directly correlated to abhorrent customer service, but I don’t care! More money that I am not giving away that goes to my travel funds. I went out with friends in Oregon when I got home to the US, only to be gently reminded that I have to tip the bartender. Call me stingy, but I can’t believe I have to leave an extra dollar for someone to open a 6 dollar bottle of beer for me. I can open the damn thing myself for $1. And don’t even get me started at a restaurant. I would much prefer to see that money included in the original price than being forced to cough it up at the end. Makes me regret ordering so much.
8. Normal weather
In Spain we don’t have giant superstorm hurricanes, freak lightening storms, tornado warnings and monster blizzards that knock out the electricity for days. The only time my electricity went out in Spain was when I plugged one to many hair appliances in or when I “forgot” to pay my electricity bill.
9. Independent shops
One of my favorite things about Spain was all of the independent shops and markets. I used to go weekly to the same butcher’s shop for my favorite steak cuts, to the greengrocer’s down the street for fresh veggies, to the fish shop for salmon, prawns and clams and to the bird shop for chicken breasts. The chicken would still have bits of feathers sticking out of it and the veggies would be dirty and as fresh as could be. And all the shopkeeper’s knew my name and what I would order. It was a taste of what life used to be like before giant grocery stores called Giant and Safeway conquered America.
10. The holidays
Now that I am home again and have (shudder) a big girl’s job, I’m talking salaried, benefits, flex time and something called a 401K, I have to deal with America’s concept of vacation days, which is pretty much nonexistent. I get 20 paid days off a year that I have to earn first! This means I have no vacation now, at all. In Spain, I had a holiday about every month, not to mention the puentes! Puente means bridge in Spanish and it means that many holidays are scheduled on Tuesday or Thursdays so that those Mondays and Fridays will also be taken off for a 4 day weekend! In Spain, I had 2 weeks off for Christmas, this year I have only 2 days off. Woof. I need a vacation already.
11. Easy travel
Speaking of vacations, in Spain it was relatively easy to travel around the country and around Europe. The bus and train system was fantastic and there are many quick and cheap flights around Europe. It was easy to escape to London or Paris for a long weekend, even risking a Ryanair horror story. Here I am lucky if I can make the trip up to NYC or even into downtown DC. Usually I am so wiped from my corporate ladder job that by the time Friday night rolls around, all I want to do is put on my snuggie and pass out watching reruns of Glee and Downton Abbey.
12. The parties
There are few comparable nights out in America to your average Saturday night in Spain. Spaniards sure know how to throw down and have a damn good time, and we haven’t even begun to talk about the festivals and special occasions. I can’t even count the number of times I have gone out for a glass of wine and a pincho with friends and ended up coming home at 6am. Parties and going out and having a good time with friends and family are a big part of Spanish culture, and it’s been an integral part to helping me make friends with locals and coming out of my shell in Spain, not to mention helping me improve my Spanish. Remember Spain is the country with famous food and wine fights and running with the bulls in Pamplona. There ain’t no party like a Spanish party.
What do you miss when you come home from living or traveling abroad? Do you ever compare your home country with another place you have lived?
Rough translation: “In Spain, coming home before 3am isn’t going out, it’s going to dinner