It’s January 5th, and the holidays continue…

The fall came and went quickly over here in Madrid. By the time mid-October rolled around I was starting to wonder whether it was ever going to get cold. This seems to happen every year at the end of the long, hot summer  and continued heat in the fall. But eventually, it does get cold for a few months. I’m not talking Boston cold, but a few days it’s been around 30ºF/0ºC in the morning, so not too bad. That’s where we are at the moment, and I must say that I actually enjoy the brisk weather as a change from the stifling summer heat (even though the cold is one big reason why I would never go back to the US East coast).

On another note, I’m ashamed to admit that I once again skipped an important American holiday and tradition this year and did not celebrate Thanksgiving. Although I had planned to finally cook a turkey (this would be the first time), I ended up leaving it a bit to the last minute and didn’t even have chicken that day 😦 At least I did make an effort to call the extremely overpriced little American supermarket called “Taste of America”, only to be told that they were selling turkeys for the fantastic price of 80 euros (gasp!). Call it a New Years resolution if you want, but next year I’m going to cook a turkey, pre-purchased from the local carnicería.

Aside from the Turkey Day mishap, I think one of the best things about this time of year here in Spain is the way the holiday season seems to continue forever. We start in early December with national holidays on December 6th and 8th. If these fall during the week you’re in luck and can usually get a long “puente” with time off from work. Then we have Christmas, New Years and finally “Reyes” (King’s Day) on January 6th. (see my post from last year for more details about the holidays: https://spanishized.com/2016/01/02/holiday-season-in-spain-some-spanishized-thoughts/). Unfortunately, after Reyes it’s time to get serious again…but only until Semana Santa (Easter week) comes around in March/April. Let the countdown begin.

Obtaining Spanish nationality – check.

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve written, but that’s not to say that nothing has been going on over here. In fact, a lot has happened since my last post – for one, I’ve had a few quite positive Spanish customer experiences, something always worth mentioning. Another thing that happened was my most-recent international trip with my 2 1/2 year old son during which, of course, there were some snafus with seating. However, most importantly, last week I officially became Spanish and gained a second last name! After almost 3 years of paperwork and waiting I finally pledged my allegiance to the Spanish flag (does this also happen in Cataluña?).

The actual swearing in was pretty uneventful: I was put in a room with about 50 other foreigners (I’m pretty sure I was the only American) and waited to be called one-by-one to say out loud in front of a judge a typed phrase waiting on a piece of paper. Another piece of paper was signed and voila. What was interesting was seeing quite a few individuals who were illiterate and granted nationality by repeating the typed phrase spoken first by the judge.

Now my biggest question is: Do I need to change the name of this blog?

So, what does becoming Spanish mean to me? Flexibility. My thinking has always been that having a Spanish passport and ID card would allow me more flexibility if one day we decided to move to another European country. At this point there’s no plan for this to happen, but it’s still nice to know that I would have that option without having to get any special visa or working permit. Since my 2 year old son has both passports I figured it’s only fair that I have the same, of course. Aside from this, there are some other positive/interesting points:

  • No one can call me a foreigner or “guidi” anymore. I am just waiting for the day when a rude public service employee makes a face and says they don’t understand me because of my accent, to which I will promptly pull out my national ID card and attest that I am from Sevilla.
  • The common mistake of my middle name being put as my first last name and my records not being able to be located (like when I was checking into the hospital in labor) will not happen anymore. I’ll now officially have two last names, the second one being my mother’s maiden name. No more errors filling out online forms either with obligatory second last name fields.
  • I can now officially vote both in the disturbing current elections in the US as well as in the possible 3rd time elections here in Spain where they can’t seem to form a government. Clearly neither situation is ideal but at least now aside from having to pay taxes to both I can have an active role in deciding who will (hopefully) rule the country.
  • After traveling back from the US and arriving home in Spain I’ll be able to go through the quicker EU citizen passport line. No more “All other passports” for me.

On the other hand, one thing that you might not think about after switching nationalities and officially becoming Spanish is the implication with bank accounts, paperwork, etc. My next step once I officially get my passport and DNI in a few months will be making sure all of my paperwork and accounts are in order. Changing a last name is one thing, but changing the one number that the government and society identifies you with is another – social security, bank account, pension plans… that should be interesting. Supposedly you can get an official document clarifying the change that can be presented to banks, etc., but I have the feeling that some future blog posts could arise from this…

Before beginning this process a few years ago my biggest question was whether you can have dual citizenship. The technical answer is no, at least in the case of the US/Spain. But… more or less you just need to be smart with where and when you use your passports and nationalities. No harm done. In my son’s case, for example, by birth  he has both nationalities and then supposedly will have to pick one once he turns 18. Supposedly…

In any case, I’m pretty proud to say that I’ve come a long way from where I was more than ten years ago, stepping off the plane from Boston to Madrid without a plan or a place to go. Now with my new identity and passport in hand my next big challenge will be working on perfecting my Andalusian accent.

Too Spanishized?

This year I forgot about the 4th of July, breezed past memorial and labor day, and ate fish on Thanksgiving. There was no typical red, white and blue attire on the 4th and no turkey and stuffing on Turkey Day. Have I become too spanishized? This year has made me take a step back and wonder: To what point is it a good thing to be so immersed and assimilated into a different culture that you forget the basics of your own?

In a few months down the road I’ll be pledging my allegiance to a new flag to officially become Spanish (not that I’ll stop pledging to the other – unless Trump wins…). While this may seem like 100% Spanishized, that pesky American-themed accent will also be there to remind me and others that, at the end of the day, I am still, and will always be, American. But, this isn’t a bad thing after all.

Ten years ago when I first moved to Spain I made a concentrated effort to not connect with the large American community in Madrid in order to try to assimilate myself into the Spanish culture. I managed to find a job at a small Spanish company which threw me right into the Spanish paella mix, and I met my future husband who’s Spanish and hung out with him and his Spanish friends. Basically, my plan worked.

Now, ten years later and with a 2 1/2 year old son, I’ve started to wonder if maybe it’s time to get back to my American roots and find some fellow right, white and blue-ers over here in Madrid. As much as I like being assimilated, I now sometimes miss being able to have that natural easy connection with a fellow American, especially with kids. I want my son to experience both cultures’ customs, and it’s not that easy to show him some American traditions alone (especially when now I’m seeming to forget them unless I put it on the calendar). I guess I’ll say mission accomplished for a decade of being Spanishized and fitting in (until I open my mouth to speak), but maybe now it’s time for more of a Spanglish style over here.

Taking advantage of Spain’s spring/summer nights

I’ve always said that one of the things I love about Spain is the climate. This is coming from someone with memories of watching her fingers turn white from the frigid cold in Boston while waiting for a bus to go home from work…

But more than the warm weather, what’s great is that you can really take advantage of the late afternoon/evening. Spain may have the problem of later working hours, but when it’s light out until 10pm for several months, you can still enjoy doing something outside at night. And let’s be realistic – at least from what I’ve seen from my 10 years working here, no one is expecting to see you sitting in your office at 9am…and 9:30 could still be a stretch.

So, while we’re still enjoying the spring weather before the real heat begins, I’m taking advantage of long bike rides with the little one in tow before dinnertime. Dinnertime being around 8:30/9pm and the little one’s bedtime around 10/10:30pm. Yes, I know my American or British friends may be horrified to read this as their kids will probably already have been asleep for 3 hours, but… this is what happens in my Spanishized world. Welcome Summer!

BancSabadell – When mobile apps weren’t made for foreigners

I recently installed an app on my phone to use my BancSabadell account, nothing fancy, just to check my bank info. I was having trouble logging in and couldn’t figure out why. This is the screen I could see on my mobile:

Sabadell mobile login1.png

Keep in mind that “Particular” means Individual. I entered my user name and password, exactly like I do on the web site, but to no avail.

As it turns out, apparently being a foreign resident in Spain disqualifies me from being an  “Individual” person. I guess I should have known that I’d have to click on the drop-down menu and select “NIE” (which is the foreign residency card in Spain) instead of Individual.

Way to keep the customer in mind, Sabadell!

Sabadell mobile login2.png

Justin Bieber and Spanish/US politics

Monday mornings are always a bit of a struggle as the freedom of the weekend comes to close, but as I drove into work this particular Monday morning I was forced to deal with two new unpleasant items: 1. A 15 minute commute-turned one hour due to pouring rain (yes, it does rain from time to time here in Madrid, but for some reason no one can figure out how to drive in it…) and 2. A Spanish rendition of Justin Bieber’s  “Love Yourself”  with Spanish lyrics about the current Spanish political situation. And yes, the rendition lasted for the entire song length. Way to kick off the work week!

Now, why was a Justin Bieber song an appropriate choice to talk about the different political parties in Spain these days and the fact that they can’t figure out who should govern the country? I think that question is about as clear to me as the appropriate response when asked almost every other day what I think about the political situation in the US and the possibility of Donald Trump as president. Continue reading

Iberia, how about a little logic over the rules?

Is Iberia a great airline? Not really. Does Iberia offer great prices? Not so much. Does Iberia have a good cross-channel experience? Eh. So, why do I keep coming back for more? Well, Iberia happens to be the only airline that offers direct flights to Boston from Madrid (during certain months of the year), and with a two year old in tow there really isn’t any other option. So this fact puts it on my “better than other options” list. Also, Iberia has an executive devoted to Customer Experience (Dimitris Bountolos), something which I think is great given my interest and sometimes annoying persistence with this topic here in Spain. (Note: after writing this post I’ve discovered that this VP of CxP no longer exists at Iberia. Go figure).

The other week I finally sat down to finalize my summer plans and buy tickets home. As usual I had to make things a little more complicated, just to challenge the system I guess – I wanted to use frequent flyer points for my flight and buy my son’s ticket separately.

Step 1: When I tried to do this on the web site it wasn’t possible since you can’t mix buying two tickets by different methods. And if you want to buy a separate ticket for a two year old you have no other choice but to pick up the phone and buy the ticket through an agent.

Step 2: So… I picked up the phone. When I spoke to an agent to try to buy both tickets, mine with points, he told me the only way to see my options and do this was through the web site. Then I would have to call after and buy my son’s ticket over the phone since there’s no way to buy a 2 year old ticket through the site.

Step 3: Back to the web. Buying my tickets using my avios through the site – easy enough.

Step 4: Right after that I called Iberia customer service to buy my son’s ticket to make sure there wouldn’t be any problem getting seats on the same flight. I didn’t have any problem doing this. And Iberia didn’t have any problem charging me 90% of an adult fare for his ticket (one of the things you don’t think about when you’re young and reckless and decide to move across the ocean…). I of course tried to be reasonable and say that I could have him sit on my lap for the 8 hour flight (no way would this be possible), but apparently age is the determining factor here. Between 2 and 12 years (no scaling) you get a fantastic discount of 10%. Good thing I already flew with him twice while he was younger…

I figured, well, at least everything is set and the tickets are now a sunk cost. After hanging up the phone and reviewing the tickets in my email (and happily seeing a 20€ fee for buying my son’s ticket over the phone even though there was no other option…) I remembered one very important thing – our seats.

Step 4: Back on the phone. And this is where it got amusing. The agent who attended my call informed me that it would be free for me to pick my seat now since I have a loyalty card, but I would have to pay over 40€ to assign my son’s seat next to me! She quietly suggested I could wait until checking-in at the airport. Talk about logic, Iberia…

Step 5: Time will tell. I’ve decided to take a “gamble” and see what happens at the check-in counter this summer. Call me crazy, but somehow I don’t think Iberia will put my 2 year old next to a random person, with his mother aisles away. And if this were to happen I can absolutely guarantee that Iberia itself would be willing to pay me to switch seats!

 

Note: I’m currently waiting for an Iberia Kids loyalty card. Maybe this will change the situation…

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