Monthly Archives: April 2015

Culture Shock

Could I move back to the US or would Reverse Culture Shock get the best of me?

Over the last few months since I’ve joined the “unemployment-jobhunt-welcome to the 24% Spain unemployment” world I’ve had numerous people ask me whether I would consider moving back to the US. Every time I get asked that question I subconsciously scrunch up my nose and answer that I’m just not sure. Why not? Welcome to my spanishized mind…

Granted I’m pretty sure it would be much easier with my background and experience to get a good paying job in the US as opposed to the options here, but would the professional side be enough? When I was living in the US I was completely focused on the idea of having a great career, making a lot of money, and storing away for retirement. Now I still think these things are important (and I still complain about the lack of ease to do this here in Spain, just ask my husband…), but there’s definitely been a shift in my thinking. I guess over time I’ve stopped (slightly at least) obsessing over a big salary as the most important thing. I could definitely earn more in the US, but would I be willing to trade off other Spain/EU benefits?  Continue reading

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Don’t forget to pay your US taxes if you’re living abroad!

Today is April 15th aka US tax day. And don’t forget about it if you’re an American living in Spain! US Taxes Uncle Sam The US is a great country, and I’m proud to be a US citizen. But I have to admit that it’s a bit annoying that the US requires any and every US citizen to file annual taxes, regardless of whether you live in the US. (By the way, you’re automatically given a two month extension if you live abroad). If your foreign income exceeds the designated amount for the tax year (this year it’s around $99k) you have to pay taxes. Continue reading

Back to Customer Basics: Eureka Kids

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Customer Experience story here in Spain so here’s a new one I had recently with Eureka Kids after buying a walk-and-ride toy (correpasillos) for my 13 month old. You can decide for yourself how you’d rate this one.

Eureka kids logo

As the expression goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But if you buy a product and it breaks, you expect it to be fixed, right? A month ago I purchased a walk-and-ride toy (http://didicar.es/walkn-ride) at Eureka Kids in La Vaguada shopping center. Eureka kids is a big retail chain here in Spain, but the actual stores themselves are quite small, with catalogues of many products that work through distributors. The toy I bought was guaranteed delivered free of charge to my house two days later. As promised, the toy arrived two days later and my son happily began riding all over the place until…the wheels became totally blocked about 2 1/2 weeks later, much to the frustration of the little guy.

Walk and Ride toy, Didicar

Walk and Ride toy, Dicier

The next day I went to the store and was told that they couldn’t do anything there, since everything is through a distributor, and that I would have to wait until they got in touch with the distributor to see what kind of solution they could offer. So, I left with the broken bike in hand. When I didn’t hear anything back two days later, I called the store again to see what was happening. The girl who helped me was very friendly and assured me that they had put in the complaint with the distributor but hadn’t yet heard back. So, I called again the next day and still no news. Finally, one week after going to the store I received a call that in two days they would be coming to my house to pick up the broken bike and deliver a new one!

How would I rate this experience? The final result has been a success since my problem has been solved and I’ll be getting a replacement bike. But… there were definitely some unnecessary steps/frustrations in the process. It’s important to remember that from the customer POV what can stand out more than the actual end result is the ease (or lack thereof) and trustworthiness of the process itself.

The next time I would definitely think twice about buying a product that goes through a distributor instead of being in-stock in a store in case anything happens. Being a bit finicky about customer service and treatment as I am, I’d like to point out one definite item to improve: keep the customer informed! The only thing that’s gained from leaving the customer in waiting and forcing him/her to proactively connect again with the client is frustration from the client’s side and time/costs from that of the client.

What’s up with pickpocketing in Spain?

Look at any list of top pickpocketing cities and you’ll see that Spain usually snags two of the top spots, with Barcelona usually topping the list. It’s true; pickpocketing is a problem here in Spain and one that doesn’t seem to be improving (mainly because of the lack of punishment in my opinion as a thief can pay a fine and be back on the street hours later). If you live here, you have to accept that pickpocketing is a risk and know how to be cautious.

pickpocket

On the other hand, what you don’t see as much here are crazy US-style gun-related shootings like the recent police officer shooting in the back of an unarmed man in South Carolina or school shootings. Of course there’s violent crime, but I would say that here in Spain it’s much more likely that you’ll discover your wallet’s suddenly missing without having any idea how/when it happened than see a gun.

Now, if you’re reading this blog and thinking I’m just being critical of Spain, that’s not the case. There are a lot of great things about this country (and obviously there’s a reason why I’ve been here 9 years!), but my idea with this blog is to share my experiences and perhaps help others who may be in a similar situation like myself. So read on…

As an American living here in Spain, I’ve been robbed three times (once in Barcelona, twice in Madrid). I was debating even writing this blog as just the thought of these experiences makes my blood boil, but given the recent event of a close friend being robbed at the gym when he turned his back for a minute, I decided that it’s definitely not something that’s improving and worth blogging about. Note: “Fortunately”, the “nice gym robber” decided only to take his money and lottery tickets and leave the rest…

So… what happened to me?

1. The metro. One day, less than a year after moving here to Madrid, I got off the metro that my wallet was gone. Stupidly, I thought maybe it had fallen and ran back into the metro station to basically have the security officers laugh at me when I asked if anyone had turned in a wallet.

2. The ATM. To make a long story short, two young girls (who I later found out were very well-known to the police and had been doing the same scam for a while) came up behind me while I was alone using the ATM (at an extremely busy intersection in the middle of Madrid, Avenida de America, during daylight) and started banging like crazy on the machine and yelling at me to scare me. Sounds crazy? What’s crazier is that there was a defect with the ATMs at that time that caused that excessive banging to spit out 300€ from that person’s account a few minutes after the person got their card back. So I was able to get away shaken and later found 300 euros missing from my account. Fortunately I was able to get it back from the bank.

3. The Airport. This incident was the worst for me as a really bad person who didn’t think twice about robbing me made me not be able to catch a flight that I had that morning to go home and caused me weeks of nightmares and paranoia. One minute I was looking in my suitcase for an item before checking in. The next minute I discovered my bag with my passport, wallet, computer, phone, etc. etc. etc. had been taken right from under my nose. All of a sudden I had nothing. In this case I ran immediately to the police within the airport, but it was too late as the thief had already gotten away. As it turns out it was around 10am in the morning, and this was not the first robbery of its kind that day…

What’s my take on all of this? Should you walk around in Spain being paranoid? No.  However, you definitely have to be cautious knowing that it’s a common problem. It sounds cliche, but the phrase “don’t leave your items unattended” really is something to go by. And I would add, “keep an eye on your items”. If you’re using a bag, make sure the zipper is where you can see/touch it, and just keep an eye open. If you’re traveling, use one of those body security belts that you probably think you don’t really need. And if you’re here on vacation, no need for flashy jewelry; it’s just not common here.

So, what’s better: prevalent professional pickpocketing or prevalent guns in the hands of everyday people? I’m not sure if there’s really a winning answer here, but I have to say that I do feel safer living in a country where not any Joe Schmoe can own a gun. However, I’d feel even safer if the government finally realized the need (and benefit) of implementing more severe punishments for robbery. Time will tell.