Monthly Archives: October 2018

Why the Starbucks barista made me nervous

Last week I was in New York, city that is, right in midtown within walking distance from Times Square. Talk about overwhelming. I have to say that I was feeling a bit like a country bumpkin as I hustled across the street from my hotel first thing in the morning to get a coffee to start the day.

I figured Starbucks was a sure bet since there seems to literally be one on every street corner (kind of like Dunkin Donuts (or DD as it’s now called)) back in Boston, and there wouldn’t be any surprises. First off, I was a bit surprised to see the size of the line given that there are so many other identical hot spots all around. But I wasn’t in a big rush, so no big deal.

When my turn came I smiled and said hi to the barista. And that was the mistake.

Screenshot 2018-10-22 at 12.10.59

Image representative of my experience. Actual faces and baristas ficticious.

The girl looked at me like I as crazy, like why would I waste time saying something like that when I could have used that same breath to say my order. So I said my coffee order. She immediately responded with the amount I owed, but I had to say that I wasn’t done yet; I wanted something to eat as well. I don’t think she was happy with my speed.

So, in the end the coffee was delicious and the food wasn’t bad, but I definitely learned my lesson about taking the time to smile and say hi the next day when I went back. Maybe it’s not like this all over, but in the center of the big apple for sure.

When I was telling my friends and coworkers about this everyone just laughed and said “you’ve become so spanish”. I guess I get it now when people say I’ve become “españolizada” or “spanishized” as I like to call it.



Living in Spain vs. the US: 12 years later, do I see myself moving back?

If I had a nickel (or euro) for every time I’ve been asked this question I could buy myself quite a few cases of my beloved pumpkin-flavored beer (worth an image. See below).

Screenshot 2018-10-22 at 11.52.02

The short answer is no, at least not in the short-term.

Here are my thoughts on four topics that make an impact in this decision: commercial culture (aka shopping), weather, salary/working conditions, being a parent.

Do I miss the US? (that’s another question I get a lot). Of course. I miss my family first and foremost, friends, the ease of communicating in my native language, my hometown of Boston (not during the winter), some specific food items (lobsters are not the same over here), etc. So of course there are a lot of things that I miss about living in the United States of America. Typically when I’m back in the US for a trip I come back to Spain with my suitcase filled with the result of serious shopping expeditions.

The commercial culture is something I miss – there’s so much variety and just so much to choose from. And generally at lower prices than here in Spain. Having said that though, sometimes I wonder how much is too much.

The last time I was in the supermarket in the US I found it a bit overwhelming just looking at the endless lineup of salad dressing options. And don’t get me wrong, I love going to the malls. In fact during my last trip to the US last week I dragged my mom to the mall on the way home from the airport. However, I think that would get a bit old after some time. The US is a huge mall culture. Spain has started copying this over the years, but it hasn’t reached the same intensity yet (surely the weather helps).

Speaking of weather… this is always one of my main points. I love Boston, but I “strongly dislike” the Northeastern climate. I have some nice memories of being little and making snow angels in the snow with my big, puffy snowsuit on. But I also have many memories later on of being so cold that my fingers turned white and lost all sensation. I was back in the US for 9 days last week (between Boston and New York), and I would venture to guess that I saw the sun for about 10-15% of that time. Here in Madrid I really am used to having the sun shine every day, and even on cloudy or rainy days (that are few and far between) there’s always some point when the sun jumps out to say “hola”. It definitely puts me in a better mood to have this climate and be able to do things outside, which I love.

From a work perspective I have some mixed feelings: during probably the first half of my time in Spain I often complained that I would earn a much higher salary in the US. Even after completing my MBA at IESE Business School and earning significantly more than pre-MBA days, I’m still sure that I would make double or more back in the US. But…at what cost? I’ve done a lot of weighing of pros and cons thinking about this topic, and my conclusion has been that I prefer Spain, at least for now. One reason is the vacation time. At my current job I have the whole month of August off plus two weeks at Christmas, plus Easter week off, plus a number of other national and local holidays. In the US maybe I’d have three weeks, but never taken at the same time. I can’t see that working to visit family. My plan this year is to be in Boston with the kids for the whole month of August.

Speaking of the kids… since becoming a mother of two young children, I’ve thought a lot about the differences between bringing up children in the US vs. Spain. I’ve had both of my kids while living in Spain, so, to be honest, I can’t fully compare the experience. What I can share, however, is what I’ve seen raising my kids so far here in Madrid vs. what I remember when I was younger or hear from friends back home. I’m planning to write another post about this, but just a tidbit to highlight: we live in an apartment-complex with its own park, common play areas, pool, etc. where the kids can be out playing easily until 8 or 9pm+ (in summer). And it never really gets so cold that you can’t go outside. That for me, is a huge point in favor of being here (at least vs. the east coast of the US as a comparison). TBC…

Screenshot 2018-10-22 at 11.55.56

This isn’t the park at our house, but it’s an example of one closeby that we frequent. Notice the sun…

To summarize, for now I couldn’t really imagine myself back in the US, but we’ll see what happens in the future. Right now my children are both still below five years old, but I would love them to have the experience of studying in the US when they’re older (assuming they get a massive college scholarship). For now I’ll stick with the sun and take it day by day.

Spain’s life expectancy tops the charts

Great news: life expectancy is up to 85.8 years. I guess the sun and cañas really do have an effect!

And just to add to the legitimacy of the topic, a CNN article:

Did I mention the US is at 79.8?

Spanishized: Time for a site update

It’s been approximately 1 year 9 months since my last blog post. I must admit that is quite a long gap. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been anything interesting during that time.

It’s also been approximately 1 year 9 months since my second little bundle of joy came Spanglish-ing into the world. Enough said.

Last week I was in the US for a week between Boston and New York, both for work and to visit family. Whilst sipping my beloved pumpkin-flavored beer (I’m still anxiously awaiting this trend to make its way across the ocean) I had a number of reflections about my experience being an American in Spain and how things have changed for me since uprooting myself from Boston to Madrid more than 12 years ago.

I’m planning to share some of those reflections, particularly my thoughts about living and working in both places and having small children in both. First though, I think my site needs a serious update: even the home page says “after almost a decade in a foreign land”. We’re now onto 12 1/2 years…