Author Archives: Michelle

About Michelle

Originally from Boston, I've been living and working in Spain for more than 12 years. In August 2006 I decided to leave behind my life in Boston and take a chance over in sunny Spain with nothing more than determination, a sense of adventure and two big suitcases. 12+ years later I like to think I'm pretty established: I have a Spanish husband, full time job that's 50/50 Spanish/English, two Spanglish kids, recent home (apartment) owner, and I apparently talk in Spanish sometimes in my sleep which is as good of a sign as any of cultural immersion. Currently I work as a Program Director in Executive Education at IESE Business School (where I also did my MBA back in 2010). Prior to that I've had experience in FMCG Brand Marketing and Customer/User Experience Research and Design. These days I keep quite busy as a full-time working mother to two young kids. Although I don't have as much free time as before, I still enjoying meeting new people and sharing experiences and enjoy reflecting upon the differences between life in the US and Spain. Customer Experience as well remains an interest of mine and shows up in a number of my posts. Hope you enjoy my blog!

Back in NYC for a week – bringing out my American side

Every time I go back to the US for work I always feel like I get to know myself a little bit better. What I mean by that is I realize how much I’ve changed since I moved to Europe 13 years ago. And also how easy it is to fall right back into my American self when triggered…

I will admit it: when I was living in Boston I was pretty uptight. In general I walked quickly everywhere and huffed and puffed behind slow walkers, used my lunch hour to work out so I didn’t waste any time, got annoyed and impatient easily, and I definitely didn’t have much patience for poor customer service. Also, moving up at work and position/salary were my primary goals.

After living in Spain for more than a decade and adding two small kids to the equation I would say that I’ve mellowed out quite a bit. As a natural consequence of becoming a mother my priorities have changed, especially work-wise, but aside from that I’ve become more comfortable being out of the city enter and taking things slower. Life goes by too quickly.

Being back in NY for me last week was interesting. It was a big change from my normally-mellow days, especially considering the location of my hotel right next to Times Square.

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Hustle and bustle of Times Square, right next to my hotel

The weekend before my work commitment I was a total tourist with my mother, even including an I love NY t-shirt. (check out the picture below, but especially the lady’s face behind me. She’s probably thinking “another annoying tourst buying sesame balls. If only she knew I’m from Boston) …

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What is she thinking??

The first flashback to pre-Spain me came with a rude person attending us at the tourist Big Bus line. I won’t get into details except for the fact that how she spoke to me prompted me to drop the f-bomb, which I hardly ever do. Boston was back. I’ve also had people recognize my accent right away (which is not the true Boston accent I might add), which surprised me since usually people now tell me I have a weird English-Spanish accent when I speak.

There are things that are nice about being back in the US, especially in NY with the hustle and bustle of the city and so many different things to see. I’ve actually seen NY more now that I live in Europe than I ever did when I lived only four hours away in Boston. For example, I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time during this trip and loved it. So much actually that I escaped one night from work obligations and walked it again. Also shopping – I always manage to find a way to squeeze some of that in while I’m here.

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Loving the Brooklyn Bridge walk

And I’ve taken advantage of my location to run a few times in Central Park, which is amazing. And huge, for being right in the city center. It’s also amazing to me the amount of activity, people running, biking, walking, etc. at 6am. NY really does never sleep!

After a week I saw enough of my Boston side come out that I was ready to get back to Madrid and back to reality. It’s great to be back in the US, but I was happy to go back to my Spanglish accent until work brings me back across the ocean again.

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Don’t miss the caption at the bottom right

 

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Devolución IRPF por maternidad. Backpay for maternity-leave taxes in Spain

Just a quick update on this one since I last wrote. Finally I got back “de golpe”, all at once all of the back money owed to me from the government. This happened in mid March, so a few months after filing everything.

Devolución del IRPF por maternidad (return of maternity leave taxes). Still waiting…

Just an update on this last topic. In January I filed the second petition for the government to return the tax money collected from my income while on maternity leave with my second child. You could file the first petition at the end of 2018 for children born between 2014 and 2015, but for children born between 2016 and 2017 you had to wait until January of this year.

Well, now I’ve filed both petitions for both of my kids… and I’m here waiting. The only thing the Agencia Tributaria web site says is that it’s in process. Keep in mind the “petitition” was just to fill out my data and the year in which my child was born, plus to add my bank account number.

The best is that my husband, who filed the first petition, a couple weeks after me, already received his return about a month ago. Apparently the government is taking longer to process the larger payments. Surprise.

TBC…

Devolución de IRPF por maternidad – ya disponible.

Ya se puede hacer la reclamación para que te devuelvan el IRPF quitado de las prestaciones de maternidad/paternidad en 2014 y 2015 (para los niños nacidos en 2016/2017 estará disponible a partir de enero 2019).

Ya solicité la devolución esta mañana y ha sido simple – mis datos y cuenta bancaria. Lo único que no me ha dicho ni cuanto recibiré ni cuando, pero por lo menos está en marcha!

http://www.expansion.com/economia/2018/12/02/5c0421df22601dfb788b45ae.html

Enlace al formulario en hacienda:

https://www.agenciatributaria.es/AEAT.internet/Inicio/La_Agencia_Tributaria/Campanas/_Campanas_/Prestacion_maternidad/Prestacion_maternidad.shtml

Getting back your maternity leave tax money as per the new law passed in October. Devolución del IRPF por maternidad.

Back in October the Supreme Court declared that it was illegal for the government to make parents (both mothers and fathers) pay taxes on their income while on maternity/paternity leave. Now the government has to pay back the tax money retained for those who file a claim.

Just today the official form has been published to make this claim:

http://www.expansion.com/economia/2018/12/02/5c0421df22601dfb788b45ae.html

If you had a baby born in 2014 or 2015 (2016 and 2017 claims will be processed after January 2019), fill out this form to get your tax money back!!

It looks like you have to present the form in person at Hacienda, but supposedly they’ve already run cross-data checks with Social Security so no other information has to be presented.

To be continued…

 

Black Friday makes it back to Spain. All week.

Last week as I was driving into work I heard a number of ads on the radio announcing big Black Friday sales. Sales lasting all week or the whole weekend. Since when did Friday turn into a full week? (last year I also touched upon this topic, although this year it’s been much bigger)

Since then it’s been nonstop emails, TV ads, radio ads, signs, all about Black Friday. Back in the US Black Friday has always been the crazy day — and I emphasize the word “day” – right after you’ve eaten too much turkey and spent too much time with the family to run off to the stores and fight with crowds of people to get special deals. For me I’d rather pay a few more dollars any day than fight with crowds on Black Friday. Now, however, this whole “Black Friday” concept doesn’t seem so horrible – a full week or longer, online sales…

I mean, I’m all for sales, but I do find it a bit funny. I’ve seen signs with Black Week, Black Weekend (slightly racist perhaps??), Crazy Friday … But where’s the turkey?? I’m almost afraid to say it, but I have a feeling Thanksgiving might start invading the land of cañas and tapas at some point in the near future as well.

Below is an image of the multitudes of turkeys at Costco the other day on sale since Thanksgiving has already passed. They were on sale with a 3€ discount — interestingly (or maybe on purpose) there was no sign that said the discount was for Black Friday … Poor turkeys 🙂

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Halloween in Madrid – a little bit better every year

When I first was in Madrid 15 years ago Halloween was pretty much non-existent. And for those who did go out to celebrate, the costumes were just not right. There was this idea that Halloween costumes had to be scary, not like back in the US where they tend to be funny, sexy and scary. I think the most shocking moment for me was seeing a female’s costume related to an abortion – again, just not right.

Flash forward 15 years and I have to say I’m proud of how far we’ve come. Now, in general, I’m not a fan of all the US traditions and happenings making their way over to Spain (see: Fútbol y Fútbol OR Football, Basketball, Hockey and Baseball: A reflection on cultural imports) Spain is different; and I think it should stay that way. However, having said that, I don’t mind the adoption of some of the fun traditions, especially now that I have little kids.

Even in the last few years Halloween has really gained steam over here. A couple years ago I had a little shock when I brought my son in his costume to day care. It wasn’t because he was in a costume; all the other kids were dressed up as well as they said to dress them up for Halloween. The “issue” was that his cute little chicken costume was the only cute one; everyone else had their kids dressed up as witches or vampires, pretty much. And there was my little chicken…apparently this was more for Carnaval…

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The “chicken incident”

This year, however, I am happy to say that the school costumes were a big mix with some cute and funny ones as well. We’re making progress. Also in our apartment complex this year there were trick-or-treaters all over the place.

I took my kids all over the complex for more than an hour visiting apartments. Now we just need to improve the candy offerings at the stores.

Next up: Turkey Day!