Originally from Boston, I've been living and working in Spain for close to 15 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.
15 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, 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!
There are no words that can be said for such a terrible event that happened yesterday, and I cannot even begin to imagine what family are going through. 19 – nineteen – my god – children – killed in a completely senseless shooting at an elementary school.
People often ask me if I want to move back to the US. My typical response is that I just don’t see it. Apart from a massive reverse culture shock that would surely occur, I also often respond that I feel like it’s a more social and more fun place to grow up here in Spain. I have two young children, 8 and 5 years old. Granted things aren’t perfect here by any means, but issues like gun control (and at schools) is something that would really frighten me if I were to move back to the US.
It’s hard to believe that almost two years have passed since this whole pandemic began. And personally, it’s hard to believe I’m now going through Covid again here in Madrid. Fortunately, at least so far, it seems much more mild, and I haven’t lost my sense of smell and taste which would have been the icing on the cake.
First, an important note about Antigen tests. At least here in Madrid everyone and their mother is running to buy them like candy to see if they’re positive and to know if they can continue with xmas plans, dinners, etc. for the holidays. They’re sold out all over the place. In a matter of weeks here we’ve gone from overall a positive feeling of things still not 100%, but more or less getting back to normal to crisis mode, long lines at the health center and positives all around. What happened?
Anyway, back to the antigen tests: if you get a negative result that doesn’t mean that you don’t have Covid!! This is probably my biggest message here, more than anything because it’s not a secret, but it’s not at all something that’s clear to the public, and it wasn’t really clear to me (and I consider myself more or less an intelligent person). You can have covid in your system and you can even have symptoms, but an antigen test will only show up positive for sure if it’s been three days since the start of your symptoms (or lack of if you’re not showing any symptoms but still have it). So if you buy a test at the pharmacy and it comes back negative it either means you don’t have covid or it’s too early to show up on the antigen test. If you had a PCR, which is not rapid, it would show up. If the antigen test comes back positive you’re definitely positive (no false positives). What seems crazy to me is the rush of people buying antigen tests that could very likely be getting false negatives without realizing it. Should they even be selling antigen tests if this is the case??
In my case my husband was feeling pretty sick for a few days. After requesting a Covid appointment through the public health system and never even getting a phone call, he decided to buy one of the saliva antigen tests through the pharmacy. It came back positive. Since we weren’t sure whether to believe it not, and since I wanted to check myself as well, we bought two more antigen tests (this time the nose swab ones): both of tests came back negative. It’s tough to understand any of this really. Since there was no response from the health center and no clear answer he decided to do the PCR privately – 99€ and a day later it was confirmed he was positive. Everyone quarantined.
Then I came down with a fever and chills, and my older son had the same thing. This passed in a day, but given the situation I decided to take both of my sons to the public health center to see if we could get tested. They did, but they told me that since it was a Friday afternoon it was too late to send the test to the laboratory for a PCR (definite results), so they did the antigen tests instead – all negative.
Three days later, with cold-like symptoms, I went back to the health center (where I thought I was going to get a PCR as per a conversation that morning with a doctor) only to be told I was getting an antigen test again. I was not very happy since even the doctor told me that morning that the antigens aren’t reliable, but – surprise surprise, it came back positive immediately. This is when they explained that it didn’t “work” the first time since it had only been a day since I had started symptoms. Talk about confusing messages – I was told I was negative on Friday, when really I wasn’t.
The question everyone has been asking me is if we were vaccinated – yes! Fully vaccinated (two shots in his case and one in mine since I had Covid in early 2020 and one shot was all they would give me to be fully vaccinated here). And yes, I’m still planning to go for the booster shot when all of this is over. So far Omicron seems more mild, thank goodness, maybe since I already was in touch with his brother a year and a half ago.
Bottom line – be careful with the antigen tests and negative results!
Let’s just hope this last wave passes by quickly and without as much damage.
Happy early holidays to all. Santa will be magically crossing our quarantine line to deliver presents in a few days. I hope he’s wearing a mask 🙂
Everyone is anxious to get back to traveling and to see family, friends and loved ones that we haven’t seen for so long due to Covid. Finally it seems like things are opening up as it’s been announced that vaccinated Americans will be able to travel to Europe this summer. Good news!
Just be cautious when purchasing flights with such good offers. The airlines are a bit all over the place these days with things changing by the minute. Recently I helped my mom purchase direct flights from Boston to Barcelona. The prices were definitely less than pre-covid, especially with direct flights. Less than a week after purchasing the tickets I received two emails, one almost right after the other, to let us know that the direct flights had been changed to flights with layovers. No reason, just an announcement. Apart from the fact that it’s more uncomfortable with layovers (which is why we jumped on the direct flights), we also ended up losing more than a days worth of the trip due to the time changes.
I called Iberia to try to change the flights to another day with direct ones only to find out that they have cancelled the Boston-Barcelona direct route. Again, as with everything in life these days, airline plans are changing by the day with Covid. What I was able to do was change the flight dates with no charge to make up for the lost overall time due to timetable differences, but there was no compensation for the change from direct.
I just wanted to share this experience for people who are looking to buy tickets these days. Good luck!
It’s been quite some time since I’ve written anything about Customer Experience, a topic that’s been a passion of mine since working a long time ago in Boston at Forrester Research. (Also, since moving to Spain 15 years ago and seeing the total lack of focus in this area.)
Now, a post back at it. For anyone who doesn’t know Decathlon it’s like the Walmart of sports stores here in Spain (and other countries in Europe). Decathlon is in 57 countries and is the largest sport retailer in the world – they’re pretty big. And they have almost any sport gear and apparel you can imagine at great prices. In general the people that work there are friendly, nothing over the top or special, but nice enough.
Here’s what happened: at the checkout, for some time now, they give you the option of having your receipt printed in paper or emailed to you. Now most of the time I’ll just print it out because it seems more secure, even though I know it’s a waste of paper. The other day I bought a few articles of clothing. For some reason I decided this time that I would have it emailed to me. I double checked my email, confirmed the purchase, and out I went, happy as a clam.
Unfortunately, I later discovered that not only did one of the articles of clothing not fit at all like it looked on the store model (surprise surprise), but also I never received the electronic receipt. Yes, I checked spam, etc etc. oops.
Here’s what happened next: to my surprise when I brought the article back to decathlon and talked to the person at the front of the store and explained that I never got the receipt, they were totally fine with it. As long as I was going to exchange the item for another one and not interested in getting my money back there was no problem.
Wow. Since when did the customer is always wrong turn around over here? I have to say I was pretty impressed. Thanks, Decathlon, for understanding a common customer’s situation!
First of all, in case anyone is wondering Filomena is a female name. I think this could be the equivalent of something like Harriet in English. Filomena hit hard, but more than hitting hard she just doesn’t want to go away. It’s been over a week now since the big storm hit, and still there are a lot of streets and most sidewalks that are still covered in snow and ice. Let’s be realistic though – Madrid isn’t exactly used to/prepared for this kind of weather; it was 50 years ago the last time there was a snow storm of this magnitude. So, let’s just enjoy it! Before we know it it will be a distant memory (unlike what Covid is proving to be).
Although I’ve always said that I left Boston to get away from the cold and snow, I’ll admit Filomena was pretty – for the first two days. I’m glad at least that my kids got to see and play in the snow for a few days.
On the practical side, school was cancelled all last week and now the cancellation has been extended until Wednesday. (Please please open on Wednesday – online classes are not working here! Haha)
Historic snow storm underway here. Everyone back home is asking me how much snow has fallen- I’m still trying to figure this out. I’ve been googling and asking around, but it’s still not clear. This definitely isn’t Boston where the first news of the day is how many feet or inches of snow has fallen! I’m guessing 1-2 feet, but TBC.
Madrid is completely unprepared for this. All you see on the news is how the roads are blocked, no one can leave the house, etc. Yes, that’s what happens with big snowstorms! The only part that is worrisome is for things like emergencies and the hospitals.
Fortunately this happens here every once in a blue moon, so it’s not surprising that the city isn’t prepared, but I’m sure in about a week’s time everyone will be talking about how beautiful it was and what a great memory – as they’re having cañas and tapas under the bright sun at a terrace 🙂
I always say one of the reasons I could never move back to Boston is because of the climate. Still true.
So, guess what? Today it’s snowing, and they’re predicting at least a few days of snow and temperatures with mínimums of up to (down to) minus 10 Celsius. That is decent!
All I have to say is Thank goodness this only happens in Madrid every 10 years or so! I’ll admit, for the kids it’s been great since they’ve never really seen or played with snow before. It is pretty, but nice to know it will be gone in a few days 🙂
One of the objectives of this blog when I first started writing over 5 years ago was to talk about my Customer Experience anecdotes and reflections here in Spain, a country that I think is pretty fair to say was highly lacking in this area when I moved here almost 15 years ago. I came from a background working in Customer Experience research, so it was definitely a shock to say the least to see how “Atención al cliente” worked (or didn’t over here) and the idea that the customer is always wrong. I’m still not sure how many times I’ve been hung up on from someone from Customer Service here…
Things have gotten better over the years, but there’s still a ways to go.
In any case, I think it’s only fair to give credit where credit’s due – in this blog I wanted to share a positive experience I had at the local police station renewing my sons’ Spanish passports. Both of my children’s passports expired in August, but since we didn’t have any travel plans thanks to Covid, and considering everything that’s been going on with Covid, we just got around to renewing them now. I made an appointment online using my DNI (National ID card). I only made a single appointment as it didn’t give me the option to select for two, and I assumed that I should do it this way since the appointment was for a minor. As usual with any governmental procedure I read through the info on the site and prepared all the necessary items for the appointment (or so I thought). We all went (the mother and the father both have to be there) with our passports, 30€ for each renewal, and new photos. When we got to the local comisaría in Majadahonda we didn’t even have to wait 5 minutes. I think it helped that it was right after Christmas and we walked in with two little (and loud kids). Unfortunately when we sat down to start everything the first thing the police officer asked me for was something I hadn’t brought along – the kid’s DNIs. Note to self (and whoever else this might be of use for): whereas to me in the US a passport is the ultimate form of identification above all else, here in Spain the DNI is the essential one. I guess I just assumed that going with passports we wouldn’t need our DNIs as well, since in the US that would be like bringing a license with me. But not here.
Fortunately, the police officer was very nice and asked if we lived far from the station. When we said about 10 minutes he said it wasn’t a problem to run home and get the DNIs so we could finish the process. Also, as I was waiting outside with my kids while my husband ran home to get the DNIs the officer came out to hand me some authorization forms that I could start filling out to speed things along.
When we had the DNIs the process was easy and smooth, and the police were very nice throughout. It probably helped that my kids are little and cute, but it definitely could have gone worse and/or we could have been told to come back another time or could have only had one passport renewed as I really only had one appointment.
A couple key things:
You can make the appointment for each child using his/her own DNI on the web site (https://www.citapreviadnie.es/citaPreviaDniExp/). I assumed that I had to use my DNI as an adult (I also heard another woman had assumed this same thing while we were there)
Don’t forget to bring DNIs!!
You need to bring 30€ in cash for each passport (renewals) and have a new passport-sized photo
Thanks to the police for being understanding and accommodating! Note to any Customer Service folks over here in Spain – empathy and generally just being nice can go a long way!