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!

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

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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 🙂

IMG_7733

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…

img_1140.jpg

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!

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!

https://www.thelocal.es/20181017/spain-set-to-have-longest-life-expectancy-in-the-world

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

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/10/17/health/life-expectancy-forecasts-study-intl/index.html

Did I mention the US is at 79.8?