Category Archives: Jobs Spain

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…

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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.

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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

How to get a job in Spain

If I knew the answer to this question I wouldn’t be sitting writing this blog…

However, I can share my experience managing to get sponsored for working papers and getting a full-time job in Madrid nine years ago. (Note: the Spanish labor market back in 2006 was definitely a bit different than the current situation with unemployment rates at 8.5% and 24.1% respectively. Getting sponsored to legally work here if you don’t already have EU work permission is very difficult nowadays as companies have to first post the job and then prove that there is no one native in the country that can fill the role. Of course there are ways around this and companies – and people – find loopholes all the time, but it’s not easy.)

Determination, persistence, and patience. These words are key to describe how I managed to find a company that was interested in hiring me and finalize the nine-month process (yes, one could have had a child during that time) to legally work here in Spain. I started investigating when I was still living in the US and thinking about the possibility of moving over here. This was before the days of mass LinkedIn. My advice is to reach out to anyone you might know who could have information or a connection over here. Or just be creative; for me, this meant looking on MySpace for Americans in Madrid who could maybe give me some helpful tips and through a professional organization that I had joined while at my last company. Through this organization I found a company based in Madrid that specialized in user experience consulting, the field that I had worked in for 4 years in Boston. I reached out directly to the CEO and was lucky in that he responded and agreed to meet up with me during an upcoming vacation trip to Madrid. That was my first contact, a quick meeting for him to get to know me and for to explain my future plans. Once I finally did move to Madrid I got in touch again and eventually started working there as an intern until the whole working papers process got underway.

Easier said than done… I think I definitely had a bit of luck in that the company in Madrid happened to be looking for a native english speaker and was in the process of expanding its business. As this was such a specialized role, it just happened to fit perfectly. Before this all worked out, however, I really had no idea if I would be able to work here and tried out a number of different types of work, hence the determination and patience:

Teaching English. This definitely was not the route for me. I think some people just have a natural teaching tendency with patience and a listening ear. I, on the other hand, find it very difficult to hold back a chuckle when I hear a word that is grossly mispronounced (of course the same could be said for my spanish accent, but at least I’m being honest).

– GMAT professor. As it turns out, Kaplan was willing to take me on as a GMAT professor without legal working papers (not sure how that works…). However, as it also turned out, after having suffered and taken the GMAT back in Boston less than a year earlier, I wasn’t loving the idea of reliving all the tricky questions.

International Study Assistant at the Fulbright Commission (internship). Of the three options, this one was by far the best. Interestingly, I found this opportunity through a connection on MySpace who, to this day, I have still not met in person but would like to thank her for sending this my way. The best thing about this job was that it gave me a sense of purpose and daily commitment to start off my time here, as well as a small stipend. And by small, I mean very small. All of a sudden I went from earning a decent American salary to earning 500€/month… This job also was humbling as part of my responsibilities were to answer the phone and field incoming questions. As my level of Spanish left much to be desired at that stage of the game, let’s just say that there were a number of unintentional hang-ups.

In any case, this job served as a great way to start my time over here and as an intro into the Spanish working world (or so I thought, although I would later come to find out that having long coffee and breakfast breaks and strict schedules was not a universal theme in the Spanish working world).

My advice to start out looking for a job in Spain:

1. Do your homework and investigate any possible leads before making the move. Of course the easiest option would be to have a foreign company from your country send you over here, but that’s not an easy option.

2. Be persistent and be prepared for letdowns. I remember knocking on the door of various companies whose work was related to my past work in the US and actually having a few interviews. Unfortunately, as soon as it became clear that I didn’t have working papers and that my Spanish was quite below par, nothing came to be. But without a lot of rejection and humility most things won’t happen.

3. Try out different options. You never know what might work or what contacts you might make.

4. Give yourself a clear timeframe. My plan was to give myself 6 months-1 year max to see if I could find a professional job that was interesting and that made sense for me to stay over here for my CV. If not, it was back to Boston. Of course I had no idea that there would be no end to the timeframe nine years later and counting…

Check out this link for some useful info: http://www.expatica.com/es/employment/finding-a-job/Work-in-Spain-Finding-a-job-in-Spain_101462.html

Good luck!