Category Archives: Life in Spain

It’s January 5th, and the holidays continue…

The fall came and went quickly over here in Madrid. By the time mid-October rolled around I was starting to wonder whether it was ever going to get cold. This seems to happen every year at the end of the long, hot summer  and continued heat in the fall. But eventually, it does get cold for a few months. I’m not talking Boston cold, but a few days it’s been around 30ºF/0ºC in the morning, so not too bad. That’s where we are at the moment, and I must say that I actually enjoy the brisk weather as a change from the stifling summer heat (even though the cold is one big reason why I would never go back to the US East coast).

On another note, I’m ashamed to admit that I once again skipped an important American holiday and tradition this year and did not celebrate Thanksgiving. Although I had planned to finally cook a turkey (this would be the first time), I ended up leaving it a bit to the last minute and didn’t even have chicken that day 😦 At least I did make an effort to call the extremely overpriced little American supermarket called “Taste of America”, only to be told that they were selling turkeys for the fantastic price of 80 euros (gasp!). Call it a New Years resolution if you want, but next year I’m going to cook a turkey, pre-purchased from the local carnicería.

Aside from the Turkey Day mishap, I think one of the best things about this time of year here in Spain is the way the holiday season seems to continue forever. We start in early December with national holidays on December 6th and 8th. If these fall during the week you’re in luck and can usually get a long “puente” with time off from work. Then we have Christmas, New Years and finally “Reyes” (King’s Day) on January 6th. (see my post from last year for more details about the holidays: https://spanishized.com/2016/01/02/holiday-season-in-spain-some-spanishized-thoughts/). Unfortunately, after Reyes it’s time to get serious again…but only until Semana Santa (Easter week) comes around in March/April. Let the countdown begin.

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Obtaining Spanish nationality – check.

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve written, but that’s not to say that nothing has been going on over here. In fact, a lot has happened since my last post – for one, I’ve had a few quite positive Spanish customer experiences, something always worth mentioning. Another thing that happened was my most-recent international trip with my 2 1/2 year old son during which, of course, there were some snafus with seating. However, most importantly, last week I officially became Spanish and gained a second last name! After almost 3 years of paperwork and waiting I finally pledged my allegiance to the Spanish flag (does this also happen in Cataluña?).

The actual swearing in was pretty uneventful: I was put in a room with about 50 other foreigners (I’m pretty sure I was the only American) and waited to be called one-by-one to say out loud in front of a judge a typed phrase waiting on a piece of paper. Another piece of paper was signed and voila. What was interesting was seeing quite a few individuals who were illiterate and granted nationality by repeating the typed phrase spoken first by the judge.

Now my biggest question is: Do I need to change the name of this blog?

So, what does becoming Spanish mean to me? Flexibility. My thinking has always been that having a Spanish passport and ID card would allow me more flexibility if one day we decided to move to another European country. At this point there’s no plan for this to happen, but it’s still nice to know that I would have that option without having to get any special visa or working permit. Since my 2 year old son has both passports I figured it’s only fair that I have the same, of course. Aside from this, there are some other positive/interesting points:

  • No one can call me a foreigner or “guidi” anymore. I am just waiting for the day when a rude public service employee makes a face and says they don’t understand me because of my accent, to which I will promptly pull out my national ID card and attest that I am from Sevilla.
  • The common mistake of my middle name being put as my first last name and my records not being able to be located (like when I was checking into the hospital in labor) will not happen anymore. I’ll now officially have two last names, the second one being my mother’s maiden name. No more errors filling out online forms either with obligatory second last name fields.
  • I can now officially vote both in the disturbing current elections in the US as well as in the possible 3rd time elections here in Spain where they can’t seem to form a government. Clearly neither situation is ideal but at least now aside from having to pay taxes to both I can have an active role in deciding who will (hopefully) rule the country.
  • After traveling back from the US and arriving home in Spain I’ll be able to go through the quicker EU citizen passport line. No more “All other passports” for me.

On the other hand, one thing that you might not think about after switching nationalities and officially becoming Spanish is the implication with bank accounts, paperwork, etc. My next step once I officially get my passport and DNI in a few months will be making sure all of my paperwork and accounts are in order. Changing a last name is one thing, but changing the one number that the government and society identifies you with is another – social security, bank account, pension plans… that should be interesting. Supposedly you can get an official document clarifying the change that can be presented to banks, etc., but I have the feeling that some future blog posts could arise from this…

Before beginning this process a few years ago my biggest question was whether you can have dual citizenship. The technical answer is no, at least in the case of the US/Spain. But… more or less you just need to be smart with where and when you use your passports and nationalities. No harm done. In my son’s case, for example, by birth  he has both nationalities and then supposedly will have to pick one once he turns 18. Supposedly…

In any case, I’m pretty proud to say that I’ve come a long way from where I was more than ten years ago, stepping off the plane from Boston to Madrid without a plan or a place to go. Now with my new identity and passport in hand my next big challenge will be working on perfecting my Andalusian accent.

Too Spanishized?

This year I forgot about the 4th of July, breezed past memorial and labor day, and ate fish on Thanksgiving. There was no typical red, white and blue attire on the 4th and no turkey and stuffing on Turkey Day. Have I become too spanishized? This year has made me take a step back and wonder: To what point is it a good thing to be so immersed and assimilated into a different culture that you forget the basics of your own?

In a few months down the road I’ll be pledging my allegiance to a new flag to officially become Spanish (not that I’ll stop pledging to the other – unless Trump wins…). While this may seem like 100% Spanishized, that pesky American-themed accent will also be there to remind me and others that, at the end of the day, I am still, and will always be, American. But, this isn’t a bad thing after all.

Ten years ago when I first moved to Spain I made a concentrated effort to not connect with the large American community in Madrid in order to try to assimilate myself into the Spanish culture. I managed to find a job at a small Spanish company which threw me right into the Spanish paella mix, and I met my future husband who’s Spanish and hung out with him and his Spanish friends. Basically, my plan worked.

Now, ten years later and with a 2 1/2 year old son, I’ve started to wonder if maybe it’s time to get back to my American roots and find some fellow right, white and blue-ers over here in Madrid. As much as I like being assimilated, I now sometimes miss being able to have that natural easy connection with a fellow American, especially with kids. I want my son to experience both cultures’ customs, and it’s not that easy to show him some American traditions alone (especially when now I’m seeming to forget them unless I put it on the calendar). I guess I’ll say mission accomplished for a decade of being Spanishized and fitting in (until I open my mouth to speak), but maybe now it’s time for more of a Spanglish style over here.

Justin Bieber and Spanish/US politics

Monday mornings are always a bit of a struggle as the freedom of the weekend comes to close, but as I drove into work this particular Monday morning I was forced to deal with two new unpleasant items: 1. A 15 minute commute-turned one hour due to pouring rain (yes, it does rain from time to time here in Madrid, but for some reason no one can figure out how to drive in it…) and 2. A Spanish rendition of Justin Bieber’s  “Love Yourself”  with Spanish lyrics about the current Spanish political situation. And yes, the rendition lasted for the entire song length. Way to kick off the work week!

Now, why was a Justin Bieber song an appropriate choice to talk about the different political parties in Spain these days and the fact that they can’t figure out who should govern the country? I think that question is about as clear to me as the appropriate response when asked almost every other day what I think about the political situation in the US and the possibility of Donald Trump as president. Continue reading

Holiday season in Spain – some Spanishized thoughts

When I was recently in Barcelona with my sister and walking around a Christmas market downtown, we stumbled across a stand with some interesting items… As I had lived in Barcelona for a couple years during my MBA I remembered seeing this, but it was tough to explain to my sister why there were stands full of little figurines pooping – literally. The caga tio. (wikipedia explanation). To make a long story short, this basically comes from a Catalan tale of a log that poops presents. Yes, you read that correctly. Over time, this has transformed into cute little figurines defecating. (I’ll leave out the aforementioned figurine image here for the more traditional log one).

caga tio

Hey, whatever brings holiday cheer, right?  Granted, we Americans have our strange traditions as well, like stuffing a turkey full of bread and eating him once a year in November or running around half-naked in speedos with Santa hats in the freezing cold during the Santa Speedo Run (Santa Speedo Run) (I’m “proud” to say by the way that the latter originated in my hometown of Boston). So, who am I to judge?

santa_run_4

(Note: No, I do not know these people in the photo).

As an American living here in Spain for quite some time now, what I would  say stands out the most to be about the holidays here is the amount of family events (and of course accompanying food) and the overall length of the festivities. Back in the US we pretty much have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day where the family gets together for food, drinks and presents. Here in Spain everything starts with a big family dinner on Christmas Eve, followed by a lunch on Christmas Day. Some presents may be given on Christmas (this is becoming more popular over the years as the idea of Santa Claus is growing and it makes sense to give kids their presents earlier so they have time to play before going back to school on January 7th), but it’s still not by an means the big gift day.

Next up is a family dinner on New Years Eve. This usually includes the typical grape-eating campanas at midnight where you watch the countdown and then eat 12 grapes to go along with 12 church bell rings. Usually a bit after the countdown is when people will go out to bars to celebrate NYE and stay out until whatever time the next morning. Definitely different than my memories of Boston where you almost always celebrate the countdown at a party and hope to have someone to kiss at midnight. (The good thing about the Spain version is if you don’t have a significant other for the end of the countdown you don’t have to worry as you can always count on your grandparent or pet for a two-cheek peck…!

nye.jpg

Next, on New Year’s Day you can expect another big family meal.

But it’s not over here. The bigger gift-exchanging day in Spain falls on January 6th, Three King’s Day. This is similar to the idea of Santa Claus coming down the chimney and leaving gifts, but instead there are three kings who come during the night and leave presents alongside shoes that each family member leaves out before going to bed. And, similar to Santa, the kids usually leave something to eat and drink for the kings. (I remember leaving milk and cookies for Santa, but I must admit it seems more exciting to be leaving a shot of whiskey for the kings. I’m sure they appreciate that much more than a cookie after a long night’s work…). The night before the 6th there’s also usually a big parade with floats organized in cities throughout Spain. The kings and helpers go around the city in floats and throw candy out to all the kids watching the procession and waiting. Fortunately, it seems that this year they are now no longer using a white person painted with black face paint to represent the black king, Baltasar. We’re making progress.

reyes.jpg

And, last, but not least, January 6th is celebrated with another big family get together and lunch. For kids, I must admit that it’s not at all a bad deal to have so many celebrations and get togethers, especially if you have a large family with a lot of cousins. And for adults, compared to what we’re used to in the States, it’s nice to see more of a mix with family throughout the extended holiday, even when you don’t think you possibly have room for another five-course meal.

One more thing: don’t be surprised to walk around the city center and see people dressed up with Halloween-like wigs all over the place. Usually these are sold in the Christmas markets and people wear them around town.

plaza mayor.jpg

Getting dressed up with wigs and costumes even makes it into the annual 10k San Silvestre races that are organized in big cities around the country. I ran my first one this year (one word: superanimada. ok, maybe that’s two). In any case I loved it and will definitely be repeating again next year, maybe not with a full costume, but definitely with at least a Santa hat in tow. (I think I’ll leave the Boston speedo tradition for Boston).

Tired (and/or full) yet? Hopefully not. Reyes is just around the corner…

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

The job hunt is over! How I found a new job in Madrid and why it’s time to to cut back on coffee.

Wait a minute…cut back on the coffee? Shouldn’t I be needing more coffee now that I’m back to the full-time grind?

If there are two important things I’ve learned about the job hunting process here in Spain it’s that (1) you better be prepared to drink a lot of coffee. And (2) you better have a LOT of patience. It’s all about networking and “meeting up for a coffee” to talk to all of the people you know (or contacts of people you know) who can maybe point you in the right direction or give you some advice. But don’t expect things to happen overnight or in a couple months (unless you happen to be lucky or have a really specialized job). If you’re trying to switch sectors and functions like me it can definitely be done and you can get the job you want, but…  Muchaaaa paciencia as we say here…

Networking. During one of my first sessions at the Outplacement company paid for by my ex-company to help those that had been let go with the mass layoffs I remember some talk about the importance of building your network of contacts and the importance of using and maintaining that network. “Blah” I thought! Why can’t I just look for a job posted online, apply, and that’s all there is to it? Wouldn’t this work in the US? Wrong. You’re not in Kansas anymore. 

Back to what I said before – it’s all about networking here in Spain. We were told in these sessions that 80% of jobs here in Spain are found through contacts. That means only 20% are found through other means like online job searches, for example. I remember thinking this seemed crazy when they first told us this fact and drew an iceberg image on the board. “Blah!” I said again. Well, guess what? 10 months later when I had two job offers on my plate, both of them were found through contacts and networking. It can be a daunting and sometimes painful process, but if you want to find a job you have to work on your networking and getting in touch with all your contacts – friends, past colleagues, school colleagues, etc. And make sure you showcase your USP – like being a native English speaker in my case.

I could go on, but if you’re really interested I’d rather chat personally. What I am curious about though is whether the job hunt at this stage of the game is similar in the US or in other markets to what I’ve experienced here. At this point after living here for almost 10 years my Spanishized world and POV is the only reality I know…

Spanish hand fan

It’s time to get the hand fan out. And other Spain weather thoughts.

A couple years after moving to Spain I had one of my “I am becoming spanishized” moments: it was sweltering hot out, and I pulled out my mini hand fan from my pocketbook to cool myself off. My first thought was, “why did I wait to so long to get one of these??” I remember the first time my mother saw me pull one out and gave me a look like I had completely lost it. I had to explain that, believe it or not, this little piece of genius wasn’t just a funny tourist item, but actually something that makes sense over here.

Spanish hand fan

With temperatures rising above 100 degrees since last week and for at least another week or so, it’s time for me to get the hand fan out.

Hot weather Spain

When I first moved to Spain I remember seeing people on the streets, in the metro, simultaneously while drinking a caña (ambidextrous?), pretty much everywhere, using their hand fans to ward off the hot weather. At first it seemed funny and something more like an older woman concept. However, it’s not just a thing to laugh at anymore when you realize it actually helps. We even handed out hand fans as one of several party favors (“detalles”) at our wedding.

Writing about the weather makes me remember a funny thing that happened to me a few years ago at the office… as you probably already know from reading this blog, I’m from Boston and am used to the cold weather (important: this does not mean that I like it). Now, when I say cold weather, I mean really cold, not just chilly. It always seemed amusing to me when the weather in Madrid would drop to the 50s (fahrenheit) and everyone would start saying how cold it was, at the same time they would adjust their neck scarves to keep out the winter chill.

One week here in early Spring the weather suddenly changed from a bit chilly to quite warm out (mid 70s/low 80s). Now I realize that it was a bit like an Indian summer-type weather, but for my Bostonian mind and body, it was already hot. That day I went into the office dressed a bit more for spring weather. I didn’t think much of it until I was greeted with a gasp and “you’re not wearing nylons!”. Apparently, the date rather than the temperature can be the predicting factor for clothing items… at least I got away with it and was not completely ostracized since “I’m from Boston and used to the cold” 🙂

Weather extremes are the norm in a lot of climates, so I can’t complain, especially since I prefer the hot weather to the cold. I’ll choose simultaneous hand fanning/caña drinking any day over blasts of Boston wind chill. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go dig out my scarf, just in case the temperatures decide to drop a bit soon…