Category Archives: Miscellaneous

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.

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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.

Taking advantage of Spain’s spring/summer nights

I’ve always said that one of the things I love about Spain is the climate. This is coming from someone with memories of watching her fingers turn white from the frigid cold in Boston while waiting for a bus to go home from work…

But more than the warm weather, what’s great is that you can really take advantage of the late afternoon/evening. Spain may have the problem of later working hours, but when it’s light out until 10pm for several months, you can still enjoy doing something outside at night. And let’s be realistic – at least from what I’ve seen from my 10 years working here, no one is expecting to see you sitting in your office at 9am…and 9:30 could still be a stretch.

So, while we’re still enjoying the spring weather before the real heat begins, I’m taking advantage of long bike rides with the little one in tow before dinnertime. Dinnertime being around 8:30/9pm and the little one’s bedtime around 10/10:30pm. Yes, I know my American or British friends may be horrified to read this as their kids will probably already have been asleep for 3 hours, but… this is what happens in my Spanishized world. Welcome Summer!

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

Iberia, how about a little logic over the rules?

Is Iberia a great airline? Not really. Does Iberia offer great prices? Not so much. Does Iberia have a good cross-channel experience? Eh. So, why do I keep coming back for more? Well, Iberia happens to be the only airline that offers direct flights to Boston from Madrid (during certain months of the year), and with a two year old in tow there really isn’t any other option. So this fact puts it on my “better than other options” list. Also, Iberia has an executive devoted to Customer Experience (Dimitris Bountolos), something which I think is great given my interest and sometimes annoying persistence with this topic here in Spain. (Note: after writing this post I’ve discovered that this VP of CxP no longer exists at Iberia. Go figure).

The other week I finally sat down to finalize my summer plans and buy tickets home. As usual I had to make things a little more complicated, just to challenge the system I guess – I wanted to use frequent flyer points for my flight and buy my son’s ticket separately.

Step 1: When I tried to do this on the web site it wasn’t possible since you can’t mix buying two tickets by different methods. And if you want to buy a separate ticket for a two year old you have no other choice but to pick up the phone and buy the ticket through an agent.

Step 2: So… I picked up the phone. When I spoke to an agent to try to buy both tickets, mine with points, he told me the only way to see my options and do this was through the web site. Then I would have to call after and buy my son’s ticket over the phone since there’s no way to buy a 2 year old ticket through the site.

Step 3: Back to the web. Buying my tickets using my avios through the site – easy enough.

Step 4: Right after that I called Iberia customer service to buy my son’s ticket to make sure there wouldn’t be any problem getting seats on the same flight. I didn’t have any problem doing this. And Iberia didn’t have any problem charging me 90% of an adult fare for his ticket (one of the things you don’t think about when you’re young and reckless and decide to move across the ocean…). I of course tried to be reasonable and say that I could have him sit on my lap for the 8 hour flight (no way would this be possible), but apparently age is the determining factor here. Between 2 and 12 years (no scaling) you get a fantastic discount of 10%. Good thing I already flew with him twice while he was younger…

I figured, well, at least everything is set and the tickets are now a sunk cost. After hanging up the phone and reviewing the tickets in my email (and happily seeing a 20€ fee for buying my son’s ticket over the phone even though there was no other option…) I remembered one very important thing – our seats.

Step 4: Back on the phone. And this is where it got amusing. The agent who attended my call informed me that it would be free for me to pick my seat now since I have a loyalty card, but I would have to pay over 40€ to assign my son’s seat next to me! She quietly suggested I could wait until checking-in at the airport. Talk about logic, Iberia…

Step 5: Time will tell. I’ve decided to take a “gamble” and see what happens at the check-in counter this summer. Call me crazy, but somehow I don’t think Iberia will put my 2 year old next to a random person, with his mother aisles away. And if this were to happen I can absolutely guarantee that Iberia itself would be willing to pay me to switch seats!

 

Note: I’m currently waiting for an Iberia Kids loyalty card. Maybe this will change the situation…

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Zara: A Spanish retailer totally on top of the latest Customer Experience innovation

Call me a critic, but it’s not every day that I cite an example of a Spanish company that’s exactly customer-oriented or that does something new for customers. Or talk about a Spanish company that could be doing something more advanced than customer-centric US retail stores…

Well, Zara is another story. I just read that they’re integrating ipads into dressing rooms. Listen up US stores!

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First, it’s a great store. Not just for the fashionable clothes and good prices, but also for it’s cross-channel customer service. Believe it or not, there are still a lot of stores that don’t let you return things you’ve bought online in the physical stores. Zara lets you buys things online and pick them up in the store or have them shipped to your house and then make any returns or changes in the store – without any problem.

Also, from an operations point of view, Zara is pretty impressive. I remember reading the Zara business case during the first year of my MBA and being completely impressed with the way they had operations running to be able to have new clothing designs every two weeks. (And surprisingly all of this with a man behind it. Although, then again, Victoria’s Secret was also founded by a man)…

In any case, having said all of this, I’m not surprised that Zara is once again doing something new and innovative to make its customers happy:

http://www.thelocal.es/20151130/zara-looks-to-new-technology-to-give-stores-a-facelift

Now you’ll be able to order clothes you want from an ipad right inside the dressing room – different styles, sizes, colors – just like on the web site. To me, this is beyond cross-channel customer experience; it’s more like merging channels in the physical setting. Pretty cool. (Hopefully they’ve thought of a good anti-theft system as well).

Now, an important question remains for me: will they be testing this out at one of the stores in Madrid so I can try it myself??

Paris.

There are no words to describe the terrible events in Paris this weekend. My most deepest sympathies go out to anyone and everyone affected by such a terrible event.

This recent event reminded me of an earlier blog I wrote about terrorism: The Terrorist Panorama in Europe. I have to say that even after Saturday’s events my opinion related to the situation in Europe with terrorist attacks and in the US with random gunmen and shootings still stands. In any case neither is a good situation and neither can be predicted.