Category Archives: Weather 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.

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…