13 new expectations I have since living in Spain
Living in Spain has changed many of my perspectives on life. I have explored the practice of embracing the unknown. I have taken advantage of the chance to learn about my own cultural vulnerability. I listen more. I treasure the opportunity to be present in this unique experience of living abroad.
One major change I have noticed is my shift in expectations since living in Spain. Some of these expectations are specific to Valencia and others are related to being married to a Spaniard, but nevertheless, all are related to my new life in Spain.
1. I expect to be an silent observer.
Because I am still learning the language, I am not always my outgoing, talkative self during get-togethers. I expect to listen more, absorb as much as I can, and participate in conversation when I am able. It’s funny, though. When I am suddenly approached in English, it is almost as though I have completely forgotten how to have a normal conversation! I panic for a moment, struggling for the words, trying to find a way to respond or answer a question coherently.
2. I expect a siesta.
Seriously. A siesta is on my schedule every. single. day. If I wake up early, I am comforted by the fact that I will have an hour or two nap after lunch that day. If I miss it, I am extremely disappointed. Angry even.
3. I expect a glass of wine to cost 2 euros or less.
3€ is expensive. 3,50€ or more is outrageous and reason enough to find a different bar.
4. I expect paella on Sunday.
Whether it is a family lunch or take-away, paella is always part of a Sunday. Sundays just aren’t complete without it.
5. Speaking of paella, I expect the never-ending lunch.
The word “lunch” is loosely used in Spain. Especially on a Sunday. With paella. Actually, in Spain, lunch is called “comida”, which is exactly what occurs. Food. It consists of what feels like 11 different courses, at least a few hours of conversation with family and friends around the table (also known as “sobremesa”), and of course, a siesta.
6. I expect there to never be toilet seat covers.
I used to look. Every time I went to the bathroom. But now, I know it is a lost cause. They don’t exist. I used to make my own with the toilet paper, but I’d suggest mastering the hover (mainly because you can’t always count on toilet paper either).
7. I expect to wear (and for everyone else to wear) house slippers.
I fought this one for awhile. Coming from California, I love being barefoot. However, the cold marble floors call for slippers in the winter and bring in a lot of dirt and dust with the open windows in the summer. House slippers are a great way to keep your house clean, and not to mention, your downstairs neighbors happy.
8. I expect to be greeted with two kisses.
Kisses on the cheek is the normal greeting here in Spain. When someone greets me with a handshake, I am seriously thrown off guard. It’s amazing how this cultural difference can have such a large impact on your connection with a stranger, or in Spain, your new friend. Expectations of public displays of affection in general are completely different from the states. Expect to see a lot more openness and acceptance of intimacy (between couples, family members, and friends).
9. I expect a drive through the city to be a loud one.
I used to be scared with the honking, the yelling, and the hand gestures. In the US I would always consider the consequences of road rage and the fear of being shot. Literally. I have come to expect this craziness during a drive in Valencia and no longer fear the exchange. Instead, I usually laugh. These spaniards… all bark and no bite.
10. I expect to see children out “way past their bedtime”.
I have yet to figure out when children actually sleep in Spain. I have come to expect to see them playing in the plazas, hanging around their parents at dinner, playing soccer in the alleys, and swinging on the swings (all past 11 pm. Or 12.).
11. I expect to hear fireworks. Any day. Every day.
There seems to be some sort of holiday almost every week in Spain. Or at least an excuse for a celebration. But let’s be honest, spaniards love their fireworks whether or not they have an excuse to explode something. Mascletà… petardos… castillos…. it’s all starting to become background noise.
12. I expect to be surrounded by friendly people.
Valencia has some of the most friendly people I have come across in the world. I love that everyone greets each other as they pass by one another in the building or enter a shop. I feel that more often than not, I am greeted with a smile and a friendly, “buenas!”. Even without an advanced knowledge of Spanish, everyone has been incredibly eager to assist in my learning process or share whatever level of English they have in order to make my experience a pleasant one.
13. I expect to feel alive.
I’m not sure what it is, but living in Spain seems to come along with endless opportunities to experience life. A yoga class in the river bed. A picnic in the park. A coffee in Russafa. A free visit to the museum. There are so many events, activities, concerts, and social gatherings around the city. It is a common part of everyday life to take time out of your day to meet a friend for almuerzo or merienda.
We are constantly living in the buzz of the city, but with the feeling of a small town. It’s amazing how many wonderful friends I have made in the three and a half months living here. I absolutely love the community we have created and continue to become involved in, week by week.
I feel myself adapting more and more to life in Spain everyday. It was always a dream of mine to live abroad, especially in Europe, and I feel so blessed and grateful to have this opportunity. Although this life was one that I dreamed of, it was never one that I expected. I can honestly say, I have never been happier.