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From Massachusetts to Madrid: Spanish Sabores

19 July, 2012 09:42  Erin Erin

Spanish sabores portrait My name is Lauren Aloise and I am originally from a small town in Central Massachusetts, US. I have been living in different parts of Spain for the past three years, and have finally settled in Madrid with my husband.

1. Why did you move abroad?
I’d dreamed of living abroad since I was a child, always reading books about travel and adventure. I thought I could kill the wanderlust with two semesters of study abroad in college, but it was still there at graduation. So I rejected the 9-5 I’d been planning for, got my TESOL certification and applied for the Spanish government’s language assistant program. I planned to live in Spain for a year or two and then return to the US or travel to another country. But things got complicated when I met my Spanish husband-- I’m now an official Spanish resident and long-term expat!

2. How do you make a living?
Hard work and persistence! I originally worked as an English teacher and language assistant, as I didn’t have the type of visa to pursue other job opportunities. I spent two years in Seville before moving to Madrid in hopes of freelance writing and starting my own business. While my residency papers got sorted out I continued to give some private ESL classes. Now that I can legally work here, I’ve started my own food tour company! I work more than full-time as a freelance writer and the owner of my business, Madrid Food Tour, which provides people with delicious and interesting culinary tours around Madrid. It is a lot of work but I adore what I do and am really motivated!

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I call home a few times a week using Skype. Sometimes we talk for hours and other times for five minutes-- Skype is amazing and I am so thankful it exists. My parents also keep up with me through my blog Spanish Sabores, where they can see pictures of some of the things we’ve been chatting about.

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Madrid?
I love that there are so many great expat groups here in Madrid. I love meeting new people through these groups-- everyone is always very friendly, open, and interesting. It wouldn’t be the same moving to another city in the US. As an expat it is like you are automatically part of a special club.  

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Madrid?
Anything that has to do with paperwork and Spanish bureaucracy is pretty bad. As expats we often have to figure out our residency, taxes, health coverage, etc. It can be tiring when you aren’t used to the system.

6. What do you miss most?
The three F’s-- family, friends and food! I miss being able to drive to my parent’s house for dinner or play with my niece whenever I want. I miss the friends I’ve had since elementary school that always make me laugh. And I miss the food... a lot!

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I was very active on my blog and on social media when I got here, which allowed me to meet a lot of wonderful people in the city. I also made sure to participate in some expat events and tried to meet Spanish people through my husband’s friends and through my adult ESL students. It wasn’t always easy, but I truly made an effort to meet people, which I think is really important for expats.

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I find it incredible that Spaniards don’t need sleep! I’m joking, but seriously, they know how to party and I often “leave early” around 5:30 in the morning! I just can’t last any longer! I also think some of the Spanish myths are a little strange-- supposedly air conditioners and walking around barefoot will make you deathly ill. At least my mother-in-law says so...

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Siesta! Okay, so a mid-afternoon nap is common in some parts of the country (especially in the summer) but in Madrid it isn’t common at all as everyone is at work. The few people who do partake must return to work and stay until 8:00 or 9:00 at night, so it is not a lazy tradition as people tend to think!

10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?

The cost of living in Madrid is comparable to where I went to college in Western Massachusetts, yet the average salary is quite a bit lower. I definitely live with less material goods here and save a lot of money by not having a car.

11. What advice would you give other expats?
Get involved in your community and try to meet like minded people. It is so important to have some sort of social network (even if it is partly virtual!) in a new city. Also, learn the language as quickly as possible and try your best to learn about local culture and beliefs. After three years I am still understanding that certain things I find strange are due to subtle differences in our cultures.
Spanish sabores
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my original blog as a way to update friends and family. When I moved to Madrid last September I decided to give it a makeover and began to use it as a portfolio for my writing and way to learn more about technology and photography. It has been a fantastic way to connect with people all over the world and I love it when people tell me it has helped them enjoy their trip to Spain.

Blog LinkLauren's blog, Spanish Sabores

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[Reply]

I'm 25 and moved from California to Madrid in January for work. (Ironic, isnt it?) Getting a solid social network here has been harder than I thought it would be. What expat networks and communities do you recommend?

Eric   20 Jul 2012, 19:02