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From Seattle to Andalucia: Christine in Spain

18 September, 2017 09:58  Erin Erin

Christine in spain I’m Christine, a proud Seattleite (Seattle, WA, U.S.A.) and now an adopted Española, living in Andalucia, Spain.

1. Why did you move abroad?
I studied abroad in Greece the summer going into my senior year of college and fell head-over-heels in love with travel. The history, the food, the culture, and how everything was so completely foreign to me evolved into absolute wanderlust. Naturally, after such a life-changing experience, long-term travel wasn’t something I could imagine putting off until retirement. The two-week vacation culture in the United States is suffocating, and I felt that if I could make travel a priority while I was still young, it would be the best decision I could make for myself.

Spain was an easy choice for me because I had always dreamed of one day living there.  My biggest driving force was to learn Spanish, as I come from a Mexican-American family and grew up unable to communicate with half of my family. So, I combined my two goals and set out to find a way to move to Spain. I initially found an au-pair job after several months of searching online and saving up, and moved across the world to pursue my dreams. Then, I fell victim to the country’s charms and am approaching my second year as an expat.

2. How do you make a living?
I teach English to adults and children. Teaching wasn’t ever something I imagined doing, but my luck of being a Native English speaker has opened up a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise in Spain. With the unemployment rate lingering around 40% for youth, I feel extremely lucky to be able to live here comfortably, all because I happen to speak English. My true passion however, is writing, and I keep myself feeling fulfilled with freelance gigs. I also bring in money through advertising on my blog, which I’m currently in the process of expanding.

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Let me say that Skype is an absolute blessing! I Skype with friends and family at least once a week; it keeps me feeling connected to their lives, despite the distance. Facebook and e-mails also keep me in touch with loved ones back home, and iPhone apps like WhatsApp and Viber almost make me feel like I’m not on the other side of the world, as sending and receiving texts and calls are made instantaneous!

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Andalucia?
Spending 20+ years in damp, gray Seattle weather, I really, really appreciate the year-round sunshine that comes with living in Andalucia. In Seattle we normally only get sunshine in the summer, and here the “low” temperatures are laughable—though without centralized heating and tiled floors it can get surprisingly cold.

Andalucia is also the heart of everything that jumps to mind when you think of Spain: the bullfighting, the flamenco, the beaches, the warm weather and the whitewashed villages dotting the hills…it’s quite the picturesque, romantic place to call home. Also, I’m a huge fan of jamon iberico (cured ham) and Spanish olive oil, which originate from this region.

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Andalucia?
I would say the regional accent here is terrible for beginner’s whom are learning Spanish. It’s very unique from the rest of Spain and actually a source of pride for many of the Andalusian people. They tend to eat a lot of the endings of words, and not speak clearly, which makes it a difficult place to learn the language. However, it may be the best place as well because if you can understand Spanish here, you can anywhere!

6. What do you miss most?
Above all, I miss my friends, my family, and my overweight cat. I miss lots of trivial things like the milk back home (it tastes very different here and isn’t refrigerated in the stores!) centralized heating in the winter time, cheap electricity bills, my car, and just the ease that comes with being in your own culture.

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
The first year I was here, I met other au pairs through the family I was living with, then a group of international friends through Couchsurfing and through a Spanish language school I was attending. All of the friends I had made (a mix of Spaniards and foreigners) left the city I’m living in, so I’ve essentially had to start from scratch and go through the process of meeting people all over again. The second time around, it’s proven to be difficult!

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
A lot of old wives tales seem to run rampant here. For example, there seems to be a big belief that if you walk around your house barefoot, you’ll catch a cold, or if you don’t dry your hair after your shower, you’ll catch a cold, or if you drink something cold, you’ll catch a cold, or if you leave a fan on at night, you’ll…I think you see where I’m going with this! However, I’m sure they think some of my “American” tendencies are pretty odd as well.

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That everyone drinks sangria and dances flamenco. These are largely things of the South. People also don’t realize just how different every region in Spain is, and that this regional pride doesn’t make Spain the most united country. People here are Andalusian, Galician, Catalonian, Basque, etc., before they are Spanish. It’s beautiful to have so many distinct cultures and languages in one country, but the regional pride can be a bit excessive at times.

10. What advice would you give other expats?
Assuming these are those considering being expats, I’d say: do your research. Be honest with yourself: can you really handle being in a culture where you don’t know the local language? And if you do know the local language, realize that cultural differences will still exist. Realize that while living in a new country is new and exciting, you’ll eventually settle into a daily life in your adopted country and everyday will not be like what it was when you were studying abroad or backpacking. You’ll be paying bills and going to work just like everyone else. If you keep your expectations realistic, you won’t set yourself up for disappointment.

11. When and why did you start your blog?
Like many, I initially started my blog as a means of staying in touch with my friends and family back home when I first arrived in Spain in late 2009. I wanted them to feel like they were involved in my journey over here, and could follow me through my experiences. From there, I started connecting with several other travel bloggers, and my readership grew which encouraged me to continue writing within this niche.  christine windmill

12.  How has the blog been beneficial?
My blog has been beneficial primarily from the connections it’s helped me make with other expats and travelers. It’s also opened up a lot of writing opportunities and has given me a focus for my writing and a reason to develop my photography skills.

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Christine's blog, Christine in Spain

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