Expat Interview: From America to Spain

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Spain is a very popular holiday destination for many people. But could you imagine living there? Kate from Kate’s Travel Tips shares her personal story, experiences and Spanish lifestyle as well as some insights with us.

Hi Kate, tell us about yourself…

I’m originally from a small town in the Forgotten Coast of Florida. My plan was to stay for a year in Spain and return home. After a few months in Andalusia however,  I fell in love with Spain (and a Spaniard) and I’ve been here ever since. Moving abroad helped me discover my love of travel—before moving in 2011 I had visited 7 countries and now I’m up to 32!

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Kate in a Flamenco dress

What were the main reason for moving to Spain?

I participated in a teaching exchange program organized by the Ministry of Education of Spain. Once accepted, American applicants can move to Spain for nine months and work as a teaching assistant in a public school. I’m not much of a “teacher” but the experience was fun and easy—plus you have tons of free time to travel!

Was it easy to find a job right away or are you a digital nomad?

I had the teaching program lined up before I arrived. If someone were to show up with nothing organized I think it would be easy to find a job teaching English—either doing private classes or working (illegally) at an academy.

The main issue for Americans is getting a work visa once you’ve moved here; if you want to stay long-term you should get a work visa before moving here or you might get kicked out of the country.

Kates wedding in Spain

How about the cost of living?

The cost of living in Sanlúcar de Barrameda is super cheap. For example, I had a four bedroom, two bath apartment four blocks from the beach and paid €450 a month for the whole place.

Utilities and groceries are also super cheap. In the larger cities it can be more expensive—my apartment in Seville was €700 a month (two bed, two bath) in the city center.  I imagine cities like Madrid, Malaga, Barcelona, etc. are very expensive in comparison.

Is it easy to connect with locals or are there any language barriers?

In my case it was easy to connect with locals but language is definitely a barrier. I live in a medium sized town in the province of Cádiz and nobody speaks English here. If you want to go to the supermarket, doctor’s office, open a bank account, etc. you need to speak Spanish.

Despite the language barrier however, people are very kind and most of them appreciate an attempt to speak their language. In smaller towns I think it’s easier to make local friends—in large cities people are used to tourists so they’re not really interested in getting to know you unless they want to practice English.

Kate and her friends in Seville

What is the best thing about living in Spain and your favourite thing to do? 

Living in Spain has taught me to slow down and live in the moment. When I drink coffee I don’t get it to-go, I want to sit down and enjoy it. The same goes for meals and spending time with friends and family.

One of my favorite activities is going out on a sunny Saturday afternoon with my friends, enjoying a 3-hour lunch at a restaurant by the sea, and then going bar hopping until sunset. Beer is €1 and tapas are cheap so it’s definitely affordable. 😉

Can you share any funny/typical tradition from Spain?

I think most of us have heard of the Spanish siesta right? Well it’s a real thing in many towns in the south. Sanlúcar literally shuts down between 2pm and 5pm every single day. No restaurants are open, no shops, no pharmacies…your only option is to go home and relax.

Let’s not forget Spaniards have the second-longest life expectancy in the world so maybe there’s something to the siesta!

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Sunset in Spain 

What was the biggest challenge for you once you moved to Spain?

Getting accustomed to the slower lifestyle was a challenge at first; I used to get so annoyed when everything was closed during siesta and on Sundays. Fast forward seven years and I actually prefer it. Who wants to run errands during the hottest part of the day (it gets up to 40°C / 104 °F in summer)? Not me!

What is/are a fun fact(s) about Spain most people don’t know about?

Spaniards don’t really drink Sangria…or at least they don’t where I live. Locals usually drink tinto de verano (summer wine) which is red wine mixed with lemon soda or sprite.

What would be your top advice for people who are thinking to move to Spain?

Move to the south! Andalusia has cheap wine, plenty of local events and festivities, delicious tapas, lots of sun…what more could you want? I’m a bit partial to the south, but it’s sunnier here so I think the people are friendlier. That’s just me! 😉

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Plaza de España in Sevilla

What is the biggest difference between your home country/city USA and Spain?

I always notice the major difference in meal schedules when family and friends visit me in Spain. In the U.S. I used to eat breakfast around 8am, lunch at 11am, and dinner at 7pm. In Spain I eat breakfast around 10am, lunch at 3pm, and dinner can start at 9pm or as late as 11pm.

It’s a serious adjustment for Americans and it usually takes a few days for my family and friends to get accustomed to our daily routine in Spain.

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