What do expats in Spain miss most about home? This question has been on my mind lately as it seems to pop up more and more amongst friends who have moved out of the States and now live abroad. Wanderlust aside, the day to day living sometimes means lamenting what one had.
Nostalgia creeps in time and again. I decided to do an informal survey to see what expats in Spain, both new and old, found missing in their new homes. It was reassuring to find that a couple of things were universal. One hundred percent across the board. Read on to find out the seven most often missed things by Expats, plus a bonus reason or two.
What expats in Spain miss most about home:
Good customer service:
This was hands down the number one thing missed by expats in Spain, me included. Long time readers of the blog know that it’s a continuous struggle with Federico almost on a daily basis (it’s getting better slowly). Also notice l did not say “great”. We would settle for good!. Going to a store or bank requires a mental preparation for battle. Prepare to be ignored.
Your blood pressure rises as you watch the “salesperson” finish their personal phone call or have a conversation with a visiting friend. No acknowledgement whatsoever, and when they finally approach, it’s as if nothing happened, no apologies. Behaviour like this that would have had you screaming for the manager in the States and would have probably ended with someone getting fired.
I do think we overdo it in the States though. A little breathing room is nice, but you rarely get that. You walk into a store and immediately, the salespeople swoop in, watching you and hoping to make their commission. This can also leave you frustrated as you rarely get the chance to shop in peace and have to be curt or worse, leave the store without purchasing because you don’t want to deal with it. If you do happen to find something to purchase, well you can see what happens :-) . Can you blame us for shopping online more? There has to be a happy medium somewhere.
Spices and Salad Dressing:
This was somewhat of a surprise to me. There is only one thing l miss as far as spices are concerned. Lawry’s seasoned salt. I used to add it to everything from potatoes to pork ribs. It is not available here though and l miss that a lot. So.. I am putting it out there in the universe, if you come visit, bring Lawry’s. Salad dressing is just crap here. period. We have friends who just returned from a U.S. visit. Guess what was in their bags? loads and loads of hot pepper sauce. What is considered hot sauce here is at best mild there.
Hearing English being spoken:
This was almost universally missed. Having lived in three cities in Spain now, I can attest to the fact that unless you’re in the very center of the city, the chances of hearing English spoken are very slim.
If you don’t speak the local language, this can be very hard. I think that is one of the reasons expats usually move to expat enclaves. I find part of the fun is trying to make myself understood. There is a lot of miming in my life when Federico is not around to help me translate. I often wonder though if the same people who miss that would be the same people complaining about other people not speaking English back in the States. I hope not!.
24 hour shopping:
I had no idea so many people shopped at all hours. I admit it was comforting knowing that there are 24 hour pharmacies, grocery stores etc. in the States. I personally never utilized them, even though my shift at the pharmacy ended at midnight and sometimes 2am depending on the rotation. (it was a 24hr store).I didn’t even know that going to Walmart during the night was a thing. In Spain, store hours are vastly different. Most stores open from 10am and close for siesta at 2pm. They open back up at 5pm and stay open up until about 9pm.
The big department stores and malls mostly stay open all the way through. Sundays, everything is closed (except for summer when they open from 12pm – 6pm). I rather like not having everything at your fingertips all the time. It makes you a better planner. For instance, we know we need to shop on Saturdays so we have something for Sunday. Part of the reason people shop mindlessly and wastefully l think is the convenience factor.
Related Reading: Valencia Life Update
Family and Friends:
Silly me! I had assumed that this would be the number one thing that would get mentioned. It’s almost an afterthought for some people. I think people move to faraway places to get away from toxic environments. I still always quote something l read a long time back – “you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your family” :-). Nowadays, the political landscape has further torn families apart, sometimes irreparably. I’ve heard quotes like “she is dead to me”, rash but understandable sometimes.
It’s pretty sad that the words and actions of one man has managed to upset the apple cart so much. This despicable man has emboldened the scum of the earth to raise their ugly heads and take center stage. Sad but true. I wonder how long before we can begin to heal, assuming we ever get to that point because it seems we are sliding down at a fast clip.
American Holidays are sorely missed by expats in Valencia:
This was expected. I myself miss celebrating Thanksgiving Day with my friends a lot. Most of us were immigrants in the U.S and we always celebrated together, turkey, stuffing, the whole nine yards. Here the holidays are many and very Catholic centric. I swear every Saint has a holiday and it’s not unusual for us to go shopping for groceries and discovering that the place is closed for yet another holiday :-). I have a small confession to make – I am getting tired of seeing somber processions. They need a happy Saint day.
Fast food and Delis:
I’ve had quite a few people lament the lack of delis especially. Bagels seem to be missed a whole lot. In the center of most cities, Valencia for instance, you can find familiar fast food chains like Burger King, McDonald’s, and KFC. Someone recently mentioned the impending arrival of Carl’s Jr. Sandwiches here are quite dry. A tuna and egg sandwich for instance will only contain just those two things, no mayonnaise or mustard. Meh!
Overall thoughts on what immigrants in Valencia miss most about home:
These are of course just a few of the things most expats in Spain miss most about their former homes. What l find is that most people take all these things in stride. You can’t except things to be the same as at home. What’s the fun in that if it is? Life as an immigrant is an adventure and most embrace it all fully. That being said, we have had two couples that we met in the past move back home because they were unable to handle the differences, but you have to give them props for trying. If you’re ready to start your expat journey, make sure to purchase our eBook for guidance.
The last thing that was often mentioned was missing cleaner streets. I am thinking l should have mentioned that as one of the 17 reasons not to come to Valencia!. A lot of people walk their dogs and do not clean up the mess, leaving unsightly messes on the sidewalks. In the States, you rarely see this as people either pick it up or are confronted by strangers. A young friend also hates the fact that they dole out homework here for the weekend, something his teachers didn’t do back in the States (he wanted to make sure l mentioned it :-) ).
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Are you an Expat? If so, do you have anything to add to the list of what expats miss most about home? Are you adventurous enough to pack up and move to another state of country?