24 May, 2016

Busting expat myths...

When I talk to people about my life abroad, some drool with envy as they imagine days spent lounging on the beach or at outdoor cafes, sipping sangria and snacking on seafood until my heart and stomach are content. Although this is not entirely too far from the truth, it is not as common of an occurrence as one might surmise. In fact, as I have touted endlessly on this blog, life as an expatriate comes with countless headaches, never-ending questions, and an almost constant state of wondering, ¨What am I doing?!¨

I am here to contest these myths of a romantic expat experience with the harsh realities of true life. To avoid dissuading dreamers from moving abroad, I have included a silver lining for each disappointing truth.


07 May, 2016

Mother's Day...

Sunday is Mother's Day in the United States. It's a day to celebrate the woman who brought you into this world, raised you, and essentially made you the person you are today. At least that's the way it happened for me...

My mother died when I was 19 years old, but in the 19 years I had with her, she instilled in me the importance of altruism, curiosity, and challenge. She would take my two sisters and me on all sorts of adventures during our summer breaks, from visiting an aunt and exploring caves in the foothills of the Appalachians, to traveling back in time on the streets of Colonial Williamsburg, to jaunting across the entire country in a rented RV. We were an active family, an attribute that still lives within me today.

My mom never traveled abroad. She never took a long-haul flight to Asia or Europe. At my age, she was starting her family, beginning with my older sister, Katy. Thus far my mom and I have lived very different adult lives. I often wonder what she would say if she was able to opine about some of my reckless decisions to move abroad with no plan in place and to spend heaps of savings dollars to make my dreams come true.

My mom may no longer be a phone call away, but her eagerness to be curious and explore and try new things is ever present in the way I live my life. And I don't plan to quit anytime soon.


Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Al 

10 April, 2016

Life in Barcelona: The cons...

After waxing poetic about the joys of living in this gorgeous Mediterranean city, I regret to continue with a list of not-as-pleasant aspects of expat life in Barcelona. Not all expats have the same experiences, but from a quick glance through Facebook groups and chatter among the expat community, it's not difficult to see that most expats face the following challenges when moving to the capital of Catalonia.

Expat life in Barcelona is not always bright.

05 April, 2016

Life in Barcelona: The pros...

In this two-part series, I will convey with honesty the positive aspects of living abroad (specifically in Spain) as well as the not-so-fun parts of the experience. First up (and more fun): the pros.

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I have lived in Barcelona for just over two years, and I can see myself living here for at least two more, depending on many factors. So, what makes this city so livable?

25 March, 2016

Money talks...

Where I am from--or at least where I began my professional career--introductory conversations typically went as follows:

Where are you from?
No, where are you from from?
What do you do?

And so on.

In Spain, conversations flow similarly except when the line of questioning heads here:

How much do you make?

Contrary to both how I was raised and the D.C. culture in which I worked for 6 years, money is not an off-limits topic in Spain. In fact I have been told by some of my European friends that the case is the same throughout the continent. People speak freely about their salaries, how much their home costs, how much they spent on their recent holiday, etc. 

Recently when I declined to share my monthly income with a friend, I was asked "That's an American thing, right? You don't talk about money."

Hungarian forints.

In Europe, money is not a barometer for status or influence. Rather, it is simply a budgetary gauge and gentle conversation piece. People--particularly in Spain--don't feel the need to drive the newest car or live in the biggest house. It's no secret that the economy is struggling, but Spaniards adapt and live (very happily) within their means.

Money is not given the same consideration or importance as it is in the States or in other financially sound nations. Therefore it's a not big deal to know how much your friends (or hairdressers or servers or taxi drivers) make per month as well as how much they pay for everything they own.

This is yet another aspect of Spanish life that I find refreshing. In Spain, money is a casual part of the conversation and no one will judge you based on your answers.

Only two very close friends know my salary, and that is only after they convinced me how insignificant it is. Although I am in such a financially fluid culture, I still answer most money questions with, "I'd rather not say."

Al