The grocery guide – All about food shopping in Madrid

grocery shopping madrid

For me, a stocked kitchen is one of the easiest ways to make my house feel like a home. And even though Madrid’s grocery stores aren’t likely to give you culture shock, there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to your weekly grocery trip.

Right off the bat, know that it’s likely you’ll do it more often. The city center and apartments aren’t set up for monthly monster shopping trips. Most people walk to their local market so immediately, you’re limited to what you can carry. Also, apartments just don’t have the storage or giant refrigerators needed to buy lots at once. I have a nice big kitchen by European standards but my refrigerator looks like it belongs in a college dorm room.

So the first piece of advice: get yourself a little rolling cart to make your frequent trips easier. Then, keep reading for everything else you need to know about grocery shopping in Madrid.

Continue reading “The grocery guide – All about food shopping in Madrid”

Five big dumb myths about travel

travel myths

One of my 2018 goals is to be more active in the blogging world, part of which is spending more time reading and commenting on other blogs. I love seeing people’s adventures as well as their struggles. It makes me feel normal and part of a community. But also, it’s been an opportunity to roll my eyes about a million times a day because the internet is a petri dish of opinions.

After scrolling through post after post, I’m wondering how all of this comes across to those who aren’t dying to travel. From a different perspective, those wanderlust-y memes can send passive-aggressive messages that if you don’t drop everything to travel, you must not care about having an open mind or understanding the world. Some blogs are more blatant with their “this is the only way to live” snobbery or worse, perpetuate ideas about travel that are exclusive and elitist.

Newsflash: babies and “roots” don’t mean you can’t travel, as shown by the millions of blogs written by traveling families.

I’ve always been vocal about how much I love living abroad and now that I think about it, if I swap life abroad for travel, I’m certain I’ve stepped on toes in the past. If that’s the case I need to say I’m sorry, full stop. Because whether it’s wandering the globe for a year or camping close to home, there’s room for everyone to do as they please.

I love traveling but today, after being crazy frustrated with every blog saying how great travel is and the million reasons why we all have to do it, I want to talk about the ridiculousness of some of these travel myths.

Continue reading “Five big dumb myths about travel”

Eight ways Madrid will change you for life

Just a run-of-the-mill gorgeous afternoon in Retiro Park

Last week I was mentioning how it’s inevitable that your new culture will influence your lifestyle and here in Spain, mealtimes are first on the list. But it doesn’t end there. Though it’s hard to wrap your mind around a 9:00 dinner time, the other ways Madrid (and Spain) will shape you are pleasant surprises.

I pride myself on being happy wherever I settle but I’m getting the feeling that Madrid is spoiling me. Keep reading for a few ways I think Madrid has ruined me for life.

Continue reading “Eight ways Madrid will change you for life”

How to eat like a local – The when and what of Spanish mealtimes

spanish mealtimes

One of the neatest parts of life abroad is seeing all the different ways people do life. Also cool is how while you’re bouncing from one place to the next, you’ll inevitably pick up a few of these habits. I quickly adopted a few in Bogotá and I see it happening again here in Madrid.

Except, Madrid will take over your entire life. I tried to resist and still get up at 5:30 am to workout and take care of my errands bright and early. No chance. Shops remain shuttered until late morning because—another newsflash—no one goes to bed before midnight. Madrid lives according to its own schedule and in order to save yourself some headaches, it’s best to follow the locals.

The quickest way to get the hang of life in Madrid is to zero in on their meal schedule. Once you adapt to this the rest of your life will seamlessly follow. Because while it’s true that the people are laid back, there is no getting around the specific routine of Spanish mealtimes.

Sure, if you really want dinner at 7:00 pm you can eat rubbery chicken wings at the Hard Rock Cafe with the fanny-pack wearing tourists. But if not (and let’s hope not), keep reading for what and when to eat when you’re in Madrid.

Continue reading “How to eat like a local – The when and what of Spanish mealtimes”

Coming to grips with my “Americanness”

embarrassed to be an american

Somewhere in my college days, I took a couple semesters of French. I remember my professor very well, probably because he was a salt-and-pepper-haired dapper Frenchman who could really pull off a scarf. But also, I remember him because he never minced words when he talked about the differences between the French and Americans.

One day at the beginning of the semester, he told us all to stop smiling so much. I may have recoiled, it shocked me so much. I quickly uncurled my lips. I’m sure they didn’t stay there long. I can’t help it. Smiling is engrained in American DNA, just like the pathological enthusiasm that practically seeps from our pores.

He went on to tell us that in France if you see someone smiling at strangers on the street you assume they’re senile, drunk or without much sense. I had no idea that what I thought was a symbol of being earnest and open was telling legions of French people I was an idiot.
Continue reading “Coming to grips with my “Americanness””

What no one tells you about expat marriage

expat marriage

When I’m drumming up topics to write about for this blog, sometimes I’ll skim through the travel section of news sites and, if they have them, articles about expat life. Yesterday, the headline “Hong Kong is a marriage graveyard” stopped me in my scroll.

What the what?! At first glance, it doesn’t seem outrageously salacious. However, if you’ve trolled through enough articles about expat life then you’re aware that for the most part, titles skew towards benign.

Obviously, I immediately fell into an expat-marriage-crisis internet wormhole and came across several other sensationally titled articles. Articles like “Can the move to the UAE wreck your marriage?” and “True story: The problems of married expat life in Singapore.”

If I would have stumbled across these when I was getting ready to move to Colombia, I have no idea how I would have reacted. At that time, I was struggling to find even a discussion of how an international assignment would impact my relationship. It took me a bit and I did find an excellent book, but still, expat marriages aren’t really talked about.

Continue reading “What no one tells you about expat marriage”

Expats and New Year’s resolutions

Expats New Years resolution

The end of the year begs for a bit of reflection and resolution making. Moving abroad has that same vibe and urges many of us to make big plans for life in a new place. I suppose turning over a new leaf is universally appealing because let’s be real, telling ourselves we’ll be good tomorrow justifies some indulgence today.

I have a love/hate relationship with resolutions and grand plans. On the one hand, I love structure and lists and goals. On the other, I kind of suck at the discipline required to follow through with them. It won’t surprise you then when I say that contrary to what I expected when I first said adios to the U.S. in 2014, I’m still over here struggling with the same things.

I’ve said before that living abroad will not make you a happier person. Today I am realizing that neither will it make you a different (which most of us assume means better) person. I hate to break it to anyone who’s out there idealizing life abroad but it turns out that the old cliché of “wherever you go, there you are” is oozing and overflowing with truth.

Continue reading “Expats and New Year’s resolutions”

More than just Christmas – Everything you need to know about the holidays in Madrid

Photo borrowed from Citylife Madrid

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve watched double-decker buses line up along Plaza de Colón. The city has been fully decked in lights since the first of the month and come to find out, these navibuses (as in Navidad or Christmas buses) take folks around Madrid to see the city’s best and brightest.

One great thing about traveling around the holidays is discovering new traditions. For instance, I loved lighting candles on Día de las Velitas and the special nighttime ciclovía each December in Bogotá. New traditions are even more important for those living abroad because incorporating something new into your holiday season can help take the sting out of being away from loved ones.

If you’re traveling to or living in Madrid count yourself lucky—here, the holiday season is more than just Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Keep reading for a rundown of special days in Spain’s capital city.

Continue reading “More than just Christmas – Everything you need to know about the holidays in Madrid”

FYIs for your Spanish pharmacy visit

spanish pharmacy

Stand on any street corner in Madrid and I guarantee you’ll see at least two flashing green crosses. To all my fellow Americans: these aren’t marijuana dispensaries. They’re pharmacies. In Madrid, you’re hard-pressed to find a street corner without one. They’re kinda like a Spanish equivalent of Starbucks.

When I first arrived in Spain it took me awhile to get up to speed with the way the Spanish do over-the-counter drugs. I spent several confused afternoons circling the grocery store looking for Tylenol and cold medicine. I soon found out that in Spain, anything stronger than toothpaste is available only in a pharmacy.

Since we’re in the middle of cold and flu season, here are a few things Americans should know before visiting their local Spanish pharmacy.

Continue reading “FYIs for your Spanish pharmacy visit”

Expat advice: When you’re not home for the holidays

expat holidays away from home

I’m not gonna lie. In some respects, living abroad during the holidays is great. Here in Madrid, lights and trees and decorations are already up all over the city. Thanks to Amazon Prime, my U.S. gift shopping stress doesn’t even register. I may not get to spend all the special days with my besties or family, but if needed, I can distract myself with a 35€ flight to Toulouse or quick train to Sevilla.

But then, I start thinking about this Thursday. It’s Thanksgiving in the U.S. but just a regular day here in Spain. Regular to the point that I’ll be getting a cavity filled at 10:50 am. Regular to the point that I’ll be smooshed in the metro with the other regular-day commuters, thinking of all the roasting turkeys and toasts happening in the U.S.

When you live abroad, there’s a good chance you’ll celebrate solo a time or two. It’s not always possible or practical to get home. But celebrating holidays away from family can wear on even the steadiest heart. There’s a unique loneliness that slinks in no matter how accustomed you are to being away from home. So, what’s an expat to do?

Since we’re looking the holiday season in the face, I say it’s time to get proactive. I’m a girl that loves a plan. I swear, seven out of ten things that plague my inner being can be solved with a decent list. If you know you won’t be with family this year and already feel the tickle of bleak desolation on the fringes of your heart, it’s time to get going! Don’t wait until you’re in the depths of despair with a bottle of tequila on Christmas Eve.

Keep reading for five ways I avoid the lonely that can creep in around the holiday season.
Continue reading “Expat advice: When you’re not home for the holidays”