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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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An insider’s guide for long distance BFFs

long distance BFFs

When I was growing up my step-dad always told me that when I was all old and grey and looking back on my life, I’d be able to count my true friends on one hand. When I was younger I took this a quantity thing. Now that I’m older—and see he’s right—I realize that he was talking about quality. Many friendships have a natural ebb and flow. However, when the stars align and give you that person who practically shares your DNA, you hold on for dear life.

During my last visit to San Diego, I was talking with one of my two besties about how similar lifelong friendships are to a marriage. Like marriage, friendships require forgiveness and compassion. Like marriage, over time you learn both the beautiful and not-so-beautiful parts of someone’s heart. And like with any close relationship, distance makes things hard.

But just because you’re living on the other side of the globe as your BFF doesn’t mean you’ll lose that closeness. It takes more work, sure, but there’s also a special pride that comes from persevering against the difficulties of distance. Keep reading for a few ways to work around the struggles unique to expats and their long distance BFFs.

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Having confidence in your changing expat identity

expat identity

What do you do? has become the question I dread most when meeting people abroad. Because work and roles are, for the most part, how we first identify ourselves to others.

Unfortunately, we “trailing spouses” are all too familiar with the way that every aspect of our identities are put into a cup and shaken like Yahtzee dice with each move abroad. Everything settles down again but most likely things don’t go back together the same way. And whether by choice or by circumstance, work is often times a piece that no longer has a place.

I haven’t “worked” since I followed my husband to Colombia in 2014. While I may not have had the traditional 9 to 5, I did learn a second language, start blogging and freelance writing, and work with several NGOs on incredible projects. Finding a job isn’t the issue—I like things this way. But still, I can’t seem to let go of the money part.

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Expat advice: Keep those rose-colored glasses handy

happy expats

If you read blogs from other expats or belong to any of their million forums and Facebook groups, then you will inevitably find a rant followed by a string of comments praising the author for “pulling back the curtain” and giving the rest of us a taste of what the culture/service/whatever is really like in their host country.

This week I read a post on another expat blog about the dismal state of customer service in Colombia. It started off that way at least, then quickly deteriorated into a diatribe concluding that the average Colombian-owned business will leave a person lied to and cheated. The comments that followed were as expected, meaning there was lots of applause for the author for chucking those rose-colored glasses out the window.

Venting seems harmless and maybe even a positive thing. It feels so good to get your frustrations out and be validated by your peers. But not so fast. I’m here today to tell you why this is such a slippery slope for expats.

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Six months later: Checking in from Madrid

Last year while on a trek through the Colombian jungle, Cody and I met another expat couple. As we sweltered, I told my new Romanian gal pal that we were soon leaving Bogotá for our second move abroad. The second time is the worst, she told me, because you know what’s coming.

I completely understand what she was telling me. Remembering my struggles in Bogotá left me with serious shivers of dread. And in the U.S. over the holidays, another part of me worried because I wasn’t chomping at the bit to return to Madrid (you can read about my feelings here and here).

But here I am, six months into my sophomore stint of expat life and feeling great. Was it supposed to be this easy? I’m kinda waiting for the other shoe to drop.

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Four questions to ask before moving your pets abroad

moving abroad pets
Yep. I’m pretty sure this is how we all feel after fifteen hours of traveling.

For lots of people, pets are considered part of the family. It’s just assumed that they’re coming with you on your international adventure.

Not so fast.

No one wants to leave a four-legged family member behind, but moving to a new country is a bit different than loading boxes into the back of a U-Haul. From your pet’s breed to how he handles stress, there are lots of factors to consider.

Keep reading for a list of questions to mull over when you’re deciding whether or not to move abroad with your pets.

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