The day pretty much came and went without any fanfare. I realized it sometime late in the night although it had crossed my mind several times throughout the month of December 2010.
On December 30, 2005, 40-year old “MadridMan” arrived on that Delta flight with a one-way ticket to Madrid, Spain and no intentions of returning to the USA to live. At that time, and today, I’m “Still Happy to be Living in Spain“.
‘What an age to be pulling-up stakes and leaving your country, a cushy government job, family and friends, and everything you know,‘ you might say. I don’t know, maybe you’re right, but I’ve never regretted my decision once. In many ways, it still pains me to leave Spain for my annual visits to the USA because I love my new adopted country and my lifestyle there so very very much.
Business certainly isn’t what it was in 2005 to 2008 but, well, I did come just before the worldwide economic crisis hit. I can’t complain much because all my bills get paid and I still save money, never really having to consider the prices of things before I buy them. My consideration goes more towards WHERE I’m going to store new purchases, books, and clothes in my small-ish flat. Like anyone, if I had more space, I’d probably buy more things. But this is good for me to learn how to live happily with just-enough. There’s something very “Zen” in living sparsely.
Challenges remain in the language, however. I feel pretty good talking with people in the street, neighbors, and merchants but phone conversations, particularly IMPORTANT things, make me anxious still, as if I was about to go on-stage or stepping onto the field for the big game. Doing things like changing phone/internet services, talking with bankers, filing official documents, and health-care issues are sensitive “events”. Afterwards, when (and if) things go well, I feel so relieved, as if I’ve just achieved something great.
Some Madrileños tell me I’m more “Madrileño” than themselves as I seem to know more about their city and what’s going on therein than they do. Other Spaniards have told me flatly that I’ll never truly be Spanish until I understand the nuances of the language and customs. That’s very true. I often get caught gawking when they “pull my hair” (as they say it in Spanish, instead of “pull your leg” in English) about one thing or another.
The truth is, I do sleep well at night and always wake up exhilarated. There’s no telling what new experience is in store for me on any given day – NEW for me, that is. That keeps my gears greased and life interesting. But don’t think I’ve totally cut myself away from my family and friends in the USA! Thank goodness for email and Skype Video Calls, the latter of which has served me very very well.
Since moving here I’ve made a few new Spanish friends and a few new English friends – but not a single new American friend (with whom I spend time, that is). I’ve met Madrid-resident Americans for drinks one-on-one maybe only twice since since my emigration. Anyone who knows me well knows that I tend to shy-away from holding on too tightly to my American-ness. I fell this does me a dis-service in assimilating into the country. So often I read blogs of American college students living and studying in Madrid for 4 year and it seems they only spend time with other Americans, never creating any bond with Spaniards. They tend to only listen to American music and watch American movies. I guess they know they’ll be going back home eventually so why bother. Me, on the other hand, I’m here to stay and it’s important to know what’s going on around me.
Just yesterday a 50-year old Spaniard was telling me about their family hauling water from the neighborhood fountain and even washing clothes in the river – AND THIS WAS IN MADRID! I love hearing those stories. It’s incredible to me that until relatively recently this country was living in the dark ages. It contrasts starkly to American lifestyles from the same period. I too remember hearing my grandparents telling me about washing clothes in the river but that was like in the 1920s!
There’s a lot still to be learned about Madrid, Spain, and the way of life here but I’m avidly studying it through my peers, neighbors, movies, and the old folks whom love nothing more than tell you “how it used to be” over coffee and churros for merienda at the local bar.
I’m happy to be living in Madrid. VERY HAPPY.
Thank all of you whom are interested enough to follow my life in Madrid, Spain and for using the information I’ve provided. If it weren’t for you, there would be no “MadridMan“. (well, I’d continue doing it for the sheer passion I have for Madrid, but makes it more gratifying knowing someone is reading/using what I’m writing/providing)
HISTORY: MadridMan was “born” in 1996 on a free GeoCities website. In 1997 the domain name MadridMan.com was bought and hosted.