English-Speaking Friends Return to Home Countries

This is not a tourism-focused blog entry. Clearly! But I often have “feelings”, other experiences, which really have nothing to do with tourism. I guess any non-Spanish-native has these longings, these deep, inexplicable yearnings for sound, safe, familiar grounds. This, I found in these “lost” friends.

These days I’m feeling somewhat melancholy about the 3 friends I’ve “lost” these last 12-months. All three, non-Spaniards, have returned to their home-countries due to these difficult Spanish economic times. 2 are English and 1 is Irish. Sure, I have a number of Spanish friends, but, somehow, it’s different. I’m not sure if it’s simply the language or the common culture from hundreds of years ago, but I miss their proximate friendship, their association, their company.

Amazingly enough, in my 6 years living in Madrid, Spain, I’ve yet to make one American social friend. I have American Facebook Friends which live in Madrid – and they’re wonderful and supportive – but none with which I socialize. Maybe, simply, because the percentage of Americans is so far inferior to those British/Irish living in Spain.

Surely there are Americans living in Madrid with which I could get along. The British/Irish, have something different for me, however. To Americans, they’re exotic. I’d never had a British/Irish friend while living in the USA – apart from one English woman, Michelle, on the Costa del Sol, with whom I’ve been friends since the beginning of the Internet – and still am!

2 Brits and 1 Irish, all returning to their home countries because they either couldn’t find work in Spain – OR because they couldn’t find “meaningful” work in Spain. At least 2 of the 3 returned because they knew they could make two-to-three times what they could in Spain. One, the Irish person, told me recently, that with the money she’s make in Ireland would more than pay for some fantastic holidays (“vacations”, in American English) in Spain.

Everyone has a different story. Sometimes I feel like I’m the ONLY American-in-Madrid, but I know there are others out there. Some, a tiny few, are married to Spaniards. Others are students. More, still, are toiling as English teachers making a less-than-living wage. Then there are the “illegals”. Sure, there are many “illegals” in Spain and, even, illegal Americans and British living in Spain. Believe  it – or not!

Today I refer to Steve, Sally, and Ide. All have had to return to England or Ireland in order to “buscar la vida” (“find their futures”) in their home countries. Everyone must consider their own security and their futures seriously. I understand that. But those left-behind do tend to suffer for the loss of their friends.

Nearly weekly I receive emails from (mainly) Americans which desire to “live the dream” of living in Spain. When I reply to them I do so with a kind of restricted conscience. I want to encourage them, but, at the same time, be totally honest for what they have ahead of them. I’ve done it, yes, but it wasn’t easy. Well, it was easier in my situation. But for many, coming to Spain “COLD” is something very very different. Unless they have some significant savings or support from the family, it’s difficult to make a living in Spain unless their skillz are special, particular, and desirable in this wonderful country. Short of that, it’s challenging to realize a comfortable life in Spain.

These friends are missed. That’s what happens when you leave or when you’re left behind. That’s nature for ya’! People come and go from one country to the next and back again in order to find the best environment for them. I understand that. Several immediate family members have moved to Europe, Asia, and even Africa in order to find their futures. That’s the world in which we live. I look forward to the next visit to Madrid by Americans and, more specifically, Midwesterners, which may someday visit Spain in order to re-connect to my roots. MadridMan is an Ohio-boy, afterall.

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26 Responses to English-Speaking Friends Return to Home Countries

  1. Matt says:

    Hold on buddy, I’m coming in 4 weeks!

    • MadridMan says:

      The sooner the better!!!!! But in 4-weeks?? You were JUST here not 2 weeks ago!!

      • Matt says:

        I’ll give you my standard response when people ask me “weren’t you just there?” which is “what’s your point?” but the truth is I have to get my traveling in between September and May and there are many outside factors that influence the schedule. I would have liked to do April but with Easter, rising fares and work restrictions, March will work. Besides, I’m getting used to Business Class!

  2. Tumbit says:

    Very Grim indeed. In my village I have lost 5 sets of friends since last summer – but even stranger I have also lost 3 sets of native Spanish friends that have also been forced to move away due to the economy. If things continue our village will become nothing more than a retirement village.

  3. Lina says:

    Wow! So sad to hear about your friends. It’s always hard to lose good friends. Soo many people want to move to Spain, but they have no idea how hard it is to make it overthere. No matter if you have family and friends you are still on your own. Like you said ” better have some special Skills. I hope so much, that things will change soon….. I still dream in moving back someday…..Suerte….

    • MadridMan says:

      It is sad to lose friends, no matter their nationality. And making new friends gets harder with age. It’s easier making Spanish friends as they’re so social and always welcome additional people to the group. But finding English-speakers (Americans, Brits, Irish, Australians) is more difficult as they/we tend to be less open to additions.

  4. CousinBry says:

    I may be a continent away, but it’s a small world, brother, and I always feel like we’re not so far removed. If you ever need to return, your countrymen await with open arms and open beers.

    • MadridMan says:

      Thanks, “CousinBry”! It’s comforting knowing I have friends in my own home-country, although I have no plans to return to the USA. Plus, you know that senior citizens in Spain pay nothing (read: NOTHING!!!) for healthcare, not for procedures, doctors visits or medications. That may very well change with the change in party-in-power, but no plans to do so yet.

  5. Pedmar says:

    yes , every time you leave known waters you always have a feeling of the before this syndrome. It takes time and mental toughness to endure it. I get very nostalgic everytime I received an email or a poke in FB from an old friend. New friends have been made where I live ,locals, Americans especially, there is more structure community in Paris than Madrid, and more of them. I just met an American couple from Chicago living in the woods near where I live now in Brittany,they own a Cafe with live music on weekends!! Going over its not easy unless you have a nice cushion job to get you over the blues, otherwise it becomes miserable, I imagine. I am living a dream here thus wont change it for the world, tom going to Cuba on business trip ::)

  6. Adan says:

    Yours is a life truly blessed, MadridMan. I hope to have an opportunity to move to Spain after things get better. For now, I’m staying put and dreaming…

    • MadridMan says:

      Hello, Adan! Thanks for your comment and best of luck on your future move to Spain – when things get better, that is.

      • Adan says:

        Thank YOU, Madridman. I’ve been following your blog for years now. It keeps in me touch with what everyday life in Spain is like currently, seeing as I read Spanish news only to keep up with politics and the economic situation.

        I’m not sure if you can remember, but I contacted you many years ago while I was a law student. My goal was to graduate and move to Spain to work in the financial sector. Then came September 2008, and we all know what happened after that. I still obtained dual US-Spanish citizenship through la ley memoria historica (law of the grandchildren) and I definitely plan on using it sometime in the future; as I said, when things get better. In the meantime, I’ll continue to visit my family in Burgos and Bilbao every year, which makes me feel better. My law practice will keep me busy here in the good old USA until there’s another opportunity to make the move. All the best to you from Miami, FL.

        • MadridMan says:

          Sounds like you’re doing well for yourself, Adan. Congratulations. Things in Spain, yes, are “challenging” to say the least. “They say” things will get a bit worse here before they get better. Glad to hear you got your dual citizenship which will give you total flexibility in the future should you decide to split time between your two beloved countries. That’s great. On your next trip through Madrid and to northern Spain, it’d be nice to meet you. Just let me know. Take care and good luck!

  7. Dany says:

    MadridMan, does that mean that English teachers are also toiling to make a living in Spain?

    • MadridMan says:

      That is does, Dany. Many people still have the idea that they can come to Spain and live cheaply while making a good salary teaching English. Maybe they think living in Spain is as cheap as living in Mexico or in parts of Latin America. I don’t know. But they keep coming to teach English and many go back quickly, too, when they find out how it really is. Some just miss their Mommas, others miss Taco Bell, and yet others miss driving everywhere instead of walking.

  8. Dany says:

    Thanks, MadridMan. Do you have an idea of how many English-speaking persons live in Madrid? Are they a large minority like the South Americans?

    • MadridMan says:

      I can’t give you a number, no, but there are FAR FAR FAR fewer native English Speakers in Madrid than South Americans. I’d say native English Speakers are a SMALL minority in Madrid.

  9. Dany says:

    Thanks again, MadridMan. In your original post you wrote that three of your friends left Spain because of the economic crisis. Is this part of a more general trend? Are expats starting to leave Madrid due to the difficult economic times?

    • MadridMan says:

      I can’t say for sure, Dany, but I would think so. And it’s not just Madrid, but leaving the country. My friends which left were all clever, intelligent, employable people, but the salaries were too low here and a very unstable work environment. In fact, now that they’ve passed the new labor reform laws, the work environment is far far less stable than even before.

  10. Dany says:

    MadridMan, an expat in Madrid recently told me that fewer expats are coming to Madrid these days. Do you think that is true?

    • MadridMan says:

      Hi again, Dany! I don’t have the numbers, but it certainly seems so – at least those from the USA. The USA is in economic straits, too, so the only people able to move here are mainly those from well-to-do families. Once people compare their would-be salary in Madrid/Spain (first, assuming they find work, which isn’t bloody likely!) with their US salary they usually change their minds about moving. It’s likely their US salary is twice (or more) what it would be in Spain.

  11. Rebeca says:

    I know the feeling… the only difference is that I am a Spaniard living in Italy (but leaving soon). In almost 4 years here, I have met some incredible people from all over there world, but sooner or later, they leave… It is sad for those left behind. I have some really good Italian friends, but in this Italian city, I think foreigners tend to get better along with other foreigners because there is an invisible bond that “links” us, maybe because in general, some people here don’t have a really welcome attitude towards us… I do hope people in my homecountry have treated you better!:) Don’t be sad, cheer up, man!:)

    • MadridMan says:

      So you know what I’m talkin’ ’bout, Rebeca. That’s comforting. And you’re right that foreigners naturally band together in their common situations as foreigners in a foreign land. That gives a lot of support. But being foreigners, we’re not necessarily tied to the country in which we’re living at the time and so we/they leave. Unfortunately, I’ve not made new “foreign” friends since those other good ones left. I also love being with Spaniards as I learn so much from them about Spain and its customs and culture. I’ll cheer up with time, I’m sure. 🙂

  12. Dennis says:

    And some of us are just tired of the Spanish System and want to stop hitting our heads against the wall in frustration. A shame we never met Dave!

    • MadridMan says:

      Hi, Dennis! I hear you. A LOT of people, Spaniards included, are just tired of the Spanish System. And I agree, it is a shame we never met Dave. But who is Dave? Is he a friend of a friend??

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