By Cat Gaa
My Spain story isn’t very different than anyone else’s – on a short trip to the Iberian Peninsula in 2005, I fell in love with the country, its people, and the language. I made it a point to move back to Europe once I finished university, and the Spanish government hired me to teach English at a high school near Seville.
Now, as I approach my seventh anniversary of living in Spain, it’s easy to reflect on just why I feel so at home here. My friends back in Chicago marvel at my expat life, but I pay bills, go to work, and wash my car just like they do. While not every part of my life in Spain is marvelous, I love living in a such an old, beautiful city where the people are friendly. Of a million reasons why, here are my top ten:
10. The fact that everything is so old
As I’m planning my wedding to a Spaniard, he quipped that my hometown church – rebuilt less than a decade ago – can’t hold a candle to the centuries-old buildings we walk past daily. In a city that claims to have been founded two millennia ago, the simple fact that everything has a story (and an old one at that), is mind-blowing.
9. The weather
As a Chicagoan, I’m used to the four seasons in one day. Seville’s mild winters and scorching summers suit me better than snow, ice, and tornadoes. I do miss spring, though!
8. Fresh Food
Food tastes better in Spain because it’s not loaded with anything artificial like it is back home. I eat far more fruit here, and ingest tomato at least once a day! Plus, produce is cheap and meat and fish prices are competitive, so stocking up on groceries is enjoyable.
7. The Festivals
Spaniards might have invented the party, and the festivals here range from hilariously fun to seriously wacky. Where else would dressing up in frilly frocks, slinging tomatoes at others, or setting fire to huge paper mâiché sculpture be commonplace? On my list for next year is the Baby Jumping festival (it exists!).
In the absence of my American sports teams, I’ve become a die-hard fan of one of the local teams, Real Betis Balompié. It feels right to be a part of the experience of Spanish culture and sport, and watching Spain’s national team win the 2010 World Cup is one of my most treasured memories of my life abroad.
5. Speaking in Spanish
My interest in moving to Spain was based mainly on my desire to become fluent in Spanish. Even though I sometimes struggle to say exactly what I want to, I love the challenge of finding the right words and expressions, and Spanish is such a complex language that I continue learning, even after all of this time. I think Spanish swear words are far more passionate than their American counterparts!
4. Having international friends
While I sometimes struggle with missing my friends back home, having a whole slew of ‘amigos’ from other countries is fun. I’ve made hand turkeys on Thanksgiving with a coworker from Turkey, experienced Karneval in Cologne, and even have a Brazilian sister-in-law! My life feels more enriched because of exposure to other languages and cultures.
3. The Challenge of living abroad
As someone who bores easily and loves a challenge, the frustrations of speaking a different tongue and dealing with Spanish bureaucracy is actually one of my favorite things about my life in Seville. My victories seem far more important, even if it’s just getting a refund when my cell phone company tries to swindle me.
2. The Culture of Eating
I am not a foodie, but I love to eat, and Spanish cuisine is varied enough to keep surprising me. Plus, the long lunches, table talk, and tapas culture is so appealing. Where else is food so celebrated?
1. Me in Spain
I love the person I am in Spain – I’m more active, I eat better, I go out of my way to be outdoors. I slow down. I eat up. And, sí, I sleep a ‘siesta’ when I can. I am still as American as can be, following my sports teams and cooking Thanksgiving turkeys, but this mix of two cultures is an aspect of my life that I’ve grown to really love.
My plan to be abroad for a year in Spain, learning the language and getting to know Spanish wines, has stretched into seven, a house and a ‘sevillano’ fiancé. We’ve discussed moving to another country – including the USA – but I don’t think he could be as happy anywhere as I am in Seville.
Even with the ups and downs of expat life, the perpetual feeling of missing my loved ones, and the fact that I will always be a bit of an outsider, Seville is my future. And I’ll raise a Cruzcampo beer to that.
Cat Gaa is a Chicago transplant to Seville who has been writing for The Spain Scoop for two years. Her personal blog, Sunshine and Siestas, is a resource for expats and cultural travel around Spain.