Sunday, September 7, 2014

Back in Madrid: Spain is no Korea

I'm back in Madrid and it feels so great!

After a year teaching English in South Korea, I had to pop back over to Madrid for a visit before I return to the states to see my family. I'm actually going to walk the Camino de Santiago for about a month while I'm here in Spain - we'll see how long it takes.

As my first day back in the +34 goes on, I keep remembering those tiny differences that were once second nature. They still feel natural, but did take a second for me to recognize these Spanish life basics before putting them back into action.

Some of the thoughts I've had today include:

"Oh right, I must leave my shoes on in the apartment." - In Korea, shoes always come off at the door - and that's at home, at school, and often in many restaurants too.

"Ah, I can't use my card for tiny purchases!" - I didn't have cash yet and wanted to pay for Gregorio's coffee after lunch, but he was not keen on the idea of me paying with a card for just a few euros. Paying with some sort of card is done in Korea for everything, no matter the amount. Two dollars at the convenience store? No problem. I really got used to doing that, but quickly remembered that people will take the time to count out exact change here in Spain - especially at grocery stores.

"Is this where I need an ID to use my debit or credit card?" - I had left the house without it when we were heading to Decathlon this afternoon, but asked Gregorio in the stairway if this was the country where you needed to show an ID. Bingo. After two years without needing to do so, and taking on the Korean habits of a quick line for an electronic signature, that detail was a bit fuzzy.

And of course, "Yikes, I'd better be careful with my purse/phone/wallet!" At a Starbucks in Seoul I actually left my laptop out at a table while I went to the bathroom. That type of crime just isn't an issue in Korea, but pickpocketing and petty theft is huge in Madrid.

It's also been super refreshing to understand what people are saying around me, and to be able communicate with others! I ordered my own lunch without a second thought. I didn't need time to slowly read and translate the menu, nor practice what I was going to say. And it was such a relief when I put in a load of laundry tonight because I could actually read the washing machine! It's the little things.

Now I'm sitting here eating some simple jamón serrano with pan, and it never tasted so good.

Thanks for welcoming me back with open arms, Madrid.


  1. How interesting! I'm an American who's been living abroad in Europe for the past 6 years (1 in Prague, 5 and counting in Germany), and I have the same sort of experience when I travel back to the States to visit friends or family. And then if I stay there too long, I have the same problem when I come back to Europe! I guess that's the life of an expat :D I'll take it!