It’s hard to believe that I have been living in Spain for so many years and through this change of scenery I have encountered so many new experiences. Thus the reason why you need to know these life changing moments that I have learnt from living across the pond.
One: Stop being a Control Freak
If you ask anyone who knows me, they will say “control freak” or “perfectionist” is an understatement to describe myself. I love to plan everything to a tee, think of possible errors and solutions to problems, I enjoy reading about efficiency (WOW this is a bit embarrassing, but you get my point). In my first months overseas, there were just so many variables that were completely out of my control: visas, housing, university help. I honestly had to be hell on heels because my tensions were so HIGH! Talk about anxiety overload!
Each challenge or uncontrollable situation taught me to stop planning and waiting for things to happen…and believe me it took a while for this to sink in. However, with practise and continued efforts I learned how to just relax, take a deep breath and live in the moment. Accepting that things don’t always go according to plan – you just have to make the best out of the situation and learn from it. And let me tell you, life has been so much better with my “Just go with the flow” attitude.
Two: Being Cautious of Others
If you were not aware most European country are very family oriented, which basically means that people are very committed to their relationships (family, friends etc.), they look forward to each others company, and they like to spend time with each other in a community sense. However, back home we tend to be lot more individualistic when it comes to anyone outside of our immediate family or circle.
This mentality, of being more cautious of others has allowed me to better appreciate family, friends, co-workers and even strangers in a new light. I have always been a friendly person but being here I actually enjoy going out of my way to lend a helping hand to anyone in need.
Three: Relax & Take It Easy
In the States, I was always in such a rush to complete everything. Whether it be scarfing food down my throat because I only had a 15min lunch break or scrambling around the city,to get from one place to another. However in Spain, something as simple as having lunch is fun and eventful (with people having half an hour to two hours to enjoy their meal), vs eating as the sole purpose to continue slaving our daily routine.
After years of just not getting this idea of taking it easy; it finally clicked. It was my first summer in Madrid at my new job and the owner was explaining my paid vacation periods (it was nonnegotiable) and mandatory for my position. He expressed how important it was that I take some time off for my own health benefits (mood booster and stress reliever) as well as to give my brain a break. Say what? A break for my brain? Of course, to come back to the office inspired and back on the top of my game. In the past, I would have defiantly taken the overtime AND extra pay, but after learning about vacation time (Girl Bye!).
Secondly, living abroad means you won’t feel as pressured to constantly see and discover new places, cities etc. – you can learn new things (in your new home) without constantly being on the move. However, slowly I learnt that the culture is set up for you to appreciate life and the journey you take to get there.
Four: It’s NOT all about the Money
Yes, you read that right! It really isn’t all about the money! Prior to leaving America, I always felt that everything evolved around how much you make, where you work or what materialistic things you posses. It was very stressful, always seeking to have a better job, to have a better salary and obsessively thinking of how to get more (and more) money or materialist objects that didn’t necessarily add value to our lives. We are such a consumer-driven society.
Whereas, in Spain people care mostly about their quality of life and their time. Time…my time is golden. Sundays are meant to be spend with your families, early evenings during the week are meant for a tea or a beer with friends and summer is a time to enjoy the weather and take a break from the hustle and bustle. This ideology helped me realize that materialistic things don’t matter nearly as much as experiences and memories. I would much rather have quality of life than a ton of money in the bank unable to enjoy it… in this moment.
Five: Creating a New Version of Myself
When I first moved to Pamplona, I was a sophomore in college just wanting to better my Spanish and enjoy the Euro Trip of my life. However, in the end I was changed by Spain, my group of international friends and the new understanding of how even in our differences we were one big “dysfunctional” family.
The process of adapting to my new home helped me discover more about myself. Living abroad taught me about self awareness, expanding my comfort zone. As well as; how to live with less stuff, how to ask for and accept help, how to have fun anywhere… along with a ton of other great benefits. The process of adapting to your new home will help you discover more about yourself. Living abroad in general connects you to the world, by helping you step out of your comfort zone and understanding people from all walks of life.
These are just a few of many habits I have lost or obtained while living in Spain. Have you ever lived, travelled or vacationed abroad? Where? Did you experience a cultural shock or gain any new clarity about yourself?