Before I moved here, I told myself over and over that there were going to be challenges. Big, ugly, frustrating challenges. There would be times that I would want to scream, cry, and just hate everything. But no amount of mental preparation can prevent them from happening, or take away the surprise of their arrival.
Of course, these challenges are relative. I have two cousins who have made more difficult moves than mine (one to Tonga, a remote pacific island, and one to Thailand). At least Spain has a lot of similarities with the US, and I had a base understanding of the language when I arrived here. Even still, moving internationally is hard. Since the internet loves lists, and I love Ryan Gosling, I give you: The top 8 most challenging things about moving here in no particular order, using only Ryan Gosling gifs.
1. Not having my friends or family here.
I knew that when I moved here, I was going to be very far from my friends and family. But sometimes I just want to watch Law and Order SVU with Zack, or go out to Plaza Azteca with Jo, or have a family dinner and talk about inappropriate things or past family reunions together. Thankfully, Diego has graciously shared his friends and family with me, and I love them!
2. The language barrier.
You would think that since I studied Spanish in high school and majored in it in college, I would be fluent. But I’m not. For about 5 years after I graduated from college, I didn’t use Spanish at all. Anyone that’s learned a second language can tell you that if you don’t use it, you lose it. Once I met Diego and started using it with him, I realized how much I had lost and stopped taking drum lessons so that I could take Spanish lessons. I’m taking Spanish classes here too, but I’m finding that the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. Sometimes when I’m around Diego’s family or friends and they’re talking together, I’m like
and other times, speaking with classmates, professors, or random Spaniards on the street, I feel like I’ve come a long way and I’m doing pretty well. It’s a bit of a roller coaster.
3. City life is hard.
Being an introvert in a big city is a challenge. There are a ton of people everywhere all the time, lots of noises, and it’s an unforgiving environment. I grew up in the suburbs, where birds chirped and kids were outside playing and riding bikes. Now I get to fall asleep to the beats of the discoteca below us and be pushed around in the metro. Also, not having my own car anymore adds to the fun. Twice already I’ve gotten on the wrong metro or bus and went the wrong direction for a while, then gotten frustrated had to make my way back.
4. Smoking everywhere.
Maybe not everyone cares about this, but I do. Sometimes I feel like everyone here smokes. That’s not true, but walk down the street and you’ll find it impossible to not be breathing it in. I hate the smell, it’s not healthy, and it doesn’t exactly help my asthma. I just don’t understand why it’s still a thing. I came from a city where smoking has basically become illegal. You’re not allowed to smoke inside buildings, on restaurant patios, or within a certain amount of space of public building doors. I took that for granted! When Diego says it’s not that big of a deal, I’m like
5. Being a guiri in general.
So I’m not actually a guiri (tourist) anymore since I live here, but sometimes I look like one, talk like one, and act like one. And if people think you are a guiri here, it just sets you up to be taken advantage of (oh that thing actually costs more for you) or ignored (I’m not dealing with that guiri). Yeah, there is that rare person who gets excited that I’m Americana (i.e. the Portuguese lady who squealed in excitement and started to tell me how much she wanted to go to the US) but in general, Americans are not seen in the best light here. Can you blame them? Look at the typical American that we show on TV (Trump, the Kardashians, Moonshiners…). No wonder they think we’re a bunch of gilipollas (idiots). Thankfully, I must be looking less like a guiri these days because I’ve been asked numerous times for directions while out and about. Just a few days ago I helped a Spaniard find her way in the metro station. Yeah!
6. Not having a job sucks.
Right after you leave a job, you get a sense of freedom–vacation time! But after the first week or two, reality sets in. You realize that money is actually necessary to live. If you’ve ever been unemployed, you can probably relate to the feeling of being useless or not being able to pull your own weight, money wise.
7. Bureaucracy is everywhere.
After I got a student visa (another pile of crappy bureaucracy in itself), I had to get a resident card here. To do that, you have to go to a police station that’s super far from the city center to pick up a piece of paper to fill out. Then you need to make an appointment to go back on a different day. Once back at the station for your appointment, you have to wait in line to be seen by someone who goes over the paperwork with you, then sends you to someone else who tells you that you have to come back in 30 days to pick up the card. Can they mail it? No. Can you apply online? No.
8. Everyone here grew up with a different culture than me.
Well known songs, colloquialisms, inside jokes, and cultural references all fly over my head. There are weird cultural norms that I’m learning about here too. Apparently it’s rude to stretch in public. What the hell? When Diego and his friends get together and start talking about things that happened 5 or 10 years ago, I’m like
At the end of the day, I’m extremely grateful to have a great man by my side. He constantly lifts me up in compliments and encourages me to be the best I can be. He makes me laugh when I’m in a bad mood, helps me when I’m frustrated, and cheers me up when I’m sad. There have been a couple times already when I’ve said that I want to go back home. But I didn’t meant it. I’m happy to be here, and I am glad that I’m learning and experiencing so much. Despite the frustrations and challenges, this past month has flown by and been a lot of fun. And somehow always at just the right moment, when it’s been a long day, Diego will ask me: