If you were to take a look at my Instagram or Facebook you would think that I lived an incredibly charmed life filled with every day adventure, endless fun, and European glamour. While I know I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to live and work abroad, there are some moments when I severely miss my easy American life. This post is not meant to be filled with complaints, but I feel like it is good to let the "real" side of living abroad out. You will rarely meet an ex-pat who is not momentarily filled with homesickness, or completely exasperated with the new country he/she calls home. It's not all sunshine and rainbows over here in Europe, folks. Let's get to it.
My kitchen is cute. It's Euro. But it is freaking SMALL. Meet my kitchen table. AKA my cutting board station. AKA holder of random things. And everything in between. Did I mention that this table is smaller than a card table? If people are sitting at the table eating, you cannot open the fridge or the pantry. How I long for the days when I thought my college apartment's kitchen was small & not very well equipped. Puhleaasse. I dream of crock pots and blenders and food processors. But mainly I dream of space.
Ohhhh Metro. How can I love you and hate you so equally? The metro system in Madrid is said to be one of the best in all of Europe, and I definitely can agree. The city is very well connected, and the metro is very easy to navigate even for a first timer. But with public transportation comes crowds. And in the summer? Lots of smelly, sweaty crowds. Ick. There's nothing I hate more than being stuffed like a sardine in a metro car with 1209103 other people. Not only is it just plain uncomfortable to be all up on a stranger for 10 minutes, but you also have to be super aware of your things because... pickpockets. Ugh.
Auxiliares de Conversacion
I sincerely love the school I'm working at this year. The teachers are relaxed and the kids are (mainly) nice. I often feel like a celebrity while walking through the hallways, as "Hola Profe" and "Hello Teacher" are said a million times in a row. But sometimes I sit in class and observe a teacher just straight reading from a book for the entire hour while the kids have personal conversations, text openly, and fall asleep. Other times when I am teaching the full class, I am with a teacher who doesn't have much control of said class on their own. So I end up standing up there like an idiot, attempting to get through to kids who don't care to pay attention enough to understand me, and who know that my disciplinary threats mean nothing since I am just a measly assistant teacher. I also sit around.... a lot. #braindrain
Bathrooms in Madrid
Sorry for the graphic photograph of a toilet. But this is a big deal. Restrooms in Madrid rarely have the three essentials all at once - toilet paper, toilet seats, and hand soap. ICK. I literally come prepared with tissues and hand sanitizer in even the tiniest of clutches everywhere I go. I thought that a bathroom lacking those three essential things were only found in grimy bars in college towns, but even restaurants in one of the most metropolitan cities in the world can't properly keep theirs stocked. Lesigh.
Street & Metro Musicians
Okay, to be fair - the mariachi band above was actually pretty awesome. That's the reason why I took a picture of them in the first place! I never take pictures of the bad 'musicians' because I don't want to get caught and be guilted into giving them money. Being stuck on the metro with a terrible musician is the worst. I already have a terrible headache from my teenage students, but thank you for adding loud, screeching noises to my life on my commute home as well.
Unless you are at a fancy bar or Irish Pub, you will always order beer not by type, but by size. Would you like a cana (small) or doble (large)? Don't bother asking which beers they have on draft. It will either be Mahou OR Cruzcampo (note, that is not an and) - although if a bar is feeling fancy you might get lucky and be able to drink Amstel. Thank goodness for bars like Fabrica Maravillas in Malasana who are trying to bring the craft beer craze to Spain. I miss you, World of Beer.
Guilt Filled Lazy Days
I don't actually have any photos of me at my laziest - not exactly selfie material, but these days happen way more often than you might think. I live in one of the most exciting cities in the world but you might be surprised as to how often you will be able to find me in my room wearing PJs. And I always feel guilty. When I was in college it was totally normal to lounge around for hours at a time and to leave the house looking like a grease ball to go run errands. But in Madrid? Leaving the house in leggings and tennis shoes is definitely looked down upon. Sometimes I don't want to look cute to go outside! And then I stay in my pajamas. Fail.
The Goodbyes & serious FOMO from Spain
I dread nothing more than the moment I have to say goodbye to my family, friends, and boyfriend. It never gets easier, and tears are always shed. I am incredibly lucky to have a wonderful group of friends and two awesome roommates in Madrid who have become my Spain family, but nothing hurts more than missing holidays, birthdays, dinners, baby showers, reunions, and engagement celebrations while living abroad. I know that saying goodbye to my adopted country when it is finally time to go home is going to be insanely difficult, and I will miss Spain forever when that time comes, but sometimes it is hard to get past the homesickness. Ya feel me?
These are just a few of the things that show what real life as an expat is like. I love Madrid more than words can say, and still walk around like a starstruck tourist, but my life is a lot more boring and "normal" than you might expect.
Fellow expat bloggers - let's hear it in the comment section. What else would you add to my list?