What I Know Now After 8 Years in Spain

What I Know Now After 8 Years in Spain

When I moved to Spain in 2012, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had made up my mind that it was time for a change and “winged it” through the transitional process needed to move from one continent to another. I didn’t even profoundly conceptualize the fact that I was moving to another continent. All I knew was that my godfather had a niece there and she was living her best life. So, I decided to take a stab at a few years in Spain myself. Pretty crazy, right? Here are some things I know now after eight years in Spain.

1) Programs Will Pay You to Work in Schools and Teach Children About Your Language and Culture

When looking back on what little thought I put into how I was going to earn a living here in Spain, it makes me cringe. I had no idea that there were programs run by the government. Plus, some private programs help assimilate you into the country and its culture. They BOTH pay you a reasonable stipend for doing so.

My research did not go further than a few Google searches which strongly suggested taking a TEFL certification course (which I did) and the importance of purchasing a flight outside of the Schengen area to justify your entrance into Spain on a one-way ticket (did that also). BEDA, UCETAM, and a host of other programs are available to people looking to teach English in the school systems here in Spain, provided that the individual meets the requirements.

2) The Unbeaten Path is Best

As a native New Yorker, I have always despised tourism. Before moving to Europe, I worked right next to the World Trade Center which was always swarming with tourists. I was once photographed on my lunch break inside a McDonald’s. After yelling at the tourist, she apologized and explained that she wanted a picture of the pretty mirror behind me. Go figure. 

My best experiences overseas have been those where I meet a friend who has brought me somewhere, like a lake where the locals go, their hometown when there is an annual local festival or even just a great and affordable restaurant. It’s quite understandable that when we go on vacation, it’s sometimes more convenient to book a tour because it covers more ground. However, a few days off that guided path to make your own discoveries is the part of your travels where memories are really made. 

3) Make the Time to Explore Barcelona

My first time in Barcelona was with a friend who always traveled cheaply by overnight bus. When we went together, we immediately went to a secluded beach in a town a few stops away, entirely accessible by commuter rail. When we arrived, we made friends with a local. He let us stay in his sister’s empty apartment which she rented to tourists. He even lent us his French Bulldog, Eva. She took us on an incredibly special route to a nice café where we ate breakfast. A popular sight amongst the people in that town, everyone greeted her and asked about her new friends. She’s even got her own Instagram.

4) Never Measure Yourself Against Societal Norms

When I first got here and started to imagine how my life would be if I chose to spend a few more years in Spain, I recall saying to someone: “Teaching these classes is just a way in for the moment. I don’t see myself being a 35-year-old TEFL teacher.” Little did I know that those very words would haunt me. 

I’m approaching that age fast. I have since fallen in love with teaching foreign languages to children. Did you know that here in Spain, you are considered young until you are approaching your mid-40s? People have children later and they take time to study and figure things out. Often, they do all this in a secure home environment. In the States, we are put out of the house when we’re between 18 and 21. We are strongly encouraged to do anything humanly possible to stand on our own two feet. 

Wrap Up

Having gone through that time in life, which for many is extremely transitional, I can honestly say that life really begins in your 30s. I have spent lots of time reminding myself that my circumstances are different because of the choice I made to start over and move abroad. There will be no moping around trying to figure out why things are not the way I imagined. Each of my choices has made me stronger. Now, I’m one who knows to be more assertive and to put myself and my overall health as a top priority.

20 thoughts on “What I Know Now After 8 Years in Spain

  1. As an ex expat, this is wonderful and true. Very relatable and wonderful advice. I started as a tefl teacher in Thailand. Now I run a yoga business as a yoga teacher. I loved every minute of my time in Thailand and shaped me to who I am today. Cool blog and inspiring. Keep it up!

  2. It’s not easy to relocate to any place. This is quite helpful of you to share this for everyone to read.

  3. Being new in one place is really hard, but I am glad that you easily managed it.
    I wish to do something like that in the future. You inspire me, thank you!

  4. Hehe…these are great lessons! Societal norms exist a particular way because the society aligned with them, wants them that way!

  5. I had a chance to work abroad for two years. It was a fulfilling experience. Loved learning about the culture, the food, and the language. I wish I had stayed longer, but I missed my kids so bad that I decided to come home. I am happy that you were able to settle perfectly in Spain.

  6. Life tends to turn out differently than we imagined it- I think probably for almost all of us. But the unexpected can turn out to bring many blessings with it. 🙂

  7. I would love to visit Spain — my husband has a brother that lives there. I admire you for making that leap. I picked a route that made that difficult at that time in my life. But I do wonder what if…

  8. I love to explore the non-tourist areas when I travel. Much like you said, I get the most out of travel when I find those spots that locals love, not the spots that the throngs flock to.

  9. This is a fabulous and informative travel post! One of my good friends lives in Barcelona and I am even going to share some of your great tips with her

  10. Wow! I really want to visit Barcelona when the pandemic is over. It’s one of the countries I really want to do my gastronomic adventure.

  11. How wonderful that your move turned out to be so beneficial. I think it would be wonderful to experience life abroad for a bit in our ‘youth.’

  12. Thanks for sharing with us your life and I think that’s wonderful that you have grown and learned from the life in Spain.

  13. I love this post so much. I always wondered how it was to relocate to another country to teach English. It’s a great way to move with a job already. I’ve always been interested to visit Spain.

  14. Wow, that’s amazing, living in Spain for 8 years and all the things you discovered and learned there. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  15. Just a beautiful place to be able to call home. My Mum lived in Spain for over 10yrs and she adored it.

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