I’m a Scottish girl living in Spain so you would think “living abroad” would be an obvious topic for me to write about, one which would roll off the tongue easily. But weirdly, it’s not. It’s one of the most complex ones.
I arrived back in Spain at the end of August after a glorious three week break at home at my Mum and Dad’s, where – after quarantining for 14 days, thanks Coronavirus – I got the chance to catch up with some of my nearest and dearest friends and family. The 1st of September also marked my three year anniversary here in Madrid, so it only seemed right to finally tackle a post on my time abroad so far.
But somehow life got in the way of my procrastinating and here I am at the end of September, still trying to express in words what it’s like to live abroad. So here it goes…
First of all, I feel so lucky and blessed to be having the experience I’m having. In only 3 short years, I’ve established a real little life. And I know that sounds ridiculous, and maybe obvious from an outside perspective. But when you first arrive in a new city, it’s not that obvious. It’s hard to imagine that one day you’re going to get to a place where you know where you’re going, where you have a routine. I remember one of the biggest highs being when I started to bump into people I know in the street, something which back home would seem standard and mundane suddenly made me feel like I had somehow established a big enough network of friends and acquaintances and colleagues in a city with over 3 million people to actually meet people I know. I now have a favourite hairdresser, and nail salon, and food shop. I say things to my friends here like “I’ll meet you in the usual bar”.
I guess it’s like starting a new relationship with someone; somehow one day they just feel familiar, as if you’ve known them your whole life. That’s the feeling I have here in Madrid, like I can’t remember life without it.
Speaking Spanish has been a massive advantage for me and my journey here in Madrid, and one which has thoroughly enriched my experience. That’s not to say you can’t move abroad without speaking the language and still have a great time, but connecting with people “fluently” in a different language is – to be outright corny about it – a magical experience. By no means do I speak 100% perfect Spanish, but when you’re able to express yourself enough in a foreign language to actually reflect your personality (as opposed to telling everyone you meet what kind of pets you have and what your hobbies are), it’s such a natural high.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s parts of living abroad which I struggle with. My Mum and I were talking one day and she jokingly asked me if it ever feels like I have two lives, and my honest answer was “yes, it does”. It’s silly to say, but it’s an odd feeling talking to your friends and family back home and saying “I went down to such and such a place down the road” and them not really having any idea of what you’re talking about as they’re not familiar with where you live, with the streets you walk every day or with the people in your life. I’m such a people person and struggle with the fact that some of the most important people in the world to me are a thousand miles away from each other and can’t even communicate in the same language. Now maybe that’s a bit of a trivial “first world problem” to be moaning about, and I should just be grateful for having so many great friends in my life no matter where they are, but it’s definitely something I think about.
My heart will forever lie in Scotland, and I think that deep down I know I probably want to settle down there one day, but right now there is nothing and no one that could convince me to give up my life here in Spain. It’s my home away from home and somewhere I truly feel I belong (and that says a lot considering it’s 22 degrees outside and the Spaniards are already wearing long trousers, wooly jumpers and boots while I’m out in a t-shirt and skirt. Foreigner alert!).