Interview with an American expat Kate

Today’s interview is with Kate, American expat who is living in Spain. People say don’t fall in love when you go abroad because you won’t come back…and based on my experience, they’re totally right. After graduating from college with a communications degree I headed to Spain for a teaching exchange program. The plan was to learn some Spanish, do a bit of traveling, enjoy the famous fiestas of Andalusia, and then go home and get a real job. But of course I met a local boy my first weekend in Spain…and that changed everything. One year turned into six and before I knew it, a happy marriage, beautiful home, and dream career fell into place. During my time abroad I also discovered my passion for traveling and blogging—and eventually katestraveltips.com was born! Kate’s expat blog is called Kate’s Travel Tips

Where are you originally from?
I’m from a small town in Florida’s Forgotten Coast. Not many people have heard of Port Saint Joe…but it’s definitely worth a visit. St. Joe has some of the best seafood, best beaches and best locals you’ll find in Florida.

 

In which country and city are you living now?
I live in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain.

 

How long have you lived in Spain and how long are you planning to stay?

I moved here in 2011 and plan on staying forever!

Why did you move to Spain and what do you do?
Originally I moved here to teach English for a year as a Culture and Language Assistant. After participating in the program I landed a marketing job in Seville and later was offered my current position working remotely (in Sanlúcar) as the Global Content Lead for a startup company in San Francisco / London.

 

Did you bring family with you?
Nope. But my family has grown since moving here. 🙂

 

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
If I’m being honest, it was really difficult moving here in the beginning. I had studied Spanish, but Andaluz (i.e. the kind of Spanish they speak here in Andalusia) is a whole other ball game. Also, despite studying Spanish I didn’t actually speak it very well…so it took me about six months of practicing daily to get to a point of (somewhat) fluency. I also had a difficult time adjusting to the Andalusian lifestyle; I kept forgetting everything was closed during siesta (2pm – 5pm) and on Sundays. That being said, now I feel proud when Spaniards comment on my “Andaluz” accent and napping on a hot summer day seems like a great idea.

 

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I have noticed the people in Andalusia are exceptionally friendly with foreigners. It may be the fact that I live in a small town, but I have been fortunate to make several close Spanish friends and have numerous acquaintances here too. My group of friends is a mix of locals and other expats.

 

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Eat fresh seafood, drink cheap beer and enjoy the gorgeous sunsets! I also recommend attending the annual fair and the famous horse races on the beach—you can learn all about these events in my blog.

 

What do you enjoy most about living in Spain?
I love the lifestyle and culture in Andalusia. I’ve become a “disfrutona de la vida” as a result of living here! The cultural events and fiestas are fantastic—I own about six flamenco dresses myself and never miss a chance to dress up for the annual carnival!

 

How does the cost of living in Spain compare to home?
There is no comparison—you could earn around $1k a month in Sanlúcar and shop, travel, eat out, etc. without issue. My healthcare costs are essentially non-existent as I’m a tax paying resident, fresh fruits and veggies are locally sourced and extremely cheap, I can walk to most places in town and public transportation is fantastic, and beer costs one Euro at the local bar…need I say more?

 

What negatives, if any, are there to living in Spain?
Sometimes I notice a lack of responsibility when it comes to cleaning up after yourself, especially at the beach. I think this may be a small-town or southern mindset, as you don’t notice this issue in the north. Also, although it’s illegal to smoke inside restaurants and bars, it’s still common for people to smoke while seated at restaurants outside…so that can get annoying if you’re trying to enjoy a meal.

 

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Spain, what would it be?
Don’t fight the lifestyle. Adapt! You may find you’re a fan of late lunches and siestas after all. Spaniards have the second longest life expectancy in the world, so they must be doing something right. 😉

 

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I can’t really think of anything. Dealing with Spanish public offices is a pain, but other than that it has been a cakewalk for the most part! I think meeting Javi (my husband) the first weekend I arrived in Sanlúcar had a lot to do with making my life easier here.

 

When you finally return home, how do you think you’ll cope with repatriation?
I enjoy visiting family and friends as a tourist once every few years…but I have no plans to move back to the USA.

 

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?

  1. Try to find “intercambios” as soon as you move here. They’re a great way to practice Spanish and meet locals. You can search for “language exchange groups and meetups” online. Typically, during weekly meetups a group of people will meet at a cafeteria for coffee or beer and will spend 30 minutes speaking in Spanish and 30 minutes in English.
  2. College age Americans, don’t start pre-gaming at 9pm…actually, don’t pregame ever. Bars close at 4am and clubs stay open until 8am…you won’t be able to hang. Instead, learn how to “botellón” and do as the locals!
  3. If you think a taxi driver is cheating you ask him for a receipt. They can’t say no!
  4. Bring your old student ID card. Most of the time they’ll give you the discount, even when you’re pushing your 30’s and the card has expired. It can’t hurt to try right?
  5. Make it a point to improve your Spanish. I think it’s difficult to truly appreciate Spanish culture if language is a barrier for you. Try your hardest to make friends with locals; you’ll see a side of Spain you would never be able to experience otherwise.

 

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Katestraveltips.com started as a way to share travel tips with family and friends. Over time the number of people visiting my blog grew—and since then I’ve had the chance to connect with other bloggers, fellow expats, and a large number of travelers. I’ve also had the opportunity to enjoy some cool experiences thanks to my blog (like yachting in Mallorca)! I try to travel as much as possible and you’ll find most of my posts are about destinations I’ve been to, weekend getaways, expat life in Spain, and traveling tricks I’ve learned along the way.

 

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