Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Madrid, etc.
My name is Courtney Likkel, and I’m originally from the Seattle area. In September 2013, I packed my bags and said “hasta luego” to the rainy Pacific Northwest, excited to teach English as an auxiliar de conversación and call Madrid my new home. Since then, I’ve been falling more and more in love with Spain as each day passes.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I created my blog in May 2013 as a creative outlet and a way to document my upcoming adventures. I started getting serious about it once I arrived in Spain and realized how passionate I was about writing and sharing my photography. Through getting connected with the blogging community, I was able to meet other inspiring bloggers as well as many new friends. Not only has blogging allowed me to grow as a writer, but it’s also provided me with countless opportunities to grow as a person and share my experiences with others.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My entries are usually a mix between musing upon expat life in Madrid, sharing trip recaps and posting my photography. My favorite posts about living in Spain are:
Tell us about the ways your new life in Madrid differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
My first time living in Spain was when I studied abroad in Cádiz back in 2010, where I experienced five months of persistent culture shock and homesickness that never truly subsided. I moved back to Spain four years later to essentially give the country (and myself) a second chance, and I knew that it was important to arrive to Madrid with more of an open mind. While some things still frustrate me – like the lack of customer service or dealing with bureaucracy – I’m much more flexible this time around. Having patience and realistic expectations has significantly helped me adapt to life in Madrid, and now I couldn’t be happier living here!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Madrid? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I was fairly prepared for what awaited me in Madrid, seeing as I’d lived in Spain before and I spent a lot of time researching Madrid before moving here. That said, I wish I had packed more summer and winter clothes! Autumn and spring essentially don’t exist here, and I completely underestimated how drastically hot and cold Madrid can get. I should have packed more light summer dresses and cozy winter scarves! I also wish I had brought more American toothpaste and deodorant, because the stuff here in Spain doesn’t quite seem to cut it.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Madrid?
- Be patient. Getting your residency card and dealing with Spanish bureaucracy is a frustrating process, but the more patience you have, the smoother it will go. Bumps in the road are to be expected, so go with the flow and feel free to commiserate with your fellow expats!
- Plan on going to intercambios. Intercambios are gatherings where you practice speaking Spanish and English with a native Spanish speaker. Speaking the local language is invaluable (and more often than not, absolutely necessary), and going to intercambios is a great way to practice speaking Spanish, meet new friends, and get connected with your new community.
- Be aware of the meal schedule. Meals are eaten much later in the day than we’re used to back home, and this can take some adjusting to. Spaniards typically eat a light breakfast comprised of toast and coffee in the morning, grab a quick sandwich in the early afternoon to hold them over, and then have a large lunch with their families around 2 or 3 pm. After their afternoon siesta, they may have a few tapas and a beer before having a light dinner served between 9 and 11 pm. Don’t arrive at a restaurant for dinner at 7 pm, as many restaurants don’t even open until 8:30 or 9 pm!
How is the expat community in Madrid? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community in Madrid is vivacious, welcoming and open-minded. Most people are almost always willing to share recommendations or give advice, whether it be about their favorite restaurants or the best English-speaking doctors. Although it’s rather difficult to make friends with Spaniards, it’s been fairly easy to meet fellow expats who are also enthusiastic about traveling, eating and adventuring!
How would you summarize your expat life in Madrid in a single, catchy sentence?
Eat tortilla, fiesta, siesta, repeat!