Nancy: Fish Out Of Water
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Madrid, etc.
I’m Nancy and I moved to Madrid from Nottingham, England, over 12 years ago now. I’ve lived mainly in Madrid apart from a short stint in Agua Amarga in Almeria in the south of Spain. Although I have mainly lived in Madrid I have moved 9 times in 12 years!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
If I’m honest I actually started blogging at the beginning of 2013 to see if I could make some money out of it! So far I haven’t made anything, but basically because I enjoy blogging that much that I forgot about the money side of things!! Not that I won’t be trying to make some cash out of it in the near future. I actually have various blogs, but I started blogging about Madrid first because it is what I know and I find that many people are interested to know things about Madrid and Spain. When I began Fish out of Water Madrid, it was basically supposed to be information about tourism off the beaten track in Madrid, but during a spat of homesickness I started writing about being an expat and my feeling and experiences, which got a lot of good feedback and I enjoyed writing about it, so I carried on.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Most of my favorite blog entries are from my “Expat Series”. I don’t seem to be able to write serious posts, even if the idea starts out seriously, I always end up making a joke out of myself.
One that I like and that makes me laugh is about learning Spanish in Spain, there are actually two parts to it:
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?
Most of the “Expat Series” is about exactly this subject. I found it quite difficult at the beginning, I still do sometimes. I’m quite introvert and the Spanish can be quite in your face, which can be very daunting, especially when you don’t know the language. I saw a great video the other day about the famous Spanish stare! That’s also something that takes a bit of getting used to. I think I spent my first 3 years in Spain thinking that my fly was open or that I had a boggy hanging from my nose!! Now I tend to get on with things, you get mixed up in the usual day to day stuff, if I ever take a step back to re-evaluate my life I realize that I’ve come to think of Spain as a wonderful place to be, but it will never be my home, no matter how long I live 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 didn’t prepare anything!! I didn’t think about anything!! All I knew was that I wanted to leave the UK. I met a Spanish bloke and came here. I was too young and dizzy to think of the consequences. If I could go back and change things maybe I would, but I can’t regret my past, it’s made me the person I am now.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Errr jeez…there are so many!! Like the time when I went to top up my tan in a shop in Sol and got locked outside the toilet naked…with all my clothes inside the toilet…my shouts of “SOCORRO” (help!) were not heard for at least 20 minutes!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Madrid?
- There is one that an old Spanish man that I met once in my hometown of Nottingham told me; he said, the only Spanish word you need to know is “mañana” (tomorrow), because whenever anybody asks you to do something for them in Spain it is always tomorrow. It’s true! Spain doesn’t work as the rest of the world does! I think that is part of the problem that they are having at the moment. Banks, the job center and any other important place all close a 2pm and only Monday – Friday (and a lot are shutting on Fridays too at the moment), which is fine if you don’t work, but if you need to sort something out at the bank or take some documents to the social security offices, you have to take the morning off work.
- There are more jobs here for English speakers, but don’t just assume that because you can speak it you’ll get a top job with good pay. Before it was easier, but things here at the moment are difficult, pay is low and the price of living is high. If you’re coming over with children check the schools in the area that you are going to be living in. I’ve just been told that there may not be a place in our area for my two year old when he has to start school next year.
- OK, it’s not all doom and gloom. My last tip would be to enjoy it! Laugh at yourself when you make mistakes. Enjoy the Spanish culture, her food, her wine, her music, her dance, etc.
How is the expat community in Madrid? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I never really had much contact with expats like me until I began in my last job, where most of us were British or American. Then when I left there I got back to my old ways of only hanging out with Spaniards! It has a lot to do with the area you’re in. I live on the outskirts of Madrid where there aren’t as many expats as there are in the center. Since I started my blog I’ve chatted to many more people that are in the same boat as me. I’ve been invited to various meet up groups, but I find it difficult to join in as I have two kids and I don’t drive.
How would you summarize your expat life in Spain in a single, catchy sentence?
A strange mixture of highs and lows, happiness and sadness, laughter and tears…but I’ve learnt from it all!