Welcome to my latest installment of “Interview with an Expat,” this time featuring Kate from Petite Adventures!
Kate is a Canadian girl with ample wanderlust who just moved to Madrid! In her blog she recounts stories from her travel all over the world including Poland, Russia, Sweden, and Finland! Let me be among the first to welcome Kate to the Expat life! Read on to see how she’s handling her first couple months.
Hi Kate! Help us get to know your expat story. Why did you become an expat, how long have you lived as an expat, and why did you choose to live in Madrid? Have you ever lived in another country before?
Hi! I’m relatively new to the expat world as we just moved to Spain in October 2015. After a few years of working the traditional 9-to-5, my boyfriend and I were looking for something different, so he decided to go back to school and I decided to go on an adventure. After a few months of weighing our options, we settled on Madrid because the program was the right fit for my boyfriend and we’d have ample opportunities to travel throughout Spain and Europe. Another factor was the weather in Madrid; we’re very happy to be experiencing a winter where the temperature has been closer to +20°C than -20°C
This is my first time living outside of Canada – while the Spanish culture is quite different I’m enjoying the process of learning a new language and adapting to a whole new way of life. I won’t lie, sometimes it’s hard and a bit frustrating, but overall, the good outweighs the bad.
Why do you call your blog “Petite Adventures” and what is the aim of your blog?
I decided to call my blog Petite Adventures because I am quite petite–I stand at somewhere between 5’2 and 5’3 depending on the day and who you ask. I’m also not a long-term traveller or digital nomad, so my adventures tend to be on the shorter (or petite) side.
My aim for the blog is to provide updates to family and friends about our life in Madrid; to share stories from my past travels and our adventures throughout Europe; and, to hopefully share information, and maybe inspire other expats. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without the expat blog community. I’ve learned so much from other trailing spouses and have found so much comfort in reading other expat blogs. If I can help or inspire just one person, that would be pretty amazing!
Have you settled in to your new home yet?
After three-ish months in Madrid, I think we’re pretty much settled into our apartment. The whole renting process here in Spain was confusing and quite frustrating at times, but in the end everything worked out because we’re very happy with the location and the apartment that we chose. After a lot of cleaning, and more than a few trips to Primark we’ve definitely turned our flat into our home.
So far, what has been surprisingly hard about adjusting to life in Spain?
Speaking Spanish. Everyone in Spain speaks so fast that it’s been difficult for a beginner like me to get comfortable having conversations. I’ve been taking lessons, and I’m really good at ordering coffee and conversing with the cashier at the grocery store, but other than that I feel a bit lost. I plan on starting to attend intercambrios (or language exchanges) this month to help me gain confidence and practice having fuller conversations.
Another adjustment was eating dinner at such a late hour. The first few weeks we were in Madrid we were living out of a hostel and had to rely on restaurants for meals. I can’t count the number of times we tried to order food at 6 or 7 PM only to be told the kitchen was closed and we’d have to wait.
Is there something you wish you would have known about Spain/Spanish culture before making the move?
As I mentioned above how quickly they speak: no amount of lessons could have prepared me for the speed.
What do you enjoy most so far about Madrid?
The weather! As I mentioned above, the weather in Madrid is drastically different than what we’re used to in Ottawa at this time of year. Even when I lived in Vancouver I can’t ever remember having 15°C temperatures mid-winter. It’s amazing and such a nice change!
The food! The food in Spain is amazing. Since we’ve been in Madrid I can’t remember eating a bad meal. From croquettes to octopus, I’ve tasted some absolutely amazing things!
Wine! Delicious and inexpensive. Need I say more?!
The city itself. When we first arrived in Madrid I couldn’t get over how beautiful it was, and I’m still amazed every time we explore a new area of the city.
How is living in another country different from traveling to another country?
You can’t just get by with knowing hello/goodbye/thank you when you’re living in a different country, and you start to feel bad asking everyone if they speak English.
Living in a different country really gives you the opportunity to get to know the ins and outs, and to really experience the culture through day-to-day life.
Are you missing anything that is unique to Canada that you can’t find in Spain?
I do miss Canadian grocery stores. They just offered so much more selection than the ones in our neighbourhood. I’ve had to abandon more than a few recipes because I couldn’t find a main ingredient. And, I’m not just talking about obscure ingredients; sometimes lemons are hard to come by.
Is there something that Spain does much better than Canada?
The metro system here in Madrid is amazing. It’s easy to use, covers so much ground, and runs so frequently. In Ottawa, where it was only buses, it wasn’t unusual to wait 15-20 minutes for a bus in good weather, add a little snow and things would get exponentially worse. They are currently building light rail in Ottawa, so who knows, maybe when we go back we’ll have access to a system just as great as we’ve encountered here in Europe.
As this blog is primarily focused on laughing about our own cultural mistakes, what was the funniest culture-clashing situation that happened to you so far as an expat or traveler?
I have accidentally used inappropriate terms for the female anatomy in everyday conversations. It was a matter of mispronunciation, but it was still incredibly embarrassing. I did not know that my face could turn that shade of red. Worst of all, I can’t remember what I actually said so the chances of me doing it again are quite high.
What advice about moving abroad do you wish someone had told you before the move?
Looking back, I wish we had done more research into finding housing and that whole process. Before leaving Canada we looked into cost of living, and browsed the rental agency websites, but I wish we had done more in-depth research, so I wouldn’t have been so blindsided by fianza and other deposits requested by the rental agency.
I also wish someone had shared how difficult it can be to transfer money from Canada to Europe. Who knew you couldn’t just use an email money transfer?!
Thanks for sharing, Kate!
To learn more about Kate and her adventures, don’t forget to check out her blog!
If you are interested in being featured in an expat interview, send me a message!