Home For Christmas: Forgotten Luxuries

The title to this post might be misleading, depending on how you define the word “luxuries.” Of course I would love limos, servants, and movie theaters in my basement, but I’m talking the little luxuries of everyday American life, like heat, and cranberry sauce. I found all my forgotten luxuries when I went home for Christmas break.

Life in Spain

Life in SpainLiving in Spain for the last 3 months, I grew accustomed to smaller meals, smaller cars, smaller houses, smaller clothes…smaller everything. It became commonplace to go to the local market around the corner for dinner daily instead of stocking up on food for the week from a big supermarket. The small refrigerator wouldn’t even hold a week’s worth of food! Meals in Spain are very basic with few spices.

Thanksgiving Dinner was less than traditional because it was difficult to find a whole turkey, cleaned out, that we could bake in the electric oven. We bought turkey slices and hoped for the best. Corn on the cob? Nope, but we did have canned corn. Cranberry sauce was the hardest; I couldn’t even find cranberries anywhere to try to make homemade cranberry sauce. I ended up going to El Corte Inglés and found some of the forgotten luxuries of home, like cranberry sauce, and was able to introduce my Spanish friends to our American tradition.

Thanksgiving in Spain is a bit more difficult to host than I thought!
Thanksgiving in Spain is a bit more difficult to host than I thought!

Trying to bake Christmas cookies proved difficult since there are no prepackaged cookie dough rolls like we find in the U.S., and I couldn’t find baking soda and vanilla extract and many other things in the markets to make homemade cookies. I ended up going to a popular bakery and buying what I thought were cookies, but what turned out to be Spanish pastries. Either way, they were a big hit with my coworkers and hit the spot for me too!

Forgotten Luxuries I miss from America

Heat

A wood burner is romantic, but I miss easy heat
A wood burner is romantic, but I miss easy heat

The centuries-old houses didn’t have heating systems when they were built, so we don’t have a heating system in place now. This is common in the old houses of Spain. Instead, we use a wood burner and order 80 euros worth of cut olive trees to stay warm! It gets chilly when the fire goes out in the middle of the night and we wake up to the freezing cold mountain air, but it is cozy and warm while the fire is on and gives life a real rustic touch. It’s even romantic, living with my boyfriend in this fairytale setting, burning wood in the chimenea, with a view of the mountaintops in the distance!

Car

I miss having my own car in Spain
I miss having my own car in Spain

Having a car isn’t a big deal in a city where there is plenty of public transportation, but there are no taxis or city buses in the small mountainous town of Olvera. There is a bus station, but buses to each destination only come through once or twice a day, so it requires a lot of planning to take a trip. Sometimes, the buses skip over our small towns all together.

The supermarket, restaurants, gym, veterinarian, etc. are all a mile away. Even my school is a mile away, so it’s about a 20 minute walk each day. It’s not a big deal and the walk goes by fast, but coming home from anywhere means walking uphill to the top of the mountain, so I’m definitely getting my exercise. Sometimes I will stop by the supermarket on my way home from school, and walking home a mile with a few bags of groceries is bicep, traps, quadriceps, and calf day. Taking Fred (our adopted Spanish stray cat) to the vet in a cat carrier a mile away got me a lot of funny looks and seriously worked out my arms.

It’s times like these that I really miss hopping in my car to drive to the nearest convenience store. I still wouldn’t trade the experience for convenience. Give me life in Spain over a car any day!

Carpet and Rugs

Tiled floors and cement walls keep the house cool in the hot summers
Tiled floors and cement walls keep the house cool in the hot summers

I miss carpet and rugs! The stone and cement houses are great in summer to keep it cool, but in the winter it doesn’t keep the warm air in very well. And the tiled floors are very common in Andalucía. No one has rugs or carpet which seems healthier, but I do miss them.

English

Hearing English and being able to communicate thoughts easily is something we definitely take for granted in the U.S. It’s so nice to be able to communicate without thinking. And while my Spanish is getting better, it’s not good enough yet to get what I need easily. It’s so nice to come back to the U.S. where I’m fluent in the language!

Stores That Have Everything

America has markets where you can buy all the forgotten luxuries at once, but Spain has markets where you can buy legs of ham
America has markets where you can buy everything at once, but Spain has markets where you can buy legs of ham

In America, it’s usually Walmart or something similar. In Spain, there’s a market for meat, a market for vegetables, a bodega for non-food items, a store for pet supplies, a tobacco store, a newspaper and book store…and you can’t get everything at one store. Get out a map and plan a route to hit everything in one big circle, and possibly bring a rolling suitcase to hold all of the different bags!

TV

We don’t have cable in Spain because it would all be in Spanish anyway, so we watch movies on the computer through the internet. I don’t watch much tv to begin with, but it’s so nice to come home and have cable just to have something on in the background. Plus, I miss my Big Bang Theory!

Now, Things I Don’t Miss

American Eggs

American eggs aren’t fresh. In fact, you have to buy them refrigerated in America. Eggs are meant to be fresh and room temperature, not refrigerated because there’s so much time between farm and store.

Processed Food

Chicken and other meats that have been given steroids or other hormones are way too common in America. Mass produced food is more filler than real food. To buy fresh and hormone-free food is very expensive and harder to come by. I love the fresh, literal, daily farm-to-table food in Spain.

Fast-Paced Life and Stress

Spain: No traffic, no stress, relaxed life
Spain: No traffic, no stress, relaxed life

America is so fast-paced! Everyone is speeding through traffic (and there is traffic), people are pushing each other and cutting each other off, everyone is yelling at each other, and there’s so much life stress. This just doesn’t happen in Spain! People are relaxed, the day starts later, there’s a siesta, and no one is in a hurry. Things just flow much more naturally!

Boring Lives

Weekends in Spain are so much more interesting than weekends in New Jersey
Weekends in Spain are so much more interesting than weekends in New Jersey

Everyone in New Jersey is doing the same thing and going to the same places…every day, weekend, month. How boring! They need an adventure. How many times can you go get drunk at the same bar? Fun has a new definition in Spain.

Racial Issues, Hatred, and Judgement

Of course everywhere has these issues, but in Spain they’re not as prevalent and don’t dominate the news. From across the ocean it just looks pathetic in the U.S. Grow up, people, let it go. Let’s start acting like a unified country instead of fighting each other.

Super High Prices

3 euros for a tapa is actually a tourist price
3 euros for a tapa is actually a tourist price

$1000-$2000-$3000 a month in rent??? $100 for one dinner for two people??? $6 beers??? $80 a month cell phone bills??? In Spain, our rent is 250 euros a month, tapas are 2 euros each, beers are 1 euro each (cheaper than soda even), and my cell phone is 10 euros a month. People get paid more in America, but everything costs more in America. In Spain, I don’t work to afford to work, I work to afford to travel and live my life.

Tipping

In Spain, it isn’t customary to tip, and they don’t expect it. It feels wrong, but it’s just how they do it. It saves a lot of money too, and makes splitting bills less awkward!

Splitting Checks

In America, it’s a process to split the check. In Spain, it’s unusual for the waiter to bring a check to a big party. You don’t all have to arrive at once, you don’t hall have to leave at the same time, and you don’t worry about splitting a check. When you decide you are finished, you go up to the bar and tell them what you had, and they ring you up. Honor system, and you only pay for what you had without the trouble of splitting a check.

Conclusion

There are many differences between Europe and America, some good and some not so good. Neither place is better than the other, and that is a very important thing to remember; they are just different. Of course there will be some forgotten luxuries I miss from home that I have been used to my entire life, but I am experiencing brand new things that I never would have dreamed of if I had never made this move! I am thrilled to be home for the holidays, and thrilled to be going back to my fantasy life.

I'm always happy wherever I am!
I’m always happy wherever I am!

I was sad to leave Spain to come home, I will be sad to leave home to go back, and I’m sure I will be sad to leave somewhere again! A smart man once told me that if you are sad to leave every time you go somewhere, it means you can adapt to anything and are truly happy wherever you are. <3

Have you lived abroad and come home to realize some of the forgotten luxuries you miss from home? Did you find more luxuries being an expat? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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Home for Christmas: Forgotten Luxuries

P.S. You might also like 11 Things in Spain That Aren’t Common in the U.S. and Biggest Challenges for an Expat

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