11 Things in Spain That Aren’t Common in the U.S.

Life in Spain is starting to feel a little like a dream. Waking up to shouts of “vengaaaa!!” and a beautiful mountainous backdrop is now only something I dream about. It helps to know that I appreciated my time there and didn’t take it for granted. Every day, I think back to this time last year and what I was doing. So what do I miss most about Spain? Here are some of the things in Spain that aren’t common in the U.S.

11. Wood Burners

< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S.: wood burner >I know these aren’t really uncommon, but my first wood burner was in Spain. We didn’t have a heating system, we burned wood to stay warm. And the wood came from olive trees in the countryside! It was a very local and cultural way of living, and I loved every minute of it (even waking up cold after the fire died down). It was cozy, romantic, smelled great, and really did a good job of warming the concrete house. I will have one of these in my house no matter where I end up, so that I keep this memory of Spain with me!

< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S. >

10. White Villages

< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S.: White villages >The first time I saw a town that was all the same color was in Spain. My first reaction to seeing a white town from our rental car was an excited yelp at something new. It was amazing – an entirely white town! So clean and beautiful. And once you get into the towns, it’s just as amazing! Everything feels so big and light and clean, even though most of the houses are town houses and close together. The whiteness has a wonderful psychological, uplifting effect. I dream of Andalucía’s white villages.

< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S. >

9. Cathedrals and Bell Towers

< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S.: Spanish cathedrals >Living down the street from the town’s largest cathedral meant we could hear the bell every hour on the hour. At first, I thought this was annoying because a bell dinged every hour, and at noon or midnight, it  dinged 12 times. Eventually, I stopped noticing it unless I wanted to and I actually found it helpful to tell the time if I didn’t have a watch or phone nearby. 6 months later, I miss that church and bell terribly! What I would give to hear a church ringing a bell every hour… And another chance to photograph that beautiful work of art!

< Olvera's cathedral >

8. Spanish Breakfast

< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S.: taste and tomato for breakfast >
Fail: My American version of mollete con aceite y tomate

When I first arrived in Spain and discovered Spanish breakfast consisted only of toast, I wondered what new world I stepped into where eggs were for lunch only. After only a few weeks, I became obsessed with mollete y tomate con aceite (Spanish toast with tomato and oil). Spanish toast is delicious and not like any toast I ever had in New Jersey. In fact, I’ve stopped using butter since Spain – oil is all I need in my life now! I recently tried to recreate my favorite Spanish breakfast with a fresh-baked roll, a can of crushed tomatoes, and American olive oil…and failed miserably. I still ate the whole thing because it brought me back, but it just wasn’t as good as the real thing. On the same note, I would love some Spanish café con leche! I’m not a coffee drinker and never have been, but Spanish coffee is phenomenal. If we had it here, I’d be a coffee addict! I need my Spanish breakfast back!

7. Spanish Patios and Courtyards

< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S.: Real Alcazar Castle in Sevilla >Spain is known for its courtyards and patios. In fact, in spring families open their houses up for visitors to admire their flowered patios. Houses are built around central courtyards, and many have a few patios. They are beautiful! We didn’t have a beautiful courtyard in our house, but we did have a lower patio and an upper patio with a gorgeous view of the mountains and 2 lounge chairs. I miss laying out on the patio, reading a good book, and getting bronzed. I would get lost in a book and look up at our view and realize I was still lost in a dream!

< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S.: Royal Castles >

6. Spanish Wine and Tinto con Limón

< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S.: tinto con limon >
Good Spanish wine! And what’s better, 1€ bottles of wine (which is about $1 US). We could buy locally made red or white Spanish wine in the Mercadona (big grocery store chain) for 1€, or a better bottle in the local family run market for 2€. The best red wine, called rioja, was a whopping 3€, so we only splurged on that when it was a special occasion. Now, it hurts to pay $15 US for a single bottle in New Jersey. Also on that note, we need to bring tinto con limón into the U.S. It’s basically a wine spritzer – the cheapest red wine with a lemon flavored carbonated beverage called Casera. It tastes like heaven and is one of the best drinks I’ve ever had. I miss my cheap and delicious Spanish wine!

< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S.: tinto con limon >

5. Space

< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S.: rolling hills >
Olive groves as far as the eye can see

Spain has so much open space! Coming from New Jersey, I’m not used to seeing unused land. We have town after town, city after city, and small farms thrown in where there’s room. There’s nowhere in New Jersey where you can drive more than 10 minutes without seeing civilization. In Spain, you can drive for an hour and not see civilization. It makes it hard to plan for food or gas because there’s no fast food stops or restaurants unless you get off the highway and enter a village, which then abides by Spanish time constraints. In New Jersey, everyone is on top of each other. Unless I drive 5 hours to Virginia, I can’t get away from clusters of people and bright lights and traffic! I miss the wide open spaces, greenery, traffic-free roads, and rolling mountains of Spain.

< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S.: bike paths in the mountains >
Andalucía mountains go on forever

4. Spain’s Olive Oil

Along with local and delicious wine, the world’s #1 supply of olive oil is produced right in Andalucía! You’ll probably never see so many olive trees as you will when you’re driving through Southern Spain, and it’s all worth it. The olive oil that comes out of this region is healthy, cheap, plentiful, and tastes amazing. Coming from New Jersey, we were used to using butter to cook or make toast. After living in Spain, we no longer use butter. Olive oil is perfect for all of our needs and we have a new appreciation for it. I only wish I could find olive oil in New Jersey as good and cheap as in Spain. Why didn’t I think to bring any back with me?!

3. A tuned-in ear

< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S.: a tuned-in ear >
Dinner with friends

When you hear Spanish every day, you become accustomed to it. Your ear is more attuned to the language and it makes it easier and faster to learn. I almost got to the point where I could talk on the phone in Spanish! Now that I hear English every day, it’s harder for me to understand Spanish. As hard as it was sometimes to get my point across or get what I wanted when I couldn’t speak the language, it was a great learning and growing experience for me, and now I feel like my life is too easy being able to communicate clearly. I do have more respect for others around me who are trying to learn English and understand what they’re going through. But what I really want is to surround myself with Spanish people again so I can continue to grow my Spanish vocabulary and practice, practice, practice.

2. History and architecture

< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S.: Barcelona's Parc Guell >
Park Guell, Barcelona
< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S.: Seville's cathedral >
Sevilla Cathedral

America is a new country without the ancient architecture that showed the world what a great civilization lived in Europe. Much of the architecture dates back to Moorish rule in the 700-800s and can be seen in ancient palaces like the Alhambra, Real Alcazar, and the Mosque/Cathedral of Cordoba. Barcelona is a hub of art and architecture, known as the home of Antoni Gaudi.

< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S.: Cordoba's Mosque and Cathedral in one building >
Mosque/Church of Cordoba
< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S.: Granada's La Alhambra with Moorish architecture >
Patio de los Leones in La Alhambra, Granada
< Things in Spain that aren't common in the U.S.: Barcelona's La Sagrada Familia >
La Sagrada Familia church by Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona

1. The People

< I miss my friends from Spain >
Teachers and students at Zaframagón

I miss most the warm, friendly, kind, helpful, wonderful people of Spain. They truly are one of a kind. I made such wonderful friendships during my year there and I miss them terribly. The teachers and students became my friends and I’m lucky to be able to keep in touch with them. But as helpful as social media can be for keeping in touch, it makes me sad every time I see a post from Spain and I’m not there. I can’t wait to reunite with my Spanish friends one day!

This list might not be true of everywhere in Spain or everywhere in the U.S. For example, I know there is lots of space and rolling hills in Montana. People in New Mexico or Texas might have an ear tuned-in for Spanish more so than in New Jersey. And people do have fireplaces and fires in the U.S. But specific to where I lived in Spain versus where I live in the U.S., these are the things in Spain that aren’t common in the U.S. for me, and I miss them terribly!

Have you lived abroad and since returned back to your home country? What are some of the things that you miss from living abroad? Let me know in the comments below!

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11 Things in Spain That Aren't Common in the U.S.

P.S. You might also enjoy Life After Living Abroad and Biggest Challenges for an Expat

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