Living abroad: 8 things I miss about the U.S. – and 3 things I don’t

Don’t get me wrong, living in Barcelona hasn’t provided the kind of adjustment and culture shock that living in a remote village without plumbing would, but there are definite differences that cause me to celebrate or, at times, grumble. I’m kind of good at grumbling when things tick me off, so I tried not to write this post too early in my adventure, lest I blow everything out of proportion.

portland happy hour

Enjoying happy hour over the summer in Portland – and displaying my extraordinarily long shins. (photo by my friend, Jill)

I still have a lot to learn about life here, but I think I’ve gotten enough of a flavor of the city and its tempo to evaluate what I wouldn’t give up, what I could do without, and what I really miss about life in the states. Today I’ll focus on that last part, and in an upcoming post, I’ll speak to the things about Barcelona I’m falling madly in love with.

8 things I miss about the U.S.

1. Food carts. I’m speaking mostly about Portland here, but DAMN, I miss our food carts. We’re spoiled in PDX. Fresh, cheap, delicious, organic food from hundreds of carts, representing every kind of craving and cuisine. Yeah, sometimes too many choices are overwhelming, but what I’d give for a steaming $4 bowl of kale, quinoa, black beans and spicy sauce. Or a drippy delicious egg sandwich from The Big Egg. Or a plate of nachos covered in jalapeños. Or anything covered in jalapeños.

food cart pdx

Portland food carts, I love you so hard.

2. My grocery staples. Almond butter, almond milk, turkey breast, vanilla granola, whole wheat tortillas, hot salsa, protein bars. Before you go telling me that I can find substitutions and approximations for all those things, let me stop you. They’re just not the same! (And they’re damn expensive here.) I miss you, Trader Joe’s. I miss you, New Seasons.

3. IPA. You’ve heard me wax nostalgic about IPA, and it’s the truth: I love a hoppy beer. The wine in Barcelona is lovely, but the beer is abysmal. It’s all watered-down, Pilsner-style, flavorless ick. I’ve gotten in no less than three arguments with Europeans – and even an American here – that the beer in Barcelona is better than in the states. Every time, I’m like, But have you been to Portland? No? You haven’t? End of discussion. ;)

IPA

Remember that time I found an IPA in Barcelona and got all teary-eyed?

4. Meal times. My preferences are very slowly changing, and sometimes I like the long lunches and late dinners in Barcelona, but for the most part, I miss eating and going out at what felt like “civilized” hours. I know saying that is near blasphemy in these parts, but staying up until 2:00 am every day (or later on the weekends, when people don’t even start the night until after midnight) is catching up with me. There are days I really miss meeting for happy hour at 5:30, eating dinner at 7:00 and making it home in time to curl up on my couch and watch Bravo.

5. My gym membership. I don’t exercise here as much as I’d like, for a number of reasons, one being that I get really bored when I don’t have easy access to a variety of workout options. I miss taking classes like Zumba, Pilates & whatever fancy name they’re calling the weightlifting class these days. Here, monthly gym memberships are really pricy, unless you sign a long-term contract (even then, they’re more expensive than the states), and I can’t sign a contract without having a Spanish identification number.

6. Having a steady income. I guess this one isn’t U.S.-specific, but it’s specific to my experience at home. I took for granted the calm that comes with getting a regular paycheck, knowing how much to expect every two weeks and being able to budget accordingly. My finances are all over the place here, and though I’m learning to deal with the anxiety, it’s not my happy place.

7. Skiing. As winter approaches, I’m getting all bugged out over missing the ski season in Portland. My friends and I had a nice little routine of meeting at the parking lot on weekend mornings, carpooling up to the mountain, stopping for breakfast burritos, beating the crowds to the hill and stopping early in the afternoon for, yes, IPAs. (I have gear, equipment and a ski pass at home so it’s not a big expense the way taking a weekend trip to the Pyrenees – or wherever the closest skiing is – would be here.)

8. Friends & family & football. Of course, friends and family would be on my list no matter which country I’d relocated to. Not seeing friends from home is an adjustment enough, but it’s really the time difference that gets me riled up. It’s a challenge to find times to Skype, and sending texts and emails just isn’t the same. Oh, and have I mentioned how nearly no bars show NFL games here? (Those that do show them inconsistently at best.) I miss watching the Packers and checking my fantasy scores incessantly and acting a fool with my friends. (We can get into a discussion later about how being a football fan maybesortakinda goes against some of my beliefs – and how I could try to get into soccer here in Barcelona – but for now, let’s just leave it at #PACKERNATION and #GOPACKGO.)

football

Despite appearances, we didn’t even pose for this pic.

3 things I don’t

1. Working a 40-hour week. In my circle of acquaintances here, the 40-hour week is unheard of. And I don’t just mean because work is hard to come by, which it is, but that people choose to work less if given the option. The mentality is so much less work-work-work-move-up-move-up-move-up than it is in the states. I love the focus on balance and enjoyment. Life is tranquila, and that pace agrees with me.

2. Driving. The public transportation in Barcelona is legit. I can walk or take the metro everywhere I need to go. It’s fast, it’s cheap, it’s not stressful (except when there’s a transportation strike and trains are running 30% of the time and I’m late to work). ;) I love not worrying about paying for gas, paying for insurance, finding parking, etc. I sort of never want to own a car again.

3. Owning shit. I absolutely love being mobile. No mortgage, no car, no furniture, no accumulation of piles of crap. I love that when I moved from one apartment to another here, I packed up all of my stuff into three suitcases and got on the metro, and that was that. The need to be mobile has also changed the way I shop. I’m not tempted to buy clothes (other than a couple wool sweaters when I realized I didn’t pack anything remotely winter-appropriate) or trinkets or candles or cupcake platters or whatever other shit I used to put into my basket at Target. Maybe this’ll change one day, but I’m digging the simplicity of not having stuff.

Tell me: Have you lived abroad, or are you living abroad now? What sorts of things do you miss about home?

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