So far, living in Spain isn't much different than living in the United States. There are actually quite a lot of American brands out here, such as: Starbucks, McDonalds, KFC, Taco Bell, Five Guys and Dunkin' Donuts to name a few. In the healthcare sections, you can also find some of your American brands such as: CeraVe, Dove, Head and Shoulders, Tresemme, and way more. For clothes shopping, there are also the main stores you'd find at home like: Zara, H&M, Levi's, Nike, SuperDry, Adidas, Foot Locker, and Guess.
Reading brand names in English makes you feel more comfortable, as everything else will be in Spanish. Language is honestly the only big difference. However, there has been at least one employee in each store I've visited that can speak English at least somewhat. I am horrible with my Spanish still, but have been able to get by with the little Spanish I do know.
One of my biggest wishes for Madrid would be to introduce a Target or Walmart. Whenever I moved to a new city in the U.S., one of my first and only stops was Target or Walmart. These two stores literally have everything you need in order to comfortably move into your new home. Madrid doesn't really have anything like that. I've had to roam around to all types of different stores to find every random thing I would need. It gets very overwhelming and annoying to always be on the hunt just to satisfy your shopping needs.
Another inconvenience is laundry. Whenever I moved to a new home in the U.S., my deal breaker would be in-unit laundry. Now, the homes in Madrid usually have washers, but they do not have dryers! I just tried drying my first load of clothes a couple hours ago. I am hoping they are dry in the morning. 20 clothespins were not enough, and I was stressing trying to make that happen. It's actual work that I am not used to. I'm sure it will come second nature by next month, but man - it's a struggle. (Me - imagining I didn't secure my clothes tight enough and the night wind gushes all my underwear away.)
The weather is also a fun one. I'm from California. I've lived in the bay area, central valley, and southern California. Usually in January, it just rains or it doesn't. It's foggy or it's not. But the temperature stays consistent. This year, Madrid has been out of control. It started out as a snow storm the second week with a foot and a half build up of snow. When I arrived on the second half of the month, the snow was built up still and the nights were freezing in the 30s. Then it rained for a good 5 days, and I stayed in the whole time. Next thing you know, all the snow melted, the rain has stopped and winter turned into spring. I was walking around with just a shirt, and no jacket at all. Now, its foggy and has the crisp bay area weather. I have no idea how to dress any more.
I haven't even moved into my permanent flat yet. I've been in a hotel and an Airbnb for what feels like forever. I probably haven't even scratched the surface of what else I will encounter. It's been interesting, but I am just ready to move in and get settled in.
Moving is never an easy task. It's expensive, stressful, and uncomfortable. But you will always learn so much about life and yourself. That's priceless.