Coming to Madrid as an auxiliar de conversacion has been an interesting mix of the familiar and the new for me, and that’s been a little disorienting. I was lucky enough to study abroad in Madrid in 2017, and was fairly certain that coming back to the city would be easy and the culture shock would be minimal.
However; it turns out two years is just long enough to forget a few key details, from tiny details to the mindset and culture itself. I think assuming I knew what I was walking into actually made the transition more challenging.
My first reminder I don’t know everything was a simple metro ride. The train came to my stop, I stood by the doors to get off, and being completely jet-lagged, I didn’t notice they weren’t opening until the train was moving again. Here, the doors only open when a button is pressed, so they’re not opening and letting out air-conditioning when no one is getting off. I knew that at some point, but it definitely wasn’t something I remembered two years later.
Speaking of air conditioning, I’m also remembering that it isn’t really used here. I think Spaniards are just immune to the heat, since they seem unbothered when houses, restaurants, bars and stores hover around 90 degrees. I, on the other hand, am from the USA, the land of restaurants and shops air-conditioned to the point of refrigeration during the summer. I like it that way. But, with the help of a fan and a giant window I’ve been making do.
Another thing I’d forgotten was how laid back the culture is, and all that comes with that. I’m used to responding to emails within an hour or two, so being expected to wait multiple days has reminded me that patience is not my strong suit. Reintroducing the phrase “no pase nada” to my vocabulary has been almost therapeutic, but it’s also been a challenge.
Finally, if I’ve learned anything in the past week it has to be that speaking a language is not like riding a bike. The more I use my Spanish the more I remember, but I’m staggered by how much I’ve forgotten in just a few short years. Thankfully, between living with a host family and having almost all Spanish coworkers I’m going to be forced to get my act together pretty quickly, but its still hard to feel like I took such a huge step back in a relatively short time.
I’m getting myself into the swing of things here in Spain, but it’s definitely not the seamless transition I thought it would be. Of course, if I really wanted seamless and easy I would have stayed in the USA.