Living Abroad Changes You!
Living abroad brings a new perspective to your life, the dynamic of cultural experience is much deeper than just spending a short period.
Depending on where you move, in our case, it is from Taiwan to Spain. Breaking the routine, leaving family and friends are always uneasy to handle. Shifting lifestyle into a brand new unknown world is exciting but frightening at the same time.
Moving to Spain is the second overseas move as a multicultural family. Individually, Daniel and I had a combination of at least ten overseas moving experiences. We have been international migrants for most of our life; we understand culture shock, reverse culture shock, and the stress of relocating. Undoubtedly, moving to Spain is the most challenging one we have ever accomplished. My multicultural family comes with a package of two toddlers and a mid-size dog. Increased family size causes an increase in stress, cost, and effort.
It has almost been a year since moving to Spain; being experienced in moving overseas does not mean it gets easier every time. Several challenges to meet and things to adjust, especially relocating from one continent to the other.
Moving is a big transition, and the adjustment goes beyond flying from one spot to the next—cultural changes from east to the west can make you feel uncomfortable all the time.
Things to Adjust after Moving to Spain:
The official language of Catalonia is Catalans and Spanish. Daniel is semi-fluent in Catalan, intermediate level for Spanish. My Spanish is just barely making it to the entry-level. When we were in Taiwan, I was a family translator. In Spain, this role has been transferred to the father naturally.
Luckily, English is widely spoken in Barcelona. Furthermore, Spanish is quite similar to Portuguese. It does give me some comfort zone from this perspective.
Change in food culture is another obvious adjustment we have to make. We miss all the food in Taiwan, meaning not just the taste of it. It’s the more profound memories of emotional connections that are playing the trigger.
When we first moved to Spain, we were excited about the variety of food options. Everything was new and interesting during the honeymoon stage. We could eat Paella over again and again.
At some point, food culture shock started to kick in. From Eastern to Western food, from vegetable oil to olive oil, the smell of stir-fried food using wok under the high heat is missed tremendously; We began to talk about the dishes that we miss the most, even search some of the online recipes to kill our food craving.
The most usual business hours in Spain are Monday to Saturday, from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm, followed by a siesta and finish the day from 4:30 pm to 8 pm. Just in time to catch dinner after work. There is no siesta in Taiwan, and most offices have a one-hour lunch policy around noon time.
Major shopping centers and department stores in Spain are open all day from Monday to Saturday, closed on Sunday and holidays. In Taiwan, most department stores are open all year round unless the government issued it for the case of typhoon day. Even during the Chinese New Year, shopping centers will only take a half-day off on New Year’s Eve and regular operating hours throughout two weeks of Chinese New Year celebrations.
In Spain, kids are running around at 9 pm, and some go to bed at midnight. In our lifestyle, 9:30 pm in bed is way too late.
Change in Pace
Spain has a much slower pace than Taiwan. Thanks to Brazil’s experience. We were able to adopt it quickly.
We enjoy the slower pace of life in Spain in many respects, more time for ourselves, allowing us to have enough time to pay attention to the quality of life we want. On the other hand, it can also become extremely frustrating when it comes to applying documents, dealing with bureaucracy. Imagine sending packages in the post office during the Christmas seasons.
Rebuild the Support system
We used to live nearby my parents in Taiwan. Therefore we had a much closer support system from family. After moving to Spain, we have to readjust our routine and try to be equipped with the sources we have to rebuild a new system.
Re-adjusting routine is not merely trying to find out what time we wake up, eat, and go to bed. We have to blend ourselves into this new society, search for a community that is willing to accept who we are, and start to build relationships with them.
As a multicultural family, we try to reconnect with the local relatives and actively search for new family friends that also have younger family members at home; As for individuals, a like-minded friend to share a laugh and stories is always important. However, all these take time, patience, and effort.
We used to drive in Taiwan, but we decided to start our new living abroad life without buying a vehicle due to financial control. Barcelona has a wide range of transport. Therefore it is easy and convenient to find your way to commute around the city. However, without access to a car, grocery shopping can require a fair amount of planning. Online shopping is an option, but I enjoy the supermarket shopping experience. On the other hand, living expenses are cheaper without owning a car in Barcelona, and it also helps to reduce the environmental impact.
Weather is the part that we would agree is undoubtedly the least challenging one to adjust. Taiwan belongs to the tropical climate zone. Winters are warm, and summers are consistently high heat and humid, sometimes with several typhoons. Barcelona has pleasant days all year round. It is much drier and colder in the winter compared to Taiwan. Overall, we prefer the Barcelona weather.
Taiwan is one of the safest countries I have lived in before. Crime rates are low by world standards. Security cameras are on every street across the nation. Most people feel comfortable walking on the road at any time of the day.
In general, I also feel safe to walk in Barcelona. The pickpockets are professionals here, and two months after moving to Spain, I’ve witnessed a motorcycle robbery incident in the city center. Literally before I react, the crime already happened and finished! Although it is not usual, it happens. We can’t let our guard down and always need to keep an eye on all our belongings.
Moving to Spain is an adventure, and living abroad experience is exciting and yet frightening.
most movers understand how it feels like to freshly land in a new country and try to start a new living abroad life, The honeymoon stage is always sweet and fun. Until to the point that you start to feel overwhelmed by having too many new things coming to you at once. One of my friend’s honeymoon stages ended when the phone was stolen.
Setting up new habits and connections needs attention and time. You will be passing several stages, some are easy, and some are not. Most of them are important decisions to make. Nonetheless, moving to Spain is one of the best decisions we have made as a family.