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Which of these things did Susan find hard?
- “Andaluz” accent.
- Hot weather in summer.
- Shops closed during siesta.
Interviewer: Welcome to our Interview Series. Today we have invited Susan Brown to our show.
Susan: People say don’t fall in love when you go abroad because you won’t come back… and based on my experience, they’re totally right. After graduating from college with a communications degree I headed to Spain for a teaching exchange program. The plan was to learn some Spanish, do a bit of traveling, enjoy the famous fiestas of Andalusia, and then go home and get a real job. But one year turned into six and before I knew it.
Interviewer: Where are you originally from?
Susan: I’m from a small town in Florida and now I live in Sanlúcar, Spain.
Interviewer: How long have you lived in Spain and how long are you planning to stay?
Susan: I moved here in 2011 and plan on staying forever! Originally I moved here to teach English for a year as a Culture and Language Assistant. After participating in the program I landed a marketing job in Seville and later was offered my current position working remotely as the Global Marketing Lead for a startup company in San Francisco/London.
Interviewer: How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Susan: If I’m being honest, it was really difficult moving here in the beginning. I had studied Spanish. Also, despite studying Spanish I didn’t actually speak it very well… so it took me about six months of practicing daily to get to a point of fluency. I also had a difficult time adjusting to the Andalusian lifestyle; I kept forgetting everything was closed during siesta (2pm — 5pm) and on Sundays. That being said, now I feel proud when Spaniards comment on my “Andaluz” accent and napping on a hot summer day seems like a great idea.
Interviewer: Was it easy making friends and meeting people?
Susan: I have noticed the people in Andalusia are exceptionally friendly with foreigners. It may be the fact that I live in a small town, but I have been fortunate to make several close Spanish friends and have numerous acquaintances here too. My group of friends is a mix of locals and foreigners.
Interviewer: What do you enjoy most about living in Spain?
Susan: I love the lifestyle and culture in Andalusia. I’ve become a “disfrutona de la vida” as a result of living here! The cultural events and fiestas are fantastic — I own about six flamenco dresses myself and never miss a chance to dress up for the annual carnival!
Interviewer: If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Spain, what would it be?
Susan: Don’t fight the lifestyle. Adapt! You may find you’re a fan of late lunches and siestas after all. Spaniards have the second longest life expectancy in the world, so they must be doing something right.
Interviewer: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Susan: I can’t really think of anything. Dealing with Spanish public offices is a pain, but other than that it has been a cakewalk for the most part!
Interviewer: What are your top 5 tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
Susan: Try to make new friends as soon as you move here. They’re a great way to practice Spanish and meet locals. You can search for “language exchange groups and meetups” online. Typically, during weekly meetups a group of people will meet at a cafeteria for coffee and will spend 30 minutes speaking in Spanish and 30 minutes in English. Bring your old student ID card. Most of the time they’ll give you the discount. Make it a point to improve your Spanish. I think it’s difficult to truly appreciate Spanish culture if language is a barrier for you. Try your hardest to make friends with locals; you’ll see a side of Spain you would never be able to experience otherwise.
Interviewer: I want to say a big thanks to Susan for doing this interview, and I wish you all the success in your career.