American Expat Living in Madrid - Interview With Alexis

Published: 6 Apr at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Spain
Alexis hails from Portland, Oregon where she worked for years in event marketing before leaving it behind to follow her dream of living abroad in Spain. She now teaches English to second and third graders and spends her free time exploring the city and travelling every chance she gets. Her favorite thing about living in Madrid is drinking cheap wine outdoors on sunny days and her least favorite thing is trying to commute on Metro strike days. She writes about travelling, photography and food on her blog, Never Leave Here (see listing here)

Meet Alexis - US Expat Living in Madrid
Meet Alexis - US Expat Living in Madrid

Here's the interview with Alexis...

Where are you originally from?
I´m originally from the US. I grew up in California and Arizona but I´d been living in Portland, Oregon for the last 4 years.

In which country and city are you living now?
Right now I live in Madrid, Spain.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I´ve been here so far for a little over six months and I´m planning on staying another six or so. Who knows!

Why did you move and what do you do?
I moved here because I wanted, no - needed, to try something different with my life and found out about the Auxiliares de Conversacion program teaching English in public schools around Spain. I´ve travelled and studied a lot in Spanish speaking countries so I wanted the chance to try to improve my Spanish and, like most Americans, I always wanted to live in Europe.

Did you bring family with you?
I brought my husband... or rather we brought each other. He is teaching English as well.

Tortilla and other tapas - yum!
Tortilla and other tapas - yum!
How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I actually found it so much easier than I´d imagined. Adapting to living here was surprisingly quick and I found myself doing basically the same sorts of things that I used to do at home. The biggest challenge has been the language. I didn´t pick it up as quickly as I´d hoped but frankly, I hardly ever need to speak Spanish so its not a huge issue. I teach in English all day and live with my American husband so I only speak Spanish occasionally at social gatherings or in restaurants and shops. The most difficult thing is having to talk on the phone in Spanish. I have a mini panic attack every time I have to answer the phone!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
It was fairly easy to meet new people. I´m a shy person naturally but having an innate commonality with other expats at least gives me a way of starting a conversation. The majority of the people I know here are expats, English teachers and Erasmus students. I´d love to meet more Spanish people but it just hasn´t happened so much yet.

Enjoying a wine tasting at Madrid's monthly farmers' market
Enjoying a wine tasting at Madrid's monthly farmers' market
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
My favorite things to do in Madrid are eat and drink! I love how cheap wine is and sitting outside on a nice day with a glass of vino and a bowl of olives is heaven for me. I´m a simple girl! Also, one of the best things about being here is is how easy it is to travel to other cities in Spain and other countries by train, bus and cheap flights (Thanks, RyanAir!). I know that´s not something about Madrid but I consider it a plus!

What do you enjoy most about living here?
The thing I like most is that I´m getting to travel a lot and have new experiences to write about. The city always has something going on and each neighborhood is dense with restaurants and shops to check out. I love the Huertas, Malasaña and La Latina neighborhoods.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
Madrid is more expensive than Portland but not by a lot. Portland is a city with tons of cheapskate options but Madrid is definitely an inexpensive place compared to most of Europe. I thought I would be able to save some of my paycheck here but I´ve been spending most of it on eating out and travelling - oops!

Cute street in Huertas
Cute street in Huertas
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
I miss green space! Madrid has fantastic parks but I miss the natural beauty all over Pacific Northwest of the US. I´m the kind of girl that likes rain and trees and gardens and I don´t get too much of that in my daily city life. Sometimes the city air can be pretty stifling. I just want to take a deep breath that isn´t full of car exhaust once in a while!

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Pack better than I did! I didn´t bring a coat because I figured I´d find one I liked here better. I didn´t and I´ve gone the whole winter without a decent coat! Spaniards think I´ve lost my mind but it doesn´t generally get that cold here so I´ve managed.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The hardest thing is missing everyone and everything back home. Sometimes I feel really cut off out here and I can´t just call up my mom whenever I want to chat because of the time difference... and we have to advance schedule Skype sessions anyway.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
When I get back, I think all the time I spent here will just seem like a weird dream... was I really gone that long? I also expect it´ll be strange not to speak Spanish to people in public and I´ll probably cry when I have to start paying $8 for a glass of wine again.

Beautiful blue Madrid sky
Beautiful blue Madrid sky
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Save up! Getting settled aint that cheap.
  2. Get your fill of all of your favorite foods before you leave because, trust me, it´ll break your heart a little bit when you need to have some cottage cheese and no one even knows what you´re talking about.
  3. Bring your own computers and cameras, everything is more expensive here and importing stuff in isn´t as easy as it sounds.
  4. Take advantage of social media. Before I left, I joined the Auxiliares Facebook group and read lots of blog posts. It really helped me know what to expect from my experience.
  5. Don´t be afraid! My husband, for example, was stressed for an entire year before we got here and now that we´re here, its no big deal. You´re probably more adaptable than you think so chill out!

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog Never Leave Here started as a love letter to Portland and now I write about Madrid, food, photography and travel. I post a lot of photos, interview people and give my honest opinions of places I´ve been. Check it out!

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Anyone curious about the program or about Madrid can contact me via email through my blog. I´d love to hear from you! You can also find me on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter.

Alexis blogs at which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Never Leave Here has an listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Alexis, please also drop her a quick comment below.

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Comments » There is 1 comment

Alexis's Mommy wrote 7 years ago:

This is a GREAT interview...I enjoyed every word...very interesting subject matter. Thank you....great job....!!!!

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