Our Top 10 Adjustments to Spanish Life

By: Heidi Wagoner

We live in a typical Spanish terraced home on a budget, so didn’t splurge for the American lifestyle while living in Spain.  With this choice, came a few adjustments in lifestyle that we would like to share with you.  We have lived in Southern Spain for 15 months now and we have adjusted to Spanish life just fine.  In fact, we almost forget what it was like to have many of the modern conveniences.   As with any top 10 countdown, I like to start with 10 and work our way to the number 1 spot.  

10.   No clothes dryer!  
With the beautiful costal weather, not many people around town have the luxury of a clothes dryer.  We all just hang our clothes out on the line to dry and often they are done in a few hours.  Oh, but I still cringe on those rare cold rainy days, as I know the clothes won’t be drying on the line.  This was an adjustment at first, but now we know how to plan and make sure we have clean and dry clothes.

9.  No dishwasher!  
I know I sound spoiled, but we didn’t know how we were going to ever live without our dishwasher.  Guess what?  It took no time at all to get in the rhythm and get used to hand washing our dishes. Many of the modern electronics aren’t used as electricity is expensive and space within your home is at a premium too.

8.  Naked Floors.  
We love to walk around the house barefoot and do miss having carpet so we can just stretch out on the floor.  I am constantly having to sweep as so much dust gets on the floors from the sea air.  It is kind of creepy to think all of that dust would still be here if we had carpet; it would just be hidden, so I guess the tile is more sanitary.  In the summer we love having the traditional tile floors, but in the winter my feet just get cold.  No matter if you have on socks or slippers, that cold floor finds its way into chilling my tootsie footsies.

7.  Spanish timing.
We are still adjusting to the Spanish timing of eating lunch at 2pm, dinner around 10pm, and shops being closed during siesta and on Sundays.  Actually we have adjusted to all of it, excluding the dinner time.  We still eat about 7pm unless it is summer, then we go a bit later.  We had no trouble enjoying the siesta time and often take that afternoon cat nap in the sun.

6.  it’s a celebration
It seems that for every occasion there is a celebration. That is part of the Spanish lifestyle we just love.  You will happen upon a procession or see fireworks and know that people are having a good time.  We love all of the parties our town holds and even some of the neighboring towns and villages.  There is never a dull moment in Spain, always something to celebrate. 

5.  Spanish Attitude
We just love the “No pasa nada” attitude.  In our town there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of stress or hustle and bustle, which is just how we like it.  Things will pass in time, so why rush.  Everyone is very generous, caring and relaxed.  The attitude of our town is very comforting and just what we were looking for. You can tell that they really live in the moment and are enjoying life.  We of course were not fluent in Spanish prior to our arrival and are making slow progress towards fluency.  Well, the kids are fluent, but we adults are taking our time.  Anyway, everyone has been very patient and kind to us along the way with any of our blunders.

4. Kids are everywhere!
It took a bit of getting used to and we even have 2 children, but kids can go just about anywhere. In fact they have parks and jungle gyms all along the beach and this is a very kid friendly town.  We have found this to be true throughout Spain as well.  Kids are welcomed anytime at the restaurants and bars. You will often see kids out running around playing just outside of a bar at 11 or 12 at night and it is the norm.  Now that said, the bars here aren’t quite the stereotypical “club” or bar in the USA, but it took a bit of getting used to for us.  It is great to see people out walking on the Paseo at all hours of the day and night.  Spain is a family friendly country.

3. Discipline that child!
I am not sure I have completely adjusted to this one yet, but I do get the point.  If someone “catches” your child doing something they shouldn’t, there is no hesitation in that stranger scolding them or expecting you to scold a child you see.  Their thoughts are “if you catch them you scold them”.  This would never fly in the US.  I have a little trouble following through with it myself, but I am fine with the concept.

2.  Topless / Naturist
This was a bit of a surprise to see topless women just along our beach in front of our home.  I guess being from the US we are just a bit more conservative.  At first we tried to “shield” the kids from the sights.  Well, then we just gave in and gave up and decided to use it as an education opportunity and just be open with the kids.  We don’t try and hide it; in fact we try to act as if it is no big deal.  That said, we haven’t all quite embraced the naturist nude beaches yet, but Alan and I did venture on an exploration of sorts while the kids were at school.  We called it our Naturist experiment and wrote all about it.

1.  Uncensored music on the radio.
This is my number one adjustment and I am still not accustomed to what we hear on the radio.  We often here English sung songs on the radio, often from USA or UK, and we notice they aren’t censored.  I don’t think they realize the songs are full of harsh cuss words.  It just gets under my skin when I hear it in the car, but it really shocked me at the grocery store just the other day.  I was shopping at Eroski and US song came on with the start of the song a rapper saying hello all you Mother F*****.  I just took a big gasp and thought and thought they have no idea what they are playing in the store.  I think this one will be a constant adjustment for me.

That’s it for us.  We love living in Southern Spain and we hop you will follow our adventures at Wagoners Abroad.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingHeidi Wagoner is an American expat living in Spain. Blog description: A USA family of 4 that sold it all to live in Almuñécar, Spain. The plan is to soak up as much of the European Culture as we can. We contribute to our blog by sharing our experiences, excursions and expat life in Spain.
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Contest Comments » There are 48 comments

Juan wrote 10 years ago:

I was surprised by some of these differences between life in Spain and life in America... though I have to say, I fully approve of bringing "Topless/Naturist" beaches to America ;-)

Adelina wrote 10 years ago:

Definitely a lot of things to get accustomed to! I think I would find the uncensored music jarring too. No one likes to hear that kinda stuff when you're shopping in the grocery store!

Mike Nomad wrote 10 years ago:

I really really wish it were socially acceptable to discipline other people's children here in the US. I'd be walking around with my spanking paddle 24/7. Too many of these kids in the states have no clue what discipline is anymore.

Shobha wrote 10 years ago:

I'd love to live in Spain! Sadly the husband is less adventurous. Thanks for pointing out some of the adjustments I'd have to make - sounds less rosy now. The uncensored music & toplessness might freak me out a bit though. One of my Spanish friends just laughed that my little girl had a 2 piece swimsuit on in her US photos. Under a certain age, they don't even consider it 'naturalist' for little girls to wear a top half -- why bother?? LOL.

Sandilou wrote 10 years ago:

I will attest to all of these things after our wonderful visit with all of you in October! Might I add...cannot believe how much Spain reminds me of California (terrain and geography) especially on train from Seville to Madrid. And I would have a hard time adjusting to the food!

Judy Maritz wrote 10 years ago:

#7 & #1 would bother me the most. No way could I eat dinner @ 10PM...mainly because I'd have to eat alone as my dear hubby is sound asleep by 10PM. Then I'd have to go to bed at 2AM because i have to stay up about 4 hours after I eat. Having uncensored songs playing all over town would really bother me as I have never been comfortable with crude language. Maybe it my age, but that's the way it is. Your blog is fantastic; well written and entertaining. Love it!

Bev wrote 10 years ago:

great post! having spent 7 weeks there I too, had trouble adjusting to no dryer and a very small refrigerator! the music didn't bother me but I also found the people very friendly! thanks for a great, informative article!

Svetlana Bardarska wrote 10 years ago:

Another interesting article from Wagoner's abroad. My favourite part is 'Spain is a family friendly country". It is one of the main reasons which makes Spain appealing to me. I read your blog almost every day and it is always a pleasure. Wish you to be healthy and happy in your future adventures!

Kerri Frazier wrote 10 years ago:

Number one seems to be true for most of mainland Europe. Several times, I have walked into a market and hear the F bomb from the overhead speakers.

Gran Canaria Local wrote 10 years ago:

It wasn't really an adjustment for us on the naturism front. There are nudist beaches on the UK, after all. But on the Gran Canaria beaches, it's not only just men of a certain age going back to nature.

Chelsea Alventosa wrote 10 years ago:

Great list Heidi!! I totally identify with all of these, especially as a fellow American expat in southern spain :) Good Luck!

Guenna wrote 10 years ago:

Such fun to read Heidi! Makes me feel like I'm there!! Keep posting!

Karen Cisneros wrote 10 years ago:

Love reading your blog! Always so detailed and informative! I feel like I have been to your town by all the descriptions and pictures you give us. I think I would have the hardest time with #7. Although I would like to have a siesta everyday, I think it would drive me nuts with people not being on time for everything!

Jill wrote 10 years ago:

Very informative. Wish the US would let us discipline children. Heck we can't even discipline our own. Love the way your kids are fluent in Spanish! I could enjoy a nap in the afternoon but not eating dinner at 10 pm! Enjoy!

Martha wrote 10 years ago:

Thanks for the top ten list. Love it! We are pleased to be back in the US. I don't use my dryer nearly as much.

Erin Bender (Travelwithbender) wrote 10 years ago:

We love Heidi and team. We met them in London and they are wonderful, beautiful people embracing a Spanish lifestyle completely. P.s. As aussies we never use our dryer, so welcome to the tropical life :)

Gabi (the Nomadic Family) wrote 10 years ago:

i have adored heidi and her family since they began. they have single-handedly convinced our family to move to spain, which we will later in the future. she is delightful, honest, raw, and adorable. so it the entire family.

Kathi Kibbe wrote 10 years ago:

Heidi - the journey you and your family have taken is nothing short of amazing. The fact that you have taken so much of your time to so openly share your experiences (good, bad and ugly) is so appreciated. You are living the dream! Good for you and Alan for taking the risk!! Kathi

Manfred wrote 10 years ago:

Having lived in Europe for most of my life, I can really relate to all the above. The Wagoners have really taken to life in Spain, and that shows through in their blog. Excellent stuff for those planning to visit Spain for a short break or a longer stay.

Kobi (the Nomadic Family) wrote 10 years ago:

i have adored heidi and her family since they began. they have single-handedly convinced our family to move to spain, which we will later in the future. she is delightful, honest, raw, and adorable. so it the entire family.

Melanie Murrish wrote 10 years ago:

Having visited Spain many times and dreaming that we may relocate there one day, I can relate to this post-a lot of the above adjustments are reasons I love Spain so much. As always, your writing is honest, funny and informative! This blog is my go to when I need a little inspiration or just a chat with a friend who I have never met yet.x

Andrew wrote 10 years ago:

Glad you have adjusted so well Wagoners! Especially the siesta bit. :) I think that the younger the person is the better they learn things like languages, I would love to have lived in Spain or France when I was a kid, it would make things much easier for me!

Vicki McLeod wrote 10 years ago:

Hi Heidi! The uncensored music is quite a shocker isn't it? Last wintertime my daughter was in her Hip Hop show for the parents and I was totally unprepared for the explicit (in English) lyrics my, and others', little darlings were all jigging around to. First: shock, then complete giggling hysteria = completely ruining everyone's video records of the event: play it back and all you can hear is me snorting with laughter! I love living in Spain too, and it's great to see how you're getting on! xx

James Flood wrote 10 years ago:

There definitely are a lot of adjustments to make when moving abroad, even here in Spain. I have also noticed that kids are everywhere, even late into the night!

Simon wrote 10 years ago:

You are right about all of these. Especially that the Spanish use every excuse to celebrate! Viva Espana!

Allison @ A Foodie In Europe wrote 10 years ago:

This is true of anywhere in Spain I think! I miss carpeted floors the most. You are right that the cold always finds a way into your feet!

Rosalba wrote 10 years ago:

I follow all the post, is dinamico and with a lot of information, plus all the impression and experiences of the children. I love this blog

Susan Davis wrote 10 years ago:

I have enjoyed your blogs from day one. It is almost like accompanying you on your travels and with your experiences. I can almost see the expressions on your face, your children and Alan you describe each new adventure! I would have difficulty with not having some of the conveniences we have grown so used to in the US, and definitely with the uncensored music, but overall I can see that you have enriched your lives by the move. Keep blogging, so we can all share your joy.

Luz Braunsteiner wrote 10 years ago:

We just moved to Southern Spain and the Wagoner's blog has been very helpful. We have followed their blog since before our move and have followed some of their advice. We have met them for coffee a couple of times and Alan and Heidi have been very gracious. Love the Top 10 above and the fact that Spain is such a family friendly country!

Ana Martinez wrote 10 years ago:

I love your blog and just purchased your Kids cook book for my daughter. Keep up the great work it definitely inspired us to move to spain.

Jan wrote 10 years ago:

Are the spanish lyrics of songs as uncensored? I like the siesta concept and a big meal at lunch instead of dinner. At least, I assume the 10pm meal is lighter!

Angie wrote 10 years ago:

After living in Spain for a year, I think I can say that you summed up the differences perfectly! Hope you are still enjoying life in Spain.

Wendy Oakes wrote 10 years ago:

I have loved keeping up with you guys through your posts and pictures, especially all the beautiful pictures of the moon/sunrise/sunset from your balcony. What a great opportunity for you and your children to share. And Lars' posting on the topless lady at the beach-priceless!

Oliver Neilson wrote 10 years ago:

Sounds like all the good bits and bad bit all make up the adventure

Matthew Manlove wrote 10 years ago:

Following this blog has been very fun and educational. I enjoy reading about the Wagoner's experiences abroad and admire them for having the courage to live their dream and share it with us all.

Sue Ellen wrote 10 years ago:

Fantastic posts! Heidi and Alan generously sharing their perspective as they experience Spain (and beyond!) provides food for thought to everyone with a spirit of adventure!

Mike Stevenson wrote 10 years ago:

Heidi, Hope you and your family are loving spain. I hope to be making a trip over to Europe this year myself.

Steve Kariker wrote 10 years ago:

Awesome blog that provides a great perspective from both an adult/parent perspective as well as the kids! Makes me want to book a one way ticket to Spain!

Brandon Dey wrote 10 years ago:

Love 3, 2 and 1 but #7 would drive me insane! Sounds like Spain is giving some well rounded perspective to the Wagoner family.

Sheila Wilson wrote 10 years ago:

Its very interesting to see how other countries still take responsibility for each others kids. I think if more of that happened here kids would be less spoiled. Sounds like a lovely community that really love each other.

Jill Willett wrote 10 years ago:

Love reading the blog! Admire a family willing to chuck it all and live a new experience! Priceless!

Mary Emmer wrote 10 years ago:

Interesting list Heidi! I had to laugh at your #10 item....no clothes dryer. We are in the process of looking for an apartment in Spain ourselves right now and I've been struggling with the concept that many have clothes washers only and I've been wondering where the heck the DRYERS are! Your posts are always inspiring. Thanks for sharing such great content, and Happy Holidays to you and your family.

Reiko wrote 10 years ago:

Good luck! I'm envious of our world travels. Such a what a wonderful gift for your children.

Caryn Machado wrote 10 years ago:

Love your observations about life in Spain! My husband Luis is from Madrid, so when he took me for the first time their customs were completely normal to him, but I was also so surprised at how late they ate dinner, and that I couldn't shop in the afternoon! But, I really think we Americans could learn a thing or two from the Spaniards about slowing down and really enjoying life.

Linda Guzman wrote 10 years ago:

Reminds me a bit of "Eat Pray Love " by Liz Gilbert in the way that Heidi and her fam gave up Am life (temporarily?) to experience life in a country with a culture so different than theirs yet with people who are so similar--ppl who love their kids, enjoy life, etc. What brave souls you all are to do such a thing. I think at least one significant benefit -- as I see this list -- is that this Am fam will have (and now has) amped-up levels of gratitude for the great aspects of American life as well as a deeper understanding that they all have the fortitude and courage to walk that road less traveled. Fun to read, Heidi!

Jeri Vincent wrote 10 years ago:

I have really enjoyed reading your posts along the way--it' the second best thing to being there. I think I could handle adjustments 8-10, but not so sure about some of the others on your list!

Sheri Falk wrote 10 years ago:

I think that it's amazing what you have accomplished...Not many people are willing to give up everything for the unknown. Your family has had an awesome experience they will never forget!

Micki wrote 10 years ago:

I had to laugh at these - they're all so true of our time in Spain as well. We were lucky enough to have a dishwasher though!

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