A Very un-Sevillano Summer

I knew I had become the proverbial ‘fish out of water’ (or perhaps toro out of España) when I hopped in the car for the first time yesterday. My mom’s van was parked on an incline, and I was nervous it would roll unless I gave the accelerator a hard kick when I threw it into reverse. I reached for the gear shift to find a stack of magazines.

Oh, right, Americans drive automatic cars. I should probably not rest my left foot on the brake, then.

It’s going to be a long, strange summer back in the Grand Old Republic.

As a teacher, I relish in my two months off. Over the past seven school years, my vacaciones have allowed me to explore other parts of Spain, walk the Camino de Santiago, visit friends and family at home in Chicago and attend world-famous festivals.

At 9:30 pm on June 30th, the Novio picked me up from work and drove me straight to a friend’s bar for a celebratory beer. I had fifteen days before returning to Chicago, and my sister was coming to visit. I’d spend the morning working on COMO Consulting issues, and after a long, midday siesta, he and I would pick out paint colors and furniture for the dream house we just bought before deciding to just have a beer as the nights cooled off. Just your average veranito in Seville.

And then the mierda hit the fan we didn’t even need to turn on because it wasn’t even hot there yet. Expat life, man.

On July 1st, I made my annual trip to the unemployment office to ask for a bit of financial help during my vacations. During July, I’m normally in La Coruña directing a summer camp to be able to make it through August without regular pay, and with a new, unfurnished house in the mix, I needed a bit of a cushion.

Per usual, I was sent away and asked to come back the following morning, first thing. On the 2nd, Manolo took a crawling 80 minutes to enter my new data into the INEM’s system. Little did I know that this would be merely the start of a stressful summer.

My summer days in Spain follow a strict routine: waking up early to run errands before the midday sun hits, returning home and drawing all the shades, making yet another batch of gazpacho, treating myself to a four-hour nap/going to the pool, and finally having a few beers somewhere in la calle when it’s finally cool out, or even a drink at a terrace bar. Weekends at the pool or the beach, depending on how lazy we feel.

Then the Novio presented me with a list of things I’d have to do. Turns out that picking out furniture and paint colors was only the start. I cancelled all of my plans but World Cup games to be ready for home inspectors and furniture deliveries, changed appointments to be able to change my mail forwarding and pay my IBI during reduced summer hours and stayed away from the gym. My leisurely start to a two-month holiday was already stressing me out, and I only had to look at my agenda to remind myself that siestas were totally out of the question.

By the time my sister and Rick arrived on July 5th, I’d successfully signed up for unemployment, had all of my bank accounts frozen because of FATCA and cried to my mom about the stress over Skype. The emotional upheaval became too much to bear that  I cursed my new house and the Spanish system of doing, well, everything.

The bank issue was by far the worst – the US law to prevent tax evaders, called FATCA, went into effect on July 1st, sending banks with American customers into a frenzy trying to report tax-relevant data. On the 2nd – the same day I was signing up for unemployment benefits – ING announced that I was not only a co-signed on a join account with the Novio, but that I also had to sign and turn in a form called a W-8BEN. I got no notification of any immediate consequences.

Normally, I’d sign and mail the form off, but I was curious about this new law and how it might affect me, given I file taxes in both Spain and the US, and now had a mortgage in the mix. Surely this law wasn’t trying to tax me and my teacher’s salary in America, too?

I went to IKEA to clear my mind (or not) and do 588€ worth of retail therapy for my dream house. After resisting the urge to also throw in some rugs and throw pills and just stick to the basics, my ING debit card was declined. So was the credit card. Not wanting to face the Novio empty-handed, I drove to Nervión and asked at the bank. The teller assured me my cards were valid and that the TPV unit was probably to blame.

So I drove back to IKEA, picked up the heavy furniture we’d decided on, and tried to pay again. The same thing happened. Defeated, I wheeled the cart to the holding area and reached for my phone to call the Novio. I had left it charging at home.

Furious once I arrived, he called the bank and they confirmed that my accounts had been frozen because of FATCA, even though the bank was supposed to have been compliant with the US’s demands by the day before. Until I turned in the W-8BEN, they would remain untouchable.

And so set off the frenzy of paperwork, lawyers, denuncias, and tears as I tried to take legal action against a bank that had frozen my accounts without warning (only a judicial order has the power to cancel or suspend an account with previous warning), and the fact that the W-8BEN serves for non-Americans. 

Thirteen days later, on the day before I left for the US, my bank accounts were finally restored. I had refrained from rebajas, from overspending and from visiting the terrace bars I loved frequenting in the balmy nights in summer – un verano poco sevillano, indeed.

But the beers and the ice creams and the laughs and the joy of sharing my city with my family put a band-aid on top of the financial struggles I was having. We spent afternoons strolling from bar to bar before they’d have siesta, escaped to Granada and Zahara de los Atunes and ate out every single night (I clearly didn’t pay).

Needless to say, my whole body relaxed as soon as I was sitting on a plane bound for good ol’ America. Now that I’m back in Chicago, I’m focusing on not stuffing my face and building my second site, COMO Consulting Spain. There will be a few surprises here and there, but I’m not ready to spill yet!

What are your summer plans? How do you cope with re-entry into your home country?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living among pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she wrangles babies at an English Language Academy and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

Comments

  1. Boooooo so sorry your banks gave you the runaround and your summer was kind of crappy so far. :( Hope you enjoy your time in Chicago and things turn up when you come back!
    Trevor Huxham recently posted..Abanqueiro, Spain: The Village Where I Worked in GaliciaMy Profile

  2. Chica, I’m so sorry. It sounds like you’ve had a really stressful few weeks! I hope you get lots of rest and relaxation now that you’re back in Chicago. How long will you be in the USA for? Hopefully long enough to indulge on ALL of your favorite creature comforts of home!
    Courtney recently posted..Travel Tips for GreeceMy Profile

    • It has been, and they’ve continued to be!Home until August 24th, and my boyfriend will be here for a few weeks. Hope you’re enjoying summer in Seattle!

  3. I got stressed just reading this. Bureaucracy gets a major thumbs-down, and is my least-favorite part of living abroad. You seem to be taking it in stride though, so good for you :) Also, now you can relax in Chicago, yay!

    On a different note, does it feel strange not to be at camp this year?
    Cassandra recently posted..The Summer of Colombian SlangMy Profile

    • BEYOND strange, but I’m thankful to have been in Seville and not Coru dealing with everything (and I didn’t have to leave the Novio to take care of all of the house stuff!)

  4. Sounds like you sure have been busy! Omg I can’t imagine dealing with the heat at the same time. Glad that you can now take a deep breath and enjoy time at home!! Have fun :)
    Jessica of Curiosity Travels recently posted..The Trouble With BirthdaysMy Profile

  5. That bank thing sounds like a nightmare … Luckily I haven’t had any issues yet. But my bank account is in the U.S., and ours is in Spain (the one we use to pay our shared expenses, e.g., the apartment). But still, my name’s on the account!

    Anyway, one thing that helps me back in the U.S. is that my car is a stick shift! So no adjustments needed. Mario likes that too, since he’s so used to driving manual that driving automatic seems difficult to him!
    Kaley recently posted..What’s It Like Being With a Guiri?My Profile

  6. I’m glad that Chicago is giving you a, what sounds like, much needed break from the Spanish banks. I hope all ends up well with that. My summer has so far been a lot of Visa document gathering, but now that that process is over, it’s mostly finishing work and spending as much time with friends and family as possible before heading to Spain in now UNDER two months!
    Mike of Mapless Mike recently posted..Studying Abroad on a BudgetMy Profile

Trackbacks

  1. […] with my most hectic summer yet, I had been looking forward to the Novio’s Third American Tour and a respite from planning […]

Speak Your Mind

*

CommentLuv badge