Three Things I’ll Miss From the USA, and Two I Won’t

The plane took off on the first clear Chicago day in a week, passing over I-294 and seeming to hang just for a few moments in the air. I could faintly make out the skyline a few miles away, and as the thin clouds enveloped the plane. 

They say parting is such sweet sorrow, and my eyes certainly pricked with tears as I pulled the curtain and the plane rose higher, bound for Boston, then Santiago de Compostela and finally Madrid.

And I’m sitting in a Starbucks right now – what does that tell you about wanting to leave America?

For 40 glorious days, I walked my dog, I took advantage of having a dryer and I zoned out in front of Bravo for hours on end. Well, that, as well as planning a wedding, entertaining the Novio on his trip out here, and making sure to not gain too much weight. Forty days, by any measure, is not a long time, but it was heavenly (once I got over the reverse culture shock, that is): The pulse of the big city, the warm hugs of friends, the brilliance of a home cooked meal.

Even with the stress of the new house and a huge, bilingual party to plan, it was so comforting to be home with my family for the first time in two years. As someone who will be perpetually straddling the Atlantic – and thus two languages, two cultures and two continents – having two months off to visit is something I appreciate about teaching. I will never have it all, and I’ll always miss things about one home when I’m in the other. Call it my personal expat dilemma.

Usually, I’m ready to board a plane and head back to the land of 1€ beers and the social acceptance of a midday nap, but this time was different. I was sad to leave, finally feeling settled and comfortable. Apparently a few friends echoed that sentiment:

There are several things my heart will ache for once back in the Madre Patria, like

Craft Beer

I am in love with the idea that beer doesn’t have to taste like the beer of my college days, but can be full of hops or taste like a handful of blueberries. Trips to the basement for a bottle for me and my dad with dinner often resulted in me brining up four or six varieties so that we didn’t settle into a routine. I drank my fair share of microbrews, visited three local breweries and smuggled New Glarus – the darling and a new favorite – across the Wisco-Illinois border for the sake of my younger sister.

My father swears he drank more in those 40 days than he had since last summer. The Novio, despite a new love of wheat beers, was disappointed when his beer didn’t really taste like beer.

And I feel that way about coffee, for that matter. When I walked into a gorgeous little coffee shop to meet my wedding photographer, I stared blankly at the menu for maybe 90 seconds before the guy behind the counter offered to help. His bone dry cappuccino was exactly what I needed.

America, you have endless choices, but this little guiri was overwhelmed. But, really, I will be excited to just order a beer and not have anyone ask me what brand, what size and what the hell they’re thinking for charging so much. Cruzcampo, I am waiting for you.

Wi-fi everywhere

I had forgotten what it was like to be able to connect to wi-fi anywhere in the USA. Seville’s half-assed attempt to put in hot spots has reduced it to, well, Starbucks. For someone whose mobile battery lasts about an hour, this saved me during endless errands for the wedding and friends who thought I’d adopted the Spanish habit of being late to everything.

My friends. My wonderful, hilarious friends.

I don’t really miss American much when I’m in Spain, but I do really, really miss my friends. Cheers to every single one of you for making the time to see me, even for a quick drink at happy hour or a ten-minute chat on the phone.  It was especially telling when I announced that the Novio wouldn’t be at the engagement party my parents threw us, and we ran out of the keg her in 90 minutes because my friends still came.

Being home is like an endless carousel of meals out and money spent, but every penny of it was worth it. I love being able to fall easily into a conversation, even after so many months away. Suffice to say, I am already looking forward to being back home next year and throwing a huge party with all of my nearest and dearest.

And then there are a few American annoyances that I won’t miss:

Driving

Ugh, if I didn’t drive again for forty days, it would be too many. On the multiple trips to see friends, to interview vendors and venues for the wedding and to visit family (plus the road trips to Wisconsin and Iowa City twice each, as well as Indiana), I must have spent a whole week trapped in the confines of my mom’s 2004 Plymouth van.

I love the convenience of having a car in Spain, but I’m already looking forward to breaking out my bike and walking to meet friends or go to work. Traffic and gas prices are just a pain.

The Food

Now, I won’t miss all-beef hot dogs or sweet corn on the grill, but I am ready to eat food that isn’t laden with artificial colors and flavors. Those strawberries my dad bought me the first weekend? They’ve only begun to sprout mold. And the yoghurt I got for breakfast at the hotel? I took one bite and pushed it away, convinced it was just a combination of chemicals.

Since adding preservatives to food or livestock is illegal in the EU, I feel heavier and unhealthier after six weeks back home in Chicago. One thing I love about Spain is the cuisine, and knowing that a banana from Canarias is, in fact, a banana from Canarias makes me feel better about my average daily intake of food.

When my plane rolled into Barajas a few hours ago, the depression of going back to work and having to start paying for my groceries seemed to evaporate. Even with a serious lack of craft beer, I’ll be happy to have a plain old café con leche and stay off my phone when catching up with Spain friends.

How do you deal with being an expat when it comes to missing things? What do you miss about your home country when you’re gone, and vice versa?

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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. Yes, this!! I totally echo your sentiments on pretty much all of these points. I miss my friends and family an ungodly amount when I’m in Spain, but the food and convenience of public transport definitely makes me feel a lot healthier when I’m here. It’s way to easy to get fat in the USA. Welcome back!

  2. I’m in compete agreement about craft beers, family and friends, food, and driving. I’ll miss my family, friends, and craft beers but will not miss food and driving, except maybe peanut butter. I leave the US in 21 days, so I’m trying to get everything in that I won’t have in Spain. Luckily, there are plenty of craft beers around living in Milwaukee! I’ll also have to enjoy my last few Packers games since I won’t get that over in España!

    Sorry we didn’t meet up when you were in Milwaukee, but that just means I’ll have to make a trip to Sevilla soon!
    Mike of Mapless Mike recently posted..I Quit My Job to Teach Abroad and Travel the World TodayMy Profile

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Oooh sports! I don’t miss them as much anymore, but I still try and catch a Pack game if they’re on at the sports bars. I feel like I could never cut ties with America completely for the Packers, the Hawkeyes and my family!

      Enjoy your last few weeks at home – they’ll go fast!

  3. Hey–craft beer is up and coming in Spain! I know of a couple microbreweries (de cerveza artesana) in Galicia, like Keltius in Ourense, and Santiago de Compostela has its own craft beer shop, La Atlantica. I’m sure there’s got to be something down south in Sevilla!

    • Cat Gaa says:

      We have a few down here in Seville (41010, Albero), though they’re not as readily available as they are in the US. A few craft beer shops have popped up, though. My favorite, thus far, has beer Er Boqueron – have you tried it?

  4. Anne Hughes says:

    Cat…enjoy your blog! If ever you are in SdC again, let me know. Would love to meet you!

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Thanks, Anne! I love Galicia, so I’m certain I’ll be back (whether after a Camino or not!). Would love to get together.

  5. Erin says:

    This is interesting because food is the big thing I miss about the states!! California produce beats Spain by a mile, haha, not to mention all the Chinese & Vietnamese products I crave.
    I haven’t gone back to the U.S. yet but I have a running list of things I’ll miss whenever I do leave…and it’s a very long list ;)
    Erin recently posted..First ImpressionsMy Profile

    • Cat Gaa says:

      I certainly think that leaving Spain for good would give my heart much more to be upset about! I still consider Chicago my home, so as long as I have family there, it will always have my heart!

  6. jaclyn says:

    Loved this Cat. It is such bitter sweet sorrow. I’m not in Spain anymore, but I often spend too much time daydreaming about what I miss. At least you are leaving when the perks are still positive, and hopefully return when you need a change of scenery and the comfort of home!

  7. Kirstie says:

    Hope your transition back to Spain goes well! Being home is both so strange and so familiar when you’re living abroad.
    Kirstie recently posted..Double the Love from My Lovely ReadersMy Profile

  8. Courtney says:

    Welcome back to your other home! Hopefully the jet lag isn’t too bad! I totally feel you on driving… that is something I 100% will not miss once I get back to Madrid. And saying goodbye to friends is always the toughest, but I’ve learned that with the closest ones, you’ll always pick up right where you left off :)

  9. Carolyn says:

    Hi, great information, although I have to say that living in the USA and tasting the beer on both countries, I prefer the one in Spain. There is a variety of beer flavors in Europe that we will never get in the USA due to government restrictions, yet you cross the border to Canada or Mexico or another country in the world, and you will get to taste the best beers in the world. I personally don’t think American beer is good, is actually bitter and has a lighter texture compared to European beers. So for me on the beer, Spain is the winner, specially with the “Clara” a combination of beer with lemon juice. The tapas are to die for, no more fast food for me, and the prices on food there are great.

    My suggestion to any traveler is go with the locals, travel light, and enjoy the culture. After my few trips around the world, I get the sense that we Americans need to travel and see the world to grow up more.

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Hi Carolyn, I don’t think American beers are all bad, nor are Spanish beers, but the issue with Spain is that you typically don’t get a choice n one bar. It’s either Mahou, or Estrella or Cruzcampo, and the only other option is paying a lot more for a bottle, having a clara or shandy (not my preference) or getting a non-alcoholic beer. I can’t complain about the price, though!

      Thanks for reading, saludos!

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