There’s something extremely bizarre about feeling more culturally connected to a foreign country – one that you only spent two years of your life in – rather than where you happened to grow up. When I speak of my experience in Spain, I often have to interject with, “but those were the two most influential years of my life”. Why? Well, because in the grand scheme of things, two years of one’s life seems like a very short chapter compared to the many other years that inevitably pass with time. Although it’s true that in the future, I could perhaps look back at my two years in Spain as a minor detail; for the time being, I’m still encompassed by Spanish influences.
In fact, there are some ways wherein I still feel the Spanish presence in who I am. Firstly, I can’t help but notice how distant – or politely friendly – Canadians can be in comparison to Spaniards. Once upon a time, I was a shy kid, and while those times still pop up in times of intimidation, I can’t help but want to reach out to people here the same way I would in Spain. Unfortunately, it’s not as culturally appropriate here to pass a few socially-acceptable hurdles before really getting to know someone. Therefore, there’s become a fine line between friendly and too friendly.
Secondly, I can’t help but want a work-life balance. Too many Canadians (and Americans) focus on living a very ‘stable’ kind of life. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting stability, there’s something unhealthy and toxic about someone devoting most of their time and energy to a cause they don’t believe in. Although many people may argue that they’re working towards something they feel greatly about, there still needs to be enough time for personal pursuits, charitable givings, and relationships in general even if one is working towards their dream goal. The Spanish understand the importance of being happy in general, so while the Spanish economy is currently terrible, the culture promotes this type of daily enjoyment in a way that we could learn from.
Thirdly, I’m rarely impressed by Canadian and American fashion selections in-store. Unfortunately, Spain spoiled me with its dozens of outlets and great home-made brands that manage to be far more affordable than anywhere in Canada or the U.S.A. It’s become far more expensive to dress in a similar way, and also more difficult due to certain styles being harder to find here.
Now, while it sounds as though leaving Spain has been nothing but negative, it would be incorrect to assume that to be the case. Though I do long for the days of a more uniform culture, I find myself focusing too much on cultural differences now. This reflects the Spanish need to separate cultures and the oft generalizations of other countries. Not all Spaniards fall victim to this curse, but there’s less stereotyping done in Canada due to the country’s general mixing and diversity.
With that said, there’s still so much of daily life that I still see through the lens of someone who lives in Madrid. When the sun doesn’t come out, I find myself less than impressed with the weather I should be accustomed to after nearly 2 decades of life spent in Canada. When I see more cars on the roads than people, I can’t help but think of how I wish our culture was more reliant on walking than driving. Nonetheless, while I spent only two years of my life in Madrid, I’m fairly certain that those two years did something irreversible to me. Time will only tell.