Europe, Expat Living, Madrid, Spain

Expat Living: Erin from La Tortuga Viajera In Madrid, Spain.

May 7, 2012
Erin in Granada

I’m bringing my Expat Living interview series out of “hibernation” and I can think of no better person to start with than Erin from La Tortuga Viajera.

I had the very fortunate opportunity to meet both Erin and her husband in February while in Spain. They’re awesome and I think that like me, you’ll be amazed by their heart warming love story. I also like the fact that Erin and I share a common love for street art and cool cafes.

Erin from La Tortuga Viajera

Erin in Avila
Apart from all questions I’ve answered below, you should probably know that I have a deep affection for Spanish wine and food (jamón, tortilla española, croquettas and manchego cheese to be exact), holiday-themed socks, and Spanish grandpas.

Where Are You From? (City/Country)
San Francisco Bay Area, USA

Where Are You Living Now? How Long Have You Been There?
I’ve lived in Madrid for four years now.

Erin in Madrid.

Have You Lived Anywhere Else? Do You Plan to Stay in Your Current Location or Move Somewhere Else in the Future?
Other than different cities in Northern California (and SF, where I left my heart, of course), I’ve only lived in Madrid. I hope to stay in Madrid indefinitely, although my Spanish husband really wants to move to the US (which I intend to postpone for as long as possible, i.e. forever).

What’s Your Story? What Made You Decide to Take the Big Leap and Leave Home?
Love! I initially came to Spain for just three days with friends, but then I met this Spanish fellow during a 15-minute chat in a bar on my last night. I gave him my email and forgot about him, but then he wrote me a couple of days after. Eight trips to Spain and a year and a half later, I finally made the big move.

Do You Ever Miss Home? What Do You Do to Cope?
During the first couple of years I definitely missed home a lot, but now I rarely miss it much. I’ve definitely hit my stride here and spend most of my time just tremendously grateful to live in such a spectacular place that makes my life rich in so many ways. I truly can’t complain.

How Do You Blend in and Be Accepted by Locals?
I find that the Spaniards are by and large a really welcoming bunch, so being accepted doesn’t require much effort. I suppose as long as you like jamón and share a love for the country, then you’ll fit right in.

Erin in Granada

How Do You Stay in Contact with Loved Ones?
Mostly over email, and messenger on my mobile. Occasionally I will get on skype or pick up the phone, but somehow the day-to-day instant messages make it feel like they aren’t so far away.

Did You Have to Learn a New Language? If Yes, What? How Did You Go About Learning the Language and How Long Did it Take You to Become Fluent?
You could probably get by in Madrid without speaking much Spanish, but if you want to assimilate, then you better hit the books. I took all sorts of approaches, from one-on-one classes in the States to government subsidized ones here in Spain (read more about my language-learning approaches). There is a lot of gray area with fluency, though, so I don’t know that I can pinpoint when I actually felt like I’d finally arrived (even after passing Spanish exams at the highest level). I can definitely say, though, that after a few years of being here, I felt like I’d reached a real comfort level with the language where I just didn’t think or worry about expressing myself anymore.

What Has Been the Most Shocking Thing You Learned About the Local Culture?
This might sound pathetic, but I’m still really shocked every time I have to choose between water and a glass of wine, and the wine is always cheaper. That is shocking…shockingly awesome.

Your Number One Tip About How to Live Life as an Ex-pat.
Do your best to see the good in any given culture. I think too often it’s easy to be critical of things that don’t work the same, or different ways of doing things that might just seem absurd (and trust me, there are lots of those here), but it’s important to remember that it’s all relative. The key to happiness abroad (in my experience) is never losing sight of all the good a place has to offer.

What Do You Love Most About Living Abroad?
Learning something new everyday and always being challenged.

What Has Been Your Best Experience to Date in Your New Home?
Gosh, I’d probably have to say my wedding. Having 40 Americans fly over for a 12-hour party that lasted until 8am inside of a 700-year-old monastery…well, that’s just kind of unbeatable.

Did You Make the Move Solo? Or Are You with a Spouse or Significant Other, Other Members of Your Family, or Friend(s)?
I made the move solo, but had my Spanish boyfriend (now husband) waiting for me on the other end :).

Erin in Madrid.

What Do You Do Work Wise? Did You Have a Job Before You Arrived or Did You Look for Work When You Got There? If You Didn’t Have a Job, How Did (Or Do) You Land Work?
In the States, I worked in marketing for Silicon Valley tech companies, and continued working in the tech industry when moving to Spain. I didn’t have much trouble finding a job as my profile was in high demand (tech+marketing+Silicon Valley+native English speaker = offer). Eventually, however, I came to terms with the fact that working in Spain for startups was a much different experience than working for Fortune 500s in California. Motivated to make a change, I decided to follow my heart and start doing something I truly loved. Now, I focus almost all my time on freelance writing, and am loving every minute of it.

Find Erin
Blog: http://www.latortugaviajera.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/TortugaViajera
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LaTortugaViajera

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36 Comments

  • Reply Heathers Harmony May 8, 2012 at 5:31 am

    What a fun love story! I haven’t read her blog before and I love connecting with new passionate people! Glad the series has come out of slumber!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard May 8, 2012 at 1:31 pm

      @Heather – So romantic, right? You should definitely follow her blog … lots of tips for Spain there! 🙂

  • Reply Erin May 8, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    Thanks for doing the interview, Cheryl!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard May 9, 2012 at 9:42 am

      @Erin – Thanks so much for taking part! 🙂

  • Reply Ayngelina May 8, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Great interview, I met Erin but only for such a short period of time. But it’s okay because Spain is the kind of place you know you’ll go back to.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard May 9, 2012 at 9:48 am

      @Ayngelina – So cool you met them too! And you are right, Spain is a place that one always goes back to.

    • Reply Erin May 15, 2012 at 12:43 pm

      Bummed that we were never able to meet up again after our run-in in La Latina. Next time, next time. Hope you are well!

  • Reply Jarmo May 9, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    I think you should always learn the local language when you move somewhere, but then again I moved to London, so it was a little easier 😉 and agree moving to a different country for love is definitely romantic!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard May 10, 2012 at 9:29 am

      @Jarmo – Agree, she’s awesome! I’ve been sooo bad at learning German. 🙂

      • Reply Jarmo @ ArcticNomad May 16, 2012 at 11:55 pm

        I’ve now spent some three months in Germany, and my German is still limited to reading a menu in a restaurant 😉

        • Reply Cheryl Howard May 19, 2012 at 9:28 am

          @Jarmo – Mine is sadly not much better after one whole year! Need to fix that soon. 🙂

  • Reply Jay May 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Great post. I’ll be starting a similar series soon!

    I love the #1 tip – I regularly have to remind myself of that as it’s so easy to get frustrated by things in Gabon!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard May 10, 2012 at 2:24 pm

      @Jay – Thanks! Erin was a pleasure to interview. Each place certainly has it’s frustrations so I also like the tip. 🙂

      Even in Berlin, I miss some creature comforts from home.

      And good luck on your new series. 🙂

  • Reply Juliane Fischer May 10, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    What a lovely story! I met Erin at last year’s TBU in Innsbruck and she really is a great character. Beautiful shot of their wedding, great interview!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard May 10, 2012 at 4:43 pm

      @Juliane – Completly agree with all of your comments! 🙂

    • Reply Erin May 15, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      Thanks, Juliane! Hope you are well!

  • Reply Jeremy Branham May 12, 2012 at 2:24 am

    I just read about Erin’s wedding and saw all the photos last week. Nice getting to know her a little better. I live in Sacramento which isn’t far from where she is from. However, of all the cities in Spain, Madrid was probably my least favorite. There were certain things I liked but just didn’t feel the vibe of the city there.

    I have a friend that also lives in Madrid and she has been in Spain for over 7 years now. It was interesting to read Erin’s account of life there as well.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard May 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm

      @Jeremy – I have a feeling that I’m going to like Madrid more than Barcelona based on what I’ve been hearing. Guess it all depends on what you like and don’t like. Erin’s made me pretty excited to make a visit there sometime! =)

    • Reply Erin May 15, 2012 at 12:46 pm

      OK, Jeremy, the next time you pass through Madrid, I’m going to make it my personal mission to make sure you feel the “vibe”! Definitely get in touch if you ever head this way! In the meantime, say hello to CA for me 🙂

  • Reply Andrea May 12, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Your wedding dress is gorgeous! I love Madrid – one of my fav cities…

    • Reply Erin May 15, 2012 at 12:46 pm

      Ahh, thanks Andrea!!!

  • Reply A Montrealer Abroad May 14, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Lovely interview 🙂 Both Erin and Jacobo are lovely persons!

    • Reply Erin May 15, 2012 at 12:47 pm

      Thanks, Marie…I think you’re quite lovely too! 🙂

  • Reply Alexa Meisler May 15, 2012 at 12:06 am

    I never knew that wine was cheaper that water in Spain! That’s definitely news for me. You seem very happy and content so I wish more happiness!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard May 15, 2012 at 11:27 am

      @Alexa – Who knew right? Definitely a reason to head to Madrid now. 🙂

      • Reply Erin May 15, 2012 at 12:48 pm

        It’s true! A bottle of water at a restaurant will run you about 2.50 euros….and glass of wine 2 euros. Decisions, decisions, right???

  • Reply Christy @ Technosyncratic May 15, 2012 at 2:27 am

    Uhm, I know this isn’t entirely on topic, but that top photo of Erin is CUTE. I want her boots!! =P

    • Reply Cheryl Howard May 15, 2012 at 11:45 am

      @Christy – DITTO! 🙂

    • Reply Erin May 15, 2012 at 12:49 pm

      Hehe, thanks Christy! I bought them at El Corte Ingles (in Spain) a couple of years ago. Probably one of my best purchases!

  • Reply Adam May 15, 2012 at 8:51 am

    I can’t imagine living in Madrid—one of my most favorite cities in the whole world! Interesting to read about Erin! Now if only I could just find a Spanish husband….

  • Reply Erin May 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Lots of hot single Spanish men here! Don’t give up hope!

  • Reply Wanderplex May 22, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    “Do your best to see the good in any given culture. I think too often it’s easy to be critical of things that don’t work the same, or different ways of doing things that might just seem absurd (and trust me, there are lots of those here), but it’s important to remember that it’s all relative. The key to happiness abroad (in my experience) is never losing sight of all the good a place has to offer.”

    This was my favorite part of the interview – it’s so true that it’s easy to judge a place and compare it to home, but part of traveling and living abroad is opening yourself to new cultures, traditions and experiences. Love it.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard May 23, 2012 at 9:44 am

      @Wanderplex – One of my favorite parts as well! 🙂

  • Reply Laurel May 23, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Great interview. I still can’t believe that a 15 minute conversation turned into a long distance relationship and now marriage. They’re a great couple!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard May 23, 2012 at 2:47 pm

      @Laurel – I know right? I only hope this happens to me someday. 😀

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