20 American Things I Miss in Spain

Hi everyone! Things have been a bit quiet on the blog since I’m currently in Arkansas spending time with family and friends. I’ve been here just under a week and have been enjoying my visit immensely. I’ll share some tales and pictures soon!

In the meantime, let’s address which American items I miss while in Spain. This question comes from relatives, auxiliares hauling anchor to Madrid, as well as curious Spanish coworkers. Though I miss the people the most, here are some things I’d love to stick in my bag (and just might do at the end of my trip)!

Note: Keep that in mind that some of the items will naturally reflect the rural-urban divide between Madrid and small-town Arkansas.

20 American Things I Miss in Spain

  • (Southern) Hospitality – People are nice to strangers. They hold the door open, ask how you’re doing, and give a friendly wave while driving. I’m pretty sure I could run into someone with a grocery cart and they would still be the one to say, “Oh, sorry!”
  • Flavors of home – fresh-baked bread, chocolatey desserts, familiar spices, food on the grill, and garden produce, ñam ñam!

American Things I Miss in Spain

Bruschetta with tiny tomatoes, basil, onion, and garlic from the garden

  • Mexican food and restaurants
  • Baking products – chocolate chips, pecans, malt powder, Mexican vanilla, natural peanut butter, heavy-duty aluminum foil, parchment paper, etc…
  • Condiments – I like olive oil but come on, sometimes you want something different to put on your salad or sandwich. Also, sandwiches with tomatoes and lettuce and actual THINGS besides just a piece of jamón or queso.
  • Speaking English – While I love speaking Spanish, I also like being able to make puns and hear expressions I don’t often hear in Spain. I’m also better able to express myself, which is always welcome.
  • 24-hour stores and longer hours for banking and other services
  • Customer service – It exists. Y punto.
  • Carpeting
  • Second-hand stores - Books! Clothes! Yessss!
  • Driving!
  • NPR – bonus points for listening while driving
  • A wide variety of beer  – Mahou, Cruzcampo, and Estrella, you are soooo boring and all taste the same.
  • Toiletries, specifically Degree Deodorant and Glide floss – Spain is no third world country, but there are specific brands I miss.

American Things I Miss in Spain

A floss boquet? Don’t mind if I do.

  • Shopping for shoes
  • Wide-open spaces
  • FREE drink refills at restaurants – I’m even talking about water here. Do you know how long I have to wave my arms around before a waiter notices I need something in Spain? And don’t get me started on how long it takes to get the bill…
  • Craft stores – Seriously, Spain, can you not provide a place where I can buy yarn, sketchbooks, googley eyes, scrapbook paper, jewelry findings, sewing notions, and paper crafts all in one place?? No? You’d rather send me to seek out each and every product at a specialty store like the Pipe Cleaner Tienda? No, thanks.
  • Ziploc bags – 2.5 gallon bags are my go-to travel item! On weekend trips I always pack clothes inside of them to suck out all the air and travel compactly. And of course the smaller bags are oh-so useful, as well.

American Things I Miss in Spain

Carrefour’s sandwiches bags are PERFORATED, rendering them completely useless for the things I want to use them for

And last but not least…

  • Everyday luxuries – Air conditioning, automatic ice-cube dispensers, dryers….the list could go on and on!

What items from your home country do you miss when you’re away?

P.S. I must admit I also made a list of 20 Spanish Things I Miss in America

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26 Comments

  1. I nearly got whiplash nodding away at this list! Spot on, lady!

  2. This was a fun post! I’m from Texas and I went to school in Arkansas so I can totally relate to Southern Hospitality–it’s a little disarming after being gone for so long! And I’ve missed that wide-open-spaces thing; we get flat, treeless skies in Texas and in Arkansas the forests stretch for miles, but in Spain everyone lives so close together! I’ve savored the sunrises and sunsets back home this summer a lot.

    So are you back stateside for good or are you heading back to Madrid in a few months? What are your plans now that you’ve gotten your Masters (congrats, by the way!!!!!!!)? If you don’t have anything set in stone yet no worries–I have no idea what comes after the auxiliares program haha

    • Cassandra

      Trevor, I didn’t realize that you’d gone to school in Arkansas–where did you go? I can definitely relate to the jarring way everyone lives so close together in Spain, it’s a big difference after living in places like Arkansas and Texas!

      I will be back to Madrid within the month, I’m lucky to have a teaching spot there. Thanks for the congrats on the Masters! It was a long year, and I hope to enjoy Spain even more this year! You’re going to Santiago soon, correct?

      • I went to Ouachita Baptist in Arkadelphia (south-central Ark…45 min south of Hot Springs). I actually kind of prefer the living-so-close-together thing, because it’s possible to walk everywhere or use public transport!

        That’s so great that you got a job back in Madrid! Looking forward to following your adventures on this blog. And yes, I’ll be in good ol’ SDC for the 2013-2014 school year, although I’m not sure I’ll be able to take 2 years of Galicia so I may try to get transferred to Aragón or someplace else. We’ll see what happens!

        • Cassandra

          Ohh, I know which school that is! I had no idea that you also went to school in Arkansas :D

          Santiago will definitely be a change from Andalucia–hope you enjoy living there! I hope it’s not too rainy and dreary, but if it is, then Aragón could be a nice change. You’ll have to let me know if you swing through Madrid!

  3. Do I hear Spain sobbing from across the great water?

  4. I am LOVING so many of these things now that I’m back in the States! I miss Spain, but life is so comfortable here!

    • Cassandra

      Comfortable is just the right word for it, Kirstie! Glad to hear that you have been soaking up the comforts of home as well.

  5. The condiments (well, lack thereof) on sandwiches gets me every time! I went to the Betis season opener with a goopy sandwich that had hummus, gouda and lods of veggies on it, and the dude who sits next to us asked why I couldn’t eat a normal bocadillo de lomo like the rest of them. BORING! My first job was slinging sandwiches at a deli, so I’ve got MAD love for a good, loaded sammich.

    • Cassandra

      The VERY first meal I took my parents for in Spain was such a bummer because of this! I’d been studying in Leon and had no idea where to go when I met them in Madrid, so it was bocadillos for us. A fun–and abrupt–intro to Spanish cuisine!

  6. Tex-Mex and shoe shopping, yes! I hate shoe shopping in Spain. I think I’m in between their 8 and 8.5. I seriously wonder what girls who have my size foot have done all their lives.

    Just fyi though, I’ve found non-perforarted baggies at Carrefour. I use them all the time to organize my flashcards and other teaching materials. They’re the ones that say “bolsas de congelación” and they’re just like a normal ziploc bag.

    • Cassandra

      Exactly!! What do those half-sized-foot people DO?

      Hrm–thanks for the tip! I’ll have to check out these non-perforated puppies when I get back.

  7. Ah! Being nice to strangers — totally something I miss from home. Because it’s both part of the Russian mentality and part of life in a big city, everyone seems so distant to me! (Though when I’m home in my pop. 3,000-ish town, I complain that everyone knows me.)

    • Cassandra

      I bet! I definitely like the anonymity that a big city affords (i.e.going to the grocery store and NOT running into 4 people I went to high school with), but sometimes the non-responsive attitude wears on you!

  8. I feel like I bought ziploc sandwich bags at the grocery store I went to in Madrid without a problem (I usually went to Simply City and not Carrefour).

    The one thing I missed with a passion when I was in Spain was CVS! I don’t know if you have CVS down in Arkansas but it’s basically the same as Rite Aid, Duane Read, or any pharmacy convenience store but I’ve always preferred CVS. They have EVERYTHING you need (excluding the chinos but CVS is better quality) including your hard to find craft supplies (maybe not pipe cleaners?). The chinos are okay, but Spain (and the rest of the world) needs to be introduced to the American drug/convenience store because they are simply amazing.

    • Cassandra

      I don’t remember seeing a CVS around here, but I did go to one in Texas so I know what they’re like. I had no idea that they also sold craft products!!

  9. This is so fun to read. I might do a similar post myself! Funny how there are certain things that you just miss so much when abroad, I also pack certain things to come back with me from trips to Norway :)

    • Cassandra

      You should make a similar post, I’d love to see the things you miss from home!

  10. I identify with a lot of these. Shoe shopping is awful for me because I have such big feet (size 41-42-ish here), and they almost never have my size in regular stores! It was a relief to be at home this summer and buy a pair of shoes. I didn’t have to ask; the box was just out there! Crazy.

    • Cassandra

      Oh man, do I hear ya! I am a half-sizer and have a terrible time finding shoes in Spain. Asking at the front desk for the sizes is obnoxious as well–how many times can I really get away with requesting both size 36 and size 37 to try on?!

  11. hola, strange that i never got to your blog….maybe you are the same Casandra who posts on other blogs, not sure, but great to get to your blog.

    the free drinks refill is something we have never had in Spain, but i see that in the last time some McDonalds and Burger King are introducing it.

    I strongly disagree on the beer issue, how can you say that Mahou, Cruzcampo or Estrella taste the same and are boring? they don’t taste the same at all, and ask British holidaymakers if they love Spanish beers…..you will never find a better beer that beats a cold Estrella, and believe me that they don’t taste the same :)

    i totally agree on the customer service, shame that we’ve got a servicio de atencion al cliente que es una mierda.

    Mexican restaurants? yes you won’t find them in Spain, the reason? i think that it is because there is not Mexican immigration as an issue in Europe…well maybe i am wrong and that doesn’t explain it as there is a large Ecuadorian community and they haven’t got their restaurants

    • Cassandra

      Hi Pedro, thanks for stopping by! It was great to hear your take on these points from your view as a Spaniard.

      I hope I didn’t offend you with the beer comment–the truth is that I honestly cannot tell them apart. Estrella is the one to pick? I’ll have to give it another try.

      My state (Arkansas) has a significant Mexican population and also a lot of Mexican restaurants. I also spent a summer in Mexico when I was younger so I really ended up enjoying the flavors.

      That’s interesting how some fast food restaurants are introducing free refills–I wonder if this will eventually catch on with other chains (Pans, 100 Montaditos, etc).

  12. oh Cassandra, why should i be offended? i am beginning to think that my way of writting in English makes me look serious or offended, no way, i am far from being offended, just smiling right now.

    you can try any famous beer, they all taste nice, my favourite ones are Estrella, San Miguel or Mahou 5 estrellas…they must be cold, and speaking for myself i prefer the “tercio” bottle rather than tins, or cans as you call it in the USA.

    i am fully aware of the Mexican restaurants in the USA, and honestly i don’t get that love for them you all seem to have over there. One thing i don’t like is some restaurants state that they have Spanish food, then you walk in and realise that it is Mexican food, and you know what Cassandra? Mexican food is similar to Spain’s food…. as similar as the human race and lifeforms from outer space :)

    oh and i don’t think the free drinks thing will be caught by the rest of restaurant chains, just like we shan’t have the brilliant customer service you do have in the USA.

  13. I´m an expat in the States and I agree: I miss NPR and good beer when I´m away.
    The craft beer culture in Madrid is slowly growing though :)

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