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News Every Day |

I'm an American who's lived in Spain for 4 years. I wish I knew these 10 things before I moved.

Toursts visit Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain.
I've lived in Barcelona since early 2020.
  • After growing up in Los Angeles, I moved to Barcelona in early 2020.
  • Life abroad has brought many unforeseen challenges, like only seeing my family once a year.
  • It was harder to open a bank account and find an apartment in a new country than I expected.

After taking annual vacations to Europe for over a decade, I followed my dream and moved abroad right after my 32nd birthday. I spent six months in Bordeaux, France, before heading to Barcelona, Spain, in early 2020.

Leaving Los Angeles and building a new life here hasn't been all rainbows and butterflies — after all, the coronavirus pandemic hit three weeks after my arrival — but I'm so grateful I've put down roots here.

Now, I'm engaged, I found steady work as an English teacher, and I'm pursuing my passion for music.

Looking back, here are the 10 things I wish I had known before moving abroad.

Living so far from home has made me realize that I can't always be there for people when they need me and vice versa.
barcelona streets empty during pandemic
I stayed in Barcelona throughout the coronavirus pandemic, when the city felt very empty and quiet.

The majority of my close friends and family members live in Los Angeles, approximately 6,000 miles away. If something were to happen to me, it would take them 14 hours to get here.

During the early months of the pandemic, I was in constant fear that I wouldn't be able to help my loved ones if they got sick. I also had to factor in quarantine guidelines since I'd be traveling from outside the US.

Luckily, nothing serious happened to my friends or family during the height of the pandemic, but I still deal with some lingering stress and fear from that time.


The time difference between Los Angeles and Barcelona makes it hard to stay connected with friends and family.
jordan mautner and friend visiting from LA
Some of my friends from Los Angeles have visited me in Barcelona.

When I lived stateside, I talked with some of my friends and family members daily. So, I knew the nine-hour time difference between Barcelona and Los Angeles would be challenging, but I couldn't have imagined how much it would affect my life.  

We still chat whenever we can, but it's difficult to find a time that works for everyone. When I take my lunch break at 1 p.m., my best friend is fast asleep in Los Angeles, where it's 4 a.m. And we tend to have different energy levels when we do talk since it's the beginning of her day and the end of mine.

If I need to reach family or friends in Los Angeles on short notice, there's a good chance they'll be unavailable because of the massive time change. I've found it's best to schedule the calls ahead of time.

When my friends have visited, it's been so wonderful to connect with them in the same time zone, enjoying coffee together in the mornings and a glass of wine together in the evenings. 

I inevitably end up missing a lot of important milestones, like weddings and birthdays.
jordan mautner smiling behind plate of white pizza with neon light in the background, beer in the foregroung
I don't get home to Los Angeles as much as I'd like.

When I moved abroad, I wasn't sure how long I'd be gone. I told myself that I'd visit Los Angeles after a year, but that became difficult during the pandemic. Multiple years passed before I was able to visit home. 

Many of my friends have had children, weddings, or huge career breakthroughs. I wish I could've been there to celebrate these special occasions, and I wish they could've been in Barcelona to celebrate my birthday and accomplishments.

I've vowed to prioritize more frequent trips to Los Angeles to make up for lost time; however, long flights and pricey tickets make it hard to visit more than once a year. Luckily, when I get to see my friends in person, it feels like no time has passed, even if our lives have changed.

Because flights are so expensive around the holidays, I rarely get to spend them with my family.
jordan mautner and friend in santa hats
I celebrate Christmas with other expat friends in Barcelona.

Before I moved, I didn't realize that I'd often spend holidays alone or with other expats. Plane tickets can be outrageously expensive during the holidays, making it unrealistic for me to travel during this time. 

I've made the best of it by introducing Thanksgiving to my friends from around the world and learning about their Christmas traditions.

I still can't help but feel homesick, as I miss my mom's Christmas brunch and my annual Friendsgiving celebration. Though I'm grateful for new, multicultural traditions, I hope I can make it back home for the holidays soon.

When I'm feeling homesick, I have a hard time relating to my friends from Spain and other parts of Europe.
band playing on stage
I've met so many people from around the world since moving to Spain.

It took time to make new friends, but after about six months in Barcelona, I'd started to form a solid group. Many of my friends were from Barcelona or nearby European countries. At times, I found it hard to relate to them since I felt so far from home.

Thankfully, I met my fiancé the first summer I lived in Barcelona. He's also an expat and arrived in the city around the same time as I did, so we bonded pretty quickly.

Barcelona is a pretty transient place, which makes it hard to form lasting friendships.
Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona
The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Like so many large cities, Barcelona is transient. It's a melting pot of many cultures, making it an exciting place to live, but not everyone is looking to settle down here. 

I've made some friends who moved away after six months. I'm always sad to see them go, and it can be hard to put effort into making new connections when you don't know how long someone plans on staying in the city.

It didn't take long to learn that living in a foreign city is vastly different than visiting one.
metro in spain
Living abroad brings many of the same small inconveniences as living in the US.

When I thought about living in Europe full-time, I pictured myself sitting at a café, sipping wine, and journaling. All of these things do happen, just not on a daily basis.

Living here is very different than vacationing here, and I still deal with day-to-day stresses. I have to work, commute during rush hour, and do laundry, just like I did in Los Angeles.

Finding an apartment and opening a bank account in Barcelona was much more difficult than I expected.
Hunting for apartments in Barcelona wasn't easy or straightforward.

Not only were all of the baking and lease documents in a language I didn't speak, but the requirements for opening a bank account and finding an apartment were different from those in Los Angeles.

To open a bank account, I needed a lot of documents I didn't have right when I moved to the city. 

The apartment hunt wasn't easy either. When I first arrived, I stayed in an Airbnb and then rented a room from a friend, but eventually, my partner and I wanted to find our own place.

I was shocked by how expensive moving into an apartment was in Barcelona. Many apartments required two months of rent, a deposit, and a real-estate agency fee, so we had to cough up a lot more money than we expected.

I haven't been able to find familiar over-the-counter medications in Spain.
outside of pharmacy in barcelona spain
A pharmacy in Barcelona.

There was something comforting about knowing exactly which over-the-counter medicine to take in the US.

Because I wasn't able to find Advil, Midol, or Pepto Bismol in Barcelona, I've had to learn from scratch what works for me. The pharmacists here have been incredibly helpful, but I still miss the comfort of some of my go-to medicines in the US.

Starting over in my 30s made me feel stressed and insecure, and I constantly compared myself to other people.
jordan mautner and dog on beach
My quality of life has improved since moving from Los Angeles to Barcelona.

I had a well-established life in Los Angeles, with a full-time job, an apartment, and friends. When I moved to Europe at 32, I had to start over, which gave me a lot of insecurities. I started comparing myself with others all the time. 

Starting over in a new city meant I had to work my way up from the bottom. When I moved, I had a part-time teaching position and a dream to pursue music.

I always imagined my life to be more stable in my mid-30s, but I chose to take a different path, I've learned to accept that I can't have it all and that stability comes with time.

Life abroad isn't always easy, but it's worth every single challenge I've faced.
jordan mautner and her fiance
I met my partner shortly after moving to Barcelona.

Although moving abroad has its fair share of struggles, my overall quality of life has tremendously improved. Barcelona's walkability, sunny weather, and beaches have all been game-changers.

I also live steps from a labyrinth of delicious restaurants and chic bars, which are generally more affordable than similar spots in Los Angeles.

Even though I sometimes feel homesick, I'm glad I took the risk of moving to a different part of the world.

This story was originally published on July 28, 2023, and most recently updated on June 10, 2024.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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