When you’re here in Madrid, once you tell people you’re American, the first question they will ask you is why you’ve come. Locals will typically find it interesting — or at least peculiar — that you’ve left everything behind in order to change not only countries, but continents, just because you wanted to. Although emigrating has been a big part of Spanish culture in recent history, the concept of willfully going to live in another country is just as unusual as it is in the US; there are certainly individuals who choose to do so, but they are the exception and not the rule. Economic necessity and work-related reasons are the main stimuli which cause Spaniards to move abroad. What are the reasons why Americans move to Spain?
Ever since Ernest Hemingway wrote so extensively about his time in Spain, Americans have been fascinated with the country. This comes as no surprise as Spain is without a doubt a unique place. Its particular blend of attitude, gastronomy, values, and history have caused the country to be one of the most visited in the world. Aspects of the culture — although stereotypes — such as flamenco and bullfighting have captured the world’s attention for decades and despite many Spaniards’ frustration, continue to do so. As a result, Spain is a choice destination for Americans who are looking for something different. Those who wish to beat the daily grind of life in America and experience new things often come here. Although not many stay permanently, ninety-nine percent of them have an experience they won’t soon forget.
Work or Study in Madrid?
An overwhelming amount of Americans who come to Spain do so as students. Every Fall and Spring see the arrival of thousands of college students who come to spend a semester or even a year abroad. Although this accounts for the vast majority of Americans who are in Spain at any given moment, rarely do these students remain in country after completing their programs. Thus, most university-aged Americans that you meet fall into this category.
Beyond students, virtually all Americans who live in Spain, regardless of their motivation for being here, all do the same thing for a living: teach English. Whatever your skill set is, you’ll probably find that you can make the same or even more doing this than any other job you have available to you. Already a sizeable industry, Spaniards’ necessity to speak English has become even more pronounced since the beginning of the economic crisis, a downturn from which Spain is recovering rather slowly. Consequently, ninety-nine point nine percent of Americans living in Spain are English teachers, in one capacity or another, and in some cases also delve into other aspects of the language, be it translation/interpretation or what have you.
Year after year, Spain attracts an exorbitant amount of Americans who are looking for new experiences. Although the vast majority of them are either studying or teaching, each person’s individual motivation for having left the United States and coming abroad can vary. Upon speaking to fellow Americans in Spain, it’s quite easy to have an idea of what they do for a living or how they stay busy, but the question of why they are here remains a mystery until they choose to reveal it.
So, what will be your reasons for coming to Spain? What will you tell people when they ask the million-dollar question? Better get to thinking…