I Lived in A Spanish Village for 8 Months, and it Changed Me Forever.

One year ago, I found out I’d be moving to a 5,000 person village in Spain. I then found out I’d be the only foreigner.

I remember like it was yesterday. I remember refreshing my e-mail every 10 minutes for two months straight, impatiently awaiting my city assignment. The next year of my life was completely in the hands of the Spanish government, and I was OK with it. In fact, more than OK…where would they put me?

Sevilla?

Madrid?!

Barcelona?!

And then I got the e-mail…

Fregenal de la WHAT?!

PANIC. Google results: “5,000 person farming village in the province of Extremadura, Spain. Known for”…ham?

I cried a little. Second guessed my life decisions. What in the world was I getting myself into?! Here I was, this girl from the New York metro area. A girl who has interned at NYC’s biggest media company (shout out to Clear Channel!), worked backstage concerts at Madison Square Garden, attended P. Diddy’s sons Sweet 16 (If you wanna laugh, check out 4:14 of this episode of Super Sweet 16…) and I was being shipped off to SHEEPVILLE.

Eight months later, and I am fighting tears as I’m packing up my personalized Gazpacho bowl, wrapping newspaper around the crafts my students have made me, and stuffing packages of jamón  in the side pockets of my suitcase, praying that customs won’t get hungry and decide to keep it for themselves (and I wouldn’t be surprise if they do. A good Spanish person will NEVER miss an opportunity to snack on free jamón…)

I’ve not only learned about life in a completely different culture. I’ve learned about myself, the things that really matter in life, and the things in this world I can do without. I remember justifying to myself one year ago, “everything happens for a reason! The big guy up there must have a reason…” Well, if I wasn’t a believer in “the Big Man’s grand plan” before, I am now. I feel so beyond blessed to have had this life changing experience, completely immersed in a world so completely opposite from my own. I could ramble on and on about how incredible my time here has been, but ain’t nobody got time for that. So, I’ve (tried) to condense my experience into a nice, pretty, city-paced list.

9 Ways My Village has Changed My Perspective on Life, Foreva’.

1) Saying HI to strangers in the streets isn’t scary.

In the city world, we have this really bad habit of avoiding eye contact with passer-byers at all costs. When walking down the sidewalk, we have tunnel vision. All that exists is you, whatever is directly in front of you, and your shoe laces (for those of you who stare at your feet to avoid tripping… guilty). We will even go as far as to check our phone for a non-existent text message, or search our bag for something we don’t need. All to avoid a potential second or two of eye contact. Well, want to know what happens in a world where people people try to make eye contact? You say….HI. Crazy, I know. When I first arrived in Fregenal, I was confused as to why everyone was saying “hola,” “adios” or “buenos” as I passed. Did they all know me? Did I meet them without realizing? I was thoroughly confused, and maybe even a little weirded out. Eight months later, I say “hola” to every living thing that crosses my path. Whether it’s a grandpa with a missing tooth and a cane (as there are a lot of those here), or two teenager girls gossiping Spanish at the speed of light…a big HOLA will go down. And even a smile! Because you know what? It really makes your day that much happier.

2) Whatever you need NOW, can wait.2 hours later.... (4)

Being from the high paced NY, whatever we want NOW, we get. And if we don’t… Well, stay out of our path. That was my very impatient mentality just a mere 8 months ago. And it was one of the hardest things to change. Whether it was my clothes that take approx. 2 days to dry from wash-date, the cashier who decided to have a life-catch up with the girl in front of me, or the waiter who forgot I existed… whatever it is, I’ll get it. Eventually. Patience truly is a virtue, and nothing is worth raising my cortisone levels to get 5 minutes sooner.

3) A set eating schedule is actually the best thing that ever happened.7-30, Guess that means i gotta eat a

And here, the only schedule that ever happens. I’m tellin’ ya, peoples priorities are in the right place! But seriously. Remember one month in, when I wrote that article about eating schedules and siestas? At that point, I hated it. No, despised it.  I remember like it was yesterday- It was 7 :30 pm, and I wanted a sandwich. So, like every logical hungry person does, I went to a restaurant and ordered a sandwich. You know what they told me? NO. I couldn’t have my damn sandwich. UM EXCUSE ME LAST TIME I CHECKED SPAIN WAS A FREE COUNTRY. Well, it is, unless you tryna’ mess with their eating times. Because 7:30 is “coffee” hour, and with coffee there are no sandwiches. Just cookies. Wait till 9:30, dinner time, he told me. Ok sure, if you wanna girl to faint…

It took me about seven of my eight months here to figure this one out. But I’ve grown to appreciate it, and even love it. The eating hour is so strict, because eating is an activity people do together. It’s a time to sit with the people who you love in the world, share food, conversation, and do so in a leisurely manner. And the schedule leaves you no choice but to do so. Which leads me to…

4) If you share your food, you won’t starve.7-30, Guess that means i gotta eat a (1)

As a product of the Western world, I was very territorial over my food. I was like an animal in the jungle; you touch what’s on my plate, I bite your hand off. And if it’s the best piece, there goes your head. Well, if I wanted to make friends, I realized I had to change this mentality. And quick… The Spanish “tapas” culture is all about sharing. Thus, there are absolutely no boundaries when it comes to touching someone elses plate. Remember when the waiter ate a fish off my plate? I was in complete shock. But in reality, it’s not that out of line in the Spanish world. Sharing is caring, and food is enjoyment; thus, sharing your food is enjoyment. And the amazing thing? I’ve actually grown to believe this. My stress level no longer sky rockets when I see your hand closing in on my plate. So, USA friends, good news…when I return home, you can eat the food of my plate. And even  the best piece. As long as I can have yours 😉

5) Fun doesn’t have stop after you turn 30. Or have kids.

Last summer, I worked for a U.S. marketing campaign whose slogan was “sleep when your 30.” It was a liquor brand that promoted the idea that your 20’s is for fun, and your 30’s is when fun dies. This is very much so our mentality in the states. After college graduation, I remember sitting on the couch of my apartment with my 4 best friends. We were balling our eyes out, crying that our fun was forever over…LOL. We were 22 years old!!! In the states, we fear getting old because with age comes more responsibility, more “social rules,” and less fun. But why does one need to influence the other? In my village it’s quote the opposite.  In fact, the wildest people I know here are above the age of 40. And the king of the fiestas? He’s 50 with three kids. Judgements aside. Life is for fun. And my life is just beginning!

6.) You don’t have to get trashed to have fun.2 hours later....

Maybe this is why Spanish people can have fun their entire lives.I graduated from one of the biggest party schools in the US. The mentality was that if you couldn’t drink, you wouldn’t go out. Shots, or water. An average night out in the states goes like this:

Pre-game with shots of alcohol. When sufficiently drunk, go to bar. Drink more. Then, go to club. More shots. On the verge of passing out. Success. Go home.

WRONG WRONG WRONG. PEOPLE. WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO ENJOYING EACH OTHERS COMPANY?! Seriously. People in my village drink. But not to get drunk. To socialize. And if getting drunk happens, it happens. But at a natural, humanly pace. That explains why people in the states last until 2 am, where here people stay out until the sun rises. And the best part? You can watch the sun rise with the people you like the most…

7) There is nothing more beautiful in this world than a Spanish sunset.photo (14)

No words.

8) Spanish is way more honest.2 hours later.... (1)

Yes, I’ve learned how to speak fluent Spanish. But what’s more, is I’ve learned how speak honest. There is no way to beat around the bush in Spanish. A fat boy is a chico gordo. He’s not pleasantly plump, he’s just plain old fat. He knows it, his parents know it, and it’s all good. One of my students actually responded to “How are you today?” with “I am fat.” LOLOL. But he knows it! The same thing goes for black people, called negros. There is no “politically correct” name, like the “African Spanish” people. People are honest with who they are here, in presumable thanks to the honesty of the language. Stop walking on cultural egg shells, and just say it. 

9.) It’s the people that matter.

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There are 9 restaurant, 2 “cool” bars, and 2 clothing stores in my pueblo. There are no movie theaters, no malls, nor clubs. My apartment has no clothes dryer, heating, air conditioning, nor oven. And I have had one of the most incredible years of my life.

One afternoon in February, I lost my wallet. Within 5 minutes of my discovery, the entire pueblo went on lock down. Moms of my students left work early to search their streets, the principal of my school stopped classes to perform a search and rescue, and the police came to ME. Three months later, people I’ve never met stop me in the streets, and ask “Casie, hola! Has encontrado tu cartera?” No, Maria, I haven’t found my wallet. But thanks for asking…

These people are truly incredible. Like, INCREDIBLE. Being from the NYC metro area, I’m used to people who live for themselves, and for themselves only. If I lost my wallet in the Big Apple, I’d get a whole bunch of “oh, well that sucks for you!” My biggest culture shock in Fregenal was the incredible sense of community. People actually care about each other.

I have never met people more warm, happy, and genuinely caring in my life. I have known the people of this community for 8 months; half of which, I could barely communicate. Yet, I feel like I have of 5,000 new Spanish speaking family members (the corniest of corny, I know. But it’s TRUE!)

I have formed these friendships, young and old, that I know will stay with me forever; an incredible group of 20 best friends, one married couple who owns a Spanish fish factory, and one best friend who has been my Angel for the past 8 months. And his name just so happens to be Angel…IRONIC? Oh, and the wildest part of it all? All of these bonds I’ve formed have been in Spanish. 

I could ramble on and on. But I’m going to end with this final (sappy) thought:

The biggest lesson I learned is that happiness in this life is not about the money. It’s not about the posh bar or trendiest restaurant. But it’s the people you share it with. It’s the people who are sitting at the same table as you. The surroundings just aren’t important.

Thank you Fregenal. You’ve showed me what this life is really about, and for that, TE QUIERO MUCHO.

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As for NYC? Comin’ atcha! Ladies and gents, you probably can expect a post on “reverse culture shock” anyyyyyyyday now…

Now it’s your turn to share! What do you think about the lessons I learned–agree or disagree? Would you want the opportunity to live in a Spanish village like Fregenal? Have you had a similar foreign experience?!

Wanna travel? Don’t let “life” stop you. Read the 8 Reasons that Stop Young People from Traveling, and Why You CAN

203 thoughts on “I Lived in A Spanish Village for 8 Months, and it Changed Me Forever.

  1. I can’t help but wonder if your observations would have changed if you’d been placed in a bigger–or smaller–place. Do you think they would have?

    Even living in Madrid, I can relate to so many of these points (save for the one about sunsets, unfortunately.) I couldn’t help but chuckle at the part about the eating schedules, especially when combined with the take-things-slower mentality. Living life in the Spanish lane is certainly about enjoying the small pleasures!

    1. For sunsets in Madrid, I recommend visiting El Templo de Debod, near Plaza de España. If you want to make time before that, El Jardín Secreto and Mür Café are 5 minutes away – both have a good selection of cakes and drinks. That’s the combo I used with my wife to in our first date, and it worked very well :)

        1. I’ve just read your great article. It makes me miss Spain. I’m one of those Spaniards that had to leave the country in order to find a job.
          Anyway, I was born in Madrid and living in a neighbourhood there where you feel like you are in a village IS possible if you don’t live in the old town area. Check apartments in “Distrito de Latina” (don’t mistake with “La Latina”) or “Distrito de Carabanchel”. Yes, it will take you more time to reach the center but it will make you feel more like a village living there. Try to avoid malls and supermarkets too and go to the small grocery stores that you’ll find everywhere. I hope you’ll enjoy Madrid :)

        2. Wow, this article hit home for me. I did the same thing you did, but at age 46! I came to Madrid on a whim and went to Spanish school and my life changed forever. I knew from the first day that I’d move here and that’s exactly what I did. You can find much of that pueblo feeling even in parts of Madrid! It’s not the cheapest part of town, but I highly recommend the Retiro neighborhood. It’s very community here! I’d love to connect with you when I move here and give you advice — I.have made wonderful friend here and will never move back to the States. Madrid is one of the best cities in the world in my opinion and you can get the best of the village life along with a super vibrant culture and nightlife. And I find that people here do care even though it’s a big city. In any case, best of luck with your move. ¡Ojalá que todo vaya bien y que disfrutes de Madrid!

      1. Eso iba a decir yo, que desde toda la zona alta que comprende desde el Palacio de Oriente hasta el parque del Oeste se pueden contemplar unas puestas de sol espectaculares.

        I have truly enjoyed your post, Casie (Casey?). You clearly posess a lovely mindset and the ability to discover the beauty beyond your own constraints. The comment right before mine says that you are coming to Madrid and if you’d be interested in letting a local show you around and introduce you to some nice people, it would be my pleasure.

    2. Didn’t you enjoy the sunset from the Templo de Debod?

      I am from Madrid and live in NYC and most of the things she says only apply to rural Spain. For better or worse, living in Madrid is an experience halfway between NYC and Fregenal.

      After reading this, I want to move to a small town! XD

          1. I am from Madrid and I’ve been living abroad in different cities some years already (nowadays in Brussels until summer). I think that Madrid could be Fregenal when you are integrated in your “barrio”. At the end of the day, the “barrio” can be like a small town. Maybe not in the centre but even there, there are still traditional markets where they will know you by your name, or lovely grandma’s around that would say hello to you.

            I did not read all the comments below, but just in case, another great sunset in a no so well known spot of my dear Madrid:
            http://www.cosasdemadrid.es/que-ver-en-parque-del-cerro-del-tio-pio-de-madrid/

            All of my foreign friends that have been in Spain love Madrid, and I think is more “castiza” and welcoming that other big cities. Everyone can find a place…so good luck in your new adventure and thanks for such a nice post! :-)

          2. It’s a mix between the two. Yo can’t apply the one about the eating schedule and in the small villages people have more patience (but I think this is not only in Spain)

    3. Hoy can look at the sunsets in Madrid too. Of course not in downtown, but there are a lot of places
      . 😉

  2. Good to know….”you don’t have to get trashed to have fun”….psssst, pass it one. Its’ not what you have it’s all about the heart. Live is to enjoy each and every moment at a time. Slow down, you’re movin’ too fast. Life lessons to live by. Thank you our Wandering Casiedilla for your wisdom.

  3. I love the idea of speaking honestly! When we were living in China, that’s something that started to confuse as, as it is quite the opposite there and people are not very direct..so you never know what they really think. What a lovely post! It looks like you had such a great time :)

  4. Yes at all, but this things are at small towns, im from spain, and i can say all the same. i like se much your post,

  5. Living for 8 months in Spain and use a ‘funny pic’ in the web header representing you with a Mexican hat… facepalm…

    1. Ahí le has dado.

      It reminds me of “How I met your mother”. I assume they were joking when they put Ted Mosby on a Mexican hat saying that he was going to Spain. Apparently, not only the hat was wrong, but also the location of Barcelona, Sevilla and Mérida were incorrectly located, Valencia was misspelt. And more.

      This website details a bit more the chapter :) http://dotsonthei.blogspot.com.es/2013/05/the-cultural-and-geographical-ignorance.html

    2. What a stupid comment… Did you read the whole blog to understand why she mixes several aspects of different Spanish cultures in the introducing picture? It’s very shortminded to judge based on presumptions…

      1. Unless she’s trying to be ironic, there’s nothing Spanish about quesadillas nor sombreros… those are Mexican, and I don’t see any posts about Mexico. It would make more sense if the pic had something to do with Belgium, Germany, Italy or any other country she has actually written about, but not Mexico, unless she is really known as Casiedilla for a Mexico-related experience which we do not know about. It’s as if she would use a picture of a yorkshire pudding with a bobby’s helmet when writing about American culture. Yes, we share the language, but definetely not the culture. There are no more “Spanish cultures” than “English cultures”.

  6. That’s the spanish way of life :) You wrote a nice article. We might haven’t the biggest cities, or the richest ones but you can be truly comfortable in a small village if you are lucky enough to meet good people. And you did! Cruzcampo cheers 😛

  7. I think many aspects of your experience would have been different if you had lived in Madrid, for example. In Madrid, we mainly think about our own businesses, being so extremely friendly about your lost wallet as you describe is so surprising for me as was for you!

    As of course, saying hello to strange people in the street, in Madrid is a secure way to be clasified as a mad person!

    Another aspects, however, are common to Spanish culture as a whole, I agree.For example, being able to spend many hours with friends without thinking that being drunk is mandatory, or speaking in a very direct (even rude) way; however, politically correct language is more and more commonly used in my view, at least in Madrid and among more or less cultivated and politically-concerned people.

    I congratulate that your experience was so positive!

  8. Reconozco esa puesta de sol, es la sierra del Castellar, en la que se encontraba un castillo arabe en Zafra , mi ciudad.
    Me alegro que mis paisanos de Fregenal te tratasen así de bien, espero que vuelvas pronto.

  9. Hola. Has conocido la vida de pueblo, la vida en las ciudades es bastante diferente, aunque no se acerca a como es en NYC; allí estáis todos un pocos locos jeje, es broma :-)

    1. Pues tio, yo estuve 3 dias en NY y flipé con la gente. No sabía que eran tan cercanos. Hasta me hice una foto con dos policias de nueva york. Y el metro era brutal, la gente iba cantando al trabajo.

  10. It has been a pleasure to read this writing. I do not know why I have empathise with you this much, but really, what you share is a great piece of wisdom.

    What you say is true, sharing and caring, family matters a lot, we enjoy so much Xmas or easter gatherings for the people.

    One thing to say, thing are different in bigger towns. I live on torrevieja in alicante and it is a 100.000 citizens city and it has the best of a big city and also the best of a smaller one, but what you say…..sometimes or more than often we do not say hello.

    Living in another country is amazing, I did it 10 years ago in Southampton UK for 9 months, but the experience does not resemble yours at all.

    Anyway, hope you are well and thank you for your wisdom.

    Regards

    Oscar

  11. A super read! Our nearest town (in Almeria) has 11k residents, but our village has less than 100. It’s very different to our previous city lifestyle… but it’s home and we love it. Enjoy your next adventure xxx

  12. First of all I’m glad you’ve enjoyed Spain and specially one of his towns. I’m from the other side of Spain (Alicante-Valencia) state and I’m quite sure you’d love this place with a lot of towns like that moreover with beach. :)

    1. Hola, Mister Gutierrez.
      Como se llama este pueblo de Iowa donde enseñaste? Yo enseño en un pueblo pequeño de Iowa aunque también he vivido en España – ya ves, mi marido es de Pamplona. (¡Viva San Fermín!)

  13. Really thanks for write this article. I’m happier than 5 minutes ago. I’m Extremeño and I know these things… sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have. :)

    Un abrazo desde Madrid.

  14. Hello.Glad you’ve found a new perspective to enjoy life. I’m Spanish and I live in a small village in Galicia. Maybe because I lived all my life here I had never thought about some of the things you wrote about but, now that I read them, I recognize some of those things and I cant help feeling proud about it.Which is great. Thank you. It is great when someone from “outside” and makes you see that you have amazing things around.

  15. Hi! Your article is funny for the most part, and I’m happy you enjoyed your stay in Spain. It is usually a good idea to switch living places in a different country.

    However, I can’t help feeling that you talk about Spain like one would talk about a completely opposite culture. Sure, it’s probably more social, slow-paced and honest than others; but all in all I think the people is not that different from other places. I met some people from your country that were more social or “friendly” than some of my group of local friends. Also, about honesty, it really depends on the area of Spain you live in. In Barcelona, I sometimes end up discussing with people that use “de color” or “negrito” to talk about black people. Same for fat people, it’s directly avoided or some technical words are used. This is just a small example. Regarding the eating schedule in bars or restaurants, I haven’t seen such a thing – the kitchen in a restaurant may close, but they can serve you a cold sandwich whenever you want. Of course, Spain is very different depending on the place you pick to live (I think the most part of the differences is due to the size of the town rather than the country itself); but really, I do not see that much difference between US (or almost any other country in America) and Europe countries, compared with the life at Japan or in Morocco, for instance.

    All in all, I agree with other parts of your article, such as the drinking part. Here in Spain I mostly hear about Brits and Germans that are completely trashed during holidays; they just don’t know how to drink. The same goes for other countries, I guess.

  16. I’m spanish and I live in a similar village in Málaga named Coín (yes, like money in english) and everything you writed here is absolutely true, but its funny (or not) that I had to read it in a new yorker blog to understand how good is the way of living we have here. Not everything is good in Spain (hey, we are the people who gave a absolute majority to Rajoy!!) but really we have a different way of understanding life. Thanks for the post, I enjoyed quite a lot.

  17. Great story. It reminds me so much of when I first came to Spain when I was in my twenties. It was the start of a 40 year love affair. I’m going back tomorrow, in fact.

  18. Hey, Cassandra, go to Palacio de Oriente today, by the “balcony” that overlooks the Sabatini Gardens and watch Madrid’s Sunset. Tomorrow is a bank holiday, so I guess you can. Enjoy.

  19. Me ha encantado tu post…
    Que gran verdad hay en aquello de “no sabes lo que tienes hasta que lo pierdes”
    Gracias por enseñarnos la gran suerte que tenemos…
    Por cierto… en Valencia te espera un buen plato de paella y una sangria fresquita para cuando gustes.

    Un saludo y sigue escribiendo por favor 😀

  20. What a funny begin of my day reading you! Thank you for a so funny article. Obviously Spain is not the Paradise, but sometimes is relaxing hear about us and realize the big problems of nowday are less because of our way of life. Lot of Kisses from Madrid. Martin

  21. Well, as we (Spaniards) say, Spain is different! You make me very happy after reading your post, very glad you have enjoyed Fregenal de la Sierra that much and I hope this makes us love more our country, at least as much as you do now :)

    Have a nice trip back to NYC, we’ll be here always waiting for you!

  22. Tu post me ha hecho sonreir y echar de menos mi Extremadura! :) Es verdad que en los pueblos todo es mucho más cercano pero has captado a la perfección the Spanish way of life…Me alegro que lo hayas pasado tan bien! Los pequeños placeres diarios de la vida son, de hecho, los grandes placeres de la vida 😀

  23. Well, as spanish I am, I have to say that life is not like that in the whole country. Is not the same living there than living in Madrid or Barcelona or any big city. As I am sure in the states is not the same living in NY than living in a little town. That town looks very rural, but in the cities we have aircon and dryers.

    And about NY I have to say I was surprised. I was 3 days over there for 3 days and I didn’t know the new yorkers were that nice. Very kind people, I even had a photo taken with 2 NYPD agents!!! haha.

  24. This reminds me of the 2yrs I spent in Raito, a tiny town in the south of italy. Not only the most beautiful place on earth (check it out for yourself), but with the friendliest people. They took me as their own, and still keep there more friends than in my home town, near Barcelona

  25. ¡Vaya! Me alegra mucho que hayas disfrutado tanto y aprendido tan bien la cultura de nuestro país. Eso sí, te aviso que de Despeñaperros para arriba las cosas cambian un poco (considera Extremadura como una brecha espacial, seguimos siendo muy parecidos andaluces y extremeños).

    He visto tu cambio de chip en guiris de medio mundo: una enfermedad que se aloja en sus corazones y cuya única cura (o paliativo) pasa por volver a tierras de la península.

    Esperamos poder disfrutar de tu compañía en un futuro no muy lejano.

    ¡Un beso y hasta siempre!

  26. waytogo casiedilla! My girlfriend turned me onto your blog, and I loved this article. We live with (mas o menos) 300 others in a Gomera village (look it up for your next travelogue – small island in the Canaries), and totally resonate with your experience and learnings. How on earth you are going to be able to accept NYC after this experience is … beyond me, but I wish you tons of luck. Somehow I can’t help hoping you only take a NYC minute to figure out your next destination 😉

  27. It’s funny how you find yourself different from Spaniards because of being “a product of the Western world”.

    Where do you exactly place the border between eastern and western world?

    Because as an (born and raised on Madrid, not on a small town) Spaniard, and therefore an European, I consider myself as “product of the Western world” as you, but I could easily say something similar about, I don’t know…turks, being themselves also Europeans (at least the half of them).

    Let’s call this “The Subjective Eastern Border Paradox” 😀

    Nice post, though.

  28. El mundo está al revés. Estados Unidos de América mira hacia un pequeño pueblo de España, la original, para darse cuenta de los valores distintos que pueden hacer su vida plena y mejor y más feliz. España, la original, mira los valores de la cultura norteamericana para intentar imitarlos.
    Y ni unos ni otros logramos una vida aceptable, España porque necesita la tranquilidad de poseer cierta capacidad económica que le de seguridad, sobrado de aspectos solidarios. Y Norteamérica porque necesita la filosofía de vida española que le permita disfrutar de sus semejantes y con sus semejantes, huérfana de relaciones de verdad entre personas
    Un beso gordo para esa profesora que me ha hecho valorar lo poquito que tengo, que es mucho..
    Felicidades Casie , sigue así y vuelve a visitarnos cuando puedas

  29. Please take off the mexican hat in the picture of the header of the web, it´s an insult to spanish culture. Spain is not mexico, there are 10.000 km in between.

  30. Good blog. Interesting read full of pertinent observations about living in a small community in Spain. As it happens I moved from London to an even smaller pueblo. That was twenty-five years ago. I’m still here because I know the qualities of life will not be bettered elsewhere. A couple of months ago I published a book about a simpler way of life in the south of Aragon and the virtues of living in a smaller, slower community so I’m in complete agreement with what you have written and I understand your sadness about having to move on. The problem with the pueblo way of life is that it is dying out. The interior of Spain is being deserted in favour of life in the cities. 76% of the population now live in the concrete jungles. This is something I do not understand.

    My book is available from Amazon. It’s called ‘Gone To Aragon’ by Ben Tideway. I dislike self-promotion but I think you might find we have a lot in common on this subject.

    I shall be following you blog with interest.

  31. Hello! I am Spanish and I really like the article but do not generalize. All the things you say are certainly truth, but in bigger cities in Spain this does not happen, for example in Barcelona where I am living nowadays. I am so happy you liked so much living in Extremadura and having such an amazing time there!

  32. And just another think… if you have lived in Spain that hat and that ¿quesadilla? you are wearing in your avatar, does not make any sense at all…

  33. I agree with you. I was born in a Spanish town and the quality of life is incredible. Life is just that: being happy without too many things. Un abrazo muy grande

  34. I really enjoyed reading this and could relate to so much!! I’ve been living in a small’ish Spanish village for 15 years now and wouldn’t change it for the world. A great place to raise children, a real sense of family/community and above all, strong values. Values we have long since forgotten in so many bigger cities. Best of luck with your new adventures Casie and thanks for sharing this. It really brightened up my day!! Hasta pronto

  35. Happy to read so! Most of the people living in spanish cities don’t evento take the time to discover most of the assestments you’ve wroten. Of course se are focused on mimetizing americano live. Great words!

  36. Me ha encantado y me he reido mucho . Sólo una pregunta: ¿porqué apareces en tu fotografía con un sombrero de Méjico?? 😉

  37. Hola! Soy de un pueblo de Extremadura de 5700 habitantes. Me ha encantado tu articulo!! Me he emocionado un poco y todo porque me “he visto” desde fuera. Me alegro de que te haya gustado esto. Un saludo! Atxa! xD

  38. Great article – thank you!
    I’ ve been living in Spain fpr 15 months, too, and totally agree with your point of view!
    That’ s why we are moving back to this wonderful country and leave Germany behind us :-)

  39. I really enjoyed reading your blog. My sister and I spent 2 weeks in the Costa Brava and then returned a year later for 6 weeks (home exchange). I learned to appreciate the Spanish life-style. but it wasn’t as much culture shock for me, coming from a small town in western PA. Enjoying life and having fun are not an age but a mindset! I am 60+ years old, and just returned from Fiji, have to control myself to not shout “Bula” to everyone I see. The sunsets in Fiji are awesome too.

    1. Thanks so much for the suggestion José! Unfortunately, I won’t be in Madrid 4 of July to talk if I were to be selected. However, I would love to share my experience, so I’m going to keep my eyes open for other opportunities :) Thanks again!

  40. Hi.
    I’m glad that people of the civilized and prosperous Anglosaxon Western World is able to appreciate our country.
    Each passing year less and less Spanish people do it. I’m from Madrid, but I’ve lived 2 years in the UK. And I agree with each one of your points. My cultural shock when I started living in England was tremendous. People didn’t say Hi, didn’t share food, only drank to get wasted… I felt really out of place.
    I think we are happier in Spain than in England or in the States. We take life less seriously, we enjoy sharing, we live slowly. Life is not about the money.
    Thank you for expressing what I felt.

    Un beso. Alejandro.

  41. Bufff so true… As a canario in central Europe, just can agree with all this “alegria” we have down there in Spain (but not everywhere there!) When back home for holidays, have to get rid of people for four/five dinners at day!! I truly recommend you to pass by canary islands, a suave mix of Spain and South America!

  42. Dude, I had an extreeeeeemely similar experience last year! Lived in a little seaside village in Galicia called Malpica and taught in a high school in the next village and I loved every day of it! I’m from Glasgow, Scotland so it’s not quite NYC but I was definitely used to city livin’ so my experience in Spain is something I’ll never forget! I totally relate to the sense of community and everyone in the village knowing who you are, and also using it as a time to prioritise in your life! It’s so nice to read this and remember so much of my own experience :) Great writing, God bless you!

  43. That was nice and inspiring… Not everyone can adapt so well to something completely different… Maybe now it would be fun to read the adventures of a Fregenal citizen in Manhattan :-) .

    However, I would make a pair of corrections:
    – “Merendar” at 19:30h? Really? Was it in Spain? That sounds more like Mexico!!! I have had always my cake or cookie time at 17h (merienda/ merendola). Like tea time in United Kingdom!
    – It is true that sometimes we just say the things like they are (gordo, flaco, bajo), but YES, there is a politically correct word for “fat”= gordo / for example: rellenito. And for “black” peole = “de color”…
    Etc..

    Congrats for your experience. :-) 😀

    1. Regarding the “merienda” time, I think it can range from 17h to 20h, depending on the time of lunch. “Merienda”, in my experience, takes usually place around 19h, when coming back of school, work, etc. Of course, I talk about Spain. I think the differences in the eating time is both part of the society and part of the family or behaviours you usually have. In my hometown we usually have lunch at 15h and dinner at 23h, whilst in the city I live, the people I know usually eat lunch at 13h and dinner at 20h. Funny thing, to see this differences within one’s own country.

  44. I cannot help commenting your assertion: As a product of the Western world (you use it to refer it to your country, the US) and then the Spanish world. Spain is the original Western world, with the rest of Europe, a few thousand years before the US emerged. The US is a consequence of Western World expansion.

  45. My comment of the Western World is even more interesting since you have been in Extremadura. I do not know if you konw about the unique role of Extremadura in the expansion of the Western World: Hernan Cortes, Francisco Pizarro, Pedro de Valdivia or Hernando de Soto, the first European to explore the US, were from Extremadura, from villages very colse to Fregenal. Actually De Soto is from Jerez, just a walk away. You probably do not know that the first name given to the territory of present day Texas was New Extremadura, the same term applied to Chile, first. I thought these details can help you connect the Americas and the US better with that village.

  46. My former comment was about you mentioning the Western world, refering to the US, and then the Spanish world. The original Western World is Spain and the rest of Europe. The US is a consequence of the Western World expansion.

  47. It is so true, I lived in the US and I could experience how politically correct everything was. I taught there for a year and I still remembered how much one of my students freaked out when I asked him to “mueve el culo” -move your ass- as in keep on moving. I had to learn about how touchy things are over there compared to Spain. I live 30 minutes from Fregenal, I am quite a rural boy. However, I love travelling and I just spent a few days in NYC, so the only thing I can say is that nothing is worse, nothing is better, it is just different!

  48. Haha I can’t stop to laugh, I am spanish living in Uk and you are talking about everything I miss from Spain.

  49. Hola, encantada de leerte. Soy profesora de español en Tenerife y estoy totalmente de acuerdo contigo. Hay que viajar y conocer otros mundos.

  50. Curiously enough, being Spanish but coming from a big city (Madrid) I had a similar experience when I arrived to Athlone (Ireland). I was used to get things done quickly but in rural Ireland things go slow and people always have time for catching up with neighbours in the middle of the street, even if they are driving their cars and they stop in the middle of the street. The bus to Dublin is always late, around 20 minutes, minimum. Life stops the days of the All-Ireland hurling final. And of course, if you are walking or even driving in a small country road, passers by will say hello to you.
    Irish people love to talk and know about a stranger’s life and they feel a special connection with Spaniards, they like to remind us about years of fight together against the “evil English”
    In a sense I feel like in rural Spain.

  51. Hola, acabo de leer tu post sobre tu experiencia en España y me han hecho llorar de alegría. Me encanta cómo reflejas lo que siempre he pensado de la vida de los pueblos en España. Por desgracia cada vez van quedando menos pueblos y las ciudades se hacen más grandes y más americanas. Ojalá la vida fuera más real y menos aparente. Estamos tirando nuestra limitada existencia en este mundo con tonterías y lo has reflejado perfectamente. Un abrazo y gracias.

  52. Hi Cass. I’ve read the spanish translation of your post at VERNE (http://verne.elpais.com/verne/2015/06/08/articulo/1433764672_725740.html). Nice thing, sometimes is good to know how american people see our culture outside our country to realize our own benefits, not just our faults (spanish way of life in big cities is very influenced by the USA model and we not only forget our roots but we’re ashamed of them). I promise to follow your blog, I love your point of view. Greetings, Rafa.-

  53. Hi, Cassie!! My name is Inma and I’ve spent one year of my life in Jerez de los Caballeros, very close to your village, and it was an amazing experience! I work as a French teacher and I’m from Miajadas (near Don Benito, in Extremadura), so it was similar, but I must say that in the south people is even cooler. Nice to meet you!! And come back soon to Spain 😉

  54. Hola Casie

    Qué tal?Espero que tu vuelta a la gran manzana vaya bien.
    Muy bonito tu artículo pero no estoy de acuerdo en mucho de lo que dices.
    Soy español, también provengo de un pueblo de 5000 habitantes, solo que del norte de España.
    Me parece que exageras muchos temas, sí, tenemos una palabra para los negros: personas de color, claro que llamar gordo a alguien está mal visto, sea un niño o un adulto, llamar gordo es un insulto, el tema horarios de las comidas… es un tema muy polémico ya que nos desmarca del resto de Europa (http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2010/01/28/espana/1264681559.html) por ejemplo en mi casa cenamos a las 20:30 u 20:45 y no a las 21:30… Y el tema de no beber… si los españoles acabamos las fiestas viendo el amanecer es porque 1)bebemos mucho y no nos vamos a casa 2) salimos de fiesta y empezamos a beber a las doce de la noche… en España el beber es cultura y está muy arraigado socialmente.

    Me alegro mucho de que hayas disfrutado de España, de todos modos, te aconsejo que sigas viajando y vivas otra temporada en alguna ciudad grande, rollo Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia… Creo que España es MUY diferente a lo que tu pintas en el artículo, un pueblo de 5000 habitantes no puede ser el reflejo absoluto de un país de unos 47 millones de personas.

    Anyway, keep smiling and saying Hi 😀 to people in streets, it should always be this way.

    Best regards

  55. ¿Un gorro mejicano en Extremadura?

    Uhmmm…

    Pregunta a Gwyneth Paltrow y su “madre” española de cuando estuvo en Talavera de la Reina un año antes de ser famosa.

  56. Great article at your blog. Read the translation at “El Pais”. Is great that you discovered the villages in Spain, going to Madrid or Barcelona would have been a change but not so much.

    Made me feel the time i moved to a village with 10 inhavitants and no electricity after all my live in Madrid. Great experience also.

    Thank you for your post. It made me happy today.

  57. Hola Casiedilla ! Me he divertido muuuuuuuuuuucho leyendo tus aventuras en Frenegal de la Sierra. Yo nací cerca de allí, en Fuentes de León, aunque con un año y medio de edad nos fuimos a vivir a la costa mediterránea, a Cartagena. Cartagena es una ciudad grande, de unos 225.000 habitantes, aunque supongo que será un pueblo grande para un norteamericano :-) Pues bien, paso mis vacaciones de verano en una pueblo de… 34 habitantes !! de la provincia de Salamanca, al norte de Extremadura, y es el mejor lugar del mundo para relajarse y olvidar por unos días lo terrible y solitaria que puede ser una ciudad. Espero que vuelvas a España y que podamos tomar un buen vino y un plato de jamón, que sé que te gusta mucho jajaaaa. Besos, Juan Carlos.

  58. Wow Casie! it was so touching to read your post. Despite being raised and living in Barcelona, my parents come from Oliva, a village very close to Fregenal, and, yes, I still live in Spain, but it’s defenitely not the same living in the north, in a big city, than living in a small village in the south.

    People there are just incredible, and I have to find a least five days a year to visit them and enjoy life in Extremadura. It doesn’t matter if I have to drive 2400 km., visiting extremadura is a MUST for me, at least once a year.

    Thank you so much for your post! I don’t consider myself as a very sensitive person, but reading you, I got a lump in my throat!

  59. From a spanish guy who has been living in London for 4 years and thought he didn’t miss his little spanish town, thank you. Great post!

  60. My husband and I are considering moving to Spain to retire. We went there to attend TBEX and my husband and my son fell in love with the area. I totally agree with the everything you wrote about. I loved the eating times thing too. Loved it. When I worked in Madrid it was a 2 hour lunch with your co-workers just enjoying each others company. No work talk. It was a shock to me but I grew to enjoy the break! We are pretty much done with New Jersey and ready for a new adventure!

    1. I totally know how you feel! It seems we are on the same path; from the Tri-State area, headed towards Spain! PS- I was at TBEX Costa Brava this past May. We might’ve met! Cheers, and hope to see you at the next TBEX, or somewhere in Spain :)

  61. Oh, boy! I can relate! I adore Spain, though I have never spent time in any small town (darn it!) First went in 1962 to Madrid as an exchange student. First returned 27 years later and keep going back. It decided my career (teaching Spanish and French) and changed my attitude toward materialism (not as much as visits to Honduras and Guatemala did, but hey!) At 70, on my bucket list is spending at least a month. Edging up to it this fall, with two weeks. Thank you, thank you, for the photo of the Cruzcampo beer! The smallish town I will be spending some time is Calafell, where there is a little cafe where you can get patatas bravas, a dish of olives and una caña for under 7 euros! Make that dos cañas, so we share. And heavens! Eating off plates of other people! I remember a trip to Barcelona, alone, where I happened to sit on a “banquette” with tiny tables, so socializing was imperative. The two young guys next to me and I started quoting poetry to each other (I’m a poet, but only in English) and they OFFERED me a taste of carpaccio de res (basically paper-thin sliced raw beef) Dang, this would NEVER happen here. Loved reading this blog post. Viva España! My daughter had an exchange student from Badajoz this year, so you can bet we will get to Extremadura eventually. Good luck with that reverse culture shock!

  62. Jajajajaja. A mi me ocurre a la inversa. He estado mucho tiempo en Alemania y en UK y puedo reconocer que en algunas cosas odio España, pero tengo que reconocer que tus experiencias en “un lugar de cuyo nombre no puedo acordarme” son ciertas y espectaculares.
    Yo vivo en una ciudad mediana y el año que viene me voy a Londres y me parece que va a ser la experiencia a la inversa.

    Eso sí, tu post es super original y sobre todo muy honesto.

  63. Ahah, me encantó el artículo! Fue tan divertido que no pude evitar el mandàrselo a mi novia que vive en Chicago.
    Ha venido a España varias veces y este mes de Julio repite :) De todos los lugares del mundo donde ha estado, Granada y su costa (que es donde vivo) sigue siendo su ciudad favorita.

    Gracias por hacerme reir un buen rato :)

  64. I can relate to all of this We moved to Extremadura just over a year ago, our village has about 2000 people, never have I felt more at home and more welcomed. We are older than you, but would not change our lives here for anythng

  65. Me ha encantado tu artículo. Yo llevo toda la vida con ganas de ir a Nueva York igual que muchísima gente de por aquí, pero me ha encantado ver como alguien de fuera valora cosas de aquí que para nosotros ya pasan desapercibidas y que a veces no le damos el valor que tienen. Un abrazo desde tu segundo país.

  66. Gracias por contar al mundo cómo somos realmentelos españoles, dejando aparte tópicos pasados de moda.

    I really appreciate it.

  67. Genial el post, Casie-dilla 😉 , me he divertido mucho leyéndote. Yo soy y vivo en Sevilla, y es exactamente así, quizás lo de saludar a todo el mundo no, pero sí por mi barrio.
    Lo de comer me ha hecho mucha gracia, tengo una amiga londinense, y comiendo una vez en Londres conmigo y mi familia, de repente nos mira y nos suelta : “me encanta la forma de comer de los españoles, compartiéndolo todo”. Nos quedamos a cuadros, no sabíamos que el resto no lo hacía! jajajaja, no saben lo que se pierden!
    Espero que sigas contando más cosas. Un beso!
    Victoria

  68. Excelent, real lovely blog! / Me ha gustado mucho, muy simpático, incluso, a veces, me ha hecho reír… Me alegro te lo pasaras tan bien por aquí… Desde Sevilla… / Congratulations and thanks. From Seville, Francisco.

  69. Cassie, I know what you felt.
    I live in Spain dive 9 years a go with my wife, she’s from Madrid. Our best friend she’s from a little town in extremadura also, called Plasezuela.
    I know exactly what you felt because I feel it every time we visit the town.
    Hope you can come back to Spain and visit Madrid. Let us know!

  70. Nice read! — maybe a bit on the “idealized” side (told by an Italian living in Madrid since, well, forever…, and with a really nice period in Colorado) and a bit shocked of this thing that you find surprising that life can be cool after 30 too… — hey, it’s almost after 50 here, and still cool – just build for that! Hugs!

  71. Hey Casie, loved your post! I’m from Chicago and did the same program in a tiny rural town in Andalucía so when it got picked up by spanish media several friends sent it to me. Couldn’t agree more about the lessons learned and happy to hear that you enjoyed it as much as I did, which was clearly a lot seeing as I’m still in Spain nearly ten years later! If you need any info on moving to Madrid, my new home as well, feel free to email. Un abrazo guapa!!

  72. Such an amazing text, so heartwarming! I read the Spanish version in El Pais this morning and it drew a huge smile on my face to start the day. As a village boy Spaniard but living in Stockholm (a NYC-wannabe) I completely relate to what you wrote. I love the buzz of a big city, but oh I miss my little town, the life and the people. It’s so humbling to have that experience and realise the important values in life. Good luck with your future!

  73. This is amazing! I’m from Spain but I’m based in England now. This post got me back to my culture, to the truly important things in live. Thanks for sharing with all of us your experience!

  74. Your story really shaked things inside of me, Casie. I’m a Andalousian guy who was born in a small city and have never lived in a village like you but completely agree with you in all aspects. You made a few tears come out of my eyes while reading your article and noticing that we’re missing so much with our western cotemporary way of living. I’m jelous of you because you found this village in your way which helped you to open your eyes. Hopefully i’ll get my chance soon. Besos

  75. Thanks Cassie for your words. I really miss Extremadura. I grew up in Coria. I have been living in different cities like Salamanca, Valencia, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Milan and now I am living in London and nothing like Extremadura. Can you imaging how much do I miss the sun? It´s hard for an Extremeño to live under the grey sky of London. I hope to be able to come back to “mi tierra” in the future. Best, Fran

  76. Hello! I was in Philly and New York for one year and I felt like you but in the other way! It’s so funny. I like your post so much! Congratulations! I love NYC and USA but Spain… wow is amazing and I just realize that it is, that’s why I came back to stay here… I would like to have some contact with you and keep talking about our experiences. This is my blog too, in Spanish. http://www.inmaquiereserbloguera.blogspot.com You are welcome to visit it!
    Thanks!

  77. Love this! My Spanish “tita” shared this on her FB page (from El Pais) but I tracked down the original. My pueblo is a bit bigger (70k), but it’s definitely got the small town feel. I asked for Cadíz but got placed in Sanlúcar de Barrameda…but I’m SO GLAD I ended up here 😉

  78. Why don´t you caome back, Casey? Want to meet you!!! Haaaaaaaa… you can´t imagine the nice impact that has caused in the social networks your story. Thanks!

  79. Esta experiencia suya no es única. Una chica americana muy mona, una tal Gwyneth Paltrow – quizá usted haya oído hablar de ella – tuvo una experiencia similar en un pueblo¡ no muy lejos de Fregenal, Talavera de la Reina. Es algo más grande pero, más o menos, por ese estilo. De vez en cuando regresa y la gente de allí llora de emoción al volver al verla.. ¡Pruebe!

  80. Casie thank you very much. The frexnenses thank you your words for your recognition of our way of living. We are sure you won’t forget never staying at our people and also, although in other places you work, come more than once to visit us and say hello to the many friends who leave. . Thank you, friend, that you go well.

  81. Que afortunada eres de haber vivido una experiencia así, a mi también me encantaría conocer nuevas culturas, me sorprende tu artículo por lo parecido de ese lugar con algunos que hay aquí en México, saludos desde tierras lejanas

  82. This lovely guiri made me think about a ” Casiedilla route ” in September, maybe October. I was born in Fuentes de León and lived there for my first one and a half year, and my parents always told me wonderful things about the times we lived there: Fuentes de León, Fregenal, Zafra, Badajoz…. Casiedilla has inspired me to visit the place where I was born. Thank you soooooooooo much !!! Besos guapa !! Kisses to all guiris :-)

    PS: Sorry for my poor english

    1. Este post es viral en España. Todo el mundo en el país (cuarenta y tantos millones de personas) hablan de él . . . a lo mejor estoy exagerando algo . . . ¡pero no mucho!

      Yo vivo en Madrid, que se parece más a Nueva York que ha Fregenal de la Sierra, pero aún así, doy fe de que lo que cuentas es absolutamente cierto en mucho sitios de España . . . aunque algo menos en Madrid.

      Una ultima cosa que a lo mejor ayuda a entender el porqué del éxito de este post en España . . . ¡a los españoles nos encanta que alguien extranjero hable de España! . . . ¡eso nos pone muy contentos! . . . claro que también puede que haya influido que el post está muy bien escrito, es muy gracioso, muy fresco y muy agradable.

      ¡Enhorabuena!

  83. Just caught your blog post from El Pais and WOW – so amazing!! I lived in Madrid for 3 years, and though I’ve now been living in NYC for 4, I miss it so much and your post sparked so many beautiful memories. So true about the magic of living in a small town – how you can not be “doing” anything but still experience so much, and how the people truly enjoy life vs the constant go go go of life here. It puts everything into perspective – and I laughed my ass off about the laundry getting rained on. Amazing what you’re capable of when you learn to live without. Make sure you check out some spots in NYC while you’re back – Socorrat has amazing paella, and La Nacional on 14th street and 8th ave has some great tapas. :) Cheers and keep up your great writing!

  84. ¡Gracias por tus comentarios sobre la cultura española! ¡Espero que no se nos acabe nunca para que puedas volver!
    Lo dice uno de Cádiz.

  85. Buenos días Casie. Como ya sabes español , hago esta entrada en mi idioma. Ayer volvía en tren desde Madrid a Sevilla donde vivo y me encontré con tu artículo , que está siendo viral en España. Esta mañana lo han comentado en la tertulia de Cadena Ser. Me ha encantado tu visión de nuestro país. Un abrazo.

  86. You’re a writer or going to be, aren’t you? If the point of the post was communication, you did quite well. If the post was meant to be professionally written, let’s say as a part of your resume or cv, it failed badly. Better brush up on basic grammar and vocabulary before letting a future boss see it. I can only assume that you are over 15 but the use of ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’ and ‘honestness’ instead of ‘honesty’ (only two examples), makes me wonder about your age and/or education. A professional writer spends almost as much time editing as they do writing. All of your points were good and the article was interesting but the writing wasn’t up to snuff. If you teach English, and I hope you don’t, it’s even worse. Edit, edit, edit until you get it right.

  87. I love this article and couldn’t agree more that the Spanish are amongst the nicest people on this planet and for their sunset, you’re spot on! It’s Majestic, almost a different color :) I just came back from a month of vacation all over Spain and fell in love with it. Specially the south has a unique charm to it that’s hard to find anywhere else. Vive Andalucia!! And on your last point, I completely agree that travel is all about the people not the cities you go to or the things you do. That’s why I started Tripolette (https://www.tripolette.com/). To help connect travelers with matching styles and itinerary so they can share the trip together. It’s an awesome way to find quality travel companions. Give me a shout whether you find it useful! @babakkademi

  88. Hi, I wonder if you’ve read this article: http://www.teach4real.com/2015/05/14/dear-steph-curry-now-that-you-are-mvp-please-dont-come-visit-my-high-school/
    I think both situations will not affect anybody’s life in the long-run, despite it is different, living in a place for one year, or visiting a HS for a day.
    Unlike for people in some situations (poor village or HS), they will not have the chance of doing such a life (travel, living in the most famous city according to media – NYC, visiting Europe), they will live only out of dreams and that will not help them.
    I think that if you have learned anything should be that you value your lifestyle even more than before, after just having a “season” of poverty and isolation, but it is very unlikely that anybody will give up their life in a city such as NY for a city such as Fregenal. Probably in the other way too, however, life is about choices/decision making, and having the chance to make them, some people do not have that opportunity. Are we ALL aware of that?
    Finally, life is a small village, sometimes, is the same here or there, there or here. And people just trying to be more and more popular are here/there and everywhere.
    Have a nice day, [and just note that this comment is not personal or aimed to anybody].

    1. Thank you for your opinion! That’s a very valid point. I definitely have learned to appreciate where I come from, as well :) I am and always will be a city girl at heart, but it’s wonderful to experience life from the other end of the spectrum as well!

  89. That’s nice you enjoyed Spain in Extremadura, I love it! Next time discover La Mancha, the Land of Don Quixote and the windmills at Hostal Rural Plaza. Have a look my tourism blog and search for many other places and if it’s not possible to come again remember to enjoy your life wherever u are, but share everything with the people you are with!

  90. I’m a MA candidate in TESOL, teaching this summer in Honduras. I would love the opportunity to teach and live in Spain. It has been my dream for a long time.

  91. I’m very happy she loved living in Spain so much, I understand it, but I don’t get why ther is a Mexican hat on that doll? ?????? Also, an important reminder, Spain is THE WESTERN WORLD. And she is a teacher?

  92. Buenas querida amiga. Me ha encantado tu articulo sobre tu experiencia en España. Creo que han podido conocer nuestras raíces, ya que todos venimos de algún pueblo (ya sea por parte de padres o abuelos). Me alegro mucho de que hayas disfrutado y que tengas un pueblo a donde escaparte cuando la rutina y el ruido inundan tu espiritud. Un abrazo y cuídate. Por cierto, yo nací en Córdoba y tengo la suerte de que mis padres son de Espejo (pueblo de Córdoba).

  93. hola casie. acabo de leer tu articulo enterito.. y me a encantado. lo he encontrado en la web del pais,. uno de los periodicos mas leidos de españa y esta siendo distribuido por todo facebook. leyendolo me he dado cuenta de muchas costumbres nuestas que damos por sentadas y que no podia imaginar que podian chocar tanto a alguien de otro lugar. quiero felicitarte por este pedazo de articulo. genial sin duda alguna y que e compartido en mi muro de facebook como mucha gente que conozco y desearte que puedas volver muchas veces por nuestra tierra y la conozcas entera. bss desde sevilla y que tu retorno a la gran manzana no sea dolorosa
    PD: te dejo el link del periodico
    http://verne.elpais.com/verne/2015/06/08/articulo/1433764672_725740.html

  94. I guess that the time you safe not driving and not commuting you use by taking an extra minute to enjoy every bit of the day. Efficient Spanish way of living.

  95. Your article is outstanding. I went through exactly the same learnings when I moved places. I came from Mumbai – a very big busy city and moved to Memphis, Tennesse a couple of years ago. every little thing you said of your experince from saying hello to strangers to valuing people the most applies to my experience of moving to a smaller location. I have learnt so much in Memphis and given a choice I would not move back to big city life at all. Article well written. Have a good time in Madrid

  96. Yo soy gallego, y la verdad es que lo que dices de los horarios de la comida aquí no pasa en los pueblos (hace muchos años sí, pero no ahora), pero la verdad es que me parece muy entrañable :)

    Madrid te va a encantar, eso seguro.

  97. I live close to Fregenal, and apart from Feria where I live it’s my favorite pueblo. I agree with all you say having arrived here from London a few years ago. Long may it continue, España es el pueblo max amble en el munro…

  98. Moving there sounds really adventurous! I’m sure that when time comes and you have to leave the place you won’t regret because I remember now that Facebook friend list limit is 5000, so I see no coincidence here – you’re going to be a big social network/family! 😛

  99. I see that most of these comments are quite positive, so I’m not sure if I am the only one who isn’t too thrilled about everything in this post. I have lived in Spain for more than 5 years and nothing you have written about surprised me or shocked me. I also am from New York….That’s what happens in rural areas, not only in Spain. If you went to a small town in Louisiana they would be equally as different. And the idea about honesty, I don’t think you have lived in Spain long enough. That isn’t honesty, it’s ignorance. I’ve heard Spanish people say things like “oh I went to NYC and the subway smelled because of the black people.” Or the COUNTLESS times I’ve heard the N word because people thought that’s how you say black in English…..That’s where the ‘oh but they’re so open hehe,’ falls out the window.
    Don’t get me wrong, I love Madrid which is why I haven’t left. But I don’t put Spanish culture as high on a pedestal as you have put it. There’s a lot to work on and they are very backward which is part of what makes the country so interesting. Maybe all of your points have a touch of truth, but they either don’t have to do with Spain and more have to do with you having gone to a rural place (which you would have found in the States as well), or they’re just not true. (I’m sure there were chinos/alimentaciones in your town where you could have gotten a sandwich)….
    I dunno, maybe your perspective will change as you get older…as mine has.

    1. Absolutely. I’m white so I don’t have to deal with the racism here in Spain (oh you bet it exists) but I have pale skin and blue eye and the women STARE like crazy. They also like to push by me on the street – not cool. I’ve met plenty of nice Spanish people but the general public is definitely xenophobic. Also, I’ve never lived anywhere in Spain where strangers smile at each other; I even had a Spaniard in Barcelona tell me that was strange. The only time I’ve had strangers say “hola” to me was inside of the apartment building or maybe when entering a bank, but not in the streets. And for the love of God, if anyone is going to rave about tapas or pinxos, get the FRESH ones that haven’t been sitting out all day and then popped in the microwave for a few seconds!!!

      1. Luckily for you, no redneck will be able to pull out his gun bought in Walmart and shoot you in this xenophobic country of mine.

    2. I’ll be honest with you Leah, it’s an interesting feeling to be called “backward” by someone who comes from a state (i won’t even speak about the country) that legalized gay marriage several years later than mine.

  100. Two years ago I decided to become an exchange student and live on the US for a year. My whole life I’ve lived on Madrid’s metro area and I got placed on a 10,000 person town. I felt the same way at first, I thought I would be living in NYC or LA, but there I was in a small town in Indiana. A year later I don’t regret it at all, I’ve learned so much more about life from people in that lovely little town than I would have on a big city. Living abroad and getting out of your comfort zone are definitely some of the most life-changing experiences.

  101. So wonderful! I feel incredibly inspired by your story! I am planning to move out of England for years already and finally I think that I know where I want to go! Spain is really great country with great people and I am sure that it will be easy to adjust to their happy lifestyle! Thanks for sharing and have great time! :)

    1. Sharen I’m so glad I could inspire you!! I’m sure you will love it there, as it truly is a wonderful life style :) I wish you the best of luck and hope you continue to follow my adventures as I move back to Spain in September!!

  102. Acabo de ver tu post via “http://verne.elpais.com/verne/2015/06/08/articulo/1433764672_725740.html”. He disfrutado mucho leyendolo, grandísima experiencia de vida.

    He pasado muchos veranos viajando, comencé con tu city, NY, seguí con la Portugal, la costa este de Canadá y Pennslvania, Polonia, Italia, Route 66… pero mis últimas vacaciones, en “El Pueblo” (entrecomillado pues es una aldea de Castilla y Leon de 50 habitantes, sí, 50, no me he comido ningún cero), con mi familia, perro incluido, han sido posiblemente unas de las mejores…

    No ocnocía tu historia, pero me hubiese gustado muchísimo leerte desde el principio, pues has conseguido arrancarme esa sonrisa en un mal día. ¡Gracias!

    Good luck & take care!
    Sergio

  103. LOL “you touch what’s on my plate, I bite your hand off” LOL You are so right. It is exactly like this. I am considering permanent moving to Spain. Still researching. I am so happy I have found your post. Keep posting! Greetings!

  104. Sin ofender, pero mientras leía el post sólo pensaba “típica gringa que sale por primera vez de su país y todo lo que ve ‘it’s amazing!'”. No me imagino a un español o un latino escribiendo el shock cultural que le provocó vivir en Estados Unidos de una forma tan cursi. Simplemente sigues siendo bastante gringa para nuestro mundo.

  105. Very cool blog. I studied abroad in Badajoz city and thought that was small !!! Nice to see I wasn’t the only American in extremadura.

  106. Hi, I´m from northern spain, I mean the “green spain”, the part of spain with more celtic influence. Here yoy will fed up of so many food. Even we love to make bussiness in a restaurant. Especially, in my basque lands where the man cook and the woman wait at the table.

    If you want to came back to spain again and stay more time dont forget than sice 80s the English language is basic language at school, so as an English teacher you will have more possibilities. Even you have to know that spanish politicians want to increase the hours of english.
    I have no experience in USA but yes in UK.

    Each part of spain has its own differences. The matter to be so open people is because, if you know something of spanish history, in most part of XX.century we had a very close and conservative country. So when the democracy came was like the great “freedom”.
    Ah!!!! if some american girl want to find love in Spain… blondes will be the centre of attention. I specially knew two american blonde girls in my university that they let me and my friend shocked. I won two friends in facebook!!!! I know a basque friend that left spain for his american girlfriend and now he lives in California.

  107. Yo soy de un pueblo pequeño de Aragon de menos de 1000 habitantes, Ballobar, y muchas cosas si que son parecidas, pero cambian en cuanto te vas a una ciudad como Zaragoza, al principio se de llegar alli se me escapaba algun hola por la calle y te sientes un poco tonto, o cuando marchavamos de clase por la calle hablando y al final acababamos yo en el puerta del edificio donde vivia hablando con las compañeras de clase que estaban casi a la otra punta de la calle a gritos como si fuera lo mas normal.
    Una pena que te perdieras las Fiestas de pueblo, sobre todo en verano (no creo que haya ningun pueblo español sin su fiesta de de junio-agosto) casi una semana de fiestas, concursos, actividades y por la noche bailes y disco-moviles (en mi pueblo tenemos dos fiestas en agosto con una semana o dos de descanso en medio) en otro post hablabas de gente mayor fuera de casa a las 11, en las fiestas lo normal es que casi todo el mundo llegue hasta medianoche o las 2, y a mi me ha tocado ir a trabajar (el trabajo de verano es lo que tiene, suerte que no soy de salir mucho) al dia siguiente a las 8 y encontrarme a los amigos que recien estan saliendo del baile (o incluso si convencen al dj, se quedan hasta las 9).
    Lo de compartir la comida… es muy tipico cuando se queda a cenar pedir un plato de patatas bravas u otra cosa para poner en medio de la mesa y que todos piquen.
    Me encanta ver España desde la perspectiva de alguien de fuera, felicidades por tu blog.

  108. Hey,
    I like to share wid u that My nationality is indian but I am living in saudi arabia… so what should I do that to stay forever in spain? Like spain nationality etc….

  109. Hey,
    I like to share that my nationality is indian but I am living in Saudi Arabia. … what should I do to stay forever in Spain? Like spain Nationality etc…

    1. I’m trying to figure out the same thing…it’s not easy at all! You have to live in Spain for over 5 years legally, by either finding a husband or getting a full time work contract. It’s extremely complicated, as I’m trying to figure it out now..

  110. Hi Casie!!

    I absolutely loved your article. I read this about 4 months ago when I was applying to the same program, laughing at your NYC comments (I am a New Yorker, and have been in Manhattan for a few years). I have been waiting and waiting and waiting to see if I got accepted, and guess what? I did! And guess WHERE?! EXTREMADURA!!!! This was also a shock to me, as it was not any of my 3 choices. Since this is now real, I came back to read your article again and was floored by the fact that you also had your experience in Extremadura. I do not know the exact school or town yet, but I hope to hear from them soon.

    I was wondering, how did you go about finding your apartment? Did your school help you? Since you were in a pretty remote village, was it hard to get around and travel to other parts of Spain? I would love to be in touch with you once I know more specifics about my placement. Thanks for all of the insight and for helping to make me feel really, really excited about this adventure…
    :)

    Ashley, NYC

  111. Hola. We were in Spain for 2 weeks in May 2015. Now I want to retire there, maybe in the north. It might happen in 5-7 years, I don’t know. The life you describe is exactly what I’m looking for.
    Saludos,
    Paul

  112. I enjoy reading your blog! It makes me more excited about moving to Madrid in September. Hope to see you there and get advice from you since it will be my first time living abroad and being in Madrid. Hope all is well! :)

  113. I have just experience the opposite, moving from Spain to coold-in-every-sense Sweden. And I cannot stop wondering why the best places to live in the world cannot also have financial stability at the same time?

  114. Great blog, Cassie,

    I read so much of my own history in your words. Of course, no two stories are identical, but many deep emotions and life- changing realizations you’ve described were mine as well. España es unica…

    My ‘adventure’ started almost 20 years ago as a year long exchange student in Barcelona (that year turned into 12) and we have now been back in Spain 6 months after too many years moving around in the states. We never did find the same type of ‘home’ we felt in Spain :)

    I found your blog while searching “living in a small pueblo in Spain”. We have lived in Barcelona, Malaga and Velez (lovely mid- size city!) but always steered clear of “España Profunda….”.
    With much excitement, we are buying a Casa Rural (I will send a link once we are situated), the catch is that the pueblo is smmaaaaallllll, like 400 people small, like 35 students in a “Agrupacion Rural” school small.

    Like you once were, we will be the only immigrants. We are all fluent (except my five year old) and my husband is Catalan, but I imagine we will cause quite a stir. I used to fear losing the anonymity of a big city but I had my own little break- through. The best partying, the most loving and the best memories of my life all happed within family and closest friends here in Spain. Those all- night house parties, entertaining 4 generations and closest friends of the family and those 5 hour comidas y cartas… we didn’t have to search long and hard to be happy. What I’m trying to say is that maybe a pueblo will be like an extended family. We’ll have smart- ass uncle, a depressed cousin, a know- it- all grandmother and everyone will know everything about everyone. And maybe that won’t be so bad. I’m excited (and nervous!) for everything our new pueblo life will teach us.

    Keep writing and keep your experiences alive. They are priceless.

    Melissa

    1. Hola Melissa! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. What a wonderful and exciting leap of faith you are taking! Where is the pueblo? I wish you all of the best with your new chapter- it will certainly be shocking at first, but rewarding in the long run! A simple life full of love and the things that matter most :) Keep me updated, I’d love to follow along with your new adventure!

      Saludos!
      Casie

  115. Hi Casie It was great to meet/chat with you today on Onda Guillena Radio’s program “El Lado Bueno” (“the good side”)!

    I can totally relate to your experiences & views, especially regarding small-town life in Spain –Gotta love it!

    I was raised bi-culturally & bilingually, in a dual environment of city-life and small-town life, in both Spain & the U.S.: Sevilla & New York, and Grazalema & a New England “hill-town”. I have moved my home –many times– between these two pairs of cultures. I currently reside in New England, while regularly visiting family and friends in Sevilla & Grazalema. I love it so much there that, as many americans do, I seek to get me an early retirement package, so I can permanently move to Sevilla & Grazalema, and live there without much need for money… to be with friends who await with open-arms, and who also know that a happy life is way more valuable than money and things! ( FYI: It’s never to early to plan this! hahahaahaa)

    Thanks for your blog! Hopefully we’ll meet some hot day for un botellin de cervecita fresquita…
    Nini

    1. Hey Nini! It was great meeting/ chatting with you too. It was very interesting to hear your perspective as a Spaniard-American living in the US!

      You are so lucky to have been exposed to both cultures and languages growing up. Being able to compare the two contrasting lifestyles definitely gives you a better perspective of the important things in life :) I hope one day we can have that cervecita! Don’t hesitate to reach out to me next time you’re passing through Andalucia.

      Abrazos desde España!
      Casie

    1. No, I live in Granada now! Madrid and NYC are both big, bustling cities, however, Madrid in comparison is much more laid back, cheaper and with far less diversity. Both great cities for very different reasons!

  116. Thanks for sharing this great story! Just read today its translation into spanish in “El Pais”, which includes a link to your blog. Your story tells a lot about us the spanish people, but it tells a lot about you, the way you understand human relations should be like, and how you celebrate cultural diversity as well -A new follower. Greetings from Spain!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and kind words, Isaac! It was truly a wonderful experience that will always be held very close to my heart. I look forward to having you as a new follower as I continue my adventures around the world! :)

      Cheers,
      Casie (AWC)

  117. Happy to hear you had a great time in Spain. I had a similar experience 23 years ago. I have worked/lived in South Korea, Belgium, Italy and now Bavaria(Germany), but nothing compared with my first experience 23 years ago. It was in your country. People in Reno NV changed my life as well and let me tell you, it was comparable with your experience, and y have as well my family there. A lot of colleagues who helped and showed me how to enjoy and learn about everything.
    I’m 55 now and can see that you can still find great people everywhere. My wife and myself visit the States every other year but we are going to make a break till you have a new administration.
    Casie, please enjoy life. It seems to me you know how to do it.
    Suerte con tu vida

    1. Thank you so much for those kind words Jorge! It’s wonderful that you’ve made that connection with the US as well. I hope you keep following along my adventures over here on my blog :) Un saludo!! -Casie

  118. I forgot to tell you I dicovered your blog today in the Spanish newspaper El Pais. Yust in case you are wondering about my post.
    Have a great time!!

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