Going from the busy, fast paced and diverse lifestyle in New York to a small, coastal suburb outside of Valencia, Spain took a bit of getting used to at first. New York City is always buzzing with people, places and things, so you tend to have a bit of FOMO (or ‘fear of missing out’) if you’re not out and about enjoying yourself. Whilst in Spain, I let go of all those qualms and eventually started to enjoy the laid-back, relaxed lifestyle of the Spaniards. But being in a new country for two months, you can’t help but compare it to your hometown and feel nostalgic. Here were a few things I missed about New York while I was living abroad in Spain.
1. 24-Hour Transit System
Not having to worry about catching the last train to get home is a blessing living in New York. There’s never a last train because the system always runs, every hour of the day and night, during weekdays and weekends. In Valencia, however, the metro only stays open until 2am, which might not seem like a disservice to a lot of people in smaller cities. Spaniards (and most Europeans for that matter) like to party all night long and into the morning just so they can take the earliest train back home. Personally, I like my sleep, so there were countless of times when I had to take an expensive cab to get back home once I called it an (early) night!
2. Not having a formal city center
Most parts of Manhattan are bustling with people, shops and restaurants, even if you wander around residential areas like the Upper West Side or TriBeCa. There will always be something to do or somewhere to explore no matter what area of the city you’re in. In the suburb I was living in near Valencia, I was closer to the mountains, meaning there was nothing around or anything that convenient to get to. My trip into the commercial city center, whether to have a drink with friends, a coffee or to go shopping, was always about a 20 minute drive. A bit different for someone from a big city where every step is a step into madness, chaos and activity.
3. Abundance of convenience stores (Walgreens, CVS, Delis)
Bodegas and delis are some of the things I will always miss about NYC when I leave it. If there was anything I needed whether it be a light snack, a water or toiletries, back home, I could have easily just popped into a convenience store to find anything and everything I needed without having to enter a huge supermarket…like I had to do in Valencia. One day, I spent almost 2 hours searching for a pair of socks after having been at the beach all day, praying a makeshift Walgreens would appear somewhere. 🙂 In the end, I had to go into an H&M 15 minutes away from where I was just so I could buy the socks, haha.
4. Opportunities to attend art galleries, concerts & other outdoor activities
Even though Valencia is the 3rd largest city in Spain, home to tons of fun activities and gorgeous art, history and architecture, nothing really compares to NYC’s vast art scene. Of course, I know that comparing a city of 8 million to one of 700,000 can’t truly compare. Normally, I spend a lot of my free time going to art galleries and concerts in the city and definitely felt like I was missing out whilst in Spain for the first few weeks, but I can happily say that being in Spain during Fallas made up for it big time! At home, the festival wouldn’t be possible and feel as community oriented like it does in Spain.
5. Earlier dinner times
Spaniards tend to have very late dinners, eating at 9pm just before heading out for the night or going to sleep. It was very different for me to get used to, since in the US (generally), dinner is usually served and eaten at around 6 or 7pm, with a small coffee and sweet treat at around 9pm before giving the stomach a break for the rest of the evening and into the morning.
6. Store hours and ‘siestas’
Between 4-6 pm stores, shops, restaurants and supermarkets are closed for siestas every day, which is very different, but anticipated, from what I’m used where everything is open all day (with some places open 24 hours; we are the ‘city that never sleeps‘ after all). In Spain, by 4pm, if I wanted to have a quick bite to eat or do some shopping, there would rarely be anything open. And on Sundays, everything is closed. I did appreciate how tranquil everything felt during this time, however, which would never be the case in New York (as 4-6 are some of the busiest hours of the afternoon). While I did enjoy the serenity of the city at these hours, it sure took some getting used to silence.
There aren’t too many non-Spaniards living in Valencia and even less of a diverse age demographic in the small town I was living in. It took a bit of time getting used to the children, young teens or middle-aged adults around me, who have set schedules and don’t usually stay out late (even past 10 pm, like I wanted to.) I was lucky enough to be in Valencia during Fallas, a week celebration of firecrackers, fireworks and flames (more on that in another post), so there was a lot more diversity and people from distinct walks of life than usual. What I really love about New York is the tons of ethnicities, races, and different types of people that bring all types of cultures together to make New York the ‘melting pot’ that it is established to be. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the Spanish culture and learning more about the Spaniards’ way of life, too.
What do you miss most about your home when you travel away? Let us know in the comments below and make sure to subscribe for more content!