Moving abroad for an internship… staying for love

Are you moving to Spain? Maybe you are just planning to gain some practical experience abroad or have a temporal assignment in the country. But watch out: life is unpredictable! We’ve spoken with Haike Gomez, a German who moved to Spain to complete an internship and ended up permanently relocating to Madrid for love!

With just 21 years old, Haike landed in Spain. Her idea was to stay for some months, however, life had planned something different for her. She fell in love and, now, some years after that first international move from Germany to Spain, she is still living in the Iberian Peninsula, in Madrid.

Haike, were you familiar with the Spanish culture before your first move?
I was born and raised in Germany. My mother is German, but my father Cuban, so I have always been aware of the differences between cultures, and familiar with the Spanish-speaking world.

What was one of the most important challenges that you faced?
One of the first things I noticed was that I had to speak Spanish fluently to integrate fast in the culture.

Another important thing at the time of preparing and organizing the move was the paperwork. Even though I am an EU citizen, I still had to do plenty of procedures with the authorities in order to get all the required documents to work. It wasn’t easy, and of course, the language barrier didn’t help.

Which positive things has the international relocation to Spain brought you?
I am more open-minded and I adjust easier to new things, without prejudices. In Spain, I have also learned to be more patient. Now I don’t drive to despair when I am waiting at the supermarket line or at the doctor's!

What is the attitude of the Spanish towards Germans and Austrians?
Before I arrived, I thought that Spanish didn’t have a good opinion about Germans. However, it’s totally the opposite, they treat them with great consideration. Actually, I must confess that plenty of Spanish still don’t understand why I moved here, as I come from a country, Germany, with a lot of employment opportunities!

How about the intercultural differences? Have you found many?
It takes time to find real friends, however, it’s really easy to connect with people in Spain due to their open and easy-going attitude. In Germany, superficial interactions are rare. However, in Germany, people are extremely organized, they never arrived late. In Spain, we can say, that there is more “flexibility” in this matter. And a more practical difference is the opening times of the shops and supermarkets. In Germany, there is no lunch break, while in Spain, shops might be closed for two hours…

Do you have any particular anecdote to share with us?
Oh, yes. The first time I visited a Spanish photo booth, to issue my Spanish ID. In Germany, when you have sat and you feel ready, you push a bottom in order to start shooting. In Spain, no – you are informed on a small screen when the shooting starts-, so I still have some really funny photos with a shocked face about that moment.

And any advice for future expats heading to Spain?
I would recommend you to get as much information as you can before your departure, and prepare all the necessary documents before settling in. For meeting people, international meetups and gathering are an excellent way to get to know other expats, but if you want to mingle with the locals, then I would recommend you check other activities, such as the one offered by the local city councils.