My name is Cat Gaa, and I’m part of the Typical Non Spanish team. I came to Spain after completing a Spanish course in Valladolid during my university years, mainly because I wanted to improve my language skills and live another year in Spain. The opportunity came up to teach English in Sevilla, so I came to stay for one academic year, after which I would go back to Chicago, my hometown, and start my career in journalism. A decade has passed since then and Spain is my home – at this point in time, I don’t have any intention of returning to the US. I have had the pleasure of giving birth in Spain to two lovely children.
Living in Madrid and Seville
Even after all of these years, I feel like I’m living a new life in Spain once again. I moved to Madrid a few months ago from Sevilla, going from living in a provincial capital to living in the capital of a European country. I have always been an outgoing person - I like to meet new people, travel, go to museums - so my life in Andalucía was vibrant. I was always looking for something new to experience. New places to go for tapas, different village celebrations and ferias. Now that I’m in Madrid everything is new to me once again.
Giving Birth in Spain
And there’s more than just a move; I could certainly say that I’m on an entirely new journey, both professionally and personally. I've changed jobs and sectors, meeting new people, and trying to live and learn a little bit more about the “movida madrileña.” If that weren’t enough, I've given birth in Spain to my first child, and recently another! Madrid doesn’t feel like home yet as Sevilla did, but I’m still in the settling process.
A love of Andalucia
In Sevilla, I was in touch with the best version of myself for a number of reasons. The people of Andalucía are very open. They have their ‘guasa’, their own way of seeing things, but I believe that they do everything for the greater good of everyone. They made me feel so comfortable so it was easy for me to integrate into their culture, their traditions and their plans. I’ve met wonderful people – both Spaniards and expats alike - and I’ve seen and experienced the essential parts of the typical Spanish life.
Northern Spain also has its charms
I also love the north of Spain, particularly its food and its landscapes. In spending time there, I’ve come to find that people in the north have similar attitudes to the Andalusian. I spent several summers in La Coruña, a city off the beaten path when compared to big-ticket destinations like Barcelona, Madrid or Sevilla. Coruña is not on many American tourists’s radar, and in a sense it's what makes it – in addition to cities like Cáceres or Toledo – special.
The best things about Spain
I have developed a very Spanish habit: ‘tapear’. I’m always looking for different places to try new tapas and different bars to share with friends. I’m also in love with the local ferias, as they have so much charm: the perfect way to understand how people are and how they live. I love the feria in Sevilla, the feria del jamón in Huelva and hope to delve into the local festivals closer to Madrid with my family.
Missing life back in America
The thing that I miss the most about Chicago, besides my family, are the hot dogs - the first thing I do when I visit and I get off the plane is to eat one. But if I’m feeling homesick or missing something like baseball or my local university football team, I find a way to cope with the things I love from here. I’m a big fan of the Betis team and Spanish charcuterie, and living in the capital city means American foods or friends aren’t too difficult to come across.
The American expat community in Spain
I’ve been fortunate to meet other long-term American expats in Spain. I try to gather together a group of friends so we can make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner or Halloween party, and I want my children to experience my culture, despite being born and raised in Spain. What I would like to take or share with my friends back home is the Spanish lifestyle, particularly the live-out-loud way that Spaniards approach life. I definitely take more time to enjoy what’s going on around me more so than I would in the US, and even those who visit me are able to pick that up on their trips to come and visit.