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Living and Working in Spain

Mary Swick: An American Living in Madrid

May 1, 2019

My name is Mary Swick. I'm an American living in Madrid, Spain and a member of the Typical Non Spanish team. This collaboration with Caser works out great for me because my passion in life is writing and sharing content that inspires me!

But how did I end up in Spain? My expat story starts off the same as a lot of others: with love.

My then-boyfriend, now-husband and I met in autumn 2013 in Manchester, UK. I had flown across the pond from Ohio, USA to the United Kingdom to do a year of graduate school, while he was completing his business degree with the Erasmus program. We had almost gone to different universities, but ultimately we both chose Manchester Metropolitan University. That decision, it seems, was fate. We met at an event for international students in our first week and have been inseparable ever since.

Deciding to become an expat

During the whole year we spent studying together in England, I didn’t think much about the prospect of becoming an expat or even what emigrating to another country would entail. After our courses concluded, and my boyfriend and I decided we wanted to stay together, the real work began: looking into potential visas for Spain, consulting lawyers, and weighing our options. Did we want to stay in England, or go to one of our home countries: the United States or Spain?

After reviewing all of the choices, we decided to settle in Spain. For the visa, it would be quicker and cheaper, and the country also had the lifestyle we were looking for. Plus, the weather…so much sunshine! In 2015, I joined my boyfriend in his hometown of Seville, Spain. After months of going to government offices, collecting paperwork, and doing English-to-Spanish translations, we finally got a “pareja de hecho”, a civil union-type arrangement that is common between couples in Spain; it allowed me to live and work in the country legally. I was on my way to becoming a true expat in Spain...now I just needed to learn Spanish.

Learning the Spanish language

At the beginning, learning the Spanish language was hard for me. After only a few months living in Seville, I quickly took up a job at a media agency in Madrid and my husband and I departed for Spain’s capital city. But because my job was almost completely in English, I didn’t have that integration that most expats have, where they’re either studying or working with native Spanish people. Slowly, but surely, or “poco a poco” as they say in Spanish, I caught bits and pieces of the language and my skills improved. At some point I even took an intensive Spanish class for 3 hours a day/5 days a week, and this helped my level go up immensely.

My life as an American living in Madrid

As of 2019, I have lived in Spain for over 4 years now and I couldn’t love it more. I now not only consider myself an American living in Madrid, I also consider myself partly Spanish!

Madrid is a wonderful European city that is bustling and cosmopolitan, while at the same time relaxed and accommodating. It is home to the beautiful Buen Retiro park and countless world-class museums. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Spain has most bars per capita in Europe. Let’s just say that it is impossible to run out of nightlife options in this country, (check out this post about the Top 10 Spots for Nightlife in Madrid).

Madrid is my adopted home, and even though it was tough adjusting to my new life at the beginning of my journey, I love my life as a permanent expat in Spain and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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