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I left Texas and moved to Spain. Living here has shown me a different way to exist and I can't imagine going back.

Fortesa Latifi   

I left Texas and moved to Spain. Living here has shown me a different way to exist — and I can't imagine going back.
  • Jeronimo Noriega, a student from San Antonio, moved to Spain and never plans to return to the US.
  • Noriega appreciates Spain's work culture, public transportation, and affordable dining experiences.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Jeronimo Noriega, a 27-year-old student who lives in Spain. It's been edited for length and clarity.

I moved to Oviedo, Asturias in Northwest Spain after growing up in San Antonio and I don't think I'll ever move back to the United States.

If that shocks you, it surprised me too. I never thought I'd live in Europe — I'd never even been there before my siblings and I agreed to move to Spain with my parents. Although I was born in Mexico, I spent most of my life living in the US so moving to Spain was a big difference.

When my family decided we needed a change, we chose Spain because it felt like a natural fit — my grandparents spent their lives living between Spain and Mexico. Although I'm Mexican-American and fluent in Spanish, settling in Spain was initially difficult because my Spanish-speaking skills were rusty after living in America.

Once I started getting more comfortable in the local dialect, I felt more comfortable living in Spain. I've lived here for 14 months and I have a much better quality of life in Spain than I had in the US.

I feel anxious when I get in a car now because I'm so used to walking and taking public transportation in Spain

When I lived in the US, I constantly felt like I was sitting in traffic or relying on my car to get places, but in Spain I just walk everywhere. I'm never stuck in a car. It's not only better for the environment, it's healthier for me too.

The sense of community is so strong here. When I walk around my neighborhood, people say hi to each other and it's so lovely. You don't have that part of the day when you're in your car in America. I love being out in the world while I'm getting from one place to the next and not just siloed in my car.

Living in Spain has shown me there's a different way to exist

I love the work culture in Spain. In America, I felt like my only options were to rise and grind and get beat down by the machine, but everything is different here. In Spain, they seem to value their lives over their work — it's not even a work-life balance.

People take three-hour lunches and drink a bottle of wine before going back to the office or they stop in the middle of the afternoon for a leisure espresso break. It was kind of difficult to transition into that lifestyle because I was so used to the American way of life where work is everything. Even through college, I was constantly working and grinding my life away.

When I first moved to Spain, I felt like I was really lazy. I wondered, what am I doing? I should be working myself to the bone. But then I started to see how Spaniards live and I wanted that level of freedom and joy. Now, I attend a community college and spend my days studying, going to class, and drinking espresso and wine at cafés.

It's normal to go to a wonderful dinner that costs $11 per person, in Spain

I love the restaurant scene. It's not even strange to linger at a table for four or five hours — it's normal. I remember eating dinner in the US and feeling like the waitress was judging me if I didn't leave right after I finished eating. Everything is slower in Spain and it's lovely.

I can buy a coffee for the equivalent of a few dollars and not feel bad about lingering in the coffee shop for a few hours to hang out.

I don't see moving back to the US in my future

My parents asked me the other day if I'd ever consider moving back to the US and I was so struck by the question that I made a TikTok about it. The short answer is: never say never, but I don't see it in my future.

I definitely miss my friends, but I wouldn't let that keep me from life in Spain. I also miss the American customer service — it's so friendly and personable, but maybe that's because of the tipping culture. In Spain, I've noticed that customer service doesn't reflect the level of that in the States unless you're at a high-end restaurant.

Now that I've had a taste of what life is like outside the rat race, I'm not eager to get back on the wheel. Life is long, and you never know what will happen, but I'm staying here for the foreseeable future. All I have to do is take a walk to the coffee shop, have a delicious dinner for $11, or take a break in the middle of a weekday to remind myself why I'm staying.

Correction: January 9, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the person who moved to Spain. His name is Jeronimo Noriega , not Geronimo.

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