Expat in Spain – Part 2 – Living Outside Your Comfort Zone

Expat Life Living Outside of your Comfort Zone

As promised, the second excerpt from the Spanish ex-pat files- Living Outside Your Comfort Zone.  Click here for the first installment.


We always planned to do a “gap” year in Spain but we wanted the kids to be big enough to remember some of the experience. But not too big. They still needed to be in primary school so they would transition well and we also had to wait for our dog, Kob, to check out. That’s not as cold as it sounds. He was old – mostly blind and pretty deaf. He was a great dog — If you knew him, you loved him. He couldn’t have made the trip and we wouldn’t go without him.

So, the kids finally got to an age and Kob died. It was time to bust a move. But it was all still a really last-minute plan. We made the decision to go at the beginning of June — packed up our house in Freeport, found a renter, said our “temporary” farewells, and left, at the end of June, to spend the summer with family in Canada.

Our original Spanish vision was to go to Andalucia. But as mentioned, my sis-in-law had been in Barcelona. She loved it and although she was leaving, she talked us into going there. She volunteered to find us an apartment, etc. So we shifted gears and headed to Barcelona.

Seeing as we’d been living on a rock for a decade. We thought that some city life might not be a bad idea. Especially European city life. It seemed so glam and cultural. What could go wrong? It was only a year. No big deal.


The first thing that went wrong was that we couldn’t get the boys into the International School in our neighborhood. Nor could we get them into our second, third, or fourth-choice schools. Ethan’s cohort (2006) was oversubscribed throughout the city. There are lots of International Corporations in Barcelona, and they get the first seats. It would’ve been too cruel to separate the boys. So we went with pick number five. A trilingual school. A bad move. But it was the best we could muster on short notice.

We knew very little about Barcelona on arrival. We knew they spoke Catalan. But we underestimated how serious the Catalonians are about preserving their language. We thought it would be “French sounding Spanish”. Wrong again. Catalan is derived from Latin and the vocabulary is most similar to Spanish. But the pronunciation is closer to Portuguese or Italian rather than Spanish or French. Basically, an extra dose of confusion, to add to our already struggling Spanish.

Catalan must be studied in Barcelona and is the dominant language over Spanish. Spanish and English are offered as foreign languages. After not finding a place for all of the boys in the International school network. We decided to send them to a bilingual school (Spanish & English). Great idea, right? We thought so too. But in Barcelona, that option does not exist. Catalan has to be studied.  So we sent the boys to a school called: The English School which was meant to be: 40% English, 40% Spanish, and 20% Catalan. It was in fact, 60% Catalan, 20% Spanish, and 20% English. Disaster. Almost everything about the school was wrong. More on that later.

Ethan Turns Eight

Ethan turned eight, three days after our arrival and on his second day at his new school. So we sent him to school and went out for dinner to celebrate.

In general, most restaurants in Barcelona and Spain don’t open for dinner until 8:30 pm. So dinner was obviously not the best choice.

Now I know you’re wondering. Why would we take an eight-year-old to dinner at 8:30? The answer is that it’s normal in Spain and we were “assimilating”.  Families with young children are often out till midnight and beyond. It’s a thing. The Spanish run on a late clock. So in our defense – Ethan was not the only eight-year-old at the restaurant and he was far from the youngest in the room. However, he was the only one fast asleep on the table by 9:00. We did leave Declan (6) with Meagan. But only because he fell asleep before our reservation.

Eight Birthday - Barcelona
E. Turns Eight
Asleep on the Job
Turning Eight is Exhausting

I don’t think Ethan remembers much about his 8th birthday. It was pretty “meh” as our first celebration “away” from what we knew. So it was significant to me. The “Mom guilt” was weighing on me and I wanted to make it great. It wasn’t. I couldn’t replicate the massive Island-style Birthday events that were pretty standard fare in The Bahamas. In Freeport, a kid’s birthday party is usually celebrated at home with giant inflatable water slides and bouncy castles. Invites are issued to the whole class and any other kid you know Island wide. All the parents and neighbors get invited, and the fiesta lasts all day and well into the evening.

I also couldn’t import his friends.

We’d left our gorgeous Island community for an adventure abroad. Even though, we were already technically abroad in The Bahamas. We left what we knew and loved and stepped way out of our comfort zone – thousands of miles from it.

Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Although Rob and I were in our 40s (newly) and considered well-traveled and worldly to some. Looking back, I see how green we were –neon green, in fact. Entirely clueless about so much. Unable to know what lay ahead — the bonds that would be forged and the experiences that would change us. We were always good at making plans on the fly. We were about to become Jedi Masters.

We were chasing an adventure and being reminded that adventures are exciting but not always fun while in the moment.

We had started a journey that would teach us the importance of leaning into the moment and facing our fears. We were about to grow comfortable with being uncomfortable. But most importantly, we were about to learn just how tough our little tribe of five could be.

Still here? Stay tuned for next week’s installment of the Expat Files – Spanish Edition.

Want to keep reading?

Vida en España

Portugal, Sagres – Surfing 101

A Mom of Boys (MOB) on Raising Boys

Expat in Spain – Part 1

Thanks for reading.


Kate. X








6 thoughts on “Expat in Spain – Part 2 – Living Outside Your Comfort Zone

  1. Kob was the most chill, lovable dog. We started our adventures off the rock around the same. We have done our thing and are nearly neighbours again. XX

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