04 June, 2007

Expat Community is a Different World

Through some connections Becca has made, we have had the chance the last two weekends to meet several people who are corporate expats here in Madrid. What a different world! We met one lovely Australian woman who has been married 29 years and moved 23 times!!! She considers Connecticut home and kids have gone to university all over the world.

As a group, the expats all speak multiple languages with ease and have interesting perspectives on the world because they've seen so much of it. At the same time, there's a certain fatalism as they often have little control over when and where the next assignment is or for how long.

One French expat talked about living in Seoul, South Korea, a sprawling city of more than 20mm. At the same time there were only 100 French families there so it was like living in a small village (with all the good and bad that comes with that experience) and, in retrospect, a fantastic few years for their family...though living there was very difficult because of the dramatically different language and culture.

This weekend was a little more intimate; dinner with just two other couples but a similar sense of cultural mishmash. The hosts were a French man (different than the one above) married to a Brazilian woman. He works for a French bank, grew up in Africa, the language at home is Portuguese and their English is first rate. And, of course, they live and work and raise a son in Madrid, who uses Spanish on the playground of his French school. Head spinning.

We had a very Spanish day yesterday...late start to the day for most of the family and we didn't go to lunch till 2:30. There are a number of restaurants near our piso (a word we learned this week for apartment), and has we sat outside eating tapas, this was our view. (well, not Laura Macie's as you can see from the top of her head looking at me taking the picture. The phonecam ain't the best)

On Friday, Becca was out meeting a friend at a nearby restaurant when motorcade came screaming by. Turned out to be the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, for an eight-hour visit with Spanish President Zapatero. Not much could have happened in such a short time but this is a "welcome" banner outside of where the meeting happened. Becca also learned that one of the services the US Embassy here (and I think all places) provides is an email alert for when anti-American rallies are expected....hadn't thought about that as a necessary service before.

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