My first day at work in Mallorca, just about every Spanish coworker I met asked how I felt about Trump. This was early 2017. He’d just started his term as President, but the controversy was already at the forefront of everyone’s minds, Spanish, American or otherwise. In fact, I stayed with another American while looking for my own place, and I remember him turning on the news only to turn it back off immediately. “I’m tired of hearing about Trump,” he sighed.
Regardless of your political persuasions, it’s undeniable that the last four years have been historical for the United States. My fellow American expats and I have had the luxury of watching it all unfold from the outside and getting a sort of bird’s eye view of the American lifestyle. This means input from the Majorcans around us—probably one of the only other groups as proud of where they’re from as Americans—not just about Trump, but plenty of things we’d otherwise taken for granted.
For example, Mallorcan passengers tend to get a little nervous when I’m driving. I don’t think I go that fast. In fact, I always have the limiter set and never go over the speed limit. But in Majorca, going the speed limit means you’ll be cruising past people in the left lane unlike in America where you’re likely to get tailgated.
Driving in Mallorca as an American takes some adapting, and not just because of the manual transmissions. Getting my Arkansas motorcycle license was a one-day affair. I studied a booklet in the morning, then took a written quiz and practical exam in the afternoon that involved riding around the parking lot in first gear. It was quite a surprise then to learn I’d need to have an A1 license, good only for motorcycles up to 125cc, for a full two years before I’d even be eligible for the A2 and full-sized bikes.
Needless to say, the new speed limits in Mallorca are going to be rough for the over 1,200 American expats on the island. I can’t be the only one who feels like the minutes of my life are slipping away as I crawl around Palma at 30 km/h.
Can we really be that surprised, though? Personally, I came to Mallorca for a three-month sabbatical from a copy writing job, but I ended up staying in part because of a friendly culture that doesn’t mind taking it slow. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last four years, it’s that sometimes you have to take a break from the rush that defines American life and spend some time in the moment. That’s true now more than ever.
Of course, it’s not just the traffic in Mallorca that runs slower. This culture permeates most aspects of life in a number of ways I wish I’d known before moving here:
Things are closed more than they’re open. There are no 24-hour grocery stores, and almost everything closes on Sunday. There are plenty of holidays, too. You’ll have to plan your errands, not just squeeze them in when you have a free moment in your busy schedule.
There’s a lot of bureaucracy with little expedience. Americans have to spend a lot of time at the extranjería for their residency paperwork, and it does not go quickly, even less so now that the British have to go there too.
Service people are perfectly hospitable, you just have to get their attention. Whenever I’ve had dinner with a Mallorcan, their next question, after asking about Trump, is why am I eating so fast. In Mallorca you can relax and enjoy your food, so the waiter isn’t going to come bug you with the check. Just let them know when you’re ready.
With a lifestyle like this, it’s no wonder Mallorcans have watched US events for the last four years with a bit of perplexion. It sure seems like everyone over there is stressed out and on edge, something just a little more difficult for Mallorcans to understand. With a new President and 2021 poised to be a historical year in and of itself, I’m certainly looking forward to learning what other aspects of life and my own country Mallorca can teach me about. At the very least, the topics for small talk are going to change.