You are an expat in Madrid when you have fulfilled these three main criteria: having the right paper, a steady source of income and already living in proper accommodation. Above all, you have been through all the paperwork and the endless Spanish bureaucratic processes. Most foreign residents know how tough it is, but, hey, you have made it! Now, you are looking for advice on how to live like an expat in Madrid as you feel like everything is still new to you. Then, you have come to the right article.
We will go into details on how to live like a REAL expatriate in Madrid as opposed to a week to a month itinerary for a great vacation in Madrid. After all, you will be living here for sometimes(or perhaps, forever), so this article will help you a lot with adjusting with living every day.
Getting with Madrid lifestyle.
You see, Madrid is metropolitan yet maintains its provincial feels. The city greets you with a lot of warmth and a great sense of neighbourhood everywhere you go around the city. It does not take that long to have that sense of belonging in this city.
Perhaps one of the most contentious issues about Spain at the moment is the adjustment to time zone. It is said to be the reason why the timings in social settings like meetings and dates are so distinct compared to other parts of the world. It is normal to being late by 30 minutes for a meeting on a Sunday park stroll or a get together at the bar. So do not be mad about this habits, you will get used to it. This affects the eating habits too which is very well ingrained in the Spanish culture. Big city living has eateries serving food round the clock but when it comes to dining with local friends, be ready for lunchtime at 3.30 pm and dinner at 11.00pm.
Madrid nightlife is not for the faint-hearted. The party does not start before 12.00 midnight. You need to get plenty of rest before going out as the party does not stop until 5.00 or 6.00 in the morning. Well, it is a welcoming activity for a nocturnal party animal. If 6.00 in the morning is not enough, then there are afterparty clubs that last until 10.00 in the morning. But of course, browse around for something docile as there are plenty of chill places like jazz bars and speakeasy corners which are easily available if you are more of an early bird type.
In the Mediterranean culture in general, people make close contact with each other when interacting. So if you come from a background that greets a new person by a handshake, be ready to receive kisses on the cheeks especially if the person is of the opposite sex. Business meetings are more formal but kisses on the cheeks are not uncommon. Fret not because, it will come naturally after a while when or when not to give kisses.
If you are reading this article, then you obviously prefer English over another language. It would be great if you can put some effort into learning some Spanish, at least some of the basics to blend in with the local. There are Spanish classes everywhere around the city for the English-speaking crowd at an affordable price, so it would be great if you enroll yourself into one.
The Madrileños certainly appreciate the effort you put into learning local colloquial expressions like “Hasta luego” which literally translates as “Until later”. You use this to bid goodbye to anyone you deal with at the moment. The equivalent is “See you around” in English. In the Madrid region, the locals use a lot of the word “Oye, tío” which literally means “Listen, uncle” in English but it is the version of calling a friend “Hey man” in English.
Perhaps, these are some controversial words when the English translated versions are a bit strong. But in Madrid or Spain in general, these words have a moderate level of vulgarity by Spanish standard, so it is perfectly normal to use in daily conversations. I like you to google words like “joder”, “coño” and phrases like “Tomar por el culo” and “Es de puta madre”. It takes a while to get used to them but these are the lines that you get to hear everywhere on the street and even on national television.
Everywhere you go around the world, learning the local language and colloquial phrases get you a long way. When you speak obviously with a foreign accent and knowing several colloquialisms, you get yourself admitted into the social circle of the locals. This breaks the barrier and builds new relationships with new people. Who knows, you might find more than what you bargained for. Perhaps a better economic opportunity or even a new romantic relationship.
In Spain, in general, people speak loudly and at a fast pace. It sounds like a small quarrel is going to the ears of a foreigner but that is not the case. You have to adjust your tone and voice level at maximum if you like to get yourself to be heard, especially when talking with a group of people. When you are out and about, just look around when you pass by the bars and restaurants. Most of the time, the conversation noise level overwhelms the background music.
Everywhere in the Iberian Peninsular, including Madrid gets sunshine almost every day of the year. This is what drawing tourists to come and visit. The sun does get intense especially in the summer so putting on some sun protection does go a long way protecting yourself from cell damage. The local pharmacies sell sun cream up to 50++ SPF in store. Unlike their northern European counterparts, most of local Spanish do not appreciate direct sun exposure. The tanning culture is less fashionable here in Spain compared to the north.
You will have a lot more advantages for an expatriate if you are less than 26 years old. You are entitled to an initiative called “JOBO” which gives you free passes and discounts to visit expensive cultural spaces and events in Madrid such as Teatro Español, Naves de Matadero, Cineteca, and many more. Besides that, the Madrid Transport offers “Abono Joven” which costs only 20 euros for all zones for anyone less than 26 years old. That is a lot of savings considering the most expensive monthly pass is 131.80 euros for Zone E2. All these goodies just for having an age less than 26 years old!
You are spoilt with choices when it comes to transportation. The metro, suburban train, and bus are available with a single ticketing system with the Madrid Metro card. There are bicycles for rent on BiciMad available in major spots in the city center. Besides that, there is the electric scooter service such as Lime if that works for you.
Eating options are plenty and there are apps you can use to save on food choices. For example, one of the apps with the most comprehensive list of restaurant discounts is called “ElTenedor”. You get up to 50% discount, so get to check it out. Anyone with a busy lifestyle can always order online on platforms such as Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Take Eat Easy with direct delivery to your home.
Art Lovers: Go to these places
You have to love the arts when in Madrid. If you just look around the variety of art offerings available in Madrid, it is insane! The number of museums, theaters, art galleries, and chic bookstores bolsters Madrid as a top art destination in Southern Europe.
There are tons of comprehensive details about museums like El Prado, Reina Sofia, CaixaForum and Thyssen-Bornemisza readily available. Then, there are some of the lesser known but also very popular among long-term tourists like El Matadero, CentroCentro, Fundación Mapfre and Conde Duque.
Among the independent art spaces in Madrid are La Neomudejar and La Tabacalera. La Neomudejar is an avant-garde art space in the Pacífico barrio. La Tabacalera caters more to the young urban crowd with plenty of events every day. Both places host some experimental performances, new wave art displays and much more. If Prado offers something conventional, then La Neomudejar and La Tabacalera will blow you away with their unconventional approaches for art appreciation.
Living in Madrid will be the best time of your life if you are open minded with all the new possibilities it offers. Hopefully, this article will help you to lift up the veil a bit to get the gist into living in this Spanish version of The Big Apple. The city is so well-loved by renowned poets, writers, and artists like Ernest Hemingway and Federico García Lorca. Some of the best-produced masterpieces got their inspirations by the energy and spirit of this city. Madrid never ceases to enchant for anyone passing on its ground. Well, the sayings “De Madrid al cielo” or in English “From Madrid to the heavens” must be true then.