Today’s guest post comes from Kristina, an American expat who is working and living in Madrid Spain.
For as long as I could remember, I had the travel bug. I read a lot (and still do) and I dreamt of places I would get to visit. Taking Spanish in school propelled me to study in Spain. What could be better than Europe? It was nearby so many other countries to explore. After I studied in Seville, Spain, I knew I couldn’t stay away from Spain.
It can’t get much better living in the country known for its siestas and easy living. Spain feels like…home. A feeling I haven’t had in any other country I’ve visited. I feel comfortable with the language, the culture, and the people.
The Spanish are slow to wake up and essentially slow in everything they do. Step outside before 9 a.m. and most stores are still closed. If it’s the weekend, you’ll see people finally stumbling home. This is a country full of night owls.
I’m an English Teaching Assistant through the Spanish government, the North American Language and Culture Assistant program. I was placed as an auxiliar, or teaching assistant, in a bilingual high school. Luckily, my school is 45 minutes at most, outside the center. The first order of business when I arrive: eat breakfast. I always wait until I get to school to have breakfast: a traditional tostada (crushed tomato on a baguette) and a café con leche. I never buy coffee to make at home when I can get a good one for less than two euros!
My role as an auxiliar is to assist in the bilingual classrooms. Sometimes that means taking small groups of kids into another room to practice their speaking skills, explaining grammar, or testing them for their English bilingual exams. The best days are when I get to teach a full lesson by myself (a rarity only pertaining to Social Studies). Occasionally, I do absolutely nothing. Or I get sent home because no one needs me.
Ah, the Spanish disorganization.
The disorganization in Spain is something about this country you will learn to love one day and hate the next day. You can call one person at a company and get one answer, call back the next day and be told something completely different. They have a “no care” attitude that can be frustrating. A phrase used often is “no pasa nada.” The Spanish version of “Oh, whatever.”
After school, I head home for lunch. The Spanish love late lunches and even later dinners. During the week, I cook, but on the weekends, my friends and I go out to try new restaurants. Eating out in Spain isn’t expensive. You can get an appetizer, two main courses, dessert, and a drink for as low as ten euros!
We only work four days a week, either having Mondays or Fridays off, an ideal circumstance for traveling. On top of that, we only work 16 hours per week. But I add on about ten hours in private lessons. I tend to have a lot of free time to do whatever I like—sit at a café, hang out with friends, work out, go shopping, or meet with my language partner.
My favorite spot to hang out in Madrid is Parque del Retiro, simply Retiro,. There’s never a shortage of people watching: pop up ballet shows, magic acts, and just Madrileños enjoying the day. The greatest part of living in Spain is no one stays inside.
Spanish culture thrives on family and friends. You walk down the street and find the streets teeming with people. Restaurant patios are overflowing with people drinking wine, coffees, and picking at tapas. Madrid is incredibly cheap for being a metropolitan city and the capital of Spain. It has the most bars of any city in the world. Every café eases into a bar once the sun disappears.
You would never assume the country is undergoing an economic crisis—the city is more alive than ever. Although you will find yourself in the middle of a strike, which tend to happen so frequently since I live near Puerta del Sol, which is the dead center of the city. I don’t even blink an eye anymore.
The energy of Madrid is best felt in the late afternoons and into the night.
Madrid is known for its nightlife, partying until 7 a.m. or even 8 a.m. It was something I had to get used to. I’d never go out to a discoteca (club) in the States. When I’m back home, I’m more of a bar kinda girl. The way the Spanish go out is slowly, a slow process lasting for hours and hours.
I always stock up on make up because it tends to be more expensive in Spain. As well as my favorite face wash from Philosophy. One of the things I wish I could take from home are hashbrowns. Spain is starting to “get it” on the breakfast front, but I crave diner skillets when I’m in Spain. For the most part, I find everything I need there with stores specializing in American goods. If I need something from home, it’s hard to get it sent to me. Spain is TERRIBLE about packages. They tend to lose them or make it incredibly hard to pick up or receive a package.
Madrid is a true Spanish city. Traditional in every way, it’s the place to get a feel of the Spanish culture. This is the city of the best flamenco dancing and bullfights. Home to one of the best soccer teams in the world. It’s a city that never ceases to make me stop loving Spain. Each day here inspires me to delve deeper into life—a city that encourages me to love every part of life and appreciate the people in mine.
Hey! I'm Alana and I've spent nearly the past decade living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, working as a writer and photographer. I started Paper Planes as a place to share local insight, special places, and how to travel well through a range of experiences — from hostels to high-end hotels, street meat to multi-course meals.
New places are always calling my name...
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