10 things that you’ve learned from your time abroad in Madrid
1) In Madrid, people are proud to be who they are. Whether it is about fashion, convictions or sexual orientation, as a foreigner, you’ve probably noticed that Madrileños express themselves in a free and uninhibited way. Just have a small walk between Santo Domingo and Gran Vía and you will see a Hipster, a vintage girl, an eccentric guy, a nun, a gay couple and the most fashion fashionista who is on the top of fashion, all in a baffling harmony.
2) Whatever the Real Madrid has to celebrate, the meeting point is Plaza de Cibeles. You might be a real football (i.e. “soccer”) fan or not at all, but you know in your heart that Plaza de Cibeles and particularly the fountain of Cibeles, is not only a symbol of Madrid , it is the Real Madrid “unofficial” headquarters. Real Madrid’s fans have been celebrating there since the 1986 World Cup when Spain won 5-1 against Denmark.
3)You’re basically everyone’s “hijo” or “hija”. Well,you have your own parents, your own family, we all agree on that. However, in some cultures, in some countries, people older than you tend to consider and treat you as if you were a member of their family. People older than you might call you “ mi hijo/a” (literally meaning my son , my daughter) , “cariño” (meaning : darling, sweet heart). In the same way , younger people sometimes call older people “tío/a” (literally meaning uncle or aunt). If you come from a country or a culture where this is not the norm , you might find it strange. Anyway, a little sign of affection never kills anyone.
4)Partying is not an one-time event once in awhile, it is a daily activity. In Madrid,people don’t only party during the weekend. You can go out from Monday to the next Monday and you will always find something open. From party for international students, to Fiestas de San Isidro with all generations or “bottelón” in a park with locals , there is always something going on. Madrid never sleeps!
5) From midnight to midnight , there is always a restaurant open. After going out with your mates, you mind find yourself craving food at about 3, 4, 5 a.m. in the morning. You could be patient enough to wait until you arrive home and cook something for yourself. But why do this when you can have a burger at Don Oso or at an 24h McDonalds? Why would you starve the whole way back when you can grab a spicy burrito at Tako Away? And if you are more into pizzas, then PaPizza is just around the corner. Whenever and whatever you want to eat, Madrid has always a kitchen open for you.
6) Here tortillas are not wrapped and Mexican food is not Spanish food.
Talking about food, here is an important thing that should be clarified before you leave Madrid. A Spanish tortilla, aka one of the most typical Spanish food, is basically an omelette with potatoes and onions inside. A Mexican tortilla (and generally a tortilla in North America and Central America) is a flat corn bread used in different dishes such as chilaquiles, enchiladas , quesadillas, tacos and burritos. Both Spanish cuisine and Mexican cuisine are unique , but please don’t confuse the two.
7)You’ve been lucky enough to hear at least once “Llevo la suerte”
You might have noticed that the lottery is important in Spain. Just look at how popular the Spanish Christmas Lottery or Sorteo de Navidad. In shopping areas, you can spots many stands with “Loterias y Apuestas del Estado” where people can buy lottery tickets. There are also lottery ticket street sellers who have a particular way to grab passers-by’s attention. They scream things like “ llevo la suerte”, “ Dia de la madre” (for ONCE lottery tickets on Mother’s day) or “ la niña bonita” (for “quinielas” which are normally football lottery ).
8)The orange/yellow traffic light either means to stop, or to continue, if it is safe to do so. For pedestrians in Madrid , it means “hurry up and run as if your life depended on it”. Normally, when the light turns green for pedestrians, they have approximately 30 seconds to cross the street. Moreover, there are beeps during this time frame and the sounds accelerates when the light is about to turn red. The problem is that 1) you might be still crossing the street when the light turns green for motorist and 2) motorists in Madrid seem always be in a rush and unwilling to stop.
9) Madrid is a friend-friendly place.
People generally say that in the Occidental world, the warmer people are found around the Mediterraneans. Being a stereotype or not, foreigners often say that Spaniards in general are warm and welcoming people. It might not be true for every Spaniard in Madrid (or somewhere else) but while living in Madrid , you’ve probably noticed that Madrid is quite a friend-friendly place. In Madrid , from a simple “ Hola” in a bus stop , a grocery shop or even a nightclub’s bathroom , you can easily get into a conversation with someone as if you were long time friends and sometimes eventually become friends for real. Another thing that makes Madrid a friend-friendly place, especially for exchange students, is that there is this atmosphere of “ we all came alone but we are all in this together” due to the high number of students from all over the world who chose Madrid for their time abroad. The people you meet and the friendships you create, are an important part of your experience here in Madrid.
10) You were anxious on you first day here, now you don’t want to back home.
Before we arrived in Madrid, we knew that our time abroad would be a month, a trimester, a semester, a whole year or even more. What we didn’t know, is what to expect from this experience in Madrid. You were probably anxious, nervous, or maybe afraid of what your “new beginning in Madrid” would be. Leaving a pit in your stomach. Then you arrived to Madrid. You discovered the city, you met its people, and the people the city welcomes. You got to know parts of Madrid’s culture, customs, its food, and you eventually fell in love with everything here. Your exchange period is coming to its end and you start wondering “Do I really have to leave?”, “Is it compulsory to go back?,“ Why not staying here ?”. This is when you realized that your stay in Madrid was probably one of the best times in your life. Then when you finally get back home, you will maybe experience “post erasmus depression” or “Madrid post life depression”. You will maybe feel like you lost something but at the same time home is not the same anymore. It’s sad but it might happen. But why end on a sad note when you know that the most important thing to remember from your time in Madrid is this :
“ Wherever you go , Madrid will always be a home for you ”
By Cassie Mengato