Within your first few days of being in a completely new country you will experience some difficulties. Hopefully ones that are easy to turn around from. Thankfully none of mine were serious but more so ones that made me chuckle to myself. It’s only been ten days since I’ve been in Madrid but there are a few things I would like to share with people as an FYI in case you are planning on making the trip for a holiday or even looking to make the transition to moving to Madrid.
The first thing that took me a few days to get use to is, Spanish people do things later! They go out later in the night, or maybe I should say more of the early morning. A suggested time to meet up to hit the city for some drinks and fun was 1AM. Normally in Las Vegas, by 1AM I am toasty but am still okay being out. My average head home time was about 4/5AM depending on who I was out with. A new friend in Madrid texted me at 9AM saying they were still out from the night before. Mind blown! Maybe 9AM isn’t the norm but one of the parties I went out to on Friday was over by 6AM.
Breakfast is normally eaten around 10/11AM and earlier if it is a work day. Lunch is 3/4PM. After lunch people will normally take a siesta. In between lunch and dinner there is a light meal called “merienda”. Then Dinner is taken around 10/11PM.
The second thing is the Metro system that is used in Madrid. It is actually very easy to use! If you are here on vacation and plan on taking the Metro all over the city, you should buy a seven-day pass. With the seven-day pass you have unlimited rides. Keep in mind that Madrid has many train lines that go to different areas, so the pass may not work in certain areas. You can also purchase a card that you can reload with rides. The first two rides I went on I purchased as single rides. If you buy ten rides you save money. This is recommended. Now, what I wish I would have known before I got to Madrid is, if you are planning on buying a monthly metro pass there is a process to this. You can’t just walk up to the machine to buy a monthly pass. I am unsure why they make this so difficult, but it is what it is. If you will be staying in Madrid for a month or longer and using the Metro daily, I recommend purchasing the monthly pass.
You have two options to get your monthly pass. One, you can make an appointment on the website to go into the metro office to get your pass. Bring your passport with you and be picture ready. They will be taking an image of you. Make sure you book your appointment in advance. I walked into the Metro office on October 2nd and they told me they had nothing available till October 15th. They also won’t book the appointment for you in the office, you must do it online. Make sure you have someone with you that can read Spanish because this portion of the website does not translate to English. The second option you have is to submit for a monthly pass online and they will mail it to you. When you do the online purchase they only charge you for the card. Once you get the card in the mail you will need to take it to the machine to load it. When applying for the card online they will be asking for a scanned copy of your passport and an image of you that is passport sized.
I ordered my card online and they stated I would be getting it within 7-15 days. Still a long process to order online. I highly recommend getting this done ahead of time so when you get to Madrid you don’t have to worry about it. I’m still waiting on my card to come in the mail and in the mean time I am buying rides. Also, if you are under the age of 26 your monthly metro card is only 20 Euros and your area able to use your card on all the lines! Here is a link to order your Metro card online or make an appointment. This link also goes to the metro website where you can learn more about the Metro system and train lines.
Some other forms of transportation you can use are UBER and MyTaxi to get private rides around the city. If you are planning on traveling to other towns/cities outside of Madrid a cool app that I’ve found useful is GoEuro. You can see bus, train and flight tickets and book them through the app. Some tickets do need to be printed while others can be shown on your mobile device.
I speak Spanish, but North America Spanish is different than Spaniard Spanish. I am sure with time I will be adding more words to this section but for now below are a couple of terms I had to ask what the word meant.
Vale – Literally just means “Okay”. Spanish people use this word so much!
Que Tal – This just means “How are you?”.
Barrio – Neighborhood
The below items may be common practice for most European Countries but as an American I was really thrown off by these things and had to google/call for assistance. I’m sure I will be adding more to this list as time goes on.
• The electric stove top at the house I am staying in won’t turn on unless there is a pan sitting on top of the round placement. The pan also must be the same size or a little bigger than the placement. If the pan is any smaller, it will not turn on. I took about 10 minutes playing with the stove top trying to figure out why it wasn’t turning on, till I finally gave up on trying and googled it. I then watched a YouTube video where someone explains how to use the stop top. I felt silly, but it is a safe feature for kids. Or grown adults that cannot be left alone.
• It’s green over here. As in people are cautious about saving energy and recycling. In the household I am staying in, it is a requirement to turn off the light to a room if you are not in the room. In hotels, to be able to turn the lights on you need to place your room key in the card holder next to the entrance door. When you do this, it allows you to turn on the lights in the room. This is to help save energy, since most people leave lights on or AC running when they are not even in the room. In neighborhoods there are large plastic trash bins in the street that look like boxes. These are recycling bins for people that live in the nearby complexes.
• I noticed a lot of Spanish families have three kids and they have each of their kids dressed very similar. If there are three boys, they will have all three boys in the same exact outfit. If there is a girl mixed in with the two boys, the girl will just be wearing similar colors to the boy’s clothes.
The food in Spain has been amazing! Each restaurant has their own specialty tapa. Tapas are smaller plates, but I’ve been full off two tapas and a beer and trust me when I say I can eat a lot, I mean I can eat a lot. Restaurants will always serve you bread or potato chips (crisps as the English say). Don’t be surprised if you notice they have charged you for the bread. It’s just something they provide and do. Also, when you ask for water it is never tap water and always a closed water bottle. The water in Madrid is safe to drink. I carry around a metal water jug that keeps my water cold and whenever I can I just fill it up. A lot of the places I have been to use pork a lot in their dishes. The family I am also living with mainly eats meat. These meats consist of salsichao, chorizo, and jamon. I have seen a lot of veggie plates when out at actual restaurants.
I’ve had a wonderful first week and a half in Madrid and am looking forward to more exploration around Spain and looking forward to adding more items to these lists!