Now that I have been in Madrid for almost three months, I’ve discovered that learning to live like the Madrileños (citizens of Madrid) has levels. They range in difficulty from low to high and are admittedly mostly very American struggles. Regardless, here are some things you will need to learn to love if you’re considering spending some time in Spain.
Level 1: Difficulty- Low
One of the easiest things to get used to in Madrid is the metro system. Clean, efficient and award winning, Madrid’s public transportation system really blows New York’s subway out of the water. At a very reasonable price of 20 euros per month, I can get to school, the park or even to the airport. I am by no means a big city girl but learning to use the metro was a piece of cake.
Learning to use coffee vending machines (this is what we Americans call them, not sure on the accuracy) was another easy task. These lovely creations make everything from plain espresso to cappuccinos to hot chocolate. Dispensed into a small dixie cups, sanity and happiness only costs one euro.
Level 2: Difficulty- Moderate
Something that was a little more difficult to adjust to was the laid back service at restaurants and cafes. Servers in Madrid are in no hurry and expect you to sit for a while and enjoy your company. I have actually started to really appreciate that servers won’t bring you the check unless you ask for it. My friends and I will often sit for over an hour, when in the United States you are practically shoved out the door once you finish eating. The laid-back attitude of Madrileños can also be seen in their walking pace. People walking on the streets here are in not in a rush. Ever. These norms definitely reveal how fast paced our lifestyle is in the United States.
The second thing that is more a slight inconvenience to me rather than a major cultural difference is the lack of english muffins and bagels. What was once my go to breakfast is now nowhere to be found L. However, I have classified this as moderate difficulty because in Europe there is an abundance of croissants and pastries available for breakfast instead.
Level 3: Difficulty- High
One of the hardest norms to accept here is the absence of free public water. It is very rare to see students with reusable water bottles. Bottled water can be purchased from vending machines, but I have yet to see a water fountain or water bottle filler in any public place. There is nothing wrong with Madrid’s tap water, it is just a little difficult to obtain unless you are getting it from your own apartment. Along with no public water, there aren’t public restrooms either, and if there are, they are far and few between with the majority of them costing money to use.
The last tough pill to swallow is having to wait to eat dinner until 10pm. Unless you’re cooking or ordering fast food, you can’t eat at an American dinner time even if you wanted to. After lunch (around 1:30 or 2:30) restaurants and cafes close for “siesta” and don’t reopen until dinner time. This is very different from restaurant hours in the US, which are normally open all day, regardless of whether many people are eating at 3pm or not. Although it’s hard at first, you get used to the mealtimes pretty quickly, because in all honesty, you have no choice!
The longer I am here the more normal these types of things seem to me. Even though I know I will be overjoyed to go home to bagels and english muffins, I can already tell I will be missing the metro when I’m waiting for the 80 bus in -10 degree weather. There are clearly both positives and negatives to every country/city/culture!