Everyone says that you go through stages while studying abroad. After five months of living in Spain, I am finding myself in my final stage.
During the first month you are in a state of shock as people, places, food, and culture around you are completely different from what you were used too. You find yourself questioning what you got yourself into as you struggle to find an apartment and even have to learn how to use the transportation system.
As the first month flies by, you become familiar with your surroundings and make some friends, so you naturally feel more comfortable. During this second stage you have started to adapt to your new life abroad.
Suddenly you are three months in and feel like a complete local. In this third stage you have become used to a routine in your new home away from home… when out of nowhere finals creep into the picture.
Finals completely take over your last month of school and you realize people are beginning to leave for their summer-long euro trips or to travel back home. You literally feel like you just stepped off that plane and after only the blink of an eye you find yourself in countless “despedida” picnics, having to say goodbye to the former strangers you now call your friends.
Like I’ve said before, studying abroad is one of the best things you can ever experience! The traveling opportunities that come along with being abroad are endless but out of all the cities I’ve visited, Madrid will always be my favorite.
Here are some things I’ve learned about Madrid as my time here is sadly coming to an end.
#1: Siestas are still a thing
I’m sure you have heard that the Spanish are typically fond of their “siestas.” Before coming to Madrid, I thought that they were a thing of the past, but while trying to eat out or go grocery shopping in the middle of the day, I quickly found out they weren’t. Places close to the city center don’t usually close for siesta time but a lot of other places do. Although siestas aren’t too common in the capital of Spain, they are in places up north and south.
#2: Don’t count on Sundays
Spanish people take their Sundays seriously. It’s a day to enjoy with family and friend’s. This means that a lot of places are closed. Not all places close but even the ones that don’t usually close early—even gyms close at 3 pm on Sundays!
#3: Dryers practically don’t exist
One of the things that really shocked me during my first week here was the non-existence of dryers. Instead, people hang their clothes on a rack in their rooms or outside. Washing machines are almost always set up in the kitchen. This can get a little annoying specially if you live with six other people and you all decide to wash your clothes at the same time (when this happens, my room ends up with clothes hanging from every piece of furniture)
#4: Nights out start in the morning
One of the things Madrid is known for is its nightlife. Going out doesn’t only apply to the weekends. Here, going out is a Monday through Sunday thing. People go out for tapas and drinks, to bars, or clubs. Since most clubs and bars don’t close until 6 am, people don’t get their night started until after midnight. Showing up at a club at 11 pm isn’t even an option unless you want to party in an empty room. The metro doesn’t open until 6 am, so I guess it works out perfectly: after a long night out you can just hop on and be home. Oh, and if you’re a girl, here’s a tip: don’t bring heels, no one wears heels here and if they do, good luck not twisting an ankle in the uneven streets of Madrid.
#5: Customer service… what?
In the US, leaving a tip is an obvious thing when you go out to eat since most waiters rely on tips as their salary. Giving good customer service equals more tips and “the customer is always right” is actually a thing. But head over to Spain (Europe in general, actually) and you will quickly realize that customer service doesn’t really exist and no one tips (much) here.