Madrid, Spain Report of what it's like to live there - 01/15/08
Personal Experiences from Madrid, Spain
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, previous experiences include: Beijing 1994-95, Taipei 1997-98, Guangzhou 2000-02, and Kabul 2005-06.
2. How long have you lived here?
2 years - from September 2003 through July 2005.
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
The author is posted to U.S. Embassy.
4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
Direct from NYC, Chicago or Philadelphia on U.S. carriers. Iberia now flies to Dulles.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing generally consists of apartments in city neighborhoods--anywhere from a 10-minute walk to 30-minute transit. Folks with kids often live in houses or duplexes in distant suburbs--40-minute drive I think.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Everything you need, but more costly than home.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Hip trendy clothing I paid for in dollars. Sales are great, but the Euro is strong.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
All fast food is available. Spanish food is some of the best there is and you can eat at Michelin starred restaurants in Madrid. Tapas and pintxos are readily available. Food costs money here.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
EUR 40-50 for a half day.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Banks outnumber restaurants on some streets. Everywhere.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes. Baptist and Catholic at least.
5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
The International Herald Tribune is a few Euros.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?
Right, like the U.S.
2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes, yes, yes.
3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Small cars are easier to park. If you live in the city you don't really need a car, but it is useful to go to the mountains or villages.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, about 30 Euros per month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?
I used a calling card.
1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
If you speak fluent Spanish, you can earn 1,000 Euros tending bar, and who knows 2,000-3,000 Euros maybe in professional jobs.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Spaniards look stylish, attractive and very professional. Mens shoes tend to be pointy and brown. Spaniards look stylish in private life too.
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
Good to Moderate.
2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
There are pick pockets on metro and in tourist areas.
3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Usually dry and sunny, with one or two months of cold and at least two months of dry hot heat. It rains occassionally from September through May. Think inter-Mountain West; matched Meford-Ashland area's climate exactly.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
High among singles. Moderate among couples.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Madrid is social life. Spaniards eat dinner at ten and go out to the wee hours of the morn.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It is a truly awesome city for singles, especially if you enjoy nightlife. Most couples enjoy the city as well.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Madrid is a gay destination and hosted Europride 2007.There are many gay bars and clubs from the chicest to sleaziest. It is an easy place to date for men. There is also at least one lesbian bar in Chueca. If you fall in love with a Spaniard you can marry him or her.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There is a certain amount of disdain for Moroccans and Roma. Some Americans of Latin descent claimed the Spanish made fun of their accents. I think this would happen anywhere.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
It's Madrid! If you live in town, you can walk to any number of cool and interesting neighborhoods. Hang out in a plaza and drink a clara in summer and watch the people or go to La Latina on Sunday. My colleagues who liked culture said there were places to go. Mountains for hiking and climbing are only a 40-minute drive outside of the city.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Spanish food and clothing.
9. Can you save money?
Very hard. I actually spent much much more than I earned, but I lived well.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Absolutely. I could live in Madrid for years.