Madrid, Spain Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Madrid, Spain

Madrid, Spain 09/04/19

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is out third overseas post, after Poland and the U.K.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC. It's an eight-hour direct flight. Travel into and out of Spain is easy.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic posting.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are a mix of houses, townhomes and apartments. Places closer to the center tend to be apartments, which are usually plenty bit, sometimes charming and often have those quirky European floor plans. Commutes vary from a few minutes to a half hour. Biking is safe, walking a pleasure and public transport good.

Bigger places, sometimes with yards and swimming pools, tend to be near the American school in Pozuelo. Commutes are longer, I'd guess 20 to 40 minutes in a car and an hour by public transport.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

This is the land of plenty. Food is inexpensive and high quality.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Really, nothing. If you want to be picky: brown sugar, maple syrup, and white distilled vinegar.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

At least in the city, you could visit every restaurant in your neighborhood and barely make a dent. There's obviously tons of Spanish, lots of Italian, a little Mexican and Latin American, Chinese, Japanese, burgers, fast food chains, steak houses, etc. There is an abundance of takeout choices.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not that I'm aware of.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO. Local post seems fine too.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Lots of expats employ a part-time housekeeper. Seems like nannies are available too.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are lots of gyms. Not sure about the prices.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

All readily available and as safe as anywhere (in other words, there's fraud, but not more than other places).

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It helps to speak Spanish. You could get by with a minimum. There are classes through the Embassy and at local schools.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Spain seems very welcoming to the disabled, especially the blind. It's an old European city, though, so not everything is wheelchair-accessible.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, yes, and yes.

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2. 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?

Anything would work, but I wouldn't bring anything too big.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Can take days to weeks.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I have a local plan, my spouse kept her US plan. It's easy to sign up for pay as you go. Bring an unlocked phone with you.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Spain is a great place for pets.

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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?

There is a full range of employment possibilities for those who speak Spanish. I think most spouses work at the Embassy, some telework, some are employed locally.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

The American school is always looking for volunteers.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

The Embassy seems typical US government. Spaniards tend to dress well but you can walk around in shorts and a t-shirt and not stick out too bad.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Typical tourist destination problems. Be aware of your surroundings.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Spaniards have much longer lifespans and lower infant mortality than Americans. They must be doing something right.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

It's sooooo dry.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Very hot in the summer, cold in the winter, dry all the time.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The American school is OK. The academics are just so-so compared with our schools around Washington, D.C. There are plenty of other options, though I'm not sure about the quality.

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2. 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?

I'm aware that some families send young children to Spanish preschool. I think it's free but it can be difficult to get a spot.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes! You can do activities through the school (soccer, baseball, etc) or via local teams and clubs.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

I don't know the size--pretty big. It's hard not to be happy here.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Spaniards live their lives in restaurants, bars and cafes. Just go out.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It's great for everyone. It's family friendly, has a vibrant night life, tons of stuff to do.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Madrid has massive a Pride Week celebration. Seems like a good place to be yourself.

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5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Spaniards are friendly but tend to have their own close-knit social networks. It's easier to mix with expats. Prejudice here is similar to most of the rest of Western Europe.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. It's not worse than other places, but it should be better.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

There is so much to see. Highlights: San Sebastian, Bilbao, Valencia, Malaga, Cadiz, Sevilla, Cordoba, Avila, Salamanca, Toledo.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Get out of the tourist zones and walk the neighborhoods: Chueca, Malasana, Chamberi, Chamartin.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

You can shop till you drop: fashion, pottery, art, etc.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It's a huge city without all the big-city problems: traffic is manageable, crime is low, parks are wonderful, public transport is good. Also, it has museums galore, Michelin-starred restaurants, neighborhood restaurants, bars, cafes, amazing nightlife, interesting architecture, friendly people.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I had figured out a way to stay longer.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Make America Great Again hat.

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4. But don't forget your:

Electronics. iPhones and gadgets are more expensive here, Chromebooks aren't available.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

I just read Ghosts of Spain and it was quite good. I'd recommend Homage to Catalonia to anyone moving anywhere.

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Madrid, Spain 06/10/19

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I have lived in southeast Asia and central Africa prior to Madrid.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

DC is an eight-hour direct flight in the summer on current contract carrier, can be up to 15 hours with connections.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

USG.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is mostly apartments in the city (5-30 minute commute) and townhouses in the suburbs (20-40 minute commute). Housing is spacious for Europe with adequate storage.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are cheaper than DC. Really good produce available all year. You can find most anything here.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Maybe a favorite hot sauce and red pepper flakes. You can find hot sauce here but brands are limited.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are good restaurants all over. Uber eats, Glovo, and deliveroo offer delivery services.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

I had ants at my house, but they were not as bad as other places I have lived. They have this poisonous caterpillar here that causes a reaction in person and people.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO mostly, but Correos is an option as well for local mail.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Not sure. I know some co-workers have full time nannies and others have part-time cleaners.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Gyms are available at a variety of price points. Some of them keep odd hours by American standards (e.g. your membership allows you to work out from 0700-1300 only). Other gyms are open 24/7. Plenty of parks for running, walking, and outdoor fitness classes.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Yes, accepted and used all over the city.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is an English language Episcopal church and a Catholic church with an English language service. I'm sure there are others.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Definitely need some Spanish to get by, not many outside the tourist areas speak English.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. Uneven sidewalks all over and the metro stations have escalators on some levels but not on others. Elevators at stations are often out of order. Buses are a better bet for mobility impaired, but don't expect anyone to give up a seat to you if you are obviously pregnant or on crutches (speaking from experience).

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, all are safe and affordable.

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2. 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?

Bring a small car or moped for the city. An electric bike would work well too (there are bike shares you can join too). I wouldn't recommend bringing a car bigger than a small SUV because of narrow parking spaces, but people do manage.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, fiber internet is available. Can be installed within a few days.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Plenty of local mobile phone options (contract, pay as you go, bundled with TV and internet) and plenty use T-Mobile and Google Fi as well.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Plenty of veterinarians and boarding options. If you don't speak Spanish, there is an American veterinarian in Pozuelo. The practice is ok but not great.

Strangely, I had a hard time finding high quality cat and dog food. I ended up buying from the Navy Exchange or ordering from Amazon.

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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?

Some spouses work from home, some at the embassy, and a couple on the local economy. Spanish skills are a must for many jobs even at the embassy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Yes, plenty of causes and organizations to get involved with.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business to business casual at work, depending on the office. Outside of work, anything goes, but Spainerds generally dress nice.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Allergies were an issue for me here and they never bothered me in other locations. Use your sunscreen and hydrate for the heat. Really dry air gave me dry, flaky skin. Bring your moisturizer.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Good medical care is available, including specialists The embassy has a health unit for basic stuff and referrals No need for medevacs here. Many choose to have their babies at local hospitals.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate air quality. Local government restricts cars on high pollution days.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Yes. So many allergies. So much wheezing and sneezing.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

No more so than other places.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Cool in the winter and HOT and DRY in the summer. Spring is lovely. Not much rain and a lot of sunshine.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Several international schools available. No direct experience. Parents if younger children seem to like the American School of Madrid. Mixed reviews for middle and high school-aged kids.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge expat community and very good morale.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There is something for everyone: sports, yoga, hiking, fairs and festivals, classes, bars, clubs...

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for everyone.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes, very LGBT-friendly. Going out in Chueca is so much fun.

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5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

If you speak Spanish well, you might have some luck. There does seem to be prejudice against people of color.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Better than many places, but prejudices definitely still exist and permeate society, especially related to race and to some extent gender (especially with older generations).

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Loved traveling around Spain (Galicia, Basque Country, Andalusia). Great food and wine as well.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Cooking classes, food tours, wine tastings, day trips, hikes...

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Ceramics, wine, and olive oil for shopping. Clothes and shoes not so much.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Easy living, low stress, great jumping off point to explore Europe.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Adjust to Spanish eating times: it will make socializing so much easier. People really don't go out to dinner before 2100 or 2200 hours. Also, learn to speak a little Spanish.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Impatience with bureaucratic processes and expectations for customer service.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen.

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Madrid, Spain 03/15/17

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I have lived in Naples, Italy before.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

It depends. But either Los Angeles, or Baltimore.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Eight months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We live in the city - only a 10-minute walk from the US embassy.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Very comparable. Milk is currently 1.80 euros for 1.5 liters. Meat costs about the same, but the quality, I think, is much higher.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

None. If you can't find it locally, you can get it shipped from Amazon easily. The only things we get shipped are some cleaning supplies that we really like, and some really particular things (like natural peanut butter). Also, there is a small exchange in the embassy - so things like common medicines are easy to get there. But really, you can get almost everything locally.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Good question. We like to eat locally. But there is a variety of international options here - especially Asian (sushi), some Thai, Indian, and Italian. But most places open around 8:30 - so we cook at home, or go out for lunch. But it is easy to get food delivered if you don't mind eating a bit late.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO. Easy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

10-15 euros per hour is standard. Many people have a housekeeper - at least part time. But not many of those employees live in the house.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a variety. We belong to a fairly expensive one, but they have a "morning" or "evening" option which makes it more affordable - but it is a SUPER nice gym - one of the nicest we have been members of - with top quality employees, fantastic classes, a pool, spa, etc.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards are no problem. More limited with AmEx, but we still use it a lot. ATMs every block in the city - very safe, and easy to find one attached to your local bank.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

The more you know, the easier your life. There is not a lot of English being spoken, but you can get along - it's an international city, there are a lot of tourists, but if you want to really get to know the culture, of course, you need to know the language. There are many schools and classes available - even US companies like Berlitz.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Sure - it's a big city - just like DC or NYC, but, for example, almost all of the stores have elevators, there is handicapped parking everywhere, definitely a city that takes accessibility seriously.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Easy, safe, plentiful. A ride on public transportation costs about 1.50 euros. Taxis are great - we are discouraged from using Uber so no reference point there.

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2. 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?

Mid- to small-size car in the city. You can drive/park a van easier in the suburbs. The traffic isn't so terrible, but the streets are narrow and parking is a pain. We have a 2014 Honda CR-V which is about the limit of what is doable for city driving. You will see Range Rovers and bigger cars, but I don't know where the heck they park them. And don't bring anything you love because you'll probably get scraped up.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yep. It was one of the first things we ordered and it came within a week. It's not as "fast" as in the US, but it is generally very adequate for our needs. Apple TV is slow to download, but streaming other stuff is generally no problem.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Local. Vodafone - you can charge it from ATMs or local shops - easy and cheap. I think we pay like 20 euros a month for more than enough calls/text/data.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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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?

A variety. There is a bilateral work agreement, and English-speakers are in high demand.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many. You can inquire with the CLO, the public diplomacy section, or many Facebook pages for information about your specific interests.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

It depends. Jeans are accepted in certain situations, and shorts are worn in public, but locals dress to impress, and there are dress codes. Jewelry is particularly showy and artistic. Shoes are important.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Not too much. Maybe pickpocketing in high tourist areas. But generally speaking, no concerns.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Some air pollution - normal for a city this size. Otherwise medical care is stellar and even supersedes that in the US.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Varies with the weather. Sometimes there are traffic restrictions based on pollution levels. Also, it is very, very, dry here. Many use humidifiers in the house.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

It's easy to address these issues here.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Dry, dry, dry.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is an American School, several private English-speaking or bi-lingual schools, and lots of others - French, German, Italian, of course, Spanish. Standards for education here are high.

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2. 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?

Lots and lots of different options for ages 0+. Definitely affordable, especially compared to DC. Like maybe 1/3 of the cost? Nannies are more expensive.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Again, lots and lots of different activities - from dance and swimming to horseback riding, gymnastics, sports.

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Expat Life:

1. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

All of the above. There is literally something for everyone here. And especially for families - playgrounds everywhere.

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2. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes. Very open, very liberal community.

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3. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Probably. I can't think of a place where these issues don't exist.

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4. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

So many. What are your interests? Google that & Madrid...

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5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Literally something for everyone - specialty markets, specialty stores, boutiques, outlets, high fashion - you name it.

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6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Food. Quality of life. Warmth of the people.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Definitely, definitely, definitely.

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2. But don't forget your:

Coffee Break Spanish podcasts. And your knowledge of how to use "vosotros."

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3. Do you have any other comments?

Please don't tell anyone how great it is to live here.

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Madrid, Spain 04/20/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is our third expat experience.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

People either live in city apartments or in houses in the suburbs. I think the commute for those in the suburbs is around 30 minutes. We live in a nice city apartment. It's spacious, but old and not Renovated. We had many noise issues with the neighbors upstairs. We complained and luckily it got much better, but other embassy staff haven't had as much luck with accommodating neighbors. Other people have no noise problems. It's really just the luck of the draw. Spaniards don't take their shoes off inside, so it can drive you crazy if they walk around a lot on the hardwood floors. It can sound like constant hammering above your head and make you want to cry, no joke...especially when you have a baby that needs to sleep but can't.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are more expensive, but we manage. They're not as astronomical as in other places we've lived.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Rugs. We have a big apartment with lots of hard floors and I wish we had brought big area rugs with us. We really had no way of knowing until we saw our place, though.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, TGI Fridays, and others. They are a bit more expensive than in the States.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

There are some organic and gluten-free products at some grocery stores, but special foods like that aren't as plentiful here as in the States.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not many. Our apartment building sprays for cockroaches and we've seen a couple of them (dead), but it's not a problem. And occasionally we'll see ants.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We use the DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We have a housekeeper that comes once a week for four hours and she charges 10 Euro an hour. She has worked with embassy staff for years and knows English.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The embassy doesn't have any workout facilities. There are local gyms but they are pretty expensive.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We have no problems using our American debit card. Some utilities you have to pay for from a Spanish bank account, but the embassy tell you how to set that up.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, all sorts of English language churches for almost all religions and denominations.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

We don't watch much TV. We used a sling box, but got rid of it because it was too expensive and not reliable enough for the amount we were paying.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Basic Spanish is a must. Madrid isn't nearly as touristy as Barcelona, so it's hard to find English speakers here. Don't take it personally if they don't seem patient with you, or they don't bother to repeat or slow their speech for your benefit. In most cases, when they repeat themselves, they just say it faster!

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I don't think it's bad. There are ramps on most sidewalk corners. It's not as accessible as U.S. cities, but it's not as bad as other European cities I've been to.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Public transport here is pretty reliable, safe, and affordable. I don't use the metro because they are difficult to manage with a stroller (all stairs, hardly any escalators), but I get by using taxis and buses.

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2. 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?

I wouldn't bring a huge car. I see more SUVs and larger cars here than in other European countries, so you don't need a Smart Car by any means, but I would recommend a smaller car, especially for some really cramped parking garages. Don't bring a car that you want to protect from dings and scratches or that you have to baby. Many Spaniards park by feel.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

I think our Internet is very good and reliable, but it is pricey.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

We use a pay as you go phone. I wish we had gotten a cellphone contract soon after we got here.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No, but be prepared to have all your paperwork checked and rechecked. Getting our pet here was a nightmare because of the paperwork. Every person we asked gave different requirements.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There is an American vet that comes to your house. Many people use her because she's convenient, but it's pretty expensive.

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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?

Unemployment is sky high, so I doubt it. And if so, you would need to have impeccable Spanish skills.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

More dressed up than in the States. The older Spaniards dress up more, the younger set is more casual and trendier.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The only thing you have to be concerned with is pickpockets. Violent crime is really no concern.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The private medical care here is great. I had a baby here and the obstetrician was incredible. I got much more personal attention during my pregnancy than I did in the States, and an ultrasound every month during my checkups. The hospital where I gave birth was great. I had serious complications and the doctors saved my life.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It's hot and dry in the summer and moderately cold in the winters. It hardly snows and when it does, it doesn't stick to the ground.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I have no experience with them, but I've heard good things.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

I am not sure. I don't know of any daycare centers, but know many people that hire nannies. I don't know what they cost.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Rather large and pretty spread out.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally good. Some people don't like it here compared to other places they've been, and people complain about cultural annoyances, but overall it's not a bad place to live.

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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?

This is Spain! A country known for it's nightlife. People eat dinner at 10pm and party all night!

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think it's a great place for singles. It's alright for families. We've had some frustrations, but overall we like it.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There are many gays in Spain, so I don't see it being a problem.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Spaniards are pretty prejudiced, especially toward Latinos and Africans. They really don't like anyone who is different.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

We have seen quite a bit of Spain. We loved Barcelona and Seville. We also like driving down to Rota Naval Base in Southern Spain, occasionally, to stock up on necessities. It's very relaxing down there.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

If you like art, there are tons of art museums and galleries here. For families, there is a zoo and an aquarium. There are also a few nice day trips to Toledo, Segovia, and Avila, among other places.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Seeing Spain and easy travel to the rest of Europe.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you make it a priority. We manage it, but things are expensive here.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, I'm glad we came here. I'm glad we're only here for 3 years, though. Some people hate it, but I honestly think they would hate every place they lived...there are much worse places to live out there. Trust me, I know. Overall, I like it and think it's a great opportunity to live here.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Desire to eat at a restaurant before 8:30pm. Also, the expectation that Spanish cuisine is exceptional. The worst disappointment for me was the food. It's not bad, but most of it is bland.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience with the Spaniards. Staring at strangers is not considered rude here, so don't take it personally.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

It's Not About the Tapas: A Spanish Adventure on Two Wheels, and The Shadow of the Wind (although it's set in Barcelona)

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Try to come and enjoy the opportunity to live here. Don't let the minor annoyances ruin your time here.

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Madrid, Spain 11/28/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Portland, Oregon.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Federal government employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Live in a townhouse in Aravaca, which is very quiet. Downtown Madrid is noisy.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

American food.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Yes. Expensive.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Spaniards are meat eaters.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

10-11 euros an hour. Many are available.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Easily accessible.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Digital plus - US$60 per month.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

I get by fine. Have a vocabulary of 200 or so words.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Unknown. Probably not.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes.

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2. 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?

I have a Honda CRV and it works. Don't bring a big car.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. US$50 per month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Expensive.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

American vet in Aravaca.

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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?

Probably not.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

None.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Decent.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Warm and sunny.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Through American School.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The American Club is huge.

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2. Morale among expats:

High.

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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?

Good.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Spainards don't seem to like Latin Americans/Mexicans.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Traveling.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Travel.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Seeing all of Spain and Europe.

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11. Can you save money?

No way.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Definitely.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Big car, American appliances and king size bed.

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3. But don't forget your:

Coat. It can get very cold at night

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?


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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Love living in Madrid, and particularly in Aravaca. I find the people to be nice and helpful.

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Madrid, Spain 10/19/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First-time experience as diplomats, but we have lived in Costa Rica and Chile for a while.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Florida.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2.5 years, we will be leaving by mid 2012.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

My husband works with the US Embassy as a diplomat.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Nice and decent sized aparments if you live in the city. Big and pretty house if you live in the suburbs. However, if you want to experience the real Madrid and want to avoid long commute times, it will be better to live in the city.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Very expensive but good quality.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Yes, we have McDonald's, Burger King, Starbucks, Tony Roma's, TGIF, and Hard Rock Cafe. A bit more expensive than USA.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

You will be in hard time as a vegetarian in Spain.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

APO

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Ther is help available. You can expect to pay 10EUR per hour with a minimum of 4 hours per week commitment. You probably will need some spanish to communicate well with the maids.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, but a bit expensive. There is one close to the Embassy Reebok which is good but very expensive (http://www.reebokclub.com/FitnessActividadesMadrid.aspx) but you can take yoga classes some very innovative such as aerial yoga, wall yoga and pilates, etc. However, you will need to have at least a moderate level of spanish.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Forget American Express, is not used here. We use visa and we open a Bank account in Spain.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I think there are a couple services in english for anglicans.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

We have Digital+ is not great but we can at leats watch CNN and other programs in english. But to contract this service you need to speak spanish.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Englis is not widely spoken here, so you need to be able to get around in Spanish or you will get very frustrated. Spaniards will expect that you speak spanish fluent and they are not very patient with foreigners.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I have a close friend who is wheelchair and he says is not bad but not good either. Some buildings and metros don´t have elevators. I think they still have some improvements to make.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The metro, trains, buses, and taxis are very safe and clean. High-speed trains are very good but very expensive.

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2. 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?

We have a small SUV and we don´t have any problems. I would say just don´t bring a big car such Range Rover, for example.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, but it's not good and not cheap.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Don´t use the pay-as-you-go system, it gets very expensive. It´s better to get a one or two year contract with one of the big carriers such as Telefonica. However, the service is not very good.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are good vets, but they don´t see animals the same way we do in US. Service is good but not outstanding and you will be better getting references from vets and kennels before taking your pets. Again, if you speak spanish you will cheaper and more options.

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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?

Well, it depends in the field you work. However, keep in mind te unemployment is around 20% and you have to be native or almost native spanish speaker in order to work in the local economy.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Well dresed, elegant and trendy. You can leave your snickers in your backpack.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Pickpockets on the metro,tourist areas, restaurants. But Madrid is safer than any big city in US.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

If you have allergies or respiratory problems, may be the air quality here could be an issue. Other than that the health system is great. Good doctors, hospitals and mediacl care.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate to unhealthy.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Madrid has a Mediterranean climate. The summers are hot and dry and the winters mild cold. In general terms, it doesn´t snow here but since we arrived there have been a couple of days snowing. The first snow in many years was a couple of days after we arrived and the city collapsed because it wasn´t prepared. Now they seem to have things under control.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

American School of Madrid. Very good school with IB program being optional. Lots of after school activities, opportunities to learn french and mandarin. Expect your teenagers to spend at least two hours M-F with homework. Not very good at sports, there are more spaniards than americans and they don´t celebrate american holidays except for thanksgiving.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, with the school and if your kids are perfectly bilingual they can enroll in some local sports activities.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large but very spread out.

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2. Morale among expats:

High.

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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?

The same that you would expect in a big and vibrant city.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a good city for singles, families and couples.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

From what I heard, paradoxically, Madrid seems to have a thriving gay scene and accept it, but at the same time some real social issues seem to remain. Remember this a very catholic country and it was under a very hard dictator, Franco, until 40 years ago.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes, there are a lot of prejudices against latinamericans, blacks, asians,jewish, gay, anybody who is different. Men are still very "macho"

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Having the opportunity to travel in Spain and other european countries.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

If you live in town you can walk to any number of cool and interesting neighborhoods. There are a lot of options for thearter, movies, art exhibitions, fitness, sports events (especially soccer), the parks, music events; travel around the countryside or other countries, you name it, you will never get bored here.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Wine, olive wood crafts, trips,clothing, pottery. You will plenty of options to spend your many :-)

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Very safe and clean city, overall good weather, a lot of cultural and entertaining events. Enjoying nice blue skies almost during 365 days.

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11. Can you save money?

No. It is extremly expensive here.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, but I would do things different. I will live more like a tourist and not go deeper into their culure. They are brutally cruel with animals for example their celebration named Toro de la Vega, they are not responsible with their pets and I have seen the worst animal mistreatment here and for them is normal. Besides they are very racist, the spanish can be obnoxious, loud and close mind about any body who is different to them. They don´t like americans and will tell in your face how fat and stupid americans are among other things. The way they treat people from latinamerica and africa makes me sick.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

...romanticized notions of Spain. Say good-bye to good customer service, you hardly will see smiles or hear "please" and "thank you". Also leave behind your desire to have dinner early. Spain is not an entirely european country, so be realistic. Also leave you opinions behind. People are very loud, opinionated and not open to foreigners or minorities.

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3. But don't forget your:

patience, sense of humor, humidifiers and english/spanish dictionary.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The movies Pan's Labyrinth and Volver.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Don´t expect the typical European country. Expect racism and rude people althoug there are very open mind spaniards. For me at least people from Cataluña, Galicia and Vasc region are nicer.

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Madrid, Spain 08/02/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Also lived in Reykjavik and Prague.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

New York. 8 hours from JFK direct.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year with one more to go.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Spouse of U.S. State Dept. employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is great! We have 5 bedrooms and a pool. Most of the housing for families is about 30 minutes from the embassy (if there is no traffic) and near the American School of Madrid. Families with kids are spread around that general area and have either a stand-alone house or a town house. The ones I have seen either have a private pool or share one with a few neighbors. Singles or couples with no children usually have a big apartment downtown either within walking distance or a quick metro ride. If you leave before 8AM the commute can be about 30 minutes, but if you wait too long it can take an hour. Traffic is very bad in downtown Madrid. There are 3 circle routes around Madrid, and all on/off ramps are clogged for most of the morning and evening commutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Packaged food is a bit more than in the US, but produce and bread are reasonable. We have yet to find any good beef products here and stick mostly with chicken and pork.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I am happy with what I can get here. If I am desperate, I just buy it online and ship it over.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, BK, and KFC at about the same prices as US. Also Tony Romas, TGIF, and Hard Rock Cafe that all serve smaller portions than in the US and charge more money. You can eat tapas (and get full) fairly economically. The embassy has a well-stocked commissary, and the military base at Rota is six hours away if you want to go and get a big load of things. We cannot find any good Chinese or Mexican food.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Ants and cockroaches. When the lizards come out in the warm weather, the bugs seem to disappear.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

APO

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We don't have any. Unemployment is high (20% in 2010) and there are a lot of immigrant workers here, so they are available. But my guess is that they are not cheap.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, all over.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No problems, but smaller places like cash.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Everything.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Not sure about newspapers, as I read everything on line. TV has about 10 english channels, including FOX news and CNN Int'l, BBC, TCM, and some Spanish stations that you can get in English. Cost is on par with US.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need to know Spanish. The younger generation is learning English, but other than that you are expected to communicate in Spanish. Downtown restaurants will usually provide an English menu.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

They have handicapped access and parking here. Also very good sidewalks and public transport. All in all, I think it is on par with the US.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

All are available, and all are clean and safe. I can commute downtown with 2 connections, and it costs 2 Euros. That replaces the 30-minute drive I would normally have.

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2. 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?

Anything will work. If you are in the city, then think smaller. Parking is big hassle. Highways are in very good shape.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. 10mB for 150 Euros/ month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

There are many phone companies here and many types of phones that are cheap to buy. We all use pay-as-you-go phones.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

No personal experience, but they seem to love animals here.

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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?

It is not easy. There are EFM jobs at the embassy from time to time and some in the commissary. Outside it is competitive, you need to speak Spanish and they do not pay well.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Dressy. Even in the heat of summer the men wear suit and tie. The women dress simply but elegantly. Style is a must, and brand names are a BIG deal here.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Pickpockets are a problem in the tourist areas.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

I had minor surgery in a Madrid hospital and was amazed at the great care. They are not in a hurry to get you out the door, and the private rooms are set up for a guest to stay with you and help you. That is with private insurance, and it cannot be beat. At other times I went for tests and had X-rays, blood work, and an EKG in 3 separate locations in the hospital, and it was all done in 30 minutes. Wow! I cannot say enough about the care. I also needed a doctor who could speak english, as it can be difficult to communicate about medical problems unless you are really good in Spanish. I found one and he was fantastic.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

It is a desert, so it can be a bit dusty. There was a lot of rain this past Spring, so the pollen count was extremely high. I never noticed there to be any air pollution.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Winter months are fairly wet, mostly rain but with a few snow storms this past year of 4-6 inches. The snow melts off in a day or two. Jan and Feb. require a winter jacket and gloves to keep warm. Spring seems to be quite wet and summer is really hot. I like the heat, so I am not a good judge of too hot or not, but it is about 90 to 100 or more from the end of June to the end of August. September to November are just beautiful. Summer and Fall offer clear brilliant blue skies with a lemon-ball sun. I never think about rain, only if it will be just hot or REALLY hot.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The American School of Madrid. Not thrilled. I would rate it like a good american public school, but we expected much more from an international private education. It falls far short of the standard set by the last international school my children attended. We have had all 4 of our kids through the overseas schools, so we have a very good feel for them. There seems to be little school spirit or excitement here, and for the most part the teachers do not add much. Of the ten-or-so teachers my kids had this year, they thought only 1 or 2 were really good. The entry administration is one of its strengths, and the lack of a very good sports program is one of its weaknesses.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

We know of one example where the ASM was not meeting the needs of one of its students and the family was very unhappy. The school recommended them to another school nearby and that student flourished. Now they are all very happy with the progress being made. So I think that special-needs kids can be well taken care of.

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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?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Mostly Futbol. They have it at the school and also in private clubs if you speak Spanish and have some talent. In the school they do futbol and volleyball.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Great.

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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?

Spaniards are late-night people and are very social.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Everyone.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

They are pretty liberal in Spain.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

None that I have noticed. Pretty much "live and let live."

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Historic towns like Segovia and Toledo are within a 1-hour drive. Great museums, parks and restaurants in Madrid. Because of the heat it is a late-night society where they don't eat dinner until 10PM or later. In two years here I am only hoping to see most of Spain. There is a lot to see and do, and we have hardly touched the Med. sea coast.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Lots of local knick-knacks. Travel in Spain. And quick, cheap connections to nearby countries.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Friendly people, fantastic weather, good food and great travel opportunities.

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11. Can you save money?

Not really. The exchange rate is not so great, and there is a lot to do.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I don't ever want to leave.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Uptight attitude.

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3. But don't forget your:

Bathing suit, suntan lotion and skis (yes, skiing is available 1 hour from Madrid).

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Anything after Spain will be downhill.

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Madrid, Spain 02/02/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

18 months currently. 3 year post beginning in 2007.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Government.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

About 8 hours to the U.S. East coast.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing varies greatly. Apartments in the city - small and often old. Single family or attached homes in the suburbs. Some have large yards but most embassy assigned homes have small to tiny yards. Radiator heating, a/c units in bedrooms. Housing can be beautiful or can really be a shoddy looking place. It's a surprise.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Availability is good, cost is reasonable.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Kids toys, books, and shoes.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Fast food - McD, Burger King, and Pizza Hut. Cost is more than in the states. Restaurants, with the exception of fast food, close between 4 and 8 pm. Lunch is served between 1:30 and 4pm.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Few insect problems.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We have access to an APO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Readily available but expensive. At least 10 Euros per hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. Learn some Spanish first.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No American Express. We got a Spanish bank account and use the bank card for purchases.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, Catholic, Baptist, Anglican and non-denominational. No English language churces in our immediate living area so we find it hard to make it to services on a regular basis.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

We have AFN. Some Englsih language newspapers but not easily found outside the city.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You really needa good working knowledge of Spanish to enjoy your time here. We didn't have this upon arrival and it was miserable and very difficult to do your basic shopping or make a doctor's appointment for example. You must show an effort or the locals will not speak English with you even though they often speak great Englsih.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many difficulties. Uneven or nonexistent sidewalks. Often there are no elevators in metro stations and very few ramps into public buildings.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Safe and affordable.

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2. 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?

Any car is fine but be aware that the Spanish do not blink an eye at hitting your car when parking. No pasa nada. Your vehicle will leave Spain with a variety of dings and scrapes. Also, parking is difficult at best. The smaller, the better.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, not entirely reliable and not cheap.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Not sure. We did not bring pets.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes.

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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?

Not too many unless you speak excellent Spanish.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

More dressy than in the states. Embassy dress is usually business attire. The stay-at-mom crowd dresses to be seen. Some look like they were just peeled from a J Crew catalog.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate to unhealthy.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Not sure. Nothing out of the ordinary comes to mind except for Hep A.

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Not really.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Air quality is not the best. Our son has had asthma problems. Doctor and nurse at the embassy health unit are great. Health care on the market varies and hygiene practices (i.e. hand washing, use of alcohol wipes for IVs) is not up to par with US standards. Our son had surgery here. Basically it was fine but we were appalled when the nurses did not wear gloves, nor wash their hands, nor did they use an alcohol wipe when changing his IV connections. Never again.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and extremely dry in summer. Cold, damp winters with little to no snow. Pleasant spring and fall seasons. Air is often uncomfortably dry.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most expats use the American School of Madrid (ASM). Basically a good school and most families are pretty happy. Like with almost any school, your experience will be influenced by the teachers your children have. Some are wonderful, experienced teachers. Others are not and this can make a huge difference in your opinion of the school. We have had only one experience with a not-so-great teacher in the preschool. The adminstration tends to be unresponsive to parent requests and complaints as well. Additionally, the bus monitors do not speak any English and will yell at your kids in Spanish. We have had a great experience with the school providing advanced math for our son in 2nd and 3rd grade.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Not sure. There is a separate school - very small - for special needs children.

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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?

Preschool options are limited in our experience. The CLO will give you a list and people will tell you there are great options. Great options if you want your 3 or 4 year old sitting at a table for over an hour writing and filling out worksheets most of the day. We tried a Spanish preschool first. Our son hated every minute of it. The kids drank from 2 shared cups for water. He was sick constantly. Pins (the kind you use to pin up art work or paper) were within reach of the children. Yes, your child will learn Spanish at a Spanish preschool but your child will also be yelled at, made to sit and write when developmentally inappropriate, and will be taught that zebras must be colored black and white. Creativity is non-existent. We found the preschool program at ASM to be better - mainly because it is in English but still lacking in creativity and age appropriate teaching techniques. Kindergarten at ASM has been a much more American style educational experience for our youngest.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

ASM offers a good variety.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Pretty large but very spread out.

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2. Morale among expats:

Varies. Often people are counting down the months to get out of here. Few really love it here. It's one of those places you can have a love-hate relationship with.

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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?

About what you'd expect in a large city.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Singles and couples in the city seem to be happier in Madrid. Mixed reactions from families in the suburbs. It depends on how involved you get in activities, clubs, and whether or not you are able to work.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably so.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Mild problems, yes. Spaniards tend to be a tad prejudiced against anyone who is different. South Americans and Africans tend to be treated like 2nd class citizens. Remember the Spanish Olympic basketball team photo making the offensive faces? The Spanish thought this was perfectly acceptable.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Travel outside of Spain is rewarding. Madrid itself has plenty to do depending on your taste. There is one English language movie house. Bowling is availabe but often smokey. Travel outside of Madrid can be wonderful - Segovia, Toledo, etc.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Pottery, swords from Toledo, olive wood items. Travel.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, if you try to.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Nope, don't think so. We're making the best of our time here - traveling, studying Spanish and we've made a few good friends in the expat community, but it has been a long 18 months so far.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Desire to go out for dinner between 5 and 8 pm, large SUV, expectations for any real customer service.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, travel books, and a good dose of patience.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

There are many worse places in the world, but if you want a close knit expat community, good customer service, or if you don't speak Spanish, consider a tour in Madrid carefully.

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Madrid, Spain 01/15/08

Background:

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.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years - from September 2003 through July 2005.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

The author is posted to U.S. Embassy.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

APO.

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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.

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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.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes. Baptist and Catholic at least.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

The International Herald Tribune is a few Euros.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Be fluent.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right, like the U.S.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, yes, yes.

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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.

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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.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

I used a calling card.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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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.

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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.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good to Moderate.

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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.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Decent.

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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.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

High among singles. Moderate among couples.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Spanish food and clothing.

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9. Can you save money?

Very hard. I actually spent much much more than I earned, but I lived well.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely. I could live in Madrid for years.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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