In my experience, the grass is not greener in Madrid. The grass is nonexistent in July because it is hot and dry EVERY DAY. Here are some other things I learned about Madrileña culture while abroad:
- People stare. It is just true. If you ever visit Madrid, expect to be stared at…a lot. People stare at you on the metro, walking around Retiro Park, on Gran Via, and at restaurants. While I am sure my jumbled Spanish and American clothes didn’t help, I was assured by my host mom that this is totally normal and no one takes offense to being stared at. So if you visit, feel free to make bold, unbreaking eye contact with people!
- You barely tip…if you tip at all. AND IT IS AWESOME. I might miss this the most about Madrid. Each meal’s total cost will equal the sum of all your entrees. Revolutionary!
- Trash is collected between 2 and 3 am. I learned this the terrifying way of waking up in the middle of the night thinking people were invading my piso (oh sorry, apartment). Turns out, since the city is so populated and the streets are so small, they can only collect trash at these times and it is collected every single day!
- ATMs frequently eat debit/credit cards. Nbd, just a normal risk of trusting banks with your money, right? Well Madrid, that’s true! It is not insanely common, but ATMs failing to return cards is not crazy in Madrid. If this happens to you, you just have to go to the bank the next morning at 8am when they open and hope they did not shred your card already!
- They don’t use salad dressing. Ranch? Italian? Thousand Island? Raspberry Vinaigrette? Bleu Cheese? Not in Madrid. The only salad dressing you will ever see is oil and vinegar.
- Menú al día. I take back what I said before, this is what I miss most about Madrid. For 10 – 15 euros, you get a drink, bread, appetizer, entree, and dessert. Yup, that’s it. It’s only the greatest thing ever.
- Paper is bigger. I don’t know why, I don’t know how. The paper is just the slightest bit larger than an American 8.5×11 sheet of paper.
- To-go is a no-go. People do not eat on the go in Madrid. No granola bars as you walk out the door, coffee on the metro, or doggy bags. All meals are eaten in and you will not see anyone walking around with food or drink in their hands…unless they are tourists.
- Wedding rings are worn on the right hand. While this is changing because of the strong presence of the US abroad, traditionally engagement rings are worn on the left hand and then wedding bands are worn on the right. A lot of times the diamond engagement ring isn’t even worn after marriage and is turned into a necklace or simply safely stored in a jewelry box.
- Finally, Madrid is the city that never sleeps. I know, I know…I got defensive when they first told me this too because ummmm New York is the city that never sleeps. LIES. Marid. Never. Sleeps. Lunch is the main meal and is eaten between 2 and 4 pm, then dinner is typically between 10 pm and midnight. THEN people go out and socialize. The average person is up until 2 am and young adults are frequently out until 4 or 5 am. This is just life. The peak time for bars and clubs is between 3 or 4 am and the party doesn’t stop until the sun comes up. I honestly have no idea how it works because people also get up and have to work at 9am. The schedule is absolutely baffling to me. On a walk through Puerta del Sol at midnight or 1 am, you will see young adults, families with toddler children, high schoolers, and grandparents. Everyone is out. More power to you, Madrid.
I absolutely adore Madrid and it truly feels like my second home. I close my eyes and I’m walking down Gran Via with Tori, coffee ice cream in my hand (yes I was the tourist that ate on the go). I loved getting to be part of its magical culture for 6 weeks and I can’t wait to go back!