Moving to Madrid: Making Friends

making friends madridSo! You’ve made it to Madrid. Now what? Whether you’ve moved here for work or studies, everybody has one thing in common: everything’s new! The culture, the streets, and (most of all) the people are all unfamiliar and, sometimes, it can make you feel a little bit isolated or lonely. Fortunately, Madrid is also one of the friendliest cities and has infinite opportunities to meet new people! Here are a few of the best options (in my opinion):

The International Way

Students having a coffee at MikotaMy best experience meeting people and making friends was through my Spanish classes (which you may be able to see some enthusiasm about in my previous articles). Through my classes at AIL Madrid, I discovered a community of international people who, though from all parts of the world, shared my enthusiasm and interest in Spain and Spanish language and culture. They also understood what it was like to move here without knowing anyone and those who had been here a while had some great advice and insights to offer me. Aside from that, the academy itself offers really fun cultural activities and hosts a big party with students and staff alike every Friday (called Noche de Copas). In this way, you feel like you have a  friend group and an active schedule from day one. For me, this one takes the cake!

AIL Madrid Spanish School

The Guiri Way

j and jAnother way to feel immediately comfortable is to connect with your fellow guiris (foreigner and, in this case, English speaking). This might not improve your Spanish or give you the feeling of embarking on adventure, but it will definitely give you confidence and a loving community right here in Madrid. A few places to meet other guiris are through facebook groups (for auxiliaries, au pairs, Erasmus, entrepreneurs etc) or at some of the classic guiri hangouts (such as J&J books, la bicicleta, and pretty much any bar in Malasaña).

The At-Home Way

roommatesSharing an apartment with other people can seem great or daunting, depending on who you are, but it will always improve your social life. This is especially true if you live with Spaniards, who are sure to introduce you to all their friends and adopt you as one of their own. If you choose to live with other foreigners, this can also be a great introduction to the guiri community. Long live the Flat Mate Solution!

The Ripped Way

gymMy final suggestion for meeting people is a classic no matter where you live: join the gym! While not guaranteed to make you friends, this will put you in an energetic environment with lots of other people from your neighborhood. Overcome your fears and strike up a conversation; you never know where your best friendships might bloom!

Madrid Trends: Coworking

It’s the sharing sensation that’s sweeping the nation! For all the guiris out there who are self-employed or running a small start up in need of office space, this one’s for you. Start-up fever has spread worldwide but one of the largest roadblocks can be finding legitimate digs to make you look as professional as you feel in the face of potential clients. With this in mind, many places, such as Integra, are now offering what may be an ideal solution: coworking, an office sharing trend started in the States that is now experiencing a boom of popularity here in Madrid.coworking-madrid

Though I tend to be a skeptical person, this idea seems to me like a stroke of genius: sharing office space with other independent professionals and having access to conference rooms and other shared services, such as a receptionist, wifi, etc cuts out all the stress and isolation of working solo.  Starting your own business or working for yourself can be tough enough as it is, so any way to reduce stress is hard to pass up.

integra coworking

Calle Juan Montalvo Nº 9 – Madrid 911 595 000 – info@integracoworking.com

The example I listed above, Integra Coworking, seems like one of the most interesting spaces I’ve found so far. They are centrally located (metro Guzman el Bueno) and also offer virtual office services, such as having someone to answer the phone, without having to actually rent space in the office. This means you never have to miss a call from a client or prioritize one over the other unintentionally and can still work from home. It also gives your business that professional feeling that you might otherwise struggle to achieve during the early stages.

Overall, I am very inspired by coworking and am hearing of more and more guiris who are participating in the trend. So tell us, are you coworking in Madrid? If so, what has your experience been like? As always, we love to hear from our readers!

Madrid Summer Romance: 8 Dates Under 8€

By guest writer Sarah Carroll, an English teacher and AIL Madrid student living in Madrid.

cheap dates in madridSummer: the season of warm weather, long days and whirlwind romances. Whether you’re an avid tinder user or in a serious relationship, coming up with date ideas can be difficult; we always tend to fall back on the classic dinner and a movie. But, though a staple in the dating world, this classic outing can also end up costing an arm and a leg. Luckily for us, we live in a hub of historical sights, lavish parks and, most importantly, reasonably priced wine! So, for all you English teachers and/or travel enthusiasts who are new to Madrid and looking for something affordable to do with your honey, here are eight romantic summertime activities- all under 8€!!

Churros con Chocolate

chocolateria-san-ginesTake a walk through the historical center of Madrid. Meander the streets of Sol and bask in the beauty of the old buildings, check out street performances and experience the lively energy at any hour. Down the quaint street of Pasadizo San Ginés (number 5) you will find the guiri favorite, Chocolatería San Ginés. For just €3.50 you and your sweetheart can sit on a terrace and enjoy five churros with a steaming cup of melted chocolate.

Row, row, row your boat

retiro boatsGet away from the hubbub of the center and go to Madrid’s own oasis, Parque del Retiro. Stroll through the 350-acre park and discover several gems like the Cristal Palace and the Fountain of the Fallen Angel. After, head to the north end of the lake where you can rent a rowboat for you and your date. Enjoy 45 minutes on the lake for just €5.80(Mon-Fri) or €7.50 (Sat, Sun and Holidays). This summer, the rowboats are available for rental between 10:00-20:30.

Beat the heatyelmo

Change up your regular Saturday night drinks by taking your boyfriend/girlfriend/tinder lover on a cool weeknight date, literally. Escape Madrid’s sweltering temperatures with a Wednesday night movie for just €3.50/ticket at any Yelmo Cinema.

Night on the Town

Bicihome-bici-madrid-2Set aside your dresses and button up shirts because for this date all you’ll need is comfortable clothes, trainers and a bottle of water. Rent an electric bike from one of Madrid’s many new bike share stations (pick up points: http://u.bicimad.com/mapa). Set off on an hour-long bike ride around the vivacious streets of Madrid for just €2/person.

Champagne Sunset

templo-de-debodHead down to your local supermarket for some strawberries and cava. Pack those up, along with a blanket and two glasses, and take them to the adorable little park of Templo de Debod. There, you’ll find a gorgeous view of the city (including the Royal Palace) and a breathtaking sunset to enjoy with your sweetie.

Picture Perfect

museum coupleMadrid is home to some wonderful art museums. And one of the most wonderful things about them is their weekly free admission hours. The Prado: Mon-Sat from18:00-20:00, Sun and Holidays from 17:00-19:00. The Reina Sofia: Mon, Weds-Sat from 19:00-21:00. Thyssen Musuem: Monday from12:00-16:00. Use the rest of your €8 to grab drinks at a nearby bar after exploring the museum.

Stay Fresh

wine at homeEnjoy a relaxing night in your awesome new apartment by cooking up a lovely dinner for two. Get fresh meats and veggies at your local pollería and frutería. By avoiding the “big name” supermarkets you are sure to find all the ingredients for less than €8. And hey, you might even have enough money left over for an affordable, but delicious, bottle of vino!

When in Rome…

la campanaTake a detour off of Plaza Mayor onto Calle de Botoneras (number 6). There, you will find La Campana, a busy cervezería serving up some of the best bocadillos del calamares in Madrid. You and your main squeeze can enjoy this local favorite for just 2.70/sandwich. You can eat them in the upbeat bar or enjoy them as your wander the picturesque streets surrounding Plaza Mayor. La Campana is open Sun-Thurs 9:00-23:00 and Fri-Sat 9:00-00:00.

Sarah is a California girl gone Spanish who finds all the best ways to be thrifty in Madrid. If you like her recommendations, you might also like: AIL Madrid Spanish School, her article “Dos Besos”, and picnics in Retiro!

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4th of July and Madrid Pride!

For all you American Guiris out there, 4th of July is coming to Madrid with a bang this year! Between an American-themed food truck festival, the second largest gay pride parade in the world, and numerous American style restaurants to choose from, we’re planning to have as much fun as we would in the states!

As an American guiri myself, I hold a very special place in my heart for the 4th of July. The words alone evoke the smell of BBQ , the sounds of kids screaming excitedly as they catch candy from passing floats, water gun fights, and afternoons by the river. Growing up in a small New England town, the 4th of July has always been as much about community as anything and I was very nervous about losing that tradition when I arrived in Madrid three years ago. But, though there are a few things you can’t capture when celebrating abroad (my hometown happens to have a bizarre tradition of racing outhouses down Main Street that I haven’t found anywhere else in the states, let alone Spain), celebrating in Madrid is tons of fun and we have a great community of guiris here!

This year’s events lineup is even better than last year, so be sure not to miss out:

American Street Food Festival

food truck madridFirst up, we have the fiesta de Food Trucks! This is going to be just as awesome as its name sounds. Inspired by the American trend, tons of food trucks will gather in La Moraleja Green from July 3rd-6th, serving everything from grilled cheese to BBQ, hot dogs, and more. If you’re feeling homesick or just want to eat until you feel actually sick, head on over, explore, and tweet us your recommendations @Guiri_guide: we can’t wait to hear your opinions!

Madrid Pride 2015

Madrid prideNext up, if you don’t feel like leaving the city center, the second largest pride celebration in the world is happening right here in Madrid. With parades, concerts, protests, parties, and more, there is a little something for everyone. Even sitting in a café and watching some of the incredible costumes and outfits pass by can be like a 4th of July parade in and of itself! For a full program of events, check out the Madrid Pride 2015 calendar.

BBQs, Diners, and A Taste of Americataste-of-america-ext-620x350

Finally, if you just want to enjoy with friends or share the tradition with your new Spanish friends, there are a few great options for a low-key day. First off is the beloved terraza BBQ (if you have enough space, or substitute with an oven): if you are searching for any US-specific products, try The Taste of America (they have several stores throughout the city). If you don’t feel like hosting, there are also a number of American diner themed restaurants throughout the city, such as Tommy Mel’s and Peggy Sue’s.
Whatever you choose to do, there are plenty of ways to celebrate your home country in your newly adopted one! As for this guiri, I’ll be focusing on what 4th of july has always meant for me: a tight-knit community of people who enjoy a good adventure… see you at the American Street Food Festival!

Dos Besos and Other Cultural Differences

girl in MadridOur newest Guiri Guide writer, Sarah Carroll, is California girl gone Spanish who teaches English here in Madrid. She’s an AIL Spanish student, lover of thrifty fun, and top notch picnicker with a lot to share from her two year’s experience living here, so take it away Sarah! Welcome to Guiri Guide!

Bienvenido a España!” It was a hot September afternoon when I stepped off the plane and into my new life in Madrid, where I would start my TTMadrid TEFL training. I had two suitcases, a backpack, and a cheat sheet of all the Spanish phrases I might need to navigate myself to my new flat. Using my rusty Spanish, I got in a taxi and confidently made my way to Barrio Goya: the taxi driver unloaded my bags onto the sidewalk and I thought, “I’ve done it!” I had tackled the language barrier; what I thought was going to be the biggest difference between my home country and my new home. I lugged my bags up the narrow staircase and into my apartment (which I found using Madrid Rent Flat). There I was greeted with a bottle of wine, a plate of jamón (see this fun video on how to cut it), and two big kisses from my landlord. I immediately realized the language barrier was just the tip of the iceberg: at that moment I knew I was in for a cultural awakening. In the two years since then, I have discovered some key cultural differences between Spain and the USA that might be helpful for new guiri’s:

Dos besos 

dos besosIn Spain, it is customary to give two kisses when you meet someone, see friends, return to work after a holiday, on birthdays, and pretty much all the time. Handshakes are reserved for male-to-male contact and even then, dos besos may be in order depending on the relationship (i.e. father to son).

What are you doing in my space bubble?

As you can tell from their greeting, Spaniards have little to no personal space requirements. It is completely normal to stand inches away from someone while speaking, sit right next to someone in a completely empty metro car, or act as someone’s shadow in line at the supermarket. At first this can seem invasive, but after a few interactions you will adjust.

Spanish Time

Everything is Spain is slower; the walking pace, two hour lunch breaks, and you can almost always expect a Spaniard to arrive a few minutes late. Don’t worry, after some time if Spain you will actually learn to enjoy the relaxed mentality.

Cookies for breakfast

desaynoSpanish meals typically consist of biscuits for breakfast, fruit or a bocadillo for a snack, a fairly large lunch, another snack, and something light for dinner (usually between 21:00-22:00). You can still find cereal in every supermarket but you might want to branch out, Spanish style!

Leaving home at 18? You’re crazy!

It is not uncommon for Spaniafamilia tipicards to live at home into their early thirties. In Spain, the “best way,” perhaps, to raise your children is to provide them with as much as you can. Instill them with strong family ties- so much that they are happy to depend on the family for financial and professional support.

These are just some of the many cultural differences I have come across during my two years in Madrid.  While I am still a strong supporter of a heart healthy breakfast, I am learning to adapt to the cultural customs in the city that I have come to know and love and hope you do too!

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