So! 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! But one of the main think you’re moving to Madrid: Making Friends. Here are a few of the best options (in my opinion):
The International Way
My 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!
The Guiri Way
Another 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
Sharing 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
My 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!
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 brought by a Madrid Trend: Coworking, an office sharing trend started in the States that is now experiencing a boom of popularity here in 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.
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!
This post explains the process of obtaining your physical (non-EU) student NIE card after you have already obtained your student visa at the embassy in your own country.
Hey Guiris! Obtaining your NIE card once you’ve arrived in Spain can be a little bit confusing, especially since all the instructions are now in Spanish! It’s been a while since we posted on this topic and, as always, there have been several changes and updates to the process since our last post. The process is slightly different based on your reasons for being in Spain, so we’ll start with the student NIE and post articles about other types in the near future.
A student visa can be obtained through your Spanish academy (such as AIL Madrid, where I’m a student in the Long-Term Spanish Course) or university (such as IE) and is valid for a year at a time. If you continue your studies, you can renew it from right here in Madrid (more on that later), so this is one of the easiest ways to start your Spanish adventure. Once you already have your student visa and have arrived in Spain, you will need to obtain your physical student residence (NIE) card, so let’s review the steps:
1. Organize your documentation
Make sure you bring ALL the documents you presented to and had stamped by the Spanish embassy in your country. These documents should all be legally translated or originally in Spanish, especially your insurance, criminal record report, and the documents from your academy or university. Make copies of ALL these documents: you need to bring the originals to the appointment but will actually submit copies ONLY.
2. Make your NIE card appointment
You have to make your appointment to get your NIE card within the first THREE MONTHS of arriving in Spain. It may be that the only appointment available is after three months, but the important thing is that you have the appointment scheduled!
Sometimes, your school or university will do this for you. For example, I am a student at AIL Madrid, and they held my hand through the whole visa process and made my initial appointment for me. It’s true that they tend to go a bit above and beyond compared to other academies so, if you’re still choosing a Spanish academy, that’s something you may want to keep in mind (can you tell I’m a little bit in love with my academy?)
If you do need to arrange your own, here’s how: visit the NIE appointment website, select ‘Madrid’ (under ‘Provincias Disponibles’) and ‘Expedición de tarjeta de identidad extranjero (HUELLA)’ under ‘Tramitas Disponibles’. This is also the site you have to visit if you’re renewing, so just choose the same options as above. The next page will display a list of documents required to obtain your card, so copy and paste that in to a word document (just in case).
After you’ve reviewed the required documentation, you will be asked to enter your personal details and be offered three different dates and times to choose from. Select the one that best fits your schedule and confirm the appointment. Be sure to save or print your confirmation: you will need to take this with you when you go to your appointment.
3. Register at your Spanish address
Next (BEFORE your NIE appointment), you need to register as a resident, known as ‘empadronamiento’. To do this, you will need a copy of your lease or a signed document from your landlord/host family saying you live at your address. In terms of etiquette, it is best to alert your landlord or host family that you intend to register, since your name will then be listed as a legal resident of their property. As a side note, if you are renting and have a contract, it is completely legal for you to register there as a resident and any resistance from your landlord has no legal grounds (they are probably trying to hide their rental income).
A list of dates will then generate and you can pick the time and date of your appointment and enter your personal details. Attend the appointment with your passport (and a copy), and your contract/letter from host family (and a copy). Make sure you have this appointment at least a week before your NIE appointment so that, if you need any further documentation, you have time to provide it.
At the appointment, they will print out and give you the form saying you are a legally registered resident. Make a copy and add it to your files for your NIE appointment.
4. Take your ID photo
Smile for the camera! Stop by a photo booth in the metro or at the NIE office itself and take a passport sized photo to take with you to your appointment. If you’re renewing, this photo should be different from the photo you had on your last card. As with any ID, don’t wear anything in the photo that could be considered a ‘disguise’ (a hat, too much makeup etc) and make sure the photo has a white background.
5. Obtain the tax form and pay the NIE card tax
The final document needed is the tax form called the ‘Modelo 790 Código 012’. This can only be acquired at the NIE office in Aluche (at the entrance on a chair). You have two options to complete this form: pick it up a few days ahead and take it to your bank or post office to pay OR go to your appointment early, pick up the form and take it to one of the banks nearby. Remember, the banks in Spain have odd opening hours and the hours you can pay the tax at banks near the office are usually only from 8:30am to 10:30am (unless you are a client). That said, there is an IberCaja about a 10 minute walk from the Aluche office that is open more often and will process the tax for people who are not their clients.
To fill out the form, enter your personal details, select ‘Tarjeta de Estudias‘ and enter the amount you need to pay. This amount is currently 18,30€ but may change without notice, so do quick search online before you pick up the form. If the current amount has changed, please update us in the comments!
6. Present yourself at the appointment with all documents
Finally you are ready for your appointment! Be sure you have all of your paperwork and at least one copy of EVERYTHING (except the tax form and photo). Your appointment (remember: NON-EU) will be at Avenida de Poblados s/n (next to number 51), and the nearest metro/cercanias station is Aluche.
Go to your appointment, give them all the copies of your documentation (they will also take your fingerprints), and, if all goes smoothly, you will receive a piece of paper with your information stating that your card will be ready in 40 days. In 40 days (more or less), return to the same office with the paper they gave you at your appointment and your passport (I bring all my documentation to all appointments just in case) and get in line on the LEFT hand side of the doors (there will be a sign that says ‘Tarjetas’). Within 15 minute you should have your NIE card! Whew! WE DID IT!
If you have any updates on the process or have any insights/experiences to add, please share in the comments to help your fellow guiris!
Moving to a new country/city is a pretty big deal, and it can be difficult to figure out what to do first in the face of a giant to do list. With this in mind, I’ve put together a list of some of the most important things to get out of the way, (abono, NIE, Spanish classes, etc), all of which will make life a little easier while you figure out the details. So, with a title in honor of High Fidelity, here are The top 5 things you should do when moving to Madrid:
1. Get your Abono (transport card)
Obtaining your metro card is, fortunately, quite easy in Madrid. There are some great detailed abono guides out there, but the easiest way is to go the office in Sol or the tobacco shop on Fuencarral (next to the metro Tribunal) with your passport. Once there, you can fill out the application form and take your picture. During this process, you will need to choose your metro zone (Madrid metro is organized by zones, radiating out from Zone A in the center): if you study or work in the center, you only need Zone A (the cheapest) but be sure to check what zone you need before you go get your abono!
Once you have this little red card, the world is your oyster and you can top up every 30 days using the machines in any metro station (just put your abono in the machine and it will tell you how much to pay). You can use it on the bus, metro and cercanias lines, and it will save you quite a lot of money. If you’re here for less than three months, it’s still worth it!
2. Make an appointment to get your NIE card
Even if you’re from a country in the EU, you need a NIE card to open a bank account and various other legal matters (or, if you’re American, for any stay longer than 3 months). It’s also the most recognizable form of ID in Spain, making it easier to use throughout the city. To get your NIE appointment, see our earlier post or ask your school/company for the details related to your nationality.
3. Sign up for Spanish classes
Now that you’ve worked out the legal details, time to get started on becoming a Madrileño! The best place to start is with Spanish classes or an intercambio with a native partner. My fellow guiris and I have tried many different Spanish academies, but the overall winner for quality vs price is AIL Madrid Spanish Language School. All their teachers are native (and super caring and enthusiastic), and I have had a great experience in all the courses I’ve taken there. They offer tons of different kinds of courses, so you’re sure to be able to find the right one to fit your schedule/ needs. In addition, the school has a great sense of community and you’re likely to make tons of new friends!
4. Register with your embassy
Most countries have Smart Traveler programs, which allow you to register with the embassy for the amount of time you’ll be in Madrid (I know the US embassy does this for sure). Visit the website of your embassy in Spain and register online (all you need is your passport number). They will send you any important updates regarding your country, as well as holding parties for national holidays etc. This is not a necessity, but can help you feel comfortable and up to date.
5. Have a glass of Spanish wine
The best way to gain confidence while practicing your new Spanish skills is to loosen up with a glass of wine! You’ve moved to a country with some of the best wine in the world, so make the most of it: hit the winding streets of this ancient city, sit on a warm terraza in the sun, and soak it all in! Your Spanish adventure has begun.
Join AIL Madrid Spanish School in Raising Funds for Nepal!
Just a quick update about an important cause from an organization we love: our friends over at AIL Madrid Spanish School in Raising Funds for Nepal are impressing us yet again with their ability to take action and help others! As you can see on the AIL blog, their staff, professors, and students are running the Carrera Liberty on May 31st to benefit victims in Nepal and are aiming to raise 1.000€!
Almost their entire staff and tons of professors and students have signed up, and we encourage all you guiris to join or donate before May 31st (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org). As we all know from reading the news, it’s a worthy cause and, knowing as many AIL students as we do, we feel confident backing this hard working team.