Going to the doctor in Spanish

December 7th, 2011 | Posted by JLynch in Jamie | Medical - (3 Comments)

Last week, like many other people, I was really sick and completely bedridden for almost an entire week.  After two years in Spain, it was finally time to go to the doctor for the first time.  Luckily for me, Raúl took care of finding the number of the nearest Sanitas doctor. This was great, except for the fact that it did not occur to him that it might make sense for me to see an English speaking doctor. I did not have the strength to undo what was already done nor could I fathom waiting any longer to get treated, so I sucked it up and made the appointment.

While the experience was positive overall, there are a few things I would have done differently to prepare myself if I could do it all over again. Even though my Spanish is strong, I still felt a bit lost. For better or worse, I am not used to discussing flu-like symptoms in Spanish, so those words just were not part of my vocabulary. I tried to tell the doctor that my ears hurt by saying “me duelen las orejas” but apparently that direct translation from English is just not a correct way of describing this symptom in Spanish.  I quickly reverted to hand gestures, and before long the doctor did as well since it was clear to him that I was just not following.  Looking back, my advice would be as follows:

  • As a heads up, when you call to make the appointment, they are going to ask you what type of doctor you want to see. I did not know what to say (a doctor doctor, I was thinking). Try to have this one figured out before you call.  In the end, I needed Medicina General, which makes sense in retrospect, but I have never had to make such a distinction when calling to make a doctor’s appointment back home.
  • Write down a translated list of your key symptoms using an English-Spanish dictionary before you go.  This is especially critical because I have noted there are several “false friends” in the health arena, such as costipada (hint: it has nothing to do with your digestion).
  • Do not hesitate to ask the doctor to repeat himself several times; at the end of the day this is our health we are talking about. I left the doctor thinking that he prescribed me some sort of throat gargle that I needed to mix with hot water twice a day, only to find when I went to the pharmacy that he really prescribed me anti-biotic pills. I still have no idea how I got so mixed up.
  • If you are on any other medications before you go, have the names written down along with that they are and what they do, translated into Spanish. The doctor is clearly going to ask you this, and if you are not sure, for example, what the words for insulin and what it treats are in Spanish, you could be putting yourself at risk.

All in all, this experience was not nearly as scary as it sounds, and I am lucky that I only had a throat infection (I think?) and not something more serious.  The doctor could not be any nicer and more patient, and I am happy to report that the prescribed treatment worked and I feel so much better. Although I am proof positive that this can be done successfully without making these advanced preparations, in the end I think they can help quite a bit.

Some Perks of Working in Spain

November 22nd, 2011 | Posted by JLynch in Jamie | Work and Employment - (2 Comments)

For me, adjusting to corporate life in Spain was not the easiest thing in the world.  The concept of a two hour lunch, strolling in at 10.00 and taking various leisurely coffee and/or smoke breaks was completely foreign to me after having been “raised” in the trenches of Corporate America in New York, where eating a sandwich at my cube with one hand while typing a memo with the other were par for the course.   Now that I have been here for some time, however, I have been able to observe, and even take advantage of, the many benefits that having a permanent contract in Spain have to offer.  A few of the highlights include:

  • -When you get married, you get an extra 15 days of time off.  Fresh off my honeymoon, I can say this one has been the most significant perk for me. Counting down from the day of your wedding, you have 15 days (on top of your vacation time afforded by your Company) to enjoy and take time off. Since it is 15 días naturales, weekends are included in the count, but it is a wonderful treat nonetheless.
  • -If you are moving house, you also get a bonus day off.  I could have used this in NY, where I moved 4 times in 6 years!
  • -Employees are entitled to at least 30 natural days, or 22 business days, of paid time off per year.  That is pretty incredible, especially considering it is a minimum.
  • -Minimum permitted maternity leave is 16 uninterrupted weeks for the mother, and 13 natural days for the father.  On top of this, mothers are also permitted to take time off for breastfeeding. This can be taken in various ways, including 1 hour per day until the baby is 9 months, 2 half hour increments per day until the baby is 9 months, or two extra weeks of maternity leave tacked onto the end of the 16 weeks. Where I work, taking the extra two weeks seems to be the common choice, at least from a practical standpoint.
  •  -Parents have the right to take a jornada reducida, or shortened work day (with a proportional decrease in salary) to take care of their children. This right exists until the youngest child is 8 years old.  It is pretty common where I work for women to start working this shorter day once they have a baby.

Working in Spain is certainly not easy, but knowing there are benefits like these certainly helps to ease the pain.



Interactive map of the Best Schools for Expats Kids in Madrid
Interactive map of the Best Schools for Expats Kids in Madrid

Interactive map of the Best Schools for Expats Kids in Madrid

Today, I wanted to share an interactive map I did with the Best Private Schools for Expat Children in Madrid.

I wast trying to help an american family to choose the best school and realized how hard it was to get a global picture. So I worked on simplifying the decision process for the first criteria: location. After doing some good research, this map lists all the good schools, and really helps to understand to realize that, for instance, private expat schools are mainly in north-west madrid and the suburbs. Oh, and if you wondered about prices: from 4,000 to 20,000 €  a year.

As for other details or if you want more advice on how to choose the best school, head to my detailed how-to blog for moving to madrid tips: head to this specific “how to choose the best private school for expat kids” post on Moving2Madrid.

Of course, as always, if you need any help or advice for choosing a school and/or moving to madrid, do not hesitate to email me !

Madridly yours,
Pierre Waters – Moving2Madrid

+Pierre-Alban Waters

Just for you, my interactive map of the best family-friendly neighbourhoods in Madrid !

Recently, I have been getting questions from people moving to Madrid with their families. And the questions of parents organizing a move to Madrid are quite different to the questions of expats moving alone or as as couple. To make their search easier and give them a simple and visual guide to decide which neighbourhood would be the best for them, I created this interactive map of family-friendly neighbourhoods:

Just for you, my interactive map of the best family-friendly neighbourhoods in Madrid !

Just for you, my interactive map of the best family-friendly neighbourhoods in Madrid !


The best family-friendly neighbourhoods in Madrid have been indicated, with a short description, with also rental prices for those in the center of Madrid where prices are quite uniform.

I advise you do the following:

  1. Take a look at the map, first to get used to how Madrid is distributed and what are the options.
  2. Then try and calculate thanks to google how long would it take to go to work and to the very center of Madrid, Puerta del Sol.
  3. Check if the rental prices comply with your criteria
  4. Check detailed posts of these neighbourhoods: Salamanca, Retiro, Chamberi. As for the suburbian neighbourhoods, as they are so diverse, do a search on google images and do some google street view to get an idea of how it is to live there.

Of course, “your mileage may vary” and this selection is a reduction of reality : it is intended to simplify your search and give you useful tools and insights to feel safer and more confident about your move to Madrid. I know many happy families in other neighbourhoods and if you have any question, do not hesitate to email me or tweet me @pierrewaters.


Also, do check this article from Britannia Movers with quality relocation tips.


Madridly yours,
Pierre Waters – Moving2Madrid

My google+

Guiri Guest Laura is a recently-arrived English Language and Culture Assistant. She graduated from university in the Spring and is exploring the options that Madrid has to offer for her varying interests in fiction writing, Spanish, teaching, and Journalism. She is from the United States and is still figuring out all the little things that Guiris have to master to become true expatriates in this city.



I thought I learned a lot of Spanish when I was in high school and college. I realized when I got to Madrid that my Spanish is not so much bad as it is odd, out of sync with local convention.

It all added up to me being mildly terrified of everyday encounters with Spanish-speaking people. I felt very brave whenever I walked into a shop and actually asked for what I wanted and was understood, even a little bit.

I live in a suburb, so the Metro system is a daily need. In order to do almost anything, I need to take the metro or bus, and the 1.50E-a-pop tickets (or 9.30E for ten trips) get pretty expensive.

This meant that I needed to apply for an Abono, a monthly pass that allows me unlimited rides on buses and metro in the city. Despite my fear, I had to go and talk to real people in multiple shops in order to get what I needed. Through my own errors, I learned the steps it takes to get your hands on one of these excellent money-saving tools.

  1. Determine your needs – Check out this page in order to determine whether your age qualifies you for a discount. Also, this is the place to figure out what zone you want. Some people who work in the outskirts need a particular pass, which is more expensive but still far less than individual tickets.
  2. Acquire photos – In metro stations and at any photo shop around Madrid, you can get “fotos carnet,” which are a specific size photo that is used for a lot of official documents. You may need them for other things, so don’t worry if they are sold in batches of 6 or 8. You will also want to get a photocopy of your passport.
  3. Visit an Estanco – These are the Tabacco shops that are all over Madrid. While some are open in the afternoons, I recommend visiting in the morning. You can apply for a regular abono on the spot, or fill out the paperwork for an abono joven, the one with the youth discount, which will be available in 15 days, either at that Estanco or by mail to your address. There will be a nominal fee (less than 5E) for the abono’s plastic wallet.
  4. When your Abono Arrives – you will still need to purchase your monthly ticket. The easiest way to do this is go into a metro station and find a ticket machine. It will have you insert the card wallet, which will allow you to purchase your monthly ticket.
  5. Use your Abono – Remember you can purchase next month’s pass using your card wallet a few days before the next month using the machines.

Believe me, the process and the talking-to-people-in-Spanish were well worth getting my abono and having unlimited public transit.