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.
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.
Calle Juan Montalvo Nº 9 – Madrid 911 595 000 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
For many non-EU foreigners, living in Spain legally is debacle numero uno. No easy solution exists, whether it’s finding a company to sponsor you, or a significant other willing to fully commit to ma-ma-ma-marriage. Locating a street in Madrid without obras would be easier.
But recently, something very unexpected changed. As rare as the Spanish waiter that happily and eagerly takes your dinner order, a process here just got easier and tremendously more helpful. I’ll let you digest that for a moment, because I know it’s hard to believe.
Have you recovered? OK, good. Back to business.
The process I’m referring to is that of pareja de hecho. Roughly translated as domestic partnership, acquiring the status originally just meant you got a piece of paper saying “these folks are officially an item” (not terribly unlike that note you wrote your classmate in junior high school). Now, becoming pareja de hecho can actually grant foreigners residency. Crazy, right? And it’s not too good to be true!
Here’s a brief rundown of the requirements and steps:
- Civil status certificate stating you’re single (must be validated for non-EU foreigners)
- Empadronado(a) with your Spanish significant other for at least one year
- Two witnesses
- Three photos (for Comisaría when applying for card)
- Copy of entire passport
- Empadronamiento with significant other at the Ayuntamiento
- Obtain civil status certificate (foreigners go to their embassy/small fee required)
- Non-EU residents must validate civil status certificate at the Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores
- Become pareja de hecho at the Registro de Comunidad Autónoma de Madrid
- Pick up certificado de pareja de hecho at the Registro de CAM
- Apply for residency card at the Comisaría
- Pick up card at the Comisaría (small fee required)
As with most things in Spain, there’s a good chance that funcionario 1 will say something entirely different than funcionario 2, so expect rules and processes to vary.
Now that pigs are flying, maybe the obras will stop and more waiters will become friendly. One can dream.
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.
Guiri Guest Julie is ready for a change from being a project manager that works from home and has written about preparing for the next step: Certifying her Spanish language skills. She is South African by birth and has lived in various European countries before settling in Madrid in early 2010 with her husband.
After almost two years of living in Madrid I have finally decided to put my Spanish language skills through their paces. For better or worse, I am taking the 4-hour official Spanish government’s language test for foreigners, the DELE, on November 18. The exam has a number of levels from basic/initial to superior so there is something for everyone.
Now you might be asking why bother take this exam, you are already in Spain and learning as you go, why take an official exam?
I have two main reasons for doing the DELE:
- Prove you ‘Habla the language': If you don’t plan to settle in Spain forever, you will be able to take this internationally recognised certification with you to demonstrate your Spanish language skills wherever you might go next. It’s also a great way to add your new skills onto your CV in very professional way (as opposed to adding the line, “lived in Spain, speak Spanish I promise!”)
- Learn Spanish faster: Lets be honest there is nothing like an exam to get us to work harder. I take regular Spanish lessons but if I don’t do my homework or forget the grammar from the week before, so what? This exam deadline is a way to motivate me to concentrate harder in class, make more effort to speak to locals and study all those complicated grammatical rules (imperfecto del subjonctivo anyone?)
There are Spanish examination centres all over the city where you can register and take the exam. I am taking Level B1 which I’m told is relatively easy for anyone who’s lived in Spain for a bit and, as I mentioned before, I have signed up for a DELE preparation course at AIL Madrid to prepare. For all those who speak Spanish fluently I’d suggest Level B2 or C1. And for anyone new to Spain and to Spanish, a couple of months of study should allow you to take A1 or A2 exams.
For more information and tips, I found a great DELE blog written by a seasoned DELE professor that has added a lot of insight to my studies. There are articles for every level, so find what’s right for you and get reading!
This past September 15th marked my two year anniversary in Madrid. This milestone (which came incredibly quickly by the way) prompted me to do some reflecting about life and learning since moving to Madrid:
- Spanish food and wine have exceeded my expectations in every way. Neither my semester in Valencia in 2001 nor the emergence of Spanish cuisine in NYC exposed me enough to the diversity in the Spanish dining landscape. From the fabadas and sidra in Asturias to the pescaito frito and Manzanilla in Seville, I have never before been so gastronomically stimulated.
- Making friends was harder than I thought. Before I came here, I had visions of making loads of new friends at work, whether through happy hours, apartment parties, long nights at the office or what have you. That has not been the case. I learned that (at least at the company I work for) happy hours and apartment parties are not a big thing here (as compared to the States) and people, while extremely friendly, are generally not really looking to make new friends. While I have been greeted with nothing but kindness, the experience was more isolating than I expected. Luckily I was able to connect with some fellow expats (and the amigos of my Spanish novio) and have finally been able to expand my local network and feel much more at home.
- Transportation in Madrid (and Spain for that matter) is world-class. The Madrid metro is spotless and efficient (albeit a bit overcrowded during rush hour), the bus lanes should be a model for other big cities (take note NYC), the roads seem to have been designed in hindsight (the way the traffic flows in certain parts of the city is genius) and the national AVE rail always manage to make the proverbial “journey” a pleasure.
- Embarrassingly enough, I still cannot say “Hasta luego” and “Madrid” properly (despite my best efforts). I feel like a poseur every time I try to pull it off like a native. I have no idea why these words are so hard for me, but they just do not and will not roll off my tongue. Anyone else have this problem?
- Working in Spanish has been easier than I thought (but certainly not easy). As I noted in an earlier post, I was initially terrified of working in Spanish, especially in the high-pressure corporate environment that I was thrust into upon arriving here. I am happy to report that my fears, while healthy, were mostly unfounded. My coworkers and clients have immeasurable patience with me, enough people know English to help me out when I stumble, and even when I make mistakes, people usually get the idea. Due to all of these factors, I was able to get by until I improved, which happened rather organically through the 10+ hour per day trial by fire.
- I am finally (finally!) getting used to the vast difference in size of the unspoken “personal space sphere” in Spain versus the US. Take the metro, walk down the street, see for yourself. I have never in my life stood so physically close to people when it is not mandated by a lack of space. This elevator is huge – why are you so close to me?! We are walking right at each other, why won’t you yield?! After two years I have finally come to accept this cultural difference and my daily anxiety levels have decreased as a result. Serenity ahora.
After two years I can confidently say that I feel really at home here. I found a network of people that I can trade stories and spend time with, I am in a good routine at work, I know my way around the city quite well, and I know almost everything on the menu when I go out to eat. For those of you just arriving in Madrid, know that this level of comfort takes time and patience, and the trials and challenges along the way are those things that make you appreciate getting there even that much more in the end.