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!

The top 5 things to do when moving to Madrid

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 you move to Madrid:

1.    Get your Abono (transport card)

abonoObtaining 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

AIL Spanish classesNow 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

US-Embassy-300x173Most 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

tapas-y-vinosThe 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.






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!


Join AIL Madrid in Raising Funds for Nepal!

Hey Guiris!

carrera liberty guiriJust a quick update about an important cause from an organization we love: our friends over at AIL Madrid Spanish School 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: pablo@ailmadrid.com). 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.

Go AIL Madrid!


Guiri on Wheels

rollerbladesNew guiri writer Jamie Prachar is an AIL Madrid Spanish student and has a great taste for adventure and all things outdoors. Welcome to Guiri Guide, Jamie! It’s all yours:

Wondering how to work off those go-to weekend comforts of binge eating patatas bravas, croquetas, olive oil soaked pan de abuela, and, of course, copious amounts of red wine?  How about if you could do that AND meet new people, all while getting some of the best views of Madrid? Look no further than the popular madrileño sport of… rollerblading! I know what you are thinking, #1992, #KellyTaylor, #BeverlyHills90210, #unfortunatejeanshorts. In actuality, rollerblading has become a popular social sporting activity throughout Europe, regaining popularity in recent years due to its social, health, and ease of city transport benefits.

rollerblading girlsConvinced by Spanish friends to try the sport having never done it before, I actually picked it up rather quickly with a few pointers (after loosening my death grip from a nearby tree trunk).  You need relatively little equipment to begin: skating clubs will lend you skates to try or they can be bought secondhand for as little as ten to twenty euros.  If you become hooked, new pairs are very reasonably priced at sports outlets such as Decathlon, where you can also purchase elbow and knee pads for as little as five euros, especially recommended for the gravity-impaired. With a low startup cost, rollerblading is a fun, outdoor alternative to a gym. Skating is a great workout for all shapes and sizes, you will definitely gain some strength in your quads and glutes and a sunny glow just in time for beach season.

rollerblade dance class

Rollerblade dance class in Retiro!

One of the best things about rollerblading in Madrid is the accessibility: there are many places to skate and groups to skate with, for free! Retiro Park and the Madrid Rio are ideal places to practice and, for the super adventurous, there is even a 65km paved route circling Madrid, Anillo Verde that allows for both great views of the city and an escape to nature.  You can skate solo or opt to join a free monthly skating route group, such as Escuela de Patinaje Sobre8Ruedas, who also offer free trial lessons and have groups ranging from beginners to advanced, taught in Spanish or English.  Skating groups are a great way to meet new people, and falling is more fun if there are other people there to laugh with you (or at you).

rollerblading retiroOnce you spruce up your skills, you can even use rollerblading as a practical, abono-free way of navigating the city.  A stuffy, hot metro ride can be transformed into a quick, breezy, above-ground route on skates.  I personally stick to skating in the parks and paved river paths, I´m bad enough on my own feet on Spanish sidewalks, let alone adding wheels to the mix.

Now that you know about the health, social, and practical benefits of rollerblading, get out there and try it! Just watch out for tiny dogs and baby carriages.  For more information on above listed groups and classes, check out www.sobre8ruedas.com.