Fall Events in Madrid

AIL side adThe summer heat wave has passed, but Madrid’s just warming up! For one thing, the city is flooded with fresh faces: new university students, bright eyed professionals transferring in from other countries, a mountain of new auxiliares, and the list just keeps going! At AIL Madrid (my Spanish academy), the halls are full of exited Spanish language lovers chattering about the perfect weather, great wine, and all the exciting events happening in Madrid this fall. One particularly enthusiastic conversation in my intensive course inspired me to jot some of the events down, for newbies and veterans alike!

So, without further ado, here’s what’s happening in Madrid this fall!

  • Oktoberfest 2Oktoberfest! You don’t need to travel all the way to Germany to enjoy some of the country’s best beers, dishes, and folk music: it’s all right here in Madrid! Head over to the Barclaycard center in Salamanca this weekend and live it up, German style! Entrance is 15€ apiece, and the festival lasts from the 24th to the 27th. Additionally, if you’re looking for something fun but a little more low-key, the AIL blog has a great list of German bars. Enjoy!
  • the screamThe Edvard Munch exhibit is opening at the Thyssen on October 6th, which promises great fun for art-minded guiris looking to further explore “The Scream” artist’s paintings. I’ll be there for sure!
  • Madreat_MG_4375MadrEat: we talked about this awesome food truck festival in July but, since then, it’s only gained in popularity. Taking place on the 3rd weekend of every month, this past weekend boasted thousands of people visiting an ever growing number of trucks with an incredible variety of artisan food and drink. The next one takes place in Plaza de Azca (as usual) on the 16th-18th of October, so mark your calendars and share your favorite trucks in the comments!
  • imagesFinally, October is handing out a three day weekend! The 12th of October (Monday) is a bank holiday so, for the newbies, this can be a great chance to get out and start exploring Spain! Or, if you’re already well acquainted / want to explore the city further, head to Cines Doré for a quiet afternoon movie or on a long walk through the park while the weather is still more than perfect!

That’s all for now, but stay tuned for more updates and feel free to share more events in the comments. A big guiri welcome to all the new comers from your Madrid family!

Riding the Metro in Madrid

Tren_3000_2After spending the last 11 years living in Seattle – a city who’s transportation system is limited by lots of water (i.e. no underground trains) and can’t seem to gain the critical public support it deserves (i.e. super crowded roads) – I was thrilled to leave my car behind and take advantage of Madrid’s metro system.

When I first arrived I found it quite easy to pay 1,50 euro per trip and use the automated machines that offer instructions in English.  Soon, I learned that I could save a little money and time at the machine by purchasing a 10 trip pass for 12,20E.

abonoNow I’m riding the metro daily to get to my Spanish class and I decided it was best to buy a monthly pass (“abono”) for 47,90E. This was the first ‘tricky’ experience I had with the metro, but it wouldn’t have been if I’d checked out this website in advance or, if that’s not clear enough, this helpful Madrid transport guide.  It doesn’t matter what time of month you purchase your pass, it will be valid for 30 days at a time and is valid on the metro, buses, and cercanías (urban train), so it’s a huge asset to anyone traversing the wilds of Madrid. Here’s what you should do if you’re planning to purchase a monthly pass:

  • First, find a photo booth to have your ‘headshot’ taken (you can find these in the larger metro stations like Ave. de America or even on the street if you keep your eyes peeled).
  • lsSecond, take one of your photos and your passport with you to any Estanco or Tobacco shop – you’ll see them all over with their maroon and yellow “Tobacco” signs. This process can also be done at some of the larger metro stations, such as Sol, Nuevos Ministerios, Chamartín, and Atocha.
  • Third, tell the cashier you’d like a monthly pass, “Yo quiero un abono
  • Fourth, fill out the form provided with your local contact information and ID information.

At that point you should get a red card (roughly the size and shape of a credit card) with your photo and metro credit.  Each time you take the metro you’ll have to swipe your pass on the large green circle, located on the right side of each metro turnstile.  If you decide to get a monthly pass the next month, the process is much easier.  Go to one of the automated machines, select monthly pass, stick your red abono card into the machine, pay with cash or a card with a chip in it and you’ll have your new ticket for the month!

A couple of important notes:

  • You can plan your route and find the quickest way to get where you’re going at www.metromadrid.es (available in English). This is also available as an app on your phone!
  • If you’re coming or going from Barajas Airport, the metro is a great way to go, but remember that you have to pay an extra 3 euros at the machine in order to pass through (unless you have a monthly pass).
  • It’s always good to have a metro map, which can be picked up at any metro station or found online here.
  • The lines are labeled with the final destination to let you know which direction it’s going – a map will help you figure this out or you can always find a detailed sign that lists the stops on that line.

metro-madrid-linea-1

Happy metro riding!

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!

How To Get Your Student NIE Card: 6 Easy Steps

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.

My AIL Madrid girls

My AIL Madrid girls

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?)AIL

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).

empadronamiento appointment MadridTo make your appointment, visit the empadronamiento appointment website and select (in this order): ‘Atención al ciudadano’, ‘PADRON’, ‘OAC Centro’.

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

always make copiesFinally 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!