Guiri Guest, Jamie is a 31-year old American woman who has been living and working in Madrid since September 2009. Her fate was sealed in 2008 when she met a Spaniard at work in NYC who, after a year together in the States, was able to convince her to pack up her tiny West Village studio and move to Madrid.  Working in a large, international finance firm enabled Jamie to transfer to the firm’s Madrid office and she has been navigating the city and culture ever since.  One month shy of her one year anniversary of living in Madrid, Raul proposed and they are currently planning their fall 2011 wedding that will take place in NYC.

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Living in Madrid has afforded me the ability to explore pockets of Spain that are not typically on the top of the list of most Americans.  Although slowly gaining recognition in the States thanks to the annual Film Festival, you would not normally hear San Sebastian mentioned in the same breath as say Madrid, Barcelona, or Seville.

Last spring my fiancée and I had the pleasure of hosting two of our best friends from NYC in Spain for a week. We dedicated part of their visit to San Sebastian and to this day it remains one of the best trips I have taken since moving to Spain.

San Sebastian, located in the north of Spain in Basque Country, is a lovely, small city nestled on the Bay of Biscay and is about a 5 hour drive from Madrid. The city is known for, among other things, pintxos, kalimotxo, and sidra.

Pintxos are small bite-sized appetizers similar to tapas, which are typically served on small slices of bread and displayed atop the bar with small toothpicks in each one. Tradition governs that you cruise the bar, taking any pintxo that catches your eye, and then stacking the corresponding toothpicks on your plate once you are done eating. When you are ready to pay, the bartender simply counts the toothpicks on your plate and charges you accordingly (a price of €1-3 per pintxo is probably about average).  San Sebastian has a wealth of such bars concentrated in the city center. Our group enjoyed having wine and a pintxo or two at one place and then moving on to the next until we couldn’t possibly eat another bite.

Afterwards we washed our pintxos down with kalimotxo, a mix of 1 part coca-cola and 1 part red wine with plenty of ice.  In other parts of Spain this would be considered a drink more for teenagers, most typically consumed on the streets with supplies from the local alimentación. In San Sebastian, however, this drink is more prevalent and is often a featured special at bars and nightclubs.

The highlight of our trip was undoubtedly the night we went to one of the local sidrerías, or cider houses.  The four of us hopped in a caband headed out to Sidrería Petritegi located in the small pueblo of Astigarraga, not far from the city proper. It is a massive restaurant with high ceilings and rows upon rows of picnic-style wooden tables.  As is tradition, we each ordered the fixed cider menu for €27.95 per person. It included a starter of tortilla de bacalao (cod omelet), followed by fried cod with peppers, chuletón (a juicy and perfectly seasoned t-bone steak) and dessert (cheese and membrillo, which is a type of dense marmalade). The menu also included unlimited cider, which for us was the main draw. In Spain, cider, or sidra, is a mildly alcoholic drink made from apples. As I have learned since moving to Spain, the flavors of the cider open up when they hit the bottom of your glass.  Accordingly, the pouring of cider is somewhat of an art form here and is taken very seriously. This particular restaurant dedicated an entire room to the pouring and consumption of the sidra. In the back of the restaurant was a large, cavernous space filled with huge barrels of cider and a barman that was tasked solely with pouring directly from the barrel. We had to watch a few other patrons to see how it was done, but basically you walk up to the barrel, hold out your glass, step back and hope to get some cider in your glass.  Drink (in one sip only), raise your glass, repeat.

I truly cannot say enough good things about San Sebastian. Although what I described above was just the culinary part of our adventure, the city is rich with other sites as well; we were even able to spend an afternoon on the coast of France as it was only about 30 minutes away by car.  If you are ever in Spain, I highly recommend a trip to San Sebastian. Buen Viaje!

Why Madrid?

May 31st, 2011 | Posted by Courtney in Pierre | What's Happening Madrid - (2 Comments)

Pierre is a French and British world citizen, as he has lived in Paris, London, Barcelona, Beijing, Toronto, but still, he prefers Madrid. He loves discovering new things, tapas and wine, writing, reading and rugby. Pierre has been living and working here since 2008, and now helps expats to find a place to rent and to settle down in Madrid via his company FlatAway.

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Why Madrid?

I’ve been living in Madrid for nearly 3 years now. And as in relationships, three years is the key moment to look back and think about why I love to live in Madrid. Of course, every guiri in Madrid has his own reasons, but I hope my “why  I love Madrid” post will give you some keys to understand if Madrid is the city for you.

To start with, Madrid is a capital city but it still feels personal and human-sized. Having lived in London, Paris, Beijing and Toronto (the economic capital city of Canada), I can tell you other developed country capital cities do not feel the same. They are gigantic worlds where you seldom get a personal connection for your everyday chores. In Madrid, I already had the first year my favorite places where people recognise me, and this is true for my local supermarket, favorite bar, favorite tapas place, favorite restaurant and sports activity. There’s always some Spanish happy to make you feel you belong to the place.

Then, Madrid is still authentically Spanish and Castilian, but international at the same time. Barcelona, for instance, in which I lived 4 months, is more international, to the point it was impossible to find a restaurant with “typical catalonian food” in the city centre. The best calçots, typical catalonian recipe, had to be found out of the city. Madrid has a good old taverna with cocido madrileno in every neighbourhood. And at the same time, it has all the international food you want: Lavapies is there with its great Indian restaurants, and I tasted Russian, Ethiopian, Colombian, Ecuatorian and authentic Mexican food (not tex-mex) for the first time in Madrid.

All in all, Madrid is small and has everything you need at the same time. I live near the city centre, near Bilbao, and I can say I usually walk to all places I go too, apart from work. The centre as such is quite small, and has an impressive number of tapas place, international restaurants, theatres, operas, pubs, shops, universities… Of course, the suburban sprawl and the spanish real estate craze means most of the 3 million people living around Madrid live more and more outside the #6 metro line. But still, if you live in the city centre, you still feel like sometimes as if you were in a town or a village. Go to my favorite square, Plaza Olavide, and feel the village side of Madrid.

As a conclusion, I believe you have more opportunities as a foreigner in general to find a job in Madrid than in any other city in Spain. Madrid has been growing faster than Barcelona over the last 10 years, and my feeling is that the Madrid job market needs more international profiles than it has right now. Madrid until the 90s had few foreigners compared to other capital cities. So it’s catching up, and it is still the richest region in Spain! For instance, I landed a job in Madrid in the largest management consulting company, and guess what? I was the only employee who did not speak Spanish as its mother tongue. So I was then the guiri, and everyone knew in the company knew I was the French and British guy. And it was clearly a factor the recruiters took into account. But that’s another story: I’ll talk about how a foreigner can differenciate and land a job here even with a 20% unemployment rate in another post.

One last thing – In “Eat, Pray, Love”, Elizabeth Gisbert, the main character and author, has to define what is the word for her new city, Roma: “Sex” her Roman friend says. If you could read the mind of the people in a given city, then the single thought on a majority of people’s minds is this word you’re looking for. What is Madrid’s word in your opinion?

Wherever you are, already in Madrid, or just thinking about moving here, I hope this post will make you think and that we’ll exchange about why you chose or are going to chose Madrid! For other specific information on renting and relocating to Madrid, visit my website for Flats, Apartments and Rooms to Rent in Madrid with Free Relocation Support.

If you have any question, or if I can help you in any way, please leave a comment.

Madridly yours,

Pierre – pierre@flataway.com – www.flatawaymadrid.com

Madrid Foto

May 4th, 2011 | Posted by AnneGA in Anne | What's Happening Madrid - (0 Comments)

I moved to Madrid with my Nikon D5000 in hand and was committed to becoming a skilled photographer during our time here.  I’ve certainly taken a lot of photos, but sadly my camera is still stuck on ‘auto’ since I haven’t practiced and really learned how to use it!  I could use some inspiration and I think I may have found it…

Madrid Foto: Feria Internacional de Fotografia will be held at the Feria de Madrid, Pabellon 5 this weekend and is open to the public on May 6th through 8th for 12 euros (9 euros for students).

Madrid Foto will feature stunning exhibits of contemporary photography – just the kind of inspiration I need to learn how to use my camera and take some amazing photos of my own!  I’m looking forward to checking out the work of talented photographers from around the world.

Are you inspired?  Hope to see you at Madrid Foto this weekend!

Madrid Foto
Feria de Madrid (IFEMA), Pabellon 5 – Tel 913 697 537

The Guardian in the UK recently produced a wonderful interactive graphic showing Europe by numbers. Here’s a few facts they show us:

  • Spain has one of the highest %ages of foreign citizens
  • Female life expectancy is the highest in France, and second in Spain
  • Spain has one of the highest deficits (behind Greece & Ireland, not Portugal) BUT the UK is not far off;  and the jobles rate is one of the highest

The full graphic can be seen at: www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog

Expatica is hosting their second “i am not a tourist” fair here in Madrid on May 6. As you can tell from the name, this fair is for internationals living and working here in Spain. There will be companies and agencies at the fair representing all facets of life abroad: banking, taxes, immigration and work permits, local clubs, etc. The resources available at the fair can help with your adjustment to life here in Madrid.

In addition to the various exhibitor booths, presentations will be given. From ‘how to find a job in Spain’ to a comedy show (where you can laugh about not being able to find a well paying job here in Spain…), to information about healthcare and education, the presentations will add to your community fair experience.

Sunset in our lovely city, Madrid

Workshops are also offered, which include Hatha Yoga and Speed dating.

Tickets to the event are free when ordered online.

i am not a tourist community fair

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hotel Husa Princesa, Metro: Arguelles.