Stepping off the plane onto Spanish soil was one of the most bizarre experiences I’ve ever had. Having always had some sort of connection to any city I’ve visited for a longer period of time – whether it be in the people I know there, or the culture – it was nothing short of unbelievable. I’ve never been in Europe for longer than one week, which made me feel a little surreal. Being North American to the core, I grew up wanting to live in Europe (particularly in Spain) as I always believed it was important to fully experience another culture by living there. While my desire to live in Spain dwindled as I got older, I saw this as an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up. I’m here in Spain for about 8 more months, and so far, it’s felt like a lifetime.
As a North American, I’ve always criticized our lifestyle – the fast-pace of everything, the lack of time to get together with friends, the amount of hours we work, among other things. However, being in Spain has made me appreciate many things we take for granted back home. Life at home is, in many ways, easier. We may work more, but we produce more, we live in a better economy (at least those of us in Canada), and we have access to things at most hours of the day. This is one of those things Spain has shaken me on – the oddness of the hours that shops are open and closed here, as Spaniards like to take mid-day siestas. While I live very close to the tourist hotspot in the center of Madrid, some shops still like to close up at important hours. It’s frustrating for someone who usually likes to do their shopping during the afternoon! Furthermore, there’s something a little unfortunate about being somewhere where “jamon” is sold everywhere and seen as the major source of meat when you don’t eat pork, but so far it hasn’t been much of an inconvenience.
Despite some of the cultural confusions that come with living in Madrid, there are some things I really appreciate about being here. First: the metro and transportation system. Back home, we rely on buses. Here, they have metros, trains, and buses that are all extremely convenient. It takes barely any time to get anywhere here – even the furthest suburb to the south is barely 30 minutes away from me by train, which to me is incredible! Metros connect to most parts of the city, with most things being a close walk from them. It also takes 10 minutes to get to the closest park, “Retiro”, which is possibly my favourite part of the city! It’s where locals and foreigners alike come together to have picnics, play sports, and even boat across the lake. The best part about it is that Retiro Park doesn’t seem to be as well-known as it should be, as there’s usually a good amount of open space for anyone looking for an escape from the constant hustle-and-bustle of Sol.
The Spanish also know how to relax – this is seen by the many people lounging around in the middle of the day, whether it be with friends, colleagues, or both. My favourite spot so far to hit up here is “Montaditos”, a sandwich shop here where my favourite sandwiches are 1 euro each! Luckily for me, there’s one right by where I live, and another one right by where I work.
It’s hard to describe the experience so far, but with 8 more months to go, it looks as though this is going to be an interesting year! The best part of living here is how close everything is – which is why I’m going to Sevilla tomorrow!
More to come.