1. Cheap Wine
Can you imagine ordering a high quality glass of wine at a restaurant for only $4 in the USA? Ummm, yeah right. Try like, $12 (if you're a wine snob like I unabashedly am). When I say "cheap wine" I usually think of that Franzia crap that I refuse to drink because it's an insult to my Italian heritage (wine in a box is NEVER okay). But in this case, I literally mean "cheap" as in, it hardly costs me anything at all. The fact that I can get a glass of fine wine here for 3 EUROS is nothing less than a miracle.
2. Free Tapas (Sometimes)
Speaking of cheap, some places will even give you free food when you order a drink. This isn't as common in Madrid as it is in Granada or other places in the south; but if you search hard enough, it exists. Case in point: El Tigre. I ordered a gigantic glass of tinto de verano for 5 euros and got all of these tapas for free. You know what's even better than being peer pressured to take naps every day? Free food.
Free tapas galore at El Tigre. Heaven is real, people.
3. The Language
Ironically, this is probably the worst my Spanish has ever been. After I finished my Spanish degree and graduated college, I only spoke Spanish once a week (if that) at my old volunteering position. So little practice made me forget an embarrassing amount of Spanish... and now I'm paying for it. Sure, I attempt to practice with my coworkers and I go to weekly intercambios, but the fact of the matter is, I need a lot of improvement to get myself back to where I once was. But does that stop me from loving Spanish? No way, José. I may not understand it all anymore, and I
Confession: I haven't had coffee from Starbucks in over a month. Who am I?! But the fact of the matter is, I haven't even needed to drink Starbucks because the coffee here is so good. Every morning I get a cortado (an espresso with just a slash of milk) from the tiny café next to my school in Galapagar. But sometimes when I'm out and about in Madrid, I spice things up and order a café con leche (espresso with milk: a Spanish staple) or a bold café solo (straight up espresso, for those times when you really need to feel caffeinated). While I do miss the comfort of grabbing lattes to go, the alternative isn't so bad.
Enjoying a café con leche on an outdoor terraza
This chic Euro greeting is so much friendlier than a simple handshake. It just exudes sophistication and style. Like, why wouldn't you kiss someone on the cheek twice if you're excited to see them? The same goes for meeting strangers... talk about an effective icebreaker. (That said, I really miss giving hugs. Thank goodness for my American friends here who still insist on hugging... you guys keep me sane.)
6. The Social Nature of Spaniards
Around 10 pm on any given night, you're more than likely to find families taking paseos throughout town, children playing in the plazas, bars packed with friends catching up over drinks and tapas, and crowded streets bustling with life. To say that Spaniards are social beings would be the understatement of the year. Although I am still finding my niche within Madrid, I love the vibrant sense of community here.
A bustling Plaza de San Andrés in La Latina
7. The Fashion
Spaniards have an uncanny ability to look stylish and put together without even trying. I've even tried to copy some of their outfits, but I don't look nearly half as good as they do. (Although that still doesn't stop me from shopping constantly...) The polished men here put the guys back home to shame. (I'm looking at you, Seattle hipsters in ragged flannels and beanies. You are not all lumberjacks, so please just stop. Take a hint from the Spaniards - and Barney Stinson - and SUIT UP!) Even the little old grannies hobbling down the streets are nicely dressed. It makes me never want to leave the house in yoga pants ever again (...but who are we kidding).
Trying to keep up with these trendy Spaniards has led me to a Zara addiction. These are a few of my most recent indulgences.
In other words... I don't have to drive. As someone who has an irrational fear of driving, I find this aspect of Spanish life particularly awesome. Despite being a huge city, Madrid doesn't actually feel that big. Hence, it's possible to walk almost anywhere you want to go. Even when it's not feasible to walk, the metro and bus system are ridiculously easy to use. (Seriously, if I can figure it out, anyone can.) One of the many benefits of walking everywhere is burning off the calories consumed from delicious Spanish dishes, which brings me to my next point...
With views like this, why wouldn't I want to walk everywhere?
Tortilla Española, huevos rotos, olive oil, jamón, manchego cheese, paella, chorizo, tinto de verano, patatas bravas... the list goes on. While Spanish food generally lacks intense flavor (suffice it to say, spiciness doesn't exist here...), it is the ultimate comfort food. Sure, it may not be the healthiest, but what real comfort food is? After a particularly grueling day at work, all I crave is a consoling plate of huevos rotos con jamón (fried eggs over potatoes with ham), some restoring patatas bravas (fries with "spicy" tomato sauce) and a revitalizing glass of tinto de verano (a less fancy version of sangria).
10. Endless Possibility for Adventure
I feel like I don't really have to explain this one, but I will anyways. Sometimes I stop dead in my tracks and have a series of profound epiphanies: I can go anywhere I want. I can do anything I want, I can have as many adventures as I please, anything is possible because I'm in Spain. Do I want to go to Sevilla next weekend? Yes, yes I do. How about Prague and Budapest for Spring Break? Yep. Croatia this summer? Sure. See the running of the bulls in Pampalona in July? Obviously. Take a spontaneous weekend trip to Munich? Why not*. (*As long as I'm getting paid... which hopefully the Spanish government will stay on top of.)
The best part is, I can have plenty of adventures without even leaving Madrid. I live in a city that constantly surprises me. Madrid is abounding with places to discover, sights to see, bars and restaurants to try, neighborhoods to explore and experiences to be had. It's impossible to feel bored here.
That's not to say I never get homesick, or that my life is as picture perfect as my Instagram account may look from afar. I assure you there are plenty of times when I spontaneously start tearing up because I miss my parents and my best friends, and days where I stay in my pajamas all afternoon and watch How I Met Your Mother reruns in bed for hours on end. Moving abroad is hard, no matter who you are or where you live. I'm just lucky I ended up in a city I click with.
Spain, you may seriously lack in brunch, pumpkins and American football, but I really like you. I think I'll stick around.