May 23, 2024

The day pretty much came and went without any fanfare. I realized it sometime late in the night although it had crossed my mind several times throughout the month of December 2010.

On December 30, 2005, 40-year old “MadridMan” arrived on that Delta flight with a one-way ticket to Madrid, Spain and no intentions of returning to the USA to live. At that time, and today, I’m “Still Happy to be Living in Spain“.

What an age to be pulling-up stakes and leaving your country, a cushy government job, family and friends, and everything you know,‘ you might say. I don’t know, maybe you’re right, but I’ve never regretted my decision once. In many ways, it still pains me to leave Spain for my annual visits to the USA because I love my new adopted country and my lifestyle there so very very much.

Business certainly isn’t what it was in 2005 to 2008 but, well, I did come just before the worldwide economic crisis hit. I can’t complain much because all my bills get paid and I still save money, never really having to consider the prices of things before I buy them. My consideration goes more towards WHERE I’m going to store new purchases, books, and clothes in my small-ish flat. Like anyone, if I had more space, I’d probably buy more things. But this is good for me to learn how to live happily with just-enough. There’s something very “Zen” in living sparsely.

Challenges remain in the language, however. I feel pretty good talking with people in the street, neighbors, and merchants but phone conversations, particularly IMPORTANT things, make me anxious still, as if I was about to go on-stage or stepping onto the field for the big game. Doing things like changing phone/internet services, talking with bankers, filing official documents, and health-care issues are sensitive “events”. Afterwards, when (and if) things go well, I feel so relieved, as if I’ve just achieved something great.

Some Madrileños tell me I’m more “Madrileño” than themselves as I seem to know more about their city and what’s going on therein than they do. Other Spaniards have told me flatly that I’ll never truly be Spanish until I understand the nuances of the language and customs. That’s very true. I often get caught gawking when they “pull my hair” (as they say it in Spanish, instead of “pull your leg” in English)  about one thing or another.

The truth is, I do sleep well at night and always wake up exhilarated. There’s no telling what new experience is in store for me on any given day – NEW for me, that is. That keeps my gears greased and life interesting. But don’t think I’ve totally cut myself away from my family and friends in the USA! Thank goodness for email and Skype Video Calls, the latter of which has served me very very well.

Since moving here I’ve made a few new Spanish friends and a few new English friends – but not a single new American friend (with whom I spend time, that is). I’ve met Madrid-resident Americans for drinks one-on-one maybe only twice since since my emigration. Anyone who knows me well knows that I tend to shy-away from holding on too tightly to my American-ness. I fell this does me a dis-service in assimilating into the country. So often I read blogs of American college students living and studying in Madrid for 4 year and it seems they only spend time with other Americans, never creating any bond with Spaniards. They tend to only listen to American music and watch American movies. I guess they know they’ll be going back home eventually so why bother. Me, on the other hand, I’m here to stay and it’s important to know what’s going on around me.

Just yesterday a 50-year old Spaniard was telling me about their family hauling water from the neighborhood fountain and even washing clothes in the river – AND THIS WAS IN MADRID! I love hearing those stories. It’s incredible to me that until relatively recently this country was living in the dark ages. It contrasts starkly to American lifestyles from the same period. I too remember hearing my grandparents telling me about washing clothes in the river but that was like in the 1920s!

There’s a lot still to be learned about Madrid, Spain, and the way of life here but I’m avidly studying it through my peers, neighbors, movies, and the old folks whom love nothing more than tell you “how it used to be” over coffee and churros for merienda at the local bar.

I’m happy to be living in Madrid. VERY HAPPY.

Thank all of you whom are interested enough to follow my life in Madrid, Spain and for using the information I’ve provided. If it weren’t for you, there would be no “MadridMan“. (well, I’d continue doing it for the sheer passion I have for Madrid, but makes it more gratifying knowing someone is reading/using what I’m writing/providing)

HISTORY: MadridMan was “born” in 1996 on a free GeoCities website. In 1997 the domain name was bought and hosted.

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8 thoughts on “5-Year Anniversary Living in Madrid

  1. As always, I love to hear about your experiences and feelings living in Spain. You provide that vicarious life in Madrid that so many of us dream of, but for various reasons, cannot make a reality. (at least not yet)

  2. MM, we are all so happy that you are there in Madrid hosting this site. You have learned so much about Madrid, and if you do not know, someone on the forum section knows! It is a great place for conversation, information (both fact and cultural), and friendly people.

    It is so wonderful when a person can find and achieve their goal when it is difficult at the beginning and share it with others.

    Happy Anniversary, MadridMan!

    1. Thank you for your well-wishes, Elaine! They’re much appreciated. It’s been a good ride so far and I’m looking forward to a long and colorful journey ahead.

      1. Dear MadridMan,

        My name is Carlos Iglesias Wind and I congratulate him for his work in spreading the wonders of this great city. As Madrid admire his vitality, his joy and passion of my country’s culture. If you ever need information you can contact me at this address. I work at Rtve as a tv realizator and I think I can help you with that you need.

        And remember you the adage that Madridian: “If you come to Madrid and Madrid are, so I believe, sir, the good of its people are that they are very comfortable, is not it?

        Greetings, yours always

        Carlos I. Wind.

        PD: Excuse me, my English is not very good

  3. Some Madrileños tell me I’m more “Madrileño” than themselves as I seem to know more about their city and what’s going on therein than they do“….Totally agree, MM

    When I was a child, I have bathed in the river manzanares under the bridge of the princess….OMG… what memories!!

  4. Read “Winter in Madrid” (if you have not yet done so) for a picture of how Madrid was. Although it’s written by a foreigner, even Spaniards who have read a translated version agree that it is excellent. And – as one ex-pat to another: it is imperative to learn the language. I did, in Madrid, many years ago at a language institute, and it has proven to be inmeasurably helpful and expansive in my years in this country! And – as your Spanish acquaintance said, it is practically impossible to develop a deep friendship with a Spaniard (even one who speaks other languages fluently), if you do not speak very good Spanish because it precludes said Spaniard including you in his/her other social activities with Spanish friends and family …

  5. Your mention of the older Spaniards talk of “how things used to be” leads me to think that Madrid has changed dramatically since when I lived and worked there during the famous “movida” of the mid-80s. Yet, I think the content of your commentary could have been written from the pages of my own diary of those days. Even when I see the YouTube video you posted it makes me feel like that world has stood still. I know that’s not true, but thanks anyway for allowing me to extrapolate from your comments and extend the illusions of my daydreams forward 25 years. I sense from the comments of others that they feel the same.

    1. Hello, Scott!
      Keep in mind that when I speak of “Older Spaniards” I refer to those from the dictatorship. Those Spaniards (much older than YOU!) have seen a night-and-day change in Spain, from years of starvation to all-you-can-eat buffets. Whereas the few, well connected, and well-to-do Spaniards will say things were better before, mainly because they didn’t experience the hunger or cold many others did and Spain became a “Share the Wealth” state after the dictatorship passed. Now we have universal healthcare and more freedoms than most other modern cultures.

      “La Movida” of the 1980s was a time not soon forgotten by those like you who lived it. I know people too who smile widely and gaze towards the sky when recalling those wild times of new freedoms and experimentation. Since the 80’s, things have changed a lot, and not so much for the better – in my opinion.

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