When I tell you I never thought I’d see the day that I left the center of Madrid, please trust and believe I meant never, ever, ever. Oh but life has a funny (and caustic) sense of humor. I’ve spent 4 years surrounded by pretty. It’s pretty. Look up, there are ancient gargoyles and baby angels sunbathing. That’s hard to top. Even more than that, I am a city-girl at heart. I’m pretty sure my playground was the Walgreens parking lot. The only time I went camping was at the Swiss Hotel with my Girl Scout troupe. Not that I need to sell this, but fun fact: my pet peeve is when the transplants and suburbanites claim to live in Chicago! That’s a sure-fire way to make my blood boil.
Um, sir or madam, do you pay our taxes, deal with our lake-effect storms, pay your weight in parking meter fees, spend hours in our traffic all while dodging speed cameras and over-zealous cops? No, no you do not. I bet our potholes eat your potholes for a vegan, gluten-free mid-morning snack. Lightweight, friends. The point is, the suburbs and I have a mutual understanding. That all changed when I moved to Madrid, however, and I had to re-evaluate my priorities.
What do I love about living in the city?
↠ Did I mention it’s pretty?
↠ There’s always people around, even when you’re scurrying home at 4 a.m. clutching your purse (and your dignity) like a paranoid abuelita.
↠ Convenience! I lived in front of a 5 star hotel, 3 super-markets, 4 boutiques and a few government buildings. I would walk absolutely everywhere with no problem.
↠ The Metro closes later than the Cercanias. I like not turning into a pumpkin at 23:55 when my last train leaves the station.
↠ My friends lived close!! I’m pretty lazy in general when it comes to leaving the house (read: putting pants on), but hey, you live across the street, so let’s do the thing!
↠ Food: I lived 4 minutes ON FOOT from 3 mexican restaurants, 2 artisanal breweries, 2 Thai restaurants, Dim Sum, an Argentinian grill and countless fusion and down-home Spanish bars. Man, I miss that. My wallet is thanking me, but my stomach hates me.
So, why did I leave?
↠ It smells like pee and pub crawl, even on a Tuesday.
↠ The noise. After a while, listening to drunk tourists’ renditions of “We Are the Champions” got old. Don’t even get me started on the super-fans during fútbol season.
↠ It’s expensive as heck! I know people who will live in a broom closet next to 3 roaches and a moldy chorizo just to live in Malsaña, and I’m just not about that life. I won’t knock your hustle, but I’ll take natural light over a zip code any day.
↠ I live with my best friend... and my other relationships aren’t so new & fragile that they depend solely on how many Metro stops away we are from one another.
↠ I work in the center, so it’s like I get to play with the cute, noisy, blubbering baby, then pass it back to its parents and go home to peace and quiet.
↠ My image of myself changed. I don’t consider myself a tourist, a newbie; I don’t really do the pub crawls, free walking tours or language exchanges anymore. I felt okay leaving the center because I know that it’ll always be there, but that most Spaniards don’t actually live in Puerta del Sol.
↠ I’m getting married. So again, there was a shift in my priorities. I’d rather host some friends at our home, than ask roommates if I can occupy the salón for a few hours on Saturday night.
I’m happy that I left the center, but every situation has its pros and cons. For example, the only restaurant open late in my current neighborhood is Domino’s Pizza, and ain’t nobody got time for that. We tried our local Chinese restaurant, but no. Just no. I’m still trying to recover from that one. To be honest, I asked myself what I needed, what I wanted, and what I just wanted to have because, because.
Do I need a boutique 4 steps away knowing that I have never shopped there even though it’s been open for 3 years? No, not really. What I needed was a home, a straight-forward and easy way to get to work and into the center, grocery stores and fruit markets and to save money. So no, my new neighborhood isn’t trendy, or even very pretty if we’re being honest. But it’s safe, it’s ours, and even though the abuelas are slightly intimidating, the smells that dance from the windows on Saturday mornings of fresh tortilla, roasted chicken, stews and sauces make living in authentic, working-class, melting pot totally worth it!
Come on, spill, what are some of your Spanish living horror or success stories?
Danni, Community + Content Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful life partner. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.