Three Ways to Adjust to Spanish Social Life

Madeira Thayer
February 17, 2020

In Madrid, I’m finding myself alone a lot more than I’m used to. I don’t feel lonely or isolated—life in Spain is just very different than the nearly constant social interaction I experience in college. At Tufts, I live in a house with some of my best friends, who I can talk to when I come home for the day, and most of my other friends are just a five-minute walk away. Here, I only live with my host mom, and we usually only see each other for 20 or so minutes each day. Maybe you’re thinking I could invite friends over for some company, but in Spain, “la vida está en la calle” (life is in the street), or in other words, all social interactions occur out of the home. So, hanging out with friends means putting on something other than sweatpants, taking a 20-minute metro ride, and usually spending money somewhere. I don’t think I’ve completely adjusted to my new living arrangements and lifestyle, but I have been doing a few things to make my life a little more social:

1) Finding low budget things to do

One huge obstacle to spending time with people can be money. For me and many of my friends, this is the first semester of college where we can’t have a job with a steady income, and the money we’ve saved is going mostly to travel around Europe. Unfortunately, watching Netflix on someone’s couch with a bowl of Goldfish isn’t an option, so, when we want to see each other my friends and I have to spend money on food, tickets, drinks, or whatever other activity we have planned. But recently, I’ve been trying to find some low budget activities to spend time with friends without breaking the bank. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Free Museums: Many museums in Madrid are free with our student metro card! My favorite museum in Madrid (El Museo Thyssen) is one of these, but there are many more left to try.
  • Picnic: Going out to eat can be pricy, but last weekend my friends and I had a picnic in Parque de El Retiro, which was cheaper and more fun than a restaurant!
  • Running/Hiking: Ben and I did go on one run together about three weeks ago, but since then the whole working out thing has become more theoretical. Recently, though, someone in my Spanish class told me there are hikes that are available by the metro so I’m looking into doing that soon!
  • Just walking around: Whether it’s to help Chris shop for a winter coat (which we’ve done about nine thousand times with no success), to take some nice pictures (which I want to do if/when the sun comes out), or just to wander, there’s always more to explore!

2) Calling friends

In my program, we are served breakfast and dinner in our homestays, but my host mom usually isn’t in the house when I eat dinner, so I often have to eat alone. That can feel pretty lonely, but usually I like to call friends and family to keep me company from miles away!

3) Enjoying my own company

Spending more time alone has been a blessing in some ways, too. When I’m at Tufts, rigorous classes and a lack of alone time make it difficult to read for pleasure, draw, write poetry, or do many of the other things I enjoy, but I have plenty of time for those things now. I just finished a great book called People, Power, And Profits by Joseph Stiglitz, which I cannot recommend highly enough. One of my favorite things to do is go to a coffee shop down my street called Café de la Riviére, where I’ll hang out for a whole afternoon just with my journal, my pens, a book, and a cup of coffee.

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Madeira Thayer

<p>I'm a junior at Tufts University majoring in Economics and minoring in Spanish, Latin, and Education. My favorite extracurricular activity is my job at a nonprofit called Let's Get Ready that offers low-income students free SAT tutoring and college counseling. I also love to get outside for a run, hike, or outdoor yoga! I'm excited for all the academic, linguistic, cultural, and natural experiences abroad will bring me!</p>

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