What Madrid/Spain Culture is REALLY Like

Melanie Garza
December 20, 2021

Hola, bienvenidos a mi último blog en Madrid! I cannot believe it’s time to leave already. I leave in a couple of days and it’s extremely bittersweet. I’ve been sorta struggling to find a topic for this blog but then I realized now that my time is kinda over it’d be a good time to reflect a little on the overall culture and energy of Madrid and Spain. Of course, four months in a country is not nearly enough to fully capture the essence and spirit of a country or city, but it’s more than many tourists can say. 

Let me start by saying I’ve grown to absolutely love Madrid. I even considered applying to graduate schools in Madrid or Spain in general because living here has been so good for me. Ultimately, I didn’t apply but only because I would not be able to be that far from my family for years and years. If I could bring my family along it’d be incredible. Either way, Madrid is such a beautiful city full of beautiful people and so much to do. Also, I want to clarify that when I say beautiful people I do mean that they’re nice and polite, but also on average significantly more attractive than people at home. Not sure what it is, maybe people care more about how they look here? Unsure, but that has definitely been nice especially for those of you who go abroad single and looking. Personally I wasn’t looking for anything like that, but if you are you would definitely have many options here.

I think being able to speak Spanish made it very easy for me to connect with people and feel more at home here, but even if you don’t speak the language most people here speak or at the very least understand English. Madrid also has a good balance of foreigners and natives. If you’re looking for other international students to hang out with and share experiences there’s a big network here, but there are also a lot of people who are from here if you want a more immersive experience. People in general seem very welcoming, maybe because there are so many foreigners here, and overall are very polite. Compared to big American cities like NYC, it’s nice to have people who value politeness and friendliness. 

Sort of tying into the politeness, I got a sense that Spain is more traditional in terms of values which can be good or bad depending on what you’re comfortable with. Although not as big with younger crowds, the catholic faith has a pretty big influence on the culture in Spain. I noticed people here dress more conservatively, wear less makeup, and overall conform more strongly to societal expectations or rules. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing. This doesn’t mean people hold outdated views on certain lifestyles. Quite the opposite actually. Most people I’ve met are very open minded and generally nice people. 

One thing that was a little hard for me even as a Spanish speaker was making real friends here. Yes, people are very nice and friendly, but this for me usually only goes as far as small talk. It seems that here there are big groups of friends that you kinda have to infiltrate via someone who introduces you to the rest of their friends. It’s tough as an outsider if you know nobody to meet people since it’s all very networky. I’m also not the most outgoing person so it could just be a personal problem lol. 

Hopefully if you’re planning to study in Madrid or Spain this gives you somewhat of an idea of what to expect. Summarized version is that people are very nice and polite, the city is absolutely beautiful, and there are always things to do. You will be able to find whatever it is you’re looking for in Madrid, and that makes it a very special place to me. I’m already planning a trip to come back and visit because even though I haven’t left yet, I can already tell I’m gonna miss it a ton!

Melanie Garza

<p>Hi, I’m Melanie! I’m a senior at Carnegie Mellon University, majoring in Physics. After graduation, I plan on attending graduate school in pursuit of a Ph.D. in Physics. While I love STEM, I also love the arts! I’m part of an a cappella group, I’m in my school’s non-major orchestra as a violinist, I like to draw and paint, and I’ve dabbled in some dance too. It’s important for me to keep a balance between all my interests, which also include working out (at the gym only - I am NOT athletic, unfortunately) and outdoor activities that don’t involve swimming since that’s something I can’t do. I know, shame. I’m really looking forward to exploring all my hobbies and interests in the context of a new culture. I am fluent in Spanish since I was raised in Mexico so Spain will be full of possibilities!</p>

Destination:
Term:
2021 Fall
Home university:
Carnegie Mellon University
Hometown:
Dallas, TX
Major:
Physics
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