The Bear and Strawberry Tree

Wednesday, 25th September 2019 ◆ Crazy Queen meets bad end: my new home (6) Personal

After having first tasted living abroad during an Erasmus year in France, I have been longing to repeat the experience. The main attraction for me is to learn another language, but it's also exciting to be part of a different culture.

I worried that the roots of jobs, flats and friendships would grow,  tying us to London more and more strongly the longer we stayed. My partner was due to finish his PhD in the Summer and would be looking for the next stage in his life. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to move. We made the decision to move to Spain about half a year in advance, and it was a very exciting decision to make!

Despite having six months to orchestrate the move, it was not a straightforward process. Now we are enjoying our new life in Madrid, but looking back I can't believe it all worked out so quickly!

It's difficult to quantify exactly what combination of properties makes Madrid such a lovely city, but I feel the quality of life here is very high. I would like to highlight some of my favourite features of the city.


It seems that the Spanish value eating well highly, and this manifests itself in being able to find cheap and healthy food with ease. The concept of Menu del día is a personal favourite. For around €10 at lunchtime (which is when the main meal is often eaten) you can be rewarded with a delicious three course meal, some bread and a drink. You will have several options for each course, and on top of that the menu will change daily for additional variety.

As someone who would like to eat more, it is good encouragement to have such a big portion for lunch. And I'm certainly getting better at actually finishing the meal as time goes on!


When visiting another city in the UK from London, it's quite staggering to see how similar the high streets look. All the usual suspects are present - the big fast food chains, clothes shops, supermarkets. In Madrid, there seems to be so many independent shops and I really enjoy being able to deal with individuals who care about their work. Around where I live, most of the shops and bars are independent. That includes the electronics shops, which surprised me!

The biggest supermarket to our flat occupies the upper floor of a building below which sits a large traditional market. That the supermarket does not suffocate the individual food sellers is heartening, and I suspect it ties into the Spanish love of good quality food.


People are willing talk to each other in Madrid. They say hello and goodbye to each other in the lift... and even in the swimming pool changing room, which took some getting used to. I've even heard people say hello at the urinals, but I think getting used to that will reside in the distant future! People are always happy to help, and no-one bats an eyelid at a foreigner's accent and accompanying broken Spanish.

Another swimming pool anecdote: I was about to enter into a swimming pool without a cap, not realising wearing one was compulsory in Spain. Before I got into the water, some ladies stopped me and called over the attendant who offered a spare cap to me. In the UK, I can just imagine fellow swimmers muttering under their breath and tutting, whilst not saying anything and getting worked up about it. It's much nicer to realise that I didn't know the rules, and fix it. Rather than thinking I should have known and getting angry about it. I really appreciate this attitude and I think everyone is happier for it!


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