I haven't lived there in over twenty years, but I think it still boils down to this. Madrid is the largest city in Spain. It's a big city in population (about 4 million) but very tight, so it's easy to move around. Public transportation is fantastic and easy to use. Most people don't drive or have a car. People live in tight quarters, especially compared to homes in the USA. Think Manhattan. It's very cosmopolitan and you'll find people of all backgrounds, races and colors. It's very dynamic, lots of crowds moving around and pretty much full of people wherever you go. Night life and social interactions are very important to spaniards in general. You'll see people out all the time, in bars, restaurants or "terrazas", having a beer with their friends and family. I wouldn't say people from Madrid are especially welcoming or open, but chances are you'll make some friends who want to practice their English. Due to the horrible economic crisis on Spain, finding a job is very difficult. There are plenty of homeless and destitute people in the city. Watch out for your wallet, pickpockets are always on the prowl. Also, it's a very noisy city. Whenever I go back I have such a hard time sleeping! People in general are more argumentative and confrontational than Americans. Don't be surprised if someone starts arguing with you about politics, sports or anything in the news.
The quick answer is you can have whatever kind of life and quality of life you want to have in Madrid or any place else in Spain.
Madrid as the capital of course has more to offer than small communities so, it depends on the kind and quality of life you want and once you have settled that in your mind, you can have it in Madrid.
The one limitation of course not only in Madrid but anywhere else, is the level of income and finances you have available but for the most part, Madrid will accommodate you and you can have a great adventure living here.
Really informative breakdown. When I moved from Los Angeles to Madrid in 2011 it seemed so inexpensive, but now that I've been spoilt by prices in the Canary Islands for the last 3 years, even Madrid seems pricey ! It's definitely all relative I suppose.
Usually not, though I've seen everything from 12 to 16 payments/year. The most typical is 14/yr, which means that you get one paycheck per month and then two extras: one in July and one in December. In my case, the one in July pays for my car insurance and my summer vacacion, while the one in December pays for home&life insurance and any Christmas travels/presents/food.
Katharina @ 100 Miles Highway
With all honesty, I’m not sure whether I can agree with these points. I’m a spaniard from the Canary Islands (we’re known for being a bit dreamy and disconnected) and lived 4 years in Madrid.
I’ve never been pick pocketed (and I’m quite absent minded). Not that I haven’t heard of this happening to others. I guess the difference lies on a) common sense and b) where you’re going. Anywhere with a majority of young international people will be a risk. Kapital is definitely one – while going out around La Latina isn’t that risky at all. It’s a matter of knowing where to go and, well, not walking around with your iPhone half-hanging outside an open purse (seen that!).
And about the apartments… I agree that there’s always something that is annoying (in my last case, it was cockroaches!), but this also depends on where you move to. Madrid is small enough to not have to live in Sol / Gran Via to still be in the centre or close to it. Also, I believe there’s quite a disparity in prices and living conditions between spaniards and foreigners, as I’ve known friends who shared with 6 people paying the same I paid in a massive flat with a balcony living with another 2.
I hope that Madrid continues to treat you well – it’s an amazing city to live in for sure!
I also lived in Madrid and loved this interview. Making me miss espana!
I am an expat living in London from Australia, I thought I would only be here for a 1year but it is now 14years and I still love it. You have put together a great list here and it made me reflect too. I went to Mardid a few years ago and I have always wanted to go back, I would definitely check out “hipster” neighbourhood, Malasana it a place I could easily explore.
I was an expat in Madrid too! So many good memories coming back thanks to your post. I lived there for almost 3 years and I really had the time of my life. Now I am always traveling back now and then to visit friends, do some shopping in Malasana and eat loads of tapas.
Fran López Ballero
I don’t know where you would be travelling from. You will notice different cultural shocks depending on your own culture. So, I would say, don’t judge any culture according to your culture, you will never get involve and miss the opportunity to really have a life experience.
Madrid is the capital of Spain and the second largest city in continental Europe behind Berlin. So you will be able to find almost everything you need.
Traveling is far easy and cheaper than other European cities. No problem on that.
I don’t know people (culturally) more easy going than in Spain. And in Madrid you will find people from Madrid, but even more Spaniards that are living in Madrid but come from another different city (a ratio of 2 madrileños per 5 Spaniards you meet would be normal) And that makes general interaction more easy.
If you come to work, don’t expect to make a lot money since wages are not usually high.
Food is one of the healthiest food you will find around. Even international organisms support that statement, but as a big (European) city, you can easily find good and bad food. If you cook yourself that will depend only on you, but you have real access to healthy food.
Night life in Madrid will be one of greatest experiences for you in the city. Madrid is, if not the best, one of the best cities to party in the world. You may have heard of Barcelona, but I can tell you Madrid has far more options and people here like to party even more.
I would say that if you come from Anglo-Saxon culture, try to not be so “this is like this, and it should be like this”. In Spain there are many ways, just understand that.
Spaniards are Latin people (real Latin people, just like Italians, French people, Portuguese people, and yes, Rumanians) so we are more “emotional” than British or north European people. And there is the sun, sun makes people more happy and boost your mood, and yes, more talkative.
Note that I was born in Spain, lived in different countries since very young, half of my blood is not Spanish, and wasn’t even born and raise in Madrid. But I have been living here for more than 5 years and I think Madrid would be a combination of big city, international, easy going people, “party all the time” if you want it, and more relaxed city to live compared to other big European places.
One more thing, pollution is getting worse every day.
Hope that it helps.
As a madrileño myself now living in the UK, I'm going to try to describe a bit my views about of how life is and can be in Madrid, where I lived for about 25 years.
In general I would say that people's attitude from southern Europe is much more easy going and open than in northern countries. I think this is in part because of the better and warmer weather (so that we can spend more time outdoors), but also because of the attitude towards life, more oriented to friendships and families or to simply enjoy life slowly. It obviously has its positives and negatives, but as international as Madrid is, you can probably find easily people from around the world so this impression could be a bit biased depending on the people you hang out with.
The job market situation in the city would depend a lot on your experience, industry or sector, but in general work conditions are worse than in more developed or industrialised countries, though thankfully, this is improving with new generations of businesses that are being created by e.g. professionals that are coming back after spending some time abroad.
If you are a foreigner planning to live in the city, I would say that you may better try to brush up your Spanish skills or you will really struggle with some of your daily life. Though it's changing for the better, it would be hard to find at all the times people that can communicate in English with you effectively.
Also, in case that you haven't checked it out yet, note that there is an open topic here in Quora with loads of information about the city that it's worth a read through: Madrid, Spain
Madrid is a great city. It's large enough, but it depends where you are comparing it to.
Madrid is Spanish and runs to Spanish time and has a lot of Spanish food. There are many areas to Madrid, not just the city centre where the students or temporary visitors stay. In the centre you can find international food offerings, but it's highly unlikely to find a vegan or Korean restaurant away from the centre!
Transport is excellent and ridiculously cheap when compared to other cities. For approx 50 euros (for those who are over 26) you can travel unlimited on the train, metro and blue buses within the M40 ring road area for 30 days. And it's a bargain price of 20 if you're young enough!
Madrid never sleeps. There is always something happening somewhere and depending on your budget. There are also a ton of museums, cultural walks and beautiful architecture to enjoy.
It's also the greenest city in Europe. The Retiro park is well known, but nature lovers prefer the Casa de Campo which is far larger and used to be the Royal Family's private hunting grounds. Great for a picnic, swimming in a stream, feeding the ducks or just escaping the noise of the city.
Madrid is home to 2 top football clubs, plus Getafe which is close by. There are also other sports teams too & opportunities to try sports and activities: drive a race car, sky dive, ride a balloon, bingo, not to mention all of the Spanish summer fairs on the outskirts of the city where you can see top international and local music stars perform!
I lived in Madrid for a bit studying Spanish (I lived close to Puerta del Sol and then in Calle Preciados). I loved it and can relate to lots of things you are saying including the incredibly dry weather! Thanks a lot for sharing.
Most people live here on a 1000€/month salary so it depends on where you choose to live, city centre flats are about 1000-1500€ / month but outside M30 you can find decent housing for around 600€/month. Food is cheap, drinks are cheap.. I think 40k/year would be more than enough to live