Initial Reaction to My New Home: Madrid, Sweet Madrid
“It’s just like New York City! EXCEPT: There are no skyscrapers, metros are WAY cleaner, and EVERYTHING is in Spanish.”
That’s exactly what I say when anyone asks me what Madrid is like. So you can imagine how excited I was to get to Madrid, Spain when first landing, and how exhausted, of course! I was relieved as well to feel at home even though I was thousands miles away from home, too. But something about this city at a first glance, was so similar to Manhattan and little Spanish hubs in the uptown Bronx.
I loved how much of a busy city it appeared to be on the first day (and still is).The metro is efficient, tidy, safe, and reachable anywhere. The supermarket, the pharmacy, the post office, school–every sign, every person, every thing you use (even the internet) reads in Spanish. This is a perfect way to practice, comprehend, and gain confidence in the language you’ll be learning, living, and breathing daily. By the way–my home is actually on a street called, “Calle de Padilla” which is my last name. How great! “Muy genial!” as they would say here. When I entered the home, I was wondering, how do I open up this door. The keys here are so different (at least for my building), so that would definitely take some getting used to.
The Spanish is very different. Spaniards believe their Spanish is the correct way no matter your level, understanding, or fluency of Spanish. The way we are taught Spanish in the United States in an academic setting is very different than being raised in a Spanish/Latino home, just the way both those experiences of learning Spanish is very different from the way Spanish is taught to American students in Spain.
The Spanish language in Spain is called Castellano. For example, the word “computer” is “ordenador,” here. But in the States, we’d use the word, “computadora.” So learning Spanish here, is a mix of learning the culture and everyday language. It’s almost like learning code for Spanish, or another language. In this way, you adapt yourself to their way of speaking Spanish. What you know may not be wrong, but it just isn’t as common here. Do your best to use what you learn here in Spain, to apply to your everyday interactions at local places, and conversations with friends and professors. In this way, you’ll be picking up colloquial phrases in no time!
Their customs here are different, too. As soon as I arrived, I gave my host mom a kiss on both the left and right cheek. A handshake may seem offensive, and very “American.” Also, they eat bread with EVERY meal. My first meal was pumpkin soup with bread. Then, another platter of broccoli and chicken. Then my desert was a fruit. And I am always served water for dinner. Fruit for dessert is also common here, and so that was something I noticed right away as well. Side note: I am very fortunate my host mom cooks with flavor. She serves good portions. And if there is extra, she always offers my roommate and I more. Thank the heavens!
p.s. The featured image is a mini market similar to New Paltz’s “Groovy Blueberry” on Water Street. It’s about 20 minutes walking-distance from my home!