On the move in Madrid

On the move in Madrid

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Spain Expatica blogger moves into her sixth apartment in four years and spends the evening reminiscing of her former multi-nationality flatmates.

Last night, I moved into a new apartment. My belongings consisting of clothes, books, dishes, photographs, and my flatmate's stuff, is currently a great mountain of cardboard boxes and duffel bags in the middle of the living room floor.

A slap-dash amalgamation of accumulated belongings from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Poland and Spain - the places we've called home over the years.

Moving is common in Madrid.I was exhausted after we finished getting everything up the stairs and in the door, but so excited to get settled. I paced around the living room mountain for 10 minutes, checking for structural weaknesses.

At around midnight, I unpacked a coffee mug and placed it proudly on the kitchen counter. I think the rest will wait until the weekend.

This is my sixth apartment I've lived in since arriving in Spain in 2004. Wow! I even have to think and count on my fingers to type that. While Stateside it would seem like an absurd number, here in Madrid it's pretty standard.

A friend of mine used to work on the classifieds section of a newspaper and moved flats nine times in three years. Every time a good advertisement popped up, she couldn't resist checking it out. The grass is always greener on the other side of the Manzanares, I suppose.

In my apartments over the years, I have lived with the following assortment:

  • four Americans
  • five Spaniards
  • one French woman
  • two Italians
  • two Germans
  • one miniature Doberman

It's like the UN, or maybe more like reality TV show, The Real World.

Each flatmate I've had has taught me something.

Kristen moved six times in three years.The first two American girls, Katie and Anna, took me out on the town when I first stepped off the plane and didn't know a soul. Just hours after learning my name, they were including me in their circle of friends, pouring me my first calimocho.

Without them, I'd have been shy and shell shocked, unsure of what to do or where to go. Their love of the city and the way they embraced its energy set the tone for my first six months in Madrid, and I'm forever grateful.

The Germans taught me how to rid our apartment of cockroaches; the Italians drank me under the table.

I was lucky enough to find Spanish roommates who were patient as I struggled to use the subjunctive tense. They listened good-naturedly as I tried feebly in Spanish to explain a breakup with a boyfriend, or that we were out of olive oil. And once my Spanish finally improved, we could stay up talking and laughing long into the night - about our countries' politics or our families or bad reality TV.

There are other flatmates which taught me just one thing: I never want to be their flatmate again - a valuable lesson, nonetheless.

Now, I have more adventures awaiting me as I settle into my new little corner of Spain. I am just wondering if one of these fine friends I've made wants to give me a lift to Ikea.

Text: Kristen Bernardi / Expatica 2008

The writer, Kristen Bernardi, is a blogger with Expatica Spain and contributes to a fortnightly blog on alternate Fridays.

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4 Comments To This Article

  • Kristen posted:

    on 5th December 2008, 11:51:51 - Reply

    Hi James,
    I apologize for the delay in response, and I hope you've arrived safely here in Madrid. Welcome!
    As far as apartment hunting goes, loquo.com, segundamano.es and idealista.com are great places to start your search. If you're looking to rent a room in a shared, furnished flat, you usually just have to put down a one-month deposit. If you're looking to rent a place on your own, the agency or the owner of the apartment often asks for an aval, which is like having the equivalent of 6 months' rent in your bank account.
    Rebekah's idea bout getting into an online community is a great one. Moving abroad can be a frustrating process, but it can also be a fantastic adventure. Go to bars, hop on the big red tour bus and don't be afraid to strike up conversations with strangers. Madrileños love it when people love their city, and the expat community here is open and a lot of fun.
    Also, bear in mind that when you do find a flat? Your key will drive you crazy. My first apartment here had an actual iron skeleton key. The locks in this country are notorious. It took me 2 solid weeks to be able to get in the front door of my current flat without the portera finally coming out to help and shaking her head at me in disappointment.
  • Rebekah posted:

    on 26th November 2008, 13:26:12 - Reply

    there´s a great English-language expat online community in Madrid, very friendly and helpful, at www.multimadrid.com. Tons of info and advice there for newcomers. They helped me a lot, and I live out in the wilds of Castilla!

    Rebekah
  • James Whitehead posted:

    on 21st November 2008, 18:33:04 - Reply

    Hi Kristen,
    I am moving for the "first" time to Madrid next week and, frankly, am dreading it. All these horror stories about 6 months' deposit and really high rents for completely unfurnished flats is scarey. Any advice you can pass my way would be gratefully accepted.
    Cheers
    James
  • Paz posted:

    on 13th October 2008, 18:35:37 - Reply

    lol I know the feeling. I myself having moved about 8 times in 5 years I guess and once again finding myself needing to do so once again. Sighhhh

    Heyho, as you say, the next adventure awaits.. In the desert Almeria way. hmmmmm wonder how long thsi fad will last.