Oye, rubia: New city, new romance?

Oye, rubia: New city, new romance?

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Kristen Bernardi wonders what to do when you find that your new city is haunted by an ex.

The sweltering summers in Madrid make everyone frisky.

I first moved to Madrid in the month of July, and my first few days here were a whirlwind of botellones, meeting new people and trying to find my way around my new city.

Somewhere in the heat and the excitement of unconquered territory, I met a guy. A guy with an accent. A worldly guy who knew his way around town. Hot.

However, after a steamy summer, we broke up in the autumn. The romance didn’t last past the 40-degree days. And that’s when I realised: four months after moving to Spain, I… knew… nothing.

I had stepped off the plane not knowing a soul, and I was stunned to realise that the only people I knew now were through him.

This fellow-expat boyfriend had lived in the city for several years before I arrived on the scene, so he showed me everything. He quite literally introduced me to Madrid. He knew which bars to avoid, which Metro line to take; his Spanish was better than mine. Our weekends were sorted all summer long, since he’d been accumulating a group of buddies for years.

Back in the States, I would never have been the kind of gal who makes her boyfriend her whole world. I had my own friends and family activities and all the other things that fill the hours. But here, I was rudderless. He led, I followed, and furthermore, I had liked it that way!

As the weather cooled off, things were grim. For the first couple weeks, I found myself walking down his street every couple days, just because it was familiar. Then I realised that was creepy, and avoided his street at all costs for the following few weeks.

I had had relationships in the past that were much longer and more meaningful than this one; but I found myself obsessing about this guy. Not because I was madly in love with him, but because he had come to represent my new home for me.

He was my first new person, my first new adventure, my first tour guide and translator in Madrid. I barely had a single memory in my new country without him in it. Every restaurant I knew, I had gone to with him. Every street we had walked down together had a story to go along with it – inextricably linked with him. Gross.

Thankfully, it wasn’t long before I got to know some welcoming co-workers and my own circle of friends began to grow. I created my own new set of memories and slowly but surely got to know the city and the language, not to mention other folks with sexy accents.

Now, I no longer pine for the fella who introduced me to Madrid. I’m grateful, because the end of our relationship made me more independent in the long run.

Who knows what this summer has in store? Maybe I’ll meet some foxy, wide-eyed expat newbie myself – and I’ll toss him a Metro map and recommend a good intercambio that he can go to aaaalllll on his own.


Kristen Bernardi / Expatica

Kristen Bernardi is an American journalist living in Madrid. She has contributed to various travel publications including Fodor's, TimeOut, The Insider's Guide, Spain Magazine and InMadrid, and most recently assisted in 2008 Spanish presidential election coverage for CNN International. She is on a constant search for the perfect tortilla española, and will consider returning to US soil once the Pittsburgh Pirates make the World Series. Kristen writes a blog, Oye, rubia, on a wide range of topics for Expatica on fortnightly Fridays. 

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