Oye, rubia: Tried-and-true ‘You know you’ve lived in Madrid when…’

Oye, rubia: Tried-and-true ‘You know you’ve lived in Madrid when…’

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Blogger Kristen Bernardi and friends add their own tried-and-true signs to the ubiquitous 'you know you've lived in Spain when...' lists.

I’ve recently received a spate of invitations on Facebook to join groups called things like ‘You KNOW you’ve lived in Spain when...’ or ‘Top 10 signs you’re a madrileño’.

The invites are slightly better than someone sending me a Farmville sheep or asking me to take a quiz about how sexy they are, but these lists can be a bit generic.

There are entries that make you smile and nod in recognition, but most are things like ‘You eat lunch after 2pm!’ or, ‘You know what botellón means!’  It’s a bit cringe-y, no? Sometimes it seems like they’ve been written by someone who has spent – maximum – a semester living in Spain.

So a few expat friends and I (most of them longer-term veterans than I am) have compiled a list of REAL signs that you’ve truly gotten integrated in Madrid – things learned only through trial and error; blood, sweat and tears.


•    You know never to buy batteries from a 'Todo a 100' shop, mincemeat from Día, or Cumbre de Gredos, ever.

•    You’ve discovered that La Latina is actually 1,000x more enjoyable any other day of the week but Sunday.

•    You know that Fink Bräu is German for ‘You will wake up in a ditch.’

•    If you are dating a Spaniard and find always going out with the peña to be tiresome, do not marry this person. The peña is there to stay. You, on the other hand, are expendable.

•    If you must go to the Oficina de Extranjeros at c/General Pardiñas 90 or to renew your NIE in Aluche, you bring bottled water, snacks, reading materials, a fully-charged iPod, weather-appropriate gear and other provisions. It does not matter if you have an appointment or an official-looking letter. Prepare to lose five hours of your life that you will never get back.

•    You have accepted that you will never cook/iron/clean as well as his mother. Just wait it out till she dies.

•    You force yourself out of bed before 1:30pm on Saturday, lest you go hungry till Monday morning or be forced to shell out your hard-earned money at OpenCor.

•    The relocation of the madroño statue 20 metres west shook you to your very core and caused you to curl up in the foetal position, muttering about how you don’t like change.

•    You can expertly bob and weave through a Sunday-stroll crowd, look up at the midday sun or have an intense debate with someone as you stroll through Malasaña, all without stepping in dog shit.

•    Similarly, you can distinguish between human and canine urine in corners and step over a pile of vomit on a Sunday morning without feeling squeamish at all.

•    You know where St. Valentine’s skull and the statue of El Ratoncito Pérez are hidden.

•    You do not expect to cross Plaza Chueca on the Saturday evening of gay pride week in under half an hour.

•    You have considered printing up cards with the answers to the following questions in order to streamline your experience at parties and bars: Where are you from? How long have you been here? Where do you teach English? Do you think you’ll stay? Why Spain?

•    You fear you have permanent knee damage from the stupid pylons that line the streets in Malasaña, and cannot BELIEVE they continue to trip you up after all this time, #$&%!

•    You haven’t just spotted mullets around town, you’ve actually been on the receiving end of an unintentional euro-mullet haircut once before. (shudder.)

•    You join in the Spaniards’ griping about the euro and think life was better with the peseta. You made it to the end of the month without batting an eye!

•    You have a nostalgic feeling when you see/smell the roasted chestnuts being sold each autumn, even though it was not a part of your childhood experience in any way.

•    You know the order of the drinks at a comida: una caña, el vino, el café, un chupito, una copita.

•    You will never have your pocket picked ever again, because you have developed a sixth sense about possible predators. You purposely choosing a thief-resistant handbag, and always have your arm curled over your bag in the ready-to-attack position. As evidence of this, no potential thief even glances at you these days, despite looking like a prototypical guiri. You have developed that invisible protective madrileño shield. You are now, in short, invisible to thieves.


(Thanks to Maria Hegarty, Heather Sutton and Stephanie Gough for their contributions!)



By Kristen Bernardi

Reprinted with permission from Oye, rubia

The blogger is an American journalist living in Madrid. Her blog, Oye, rubia, covers a wide range of topics.

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