Madrid Expectations and First Impressions


For an entire year before moving to Madrid, I had been envisioning my future life in Spain: perpetually sipping on sangria while eating every tapa I can get my hands on. Stumbling down cobblestone streets and gazing at the gorgeous Spanish architecture at every turn. Speaking the language in no time because you just have to be “immersed” into the culture to become fluent.

A lot of this is half true, but there were a few aspects about life in Madrid I didn’t quite expect.

Note that I actually started writing this post about 3 months ago (which would have been after one month of living in Madrid. But you know. Laziness. Procrastination. Failure to follow through. Inability to finish pretty much anything, etc etc.)

Madrid Expectations and First Impressions

Expectation: There are delicious tapas everywhere. Literally everywhere.

Reality: Yep. It’s true. However, there’s pretty much a bar every 3 doors so there are a lot of average and not-so-good tapas as well.

Expectation: Sangria alldayerrrday.

Reality: One of their most popular beverages [when I first came here] is “tinto de verano” – which translates to red wine of summer. It’s basically just cheap red wine + sprite or soda water + lemon on ice. It’s delicious and refreshing and usually about €2 out. The boyfriend and I still make these drinks at home almost every night, despite it no longer being summer. 

Expectation: I’ll learn Spanish and become fluent within a few months. Because I’m awesome.

Reality: Languages are hard. And you don’t just learn by osmosis or by merely being here. You have to put a lot of time and effort into it, even if you’re from California and think you’ll catch on quickly because you live 20 minutes from Mexico.

Expectation: Money will be reallyyyy tight. Living in expensive Europe + only making 1000 euros a month will probably equal me being broke as ****.

Reality: Madrid is surprisingly cheap (especially compared to other major cities in Europe). Rent is affordable and you can get a decent meal for under €10. Drinking is also fairly cheap. We’ve found plenty of good bottles of wine under €5 and a caña (small beer) at a bar is usually around €1.50.

Madrid Sunset
One of my favorite places to get a drink and watch the sunset :)

Expectation: Oh God. I’m teaching teenagers again? They’re going to be awful.

Reality: Yeah. All teenagers suck. But they suck a little less than Korean teenagers at least.

Expectation: I’m going to live with Spaniards so I can practice Spanish all the time!

Reality: Eh…sharing an apartment? With a stranger? Yeah. I think I’m too old for this (AKA too anti-social for this)

Expectation: My piso is going to have a beautiful little Spanish balcony where I’ll have lots of succulents and herbs!

Reality:My Madrid Balcony

Expectation: I’m only working 16 hours a week so I’ll have plenty of time to blog!

Reality: (Well. I think this one’s pretty obvious.)

Expectation: Every night will be spent getting tapas and drinks out with friends.

Reality: I forgot I’m too old (read: antisocial) to make friends. Anybody out there wanna hang out? No? Anyone? Okay, I’ll stick to balcony drinks with the boyfriend. 

Expectation: I will “siesta” (midday nap) every effing day. Because who wouldn’t want to participate in the daily country-wide nap time? I was seriously destined to live in Spain. 

Reality: Oh right. Students – and therefore teachers – have that thing called school. 

Expectation: Europe’s small enough to where I can travel somewhere new every weekend!

Reality: Not every weekend, but it is pretty easy to travel around and go somewhere completely different for just a couple days on the cheap. I spontaneously booked a weekend in Brussels a few days ago just because Ryan Air was having a sale. #lifeishard:P

In summary:

Living here is amazing. There are so many things to see and do in Madrid plus a million other places in Europe to go. The teaching aspect could be better but it’s not bad by any means. The money isn’t exactly flowing, but we live comfortably. At the moment, we’re discussing our plans for next year and if we want to stay another year here or not. So stay tuned!

And a few more pictures to brag about this beautiful city I get to call home for a bit:)

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8 Comment

  1. John says: Reply

    I have to say that you positively radiate enthusiasm! Your blog is exciting to read, and makes me long to live in Madrid again. You do also point out that there are drawbacks and that is fair. My biggest issue was that sometimes it is very hard to find accommodation in that city except at certain times. Places near the city centre can be expensive but cheap bars and rearaurants do also exist. Speaking the language is great because I am fluent. If you speak Spanish you will make friends! However, I am in South Korea. Why? Well, money is less of an issue. I have regular work and the nughtlife in Seoul is amazing.

    1. Kirsten Joelle says: Reply

      We’re on the same wave lengths – Spain & South Korea! Both amazing places to live!

  2. Raymond Anthony says: Reply

    I miss Madrid so much! What a glorious city to be in.

    1. Kirsten Joelle says: Reply

      The absolute best!!

  3. It is really exciting! I also find Madrid really nice and surprisingly cheap. If I compare to other capitals in Europe, Madrid is definitely very affordable and beautiful. I really like it there and I also dream of moving there at least for a while. I wish you luck with those teenagers! Thank you for sharing! :)

  4. Ceri says: Reply

    This is too exciting. Did I forget that you were moving to Madrid or something? Doesn’t matter. You’re there and it’s brilliant. 😀 And I totally hear you about the too anti-social/old to make new friends thing. I know when I move next month I’m going to have to begin that cycle of getting out there to meet people again and uggh. Tiring.

  5. You know I love all your photos and now great read!! Although everything has some small flaws it’s absolutely amazing that you are traveling the world and experiencing different cultures.

  6. Anthony says: Reply


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