When it comes to European destinations, it’s hard to narrow down travel stops, let alone choose one place to live. When every city and town is bursting with history, churches, culture and food, how are you supposed to narrow down the choices? We’ve got the only choice you need: Madrid is the best place for an expat to put down some roots. I’m a Madrid expat myself so here’s why!
1. The cost of living
Madrid is the capital city of Spain (and third-largest city in Europe), but it doesn’t come with the hefty price tag you expect from other major European cities like London, Paris and Vienna. A beer or a glass of wine runs you 2.50€, a week’s worth of groceries could be as cheap as 20€, and a nice central apartment is way cheaper than your average American city.
A monthly metro pass is even cheap for the Madrid expat youngsters out there (youngsters being 25-and-under) – just 20€ a month to go anywhere in Madrid, even popular destinations like Toledo or Alcalá de Henares. Don’t forget that budget airlines abound in Europe, so you can jet off for a weekend for a fraction of what a weekend getaway might cost you in the US. The point is, a move to Madrid will be more than easy on your wallet.
2. The Madrid expat job market
If you speak English, you’re in luck! Spain has been ramping up their ESL programs in public, private, and concertado (semi-private, semi-public) schools. Teaching experience isn’t necessary, but patience for rambunctious kids definitely is, no matter if you prefer teaching kindergarten, elementary school, middle school (why…), or high school. If teaching isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other positions that require native English speakers or bilingual speakers!
Madrid expat Americans will also appreciate the lower cost of university courses in Spain, so if you’ve been thinking about getting that masters or just taking a few classes that interest you, Madrid might be the perfect place to do it! If none of those appeal to you, there are tons of au pair opportunities for anyone who’s willing to sacrifice a little independence for a comfortable place to live and an interesting international experience.
You may have heard that Spaniards stay out until the wee hours of the morning and thought “I could never stay out until 7 AM,” but don’t let the time on the clock scare you. Because the Spanish schedule is different, you might not eat dinner until 10 PM, which means you have your friends over at 11, which means maybe you leave your house at… 12 or later. Madrileños love their nightlife, but they know that you have to pace yourself to stay up until the sun comes out.
Once you’ve experienced the mega-clubs Madrid has to offer, feel free to take it down a few notches and enjoy the many neighborhood bars scattered around— Madrid has more bars per capita than any other EU country! Each neighborhood has a plethora of really great, homey bars that with just a little time can become your special place.
Madrid expats love the culture
If you’re a little familiar with Spain, you probably think of flamenco, bullfighting and sangria. While all this definitely exists, each region of Spain has unique aspects that vary from coast to coast.
Andalucía is really the home of flamenco and generous tapas, while in Asturias a certain type of bagpipe is the traditional music of choice. Madrid has it’s own share of special customs—don’t miss la hora del vermut (vermouth hour), a treasured Madrid tradition, and a tasty aperitif to boot!
Best of all, each May, Madrid celebrates its patron saint—San Isidro—in a day filled with dancing, adorable children in traditional costumes, and a citywide fairground party.
& the food
Madrileños love their food, and we totally understand why. Savory ham sliced right in front of you, flavorful olive oil, manchego cheese, and potatoes smothered in spicy bravas sauce are just a few of the highlights—and they often come free with your cheap (see #1) drink! If you wear yourself out on Spanish food, just head down to Lavapiés (a historic neighborhood in Madrid) where you can take your pick of Indian, Senegalese, Mexican, Argentinian or Moroccan food… just to name a few! Madrid is also home to some world-class and Michelin-starred restaurants like DiverXO, Santceloni, or Coque.
Cheap beer, delicious food, and vibrant nightlife… have we convinced you yet? Pack up your bags and start soaking up the Spanish sun as a Madrid expat ASAP!
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If you’re a Madrid expat and want to get to know Madrid better or you’re planning a visit to Madrid then you might find one of these Travel Guides handy! The Lonely Planet Guide (see below) has always been my personal favorite.