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Americans in Madrid

Level Contributor
151 posts
2 reviews
Americans in Madrid

I thought I’d start this because I have notice that there is a number of Americans - in this board - who reside in Spain. I would like to thank them first for being very helpful and informative to anyone that travels to Spain.

But the reason for this thread is to know how they do like living in Spain – from an American perspective? What are the things you like the most – if you care please list five of those things; what are the things you miss the most from US? Do you be-friend the locals, do they be-friend you?

On the other side, this is for the Spaniards in this forum: Do you have any American friends? Do you see any difference in the mentality, way of living etc?

It’s not an interrogation – it’s just a friendly topic!

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Lisbon, Portugal
Level Contributor
419 posts
1 review
1. Re: Americans in Madrid

Hi fleur3,

I am not Spanish, I am Portuguese, but have lived both in the US (Virginia and California) and in Spain (Madrid) as well as in Belgium (Brussels). We are all living in a western-style way and because of that many things are comparable. In Europe things are far more diverse than in the US: The differences between Germany and Spain for instance (in way of life) are far greater than between Virginia and California. Having said that , I would say the biggest difference between Spain (and to that matter most southern european countries) and the US is the much more relaxed approach to life from the Europeans. Some examples: In the US, streets are empty at night everyday except fridays and saturdays; in Spain these are the days with biggest crowds but everyday is good to meet with friends. No big plans are needed. It is comon to go for a drink after work insted of home. It is uncomon to eat a sandwich in front of your computer, you rather go out with your collegues. You don't need your ID unless you look really young (16 or less). And there is a much bigger family support as it is not a rule to go to college very far away from home. On the other hand, people are less religious (although most are baptized), and church has no business (at least in theory) in State business. But again these are differences with southern european countries, differences you can also find with other northern european countries. I have friends from the states and many european countries and we all get along very well!

And of course, halloween has no business here either... although I had some great halloween times in the US!

Malaga, Spain
Level Contributor
71,964 posts
3,813 reviews
2. Re: Americans in Madrid


I am an American living in Malaga for the last 3 years. In Andalusia it is very easy to make friends with the Spanish because they accept everyone here. There are hundreds of Americans living here because of the mild climate and we have an American Club, where we have lunch together once a month, just to keep in touch.

The friendliness of the natives here lures thousands of foreigners to live here. No one knows how many there are, but I would say that there must be more than a hundred thousand.

One of the best things here is the food. If you love food, this is a paradise because the Spanish have a long culinary history and every region has traditional delicacies. On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 10 and food in the US is a 5. And of course food here is much more inexpensive than in the US. The same holds for alcoholic drinks. They must have more than 200 different liqueurs here.

All of the American movies shown here in the movie house or TV are dubbed into Spanish because the Spanish will not see any movie with subtitles. If you are used to hearing an American actor’s voice, you will hear a dubbed voice, although the dubbing now is very professional.

When you go to a restaurant in the US, they may have a receptionist who will seat you wherever she wants to seat you. I hated this and I always asked for a different table, one that I wanted. Here when you enter a restaurant, you sit wherever you want to sit, unless the table is reserved.

Americans are used to having a lot of living space in their homes. Here the houses are small and the apartments too.

What I miss most is shopping at Macy's. The only department store here is El Corte Ingles. The US has much more variety in department stores. I remember that the mall in Las Vegas has 12 department stores. Competition is good because prices are lower. Macy's had continuous sales and here the sales occur only in summer and New Year.

If you understand Spanish, you find that there are many more magazines here than in the US.

TV here seems to have double the number of ads than in the US. TV programs run at least 2 hours here during prime time and some go on for 4.5 hours. I have to tape programs I like to watch because they are placed too late at night.

The worst thing here is parking in the city. There is practically none. The Spanish now have one car for each member of the family and they have to park on the streets. Within the city, I have to take a taxi because I cannot find parking. In California there was free abundant parking everywhere you needed to go. Also in California everyone followed traffic rules. Rules here are quite optional.

When you make friends here, they are for life. In the US the society is so mobile that your friends go away to another state and you never see them again. People here stay in the city they were born and do not like to move. Younger people however are now going to different cities for job opportunities, but their hometowns are always in their hearts and they return to them whenever they can.

In the US, we would take vacations whenever we wanted to. Here most take vacations in July and August.

You cannot make appointments for lunch here with your friends in advance. You have to call them in the morning to see how they feel. In the US I could make a dinner appointment 3 months in advance and be sure my friend would not stand me up.

If you are hospitalized here, ALL your friends will visit you.

For travel, Spain is the best because every single town or city is very different from the others, as well as the food. In the US the stores are all the same throughout the country, and all the malls are the same. There is a lot of history and art in this country and this is what interests me more.

Life is much more relaxed here, so people live longer. They do not have the stresses that people in the US suffer. Here people work to live, and in the US people live to work. The most important thing here is the family and not your work. The biggest stress here is thinking what you will have for lunch!

Your job here is much more secure than in the US. They have few mass layoffs. It is just not the custom. People here have more of a social conscience and will not fire you. Besides government laws make it expensive for companies to fire people.

It is socially acceptable to talk to anyone here on the street, even if you do not know them, and they will answer you in a friendly way. This hardly happens in the US in big cities.

When there is a death in the family here, ALL of the friends will show up at the funeral. They will take the day off to be with you and comfort you.

Malaga, Spain
Level Contributor
71,964 posts
3,813 reviews
3. Re: Americans in Madrid


Here are more thoughts:

Most bread in the US is industrially made. Bread in Spain is artesanal, made in small bakeries. On the scale of 1 to 10, bread in Spain is a 10. In the US, in my opinion it is a 3. The variety of bread here is incredible and it is really the staff of life here.

In the US, supermarkets and malls are open on Sundays. Here everything is closed on Sunday. The unions here will not allow anything to be open on Sunday because they believe that Sunday should be a day of rest. In Malaga there is a big shopping mall on top of the train station and it is open on Sundays because there is a law that says that airports and train stations can have stores open on Sunday. The unions are fighting this mall and say that if malls can open on Sundays, they will drive small stores out of business. In the US, our factories work 3 shifts, 7 days a week. Many of the workers can shop only in the off hours, so our US stores have adopted to this phenomenon and are open more hours than here in Spain.

The Spanish do not like the movies that the Spanish movie industry turns out. They prefer American movies. The bad thing is that they copy the worst things that American culture invents. American culture invented the low riding pants that are barely hanging on the hip bones. They copied that here. American culture invented the worn jeans with the holes at the knees. That is the uniform of TV hosts here because they think that is “in”.

The majority of educated people in Spain have never been to the US. First of all they do not like our politics. They also think that they will not be able to stand American food, from what they hear. They can easily afford to go to the US, but these attitudes will not permit them to travel to the US. The few Spanish who I have met here who have been to the US are our country’s best friends, and they are young. Spanish people really know the US only from what they see in American movies. Those of us from the US know that our movies are for entertainment only and many have nothing to do with real life. Try to explain that to the Spanish. What the US government should do is to have a travel program to urge the Spanish to visit the US and see for themselves the marvels of our country. We would have more friends that way. Spain is the world’s 8th largest economy now and should not be ignored by the US government.

People in Andalusia sing in the streets when they are walking. They love to sing at parties or reunions with friends. That does not happen in the US, where they will think you are a loony if you do that.

Level Contributor
151 posts
2 reviews
4. Re: Americans in Madrid

My heart is beating and my mouth is melting for Spain!

On the topic of "life is more relaxed in European countries" a lot of Americans agree that we have to find a way to reduce stress and to lower anxiety that makes a beautiful sunny day look dark and cloudy! It was an article the other day on how to put things in perspective, how to enjoy life to its fullest and value things when we have them (or when it's possible to have them) and not when we lose them.

I have to say it's very hard to find an American that will give up his/her comfort - a big house, an extra car, a huge back yard - and settle for something less in terms of tangible goods.

I am telling you, i am willing to give up a room of my house, so that i could have a better social life, a warmth conversation a couple of times a week with (as mentioned) long-life friends, enjoy the experience and the beauty around us, be just happier.

I know that "the grass is greener on the other side" but someone has to steal the secret : what do they put in their grass, how do they water it :-)

Keep the thoughts and the memories coming!

Thank you!


Miami, Florida
Level Contributor
266 posts
1 review
5. Re: Americans in Madrid

I've enjoyed reading everyone's thoughts on the pace and quality of life in Spain vs.the US. It seems that the Europeans share a secret that many Americans have yet to learn - there are no hearses with luggage racks on top!

But, it saddens me to read that Spaniards may believe that the US and all Americans are as shallow and plastic as depicted by Hollywood. It would be nice if they would give us a chance to prove differently by visiting the US....just not South Beach :D I, for one, try to present a good example, ever mindful I am representing my country when I travel.

I am so looking forward to be a goodwill ambassador in Spain, beginning Tuesday when we arrive. Can't wait!

United States
Level Contributor
1,938 posts
323 reviews
6. Re: Americans in Madrid

Spain occupies 3/4 of my bllood. My grandparents were from Leon, Lugo and Islas Canarias. My goal is to retire in the smallest town I can find where people enjoy life to the fullest. I love the US but it's true that we do not know how to live life. We are working on getting our EU citinzenship through my grandparents birth information and then buying a place in Spain for our future. Reading this post just made me hunger for that moment even more, except the retiring part because then old age will be a reality. This is our first trip to Spain since I lived there in the 70's when I was very young.

I do know, however, from friends that have lived there recently, that it's hard to make a living unless you are a professional and even then. So they moved to the US and travel to Spain with the same hopes of going back in the future. So there is something to be said about making more money here in the US, but in the hopes of saving it up and going back to live there.

Detroit, Michigan
Level Contributor
5 posts
16 reviews
7. Re: Americans in Madrid


The better half and I will be in Spain for Thanksgiving and beyond. Your statement about getting an EU citizenship has piqued my interest. My grandparents are from Italy. How does one go about obtaining an EU citizenship? It can't be easy, is it? I am sure I could get birth dates, but I don't think I could get birth certificates. Is each country's rules different?

How do Americans apply to live in Spain? Do they need a visa? Do they need sponsors (relatives)?

Questions from my lack of knowledge.

United States
Level Contributor
1,938 posts
323 reviews
8. Re: Americans in Madrid

I dont have any information on how americans purchase in Europe, but in regards to getting the citizenship, I was told that all I need is my grandparents birth certificate which sometimes is hard to get because people back in the early 1900 never registered, but I do have their passports from when they left Spain in the early 1900's so I'm hoping that will help. Maybe someone else that has done this may have more information.

Barcelona, Spain
Level Contributor
9,242 posts
13 reviews
9. Re: Americans in Madrid

I really enjoyed reading the answers from the American perspective. Now, my 2 cents of Spanish Euro...

I'm Spaniard and I've traveled to the US quite a few times, a couple of times for leisure, most times for business. Early last year I stayed at the US for 2 months. After the first few days, I was wondering what I had say/did wrong as no one told me about having lunch together or having a drink after job... until I realized it was just normal behavior there. I have worked at the London and Copenhagen offices too, and it was totally different there, so I would say there are one "European way of living”, of course with differences between countries, but generally speaking, human relations are a lot more important at this side of the pond.

I found interesting as well how religious the US people is or seems to be. I was asked many times about what church I am, and I had to see "none", even I was baptized as catholic. I only have a friend who attends regularly to Sunday mass. So, it makes me laugh when so many Americans define Spain as a "very religious" country. What?? Because we celebrate many festivals??... this is a different thing, guys ;o)

Another thing I find strange while in the US was that it was so difficult to get alcoholic drinks. In fact I'm not a drinker, but I fancy a cold beer in a terrace in summer evenings... when I was told I was not allowed to have a beer outside, I could not believe it!

As well, there is a totally different approach to nudity... here topless is the norm at most beaches, if not total nudity, you can see half naked people on TV commercials, etc.

About half of my friends did travel to the US at least once, so I was surprised when reading some of the previous comments. It may not be our fist choice when planning a trip (in many cases due the price, distance and language factors). Most people I know from the US have not left the American continent either. However, I do live in Barcelona and we have direct flights to the US, so I guess is not so difficult/expensive for us. Yes most of us do not like US politics, but we know one thing is a country and a different one their politics/politicians.

Spain is quite diverse and certainly the people and customs from the North (that I know better) and the South are different. Live is more laid-back in the South, but even we "cold and restrained" people from the north would be "crazy and warm" compared to what most I saw in the US. I've still friends there, anyway. I will like to return on holiday (as I only saw the North-East coast so far) and I would not mind to work there for a few months again... but moving permanently, no way! :o)

10. Re: Americans in Madrid

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