When I first moved to Spain, I had experienced extreme culture shock! Nothing I read could have prepared me for a lot of my lessons learned, and daily strife. I figured out a lot of things on my own–and had the help of my Spanish friends and fellow expats. I’ve decided that I MUST divulge some of these secret travel tips to increase your quality of life in Spain as well!
Pick your feet up when you walk & do NOT text and walk at the same time.
In Spain, a lot of streets and sidewalks are not completely developed, have random holes, weak spots, or literally they have random objects protruding from the ground for some unknown and maybe practical reason… I’ve seen so many people trip–tourists and locals! I’ve probably stumbled 76 times, and I fell on my face twice. Cobblestone and undeveloped sidewalks and roads are prevalent throughout the entire country!
Make sure to look before you sit (on the metro, the bus, etc.)
Trust me! Public transportation is extremely efficient and most citizens and visitors travel by metro, taxi or bus. As such, you’ll encounter a lot of different kinds of people, people in a hurry, and people zombie-ing out on their daily commute. I’ve actually seen people just sit in the metro without looking only for them to immediately jump up with their bottoms soaking in an unknown substance or bodily fluid.
You don’t want those problems…
Avoid the dog poop!
Madrid, especially is very dog-friendly. You will see A LOT of dogs walking around all over Madrid with their owners. Most dogs are so well-mannered, they are almost never walked on a leash. Spain also has an extreme shortage of dog parks and their owners almost NEVER clean up after their dogs. In other words, dog shit is everywhere! You will NOT look as cute as Beyoncé and her girl gang wiping shit off your shoes! I’m not saying to always look down when you walk the streets of Spain, but I AM saying USE YOUR PERIPHERALS!
Bring your own recyclable grocery bag
Europe, in general, charges a small fee with every bag at their grocery stores, convenience stores and shopping malls. It’s maybe 25 cents here and 75 cents there, but that ADDS UP! Plus, you’ll be doing the world a favor using a recyclable bag by reducing plastic waste. 🙂
Live by a metro stop
Future teachers abroad, hear me, LIVE BY A METRO STOP. This will make your life so much easier. The metro lines are connected to everywhere you want to go in Madrid. I suggest living at least a 5-10 minutes walk from any metro station. I was fortunate to live 2 mins walk from Lista (line 4) station and 10 minutes walk to three other lines (line 2, 5 and 6). It’s so much more convenient, and shops and restaurants position themselves to be accessible from the metro as well. Chances are you’ll be close to a lot of great shops, markets and restaurants if you’re by a metro as well.
Pack some hand sanitizer and/or soap, and toilet paper!
I don’t know what it is, but Spanish bars and restaurants rarely have soap in their facilities. Hand sanitizer isn’t sold or marketed as much as in the US–so you might want to bring some with you.
Use the restroom before you leave the house
In Spain, it is extremely common to find signs that say “Restrooms for customers only”. Often, before you can use the restroom, you have to buy something. In some cases you can ninja your way in a crowded restaurant or bar, but you may or may not get some dirty looks. Throughout Europe, in places like Amsterdam, for example, restaurants and bars might have turnstiles requiring a payment like 1-2 euros to use the restroom too! You don’t need THAT buzzkill!
Pack your immune system boosters
Seriously! Living in a new country, regardless of how strong your stomach is, you’re exposed to a different environment, stress from traveling, a new ecosystem, different water, and different foods. During my program orientation, a health presenter mentioned that some people may suffer from digestive/bowels problems (either not being able “to go” or you can’t stop “going”!). Living in Spain, you are able to travel cheap and often to other European countries–it’s always a good thing to boost the immune system when you travel.
Bring a reusable water bottle
The tap water in the majority of Spain is wonderfully drinkable and tastes fresh (similar to water in Seattle). More than likely, you’re going to walk and take the metro or bus everywhere. It’s always a good idea to stay hydrated, reduce waste AND you can refill your bottle almost anywhere. Plus, Europe is progressively conscious of our growing carbon footprint and recycling and especially reducing plastic waste will earn you points–and it’s just a good thing to do!