The Concise Spain Survival Guide

Guide to living in Spain, Spain Survival Guide
Spain Lesson 1:

Even though you purchased them, you cannot take glass water bottles with you.  Everyone will get mad.

That’s right, folks. Not only do you have to pay €2-3 for your bottle of water, but you have to give the bottle back. This is precisely why I always order wine.

Spain Lesson 2:

Cheap restaurants like 100 Montaditos, Lizarrán, and La Sureña are the poor man’s (or woman’s) friend. Want to drink a huge mug of tinto de verano for €1.50? (Or €1 on Wednesdays/Sundays?) 100 Montaditos is your place. Want to get 5 bottles of beer for €3? Go to La Sureña.

You can even get Chipotle-style burritos at Tierra Burrito Bar (pictured below; metros Alonso Martínez and Guzmán el Bueno) for a reasonable €6.

I like to eat, so I really like this about Madrid.

Spain Lesson 3:

All fruit you wish to purchase must be weighed by the Official Fruit-Weigher. They don’t always have scales at the cash registers, so the fruit-buying process looks like this:

  • Step 1: Put on the plastic gloves that are provided for you. (You’ll know to do this because there are 30 million “POR FAVOR, USAD LAS GUANTES” signs everywhere.)
  • Step 2: Pick out the fruit/vegetables you want and put them in separate bags.
  • Step 3: Bring all fruit/vegetables to the Official Fruit-Weigher. He’ll weigh them and put a barcode sticker on each bag.
  • Step 4: Walk away with your produce.
  • Step 5: Congratulate yourself because you know how to do yet another Spain thing.

Spain Lesson 4:

Window screens are essentially nonexistent.

I really don’t understand this one, especially in a country where the windows are open all the time because barely anyone has any air conditioning. What am I supposed to do if a bird flies in? I don’t know, and I hope I don’t find out.

Spain Lesson 5:

The bus is everything. I love the Madrid metro but, because they recently turned on the heat in the tunnels, every ride is like a trip to the sun. Or the 9th Circle of Hell.

The bus is comfortable, convenient, and less crowded. It takes a little more time to figure out each route, but the results are really, really worth it.

Spain Lesson 6:

It is possible to transport large household items on the metro. This includes, but is not limited to, large paintings, end tables, and Ikea furniture.

I bought a metal fan for €5 from an auxiliar who’s moving back home, which was a great deal.

It was a less great deal, however, in that I had to use the metro to get it home. My two friends Lauren and Kaitlin kindly volunteered to help me, so the whole thing went better than expected: I did all the fan-carrying while they took photos/made me feel a lot less awkward. Fourteen stops and one transfer later, I made it home with my fan.

Spain Lesson 7:

Base any and all laundry operations on the weather. No dryer = no underwear if it rains while your clothes are out to dry.

Spain Lesson 8:

If the street/sidewalk/metro seat is wet, it’s probably pee. (Consequently: If you think it might be pee, it is. Walk away.)

Spain Lesson 9:

When at a restaurant or café, always specify the amount (we’re talking milliliters/liters here) of water that you want. Otherwise you’ll (somehow) end up with a 1.5-liter bottle of Pellegrino instead of a more modest 250 ml. I seriously think they do this on purpose so they can charge you more.

Spain Lesson 10:

Grocery bags cost money. (This one is genius, and I wish our stores would start doing the same.) Each bag costs 5-10 céntimos, and it encourages people to be more conscious of their plastic bag usage.

Spain Lesson 11:

“Me pongo caliente” ≠ “Hace calor.” Learn from my mistake, kids. These two are not the same.

I was trying to talk about how hot it was outside, but I ended up saying something closer to “I’m horny.” I was only talking to my roommates, gracias a Díos, but I still spent a good five minutes wishing I could melt into the floor.

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11 thoughts on “The Concise Spain Survival Guide

  1. The last one is hilarious! Something like that is destined to happen to me when I eventually move to Spain. Love the blog =) Hope you’re enjoying your stay in Madrid

    • Thanks lady! I mentioned this in a comment above, but the most important thing is to get used to awkwardness. You’re going to make language mistakes and commit cultural faux pas, but most people are understanding, especially if you can laugh it off.

      Best of luck with your eventual move to Madrid! Always feel free to reach out if I can help with anything.

  2. I’m so used to Spain, so I suppose that’s why I find it hilarious that you guys took that glass bottle and they had to run out after you … I love their system, though; recycling works! 🙂

    As far as weighing fruit, where do you do this? Most supermarkets require you to weigh it yourself before bringing it to the register. I think I remember in Toledo they had a fruit weigher guy. But I haven’t had that happen to me in a long while!

    I’m sure you’ll be learning lots of new things this year!

    • Hahah we were pretty confused/embarrassed. I felt so bad that I tried to explain why we did it, but I think she just thought we were weird. I’m all about recycling, too, so I’m happy to know that’s what they do with them.

      I live right up the block from a Condis — which I’d actually never heard of before I moved in — and that’s where they have the Official Fruit Weigher. (My absolute favorite grocery store is Mercadona. This Condis is just oh-so-convenient.) I’ve seen the self-weighing stations, too, but I’ve never experienced one myself.

      Definitely! I’ve already learned so much. The key is to get used to being wrong and making silly mistakes all the time.

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