Expat life in Madrid – Livin’ la vida loca

 

Madrid, Expat

Living in Madrid allowed me to fall prey to bizarre Spanish customs and traditions. For any of you lovely readers thinking about moving to or studying there, DO IT.

To explain their lifestyle simply, take my timetable from last year at an English university, move every activity 3 hours later and voila you’ve got Madrid life down to a tee. I would stumble along to my 9am lecture on time, with the ever so english expectation of it starting at 9am on the dot. However I mostly spent at least half an hour waiting outside the classroom for the teacher to actually turn up! None of the other students seemed to bat an eyelid and they too stroll into class when the teacher eventually arrived. This relaxed attitude is very much the way of life here, which actually worked wonders for me, except for when it came to sorting out Erasmus paperwork or waiting for a response to an email. Lunch was usually around 2.30pm, or in my case 3ish, as that is when my flatmate would get home from Uni. I slowly adapted to this dramatic change in eating habits, ignoring my stomach cramps at midday, or in most cases grabbing a merienda so I could survive! Dinner (as you guessed) was also later, and by later I mean bedtime. If you wander through town in the early evening everything appears to be quiet and pretty empty until BAM its 11pm and suddenly the whole city is out wining and dining.

A night out in Madrid borders on the ridiculous when compared to England. Ridiculous… but oh so fun! For the Spanish, a night out literally means an entire night out. If you don’t come home past 6am, still busting those reggaeton inspired dance moves, on the first metro alongside some less than impressed morning commuters, then it has probably been a dull evening. Pre-drinks, or “copas”, would never be earlier than midnight and turning up to “la discoteca” (yes, that is what they call it) before 2am is considered almost a crime. Of course keeping up with their timetable was one thing, but their dancing…was incredible. Let’s put it this way, the majority of my girlfriends could have easily been in Beyonce’s new music video. My lack of sass on the dance floor made it extremely obvious that I was the foreigner of the group. Coping with the morning hangovers, especially with early class during the week, was not so fun.However, thank the lord that a siesta really is an accustomed day-to-day activity. This, without a doubt, was my lifeline. Why had I never napped before!?

The best thing, without a doubt, about Spain was the food. In particular the fact that when you ordered a drink at a bar, free food would magically appear. The tapas scene is something all UK bars should learn from. I loved it so much it got to the point where a) I was drinking way more just so they would keep bringing me food and b) if I received a drink and no tapas arrived, I became horrendously offended and left immediately. Hit me up if you are in search of a tapas bar in Madrid, my knowledge of all the generous tapas bars is unparalleled!

Madrid really is a crazy exciting city and I highly recommend living there. In between fiestas, tapas and not enough sleep you will have the time of your life!

To whet your appetite here is quite a well known reggaeton classic. You may have heard it:

 

 

Colombian referendum. The people say “no” to peace

Colombian referendum

So last week I went to a talk at Canning House on the, then, upcoming Colombian peace referendum. For those of you living in London, and looking to immerse yourself in Spanish-Latino culture, I implore you to get involved! Situated on Belgrave Square, it is the cultural, political and social hub of all things Latin American, Spanish and Portuguese. It holds informed debates, contacts and comments on Latin American politics, economy and business. It’s super easy to get involved!

A quick recap for readers unfamiliar with Colombian current events: the referendum followed the historic breakthrough of the peace accord signed between the FARC rebels and the Colombian government after more than 60 years of violence. On Sunday the people of Colombia were asked to vote whether or not to support the peace deal – ¿Apoya usted el Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del conflicto y la Constitucción de una Paz Estable y Duradera? Many were surprised when the final vote came to 50.2% No, and 49.8% Yes, thus resulting in a narrow rejection of the peace deal.

Who in their right mind would vote “no” to peace you might think?

However, the Colombian people voting “no”, were in disagreement with the agreements and deals made within the peace accord, rather than to peace itself. Leading the discussion were a couple of heavy hitters; Juan David Gutierrez, former advisor to the Colombian Minister of Justice, and Vanessa Buschschluter (have a go at pronouncing that one!), Latin American and Caribbean Editor for BBC News Online. Gutierrez and Buschschluter implied that the referendum would most likely end in an acceptance of the FARC peace deal. However, it was made clear that reconciliation and forgiveness of FARC rebels, a main aspect of the agreement, would not be accepted by many Colombians. If the deal went ahead many FARC guerrillas, guilty of war crimes, would escape jail and be given demobilisation and rehabilitation support. The government would pay them a monthly stipend in return for all FARC guerrillas laying down their weapons for good. It is therefore perhaps not too surprising why the majority voted “no” to these agreements. For many, letting these rebels ‘get away’ with murder with little consequences, and financial help to start over, was one step too far.

Yet, it is still a pity that four years of discussions and peace negotiations between the FARC and the Colombian government can, now, no longer be implemented. With no action plan in place for if this peace deal resulted in the rejection that it did, who knows what the future will be for Colombia.

If you want a bit more info check out this great discussion en español:

There are a couple of great events coming up, the highlight of which will be the talk on the American elections and their affect on Latin America, so stay tuned!