The Fashion: Spanish fashion is everything I expected and didn’t expect. Most younger people look like they just came from a Vogue photoshoot. They are effortlessly perfect and intimidatingly stylish for every occasion. Athleisure is uncommon unless coming from the gym, even for men. I was definitely not used to this. In Michigan, to see a man out of sweatpants elicits a pretty special event.
Everyone seems to care about their looks and popular stores like Zara, Primark, and Bershka are always flooded with people at all hours of the day. I have really tried to restrain myself from buying too much, but I find this to be a battle I keep on losing. There is a certain pressure to dress nice even when running errands. If I leave the door of my apartment building, I definitely don’t want to be wearing my old leggings and hoodie. I suppose this is a matter of fitting in. It's nice to not always be gawked at like a foreigner and to alleviate those stares, adapting the fashion is a priority.
However, I have found there were quite a lot of rumors about Spanish fashion such as that they never wear Birkenstocks. This is frankly just not true. I have seen numerous people wearing a wide assortment of Birkenstocks. I have even found Birkenstock stores. As we get closer to winter, black Doc Martens are the go-to. Everyone has them, everyone wants them. If I could recommend one pair of shoes to bring, it would be a pair of Doc Martens.
The Weather: A shocker to every foreigner. In the winter, Madrid is a VERY cold city. I will say this again….. In winter, Madrid is a VERY, VERY cold city. I am from Michigan, I am used to the cold. When I looked up the weather in Spain, I saw that the winter never seemed to drop below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. In theory, this seems rather mild, but here are a couple of things to consider. In Michigan, Winter-life is heating up your car before work, finding the closest parking spot, and lighting a big fire in your fireplace as soon as you get home. Spain is a little different. Without a car, walking is a priority. Even taking public transportation requires a lot of walking. The buses and the metro most likely do not drop you off right in front of your designation and sometimes it's just easier and more time-efficient just to walk. That being said, I feel I spend more time out in the cold here. I am not simply moving from one warm spot to the next, I am spending long durations shivering in the cold. Also, due to Covid, many schools still keep the windows open. This means even at work you are trying to retain body heat moving from one class to the next. I find I am colder here than I ever was in Michigan oddly enough. Therefore, it is important to bring those sweaters that take up the extra room, bring a jacket, a hat, and gloves. Otherwise, the first cold week, you will be spending a lot of money just like I did, and on a 1,000 euro budget, that's not ideal.
The Food: Everyone knows that the eating habits of the Spaniards are quite a bit different than American eating habits, but what has surprised me the most is how hard it can be to get dinner in Spain. Despite the fact that there are numerous restaurants everywhere in Madrid, looking for food other than Spanish tapas can be quite challenging. Don’t get me wrong, patatas bravas and croquettes are delicious from time to time, but during the period of apartment hunting when your own kitchen is still not of access, looking for a filling dinner can be quite challenging. Also, don't expect to have the huge plates of pancakes, bacon, and eggs that are typical at any American breakfast restaurant. That simply does not exist here, and if it does, I have yet to see it. Eggs are more of a lunch/dinner food here, not breakfast. Spanish breakfast is light and simple. An example would be a piece of toast with tomato and spices.
Grocery shopping can be a pain as well. It is not common to stockpile groceries here. Grocery shopping is light. Typically people buy only for a couple of days, therefore making numerous trips a week. However, if you are a Pinterest cook like myself, grocery shopping can be difficult. Not every supermarket has every item like in the US. Certain markets are good for certain items. I now have about four supermarkets I frequent for different products, and worst comes to worst and I still can not find what I am looking for, best to take a trip over to Corte de Ingles. They have everything, but you will pay a pretty steep price for it.