Less is More

Authored by:
Helen M.

Helen M.
  • The first week of my Madrid experience did not go at all as I’d hoped it would.  As they say, “the best laid plans…” 

I arrived the day after Christmas, having come to Madrid 8 days early so that I could have extra time to relax, adjust to the new time zone and explore before orientation began on January 3rd.   Unfortunately, I got sick, so I ended up spending the entire week recovering from a bad cold.  Well, I suppose I accomplished the first two.

My room at the guest house was a bit drafty, but the hotel staff were warm and helpful and I was located very near a supermarket and pharmacy which supplied what I needed to treat my stuffy head.  Only a few of the staff members spoke English, so it gave me an opportunity to practice my Spanish.  The wifi was free, so I was able to do a bit of online research.  Also, thank goodness I had Netflix!

Even without venturing more than a few blocks away from my room, a few cultural differences were immediately apparent:  

  • Here, as I’ve noticed elsewhere in Europe, sizes are smaller, in general:  Double beds instead of queen-sized, smaller vehicles, dainty coffee cups, tea pots for one cup of tea, toilet paper rolls, napkins, take out portions, etc.  Having smaller amounts and sizes instantly makes me appreciate everything more; I noticed I consume more thoughtfully and waste less. 
  • In addition to not having massive amounts of stuff, there are also fewer options than we’re used to in the States, and that’s okay.  Having fewer choices of cold medicine, for example, isn’t an issue, as long as the one the pharmacist gives you works for you! And, there’s a bit of relief from having not as many different things to consider. 
  • When you’re sick and in a foreign place, you really appreciate the kindness of others, like the front desk attendant heating up my soup for me when the café was closed and generously giving me some fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Although the culture here is less 24/7, the magic of the internet helped me navigate my first week with no real problems.  Even though the restaurant in the hotel was closed on the weekend and for New Year’s holidays, Madrid has several food delivery services.  While being confined to bed in the extremely cold weather prevented me from exploring the city in person, I was able to go online to scope out locations for flats and start to learn the layout of the city.  I also had plenty of time to catch up with friends and begin to prepare activities for the kids.  So, although not terribly exciting or Instagramable, my first week was productive nonetheless and as we start orientation, my cold is almost completely gone. After an extremely hectic month of final preparation to come to Spain, doing less this past week turned out to be exactly what I needed.

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