Top five most ridiculous complaints by expats in Madrid

There is no greater reserve of banality and pervasive predictability than in the guiri ghetto, a 3km radius that strangles Gran Vía. Don’t get me wrong; I spend most of my time roaming from the bangin’ cafés in Lavapiés to the craft beer-riddled bars of Malasaña, so I’m not completely devoid of comparable transgressions.

But I believe this very criterion makes me the perfect candidate to deplore these clichés and generalisations that fellow tourists and expats cling to when (pub)crawling through Madrid’s centre.

1. “Unless it has been blogged about, I’m not going there.”

Let’s be honest, we’re not short of English-speaking bloggers residing in Madrid who are sipping their soy café con leches with iPhone in hand and taking pictures of said café con leche from five varying artistic angles (let’s ‘gram it!) This means that while there are abundance of cafes and bars in Madrid, the same five get blogged about every week (hi, Toma, Café de la Luz, Bicicleta, Café Central!) Best not to venture outside of these institutions and wreak guiri havoc.

And by the way, if I read one more expat guide on the neighborhoods of Madrid, I might actually vomit. But if you have a spare moment, please check out my own Madrid neighborhood guide here.

2. “I don’t actually want to see a bullfight, but I just feel like it’s something that everyone should do when visiting Spain. It’s an old tradition and it’s part of Spanish culture.”

You know what else was tradition? African Slavery in the Americas. Or the burning of ‘witches’ in the Middle Ages. Or The Macarena, everywhere. It doesn’t make it sacred or exempt from the laws of morality (or self-respect). The worst part is the post-bullfight complaint, after said person has left hallway through the goring: “it was so disgusting! I can’t believe they torture it!”

No shit, señorita. I thought they braided the bull’s hair and fed it paella.

3. “My auxiliar wage of 1000 euro per month (for 16 hours) is shit”

I’m not going to go into too much detail on this one, because to be honest, I can’t be arsed looking up the median wage in Madrid to prove my point. Do it yourself, lazy bastard-o. But I can assure you, 1000 euros is pretty damn good here, particularly for a job that still leaves you with plenty of time to take on extra teaching work and watch bulls eat paella.

4. “I’ve been in Madrid for a year and the only Spanish phrases I know are how to order a beer or how to complain about my wage.”

Probably wasn’t such a good idea to move in with that roommate from Auckland now was it? Let’s make up for it by speaking English all-the-fucking-time and adding in random Spanish words like amigo, bastard-o and helado.

5. I am sorry, but this one I have to direct at the Americans (sorry American amigos!): I can’t believe my students didn’t know where (Michigan, Oregon, Washington, etc) is!

When you were 12, did you know where Navarre is? Or Badajoz? Erm…. guys, can you point to each of them on a map of Spain now? No, didn’t think so. Helado.

A seafood paella



  1. Ummmm love this. Selfishly I’m glad expats stick to well-trodden areas so I can avoid them like the plague (unless I need to watch a us world cup game, then fine, come one come all my charming compatriots). Must blogs are poorly written, and most travel blogs are insufferable and self-aggrandizing but you seem to get it, and I appreciate that.

    • yes!! i certainly feel the insufferable/self-aggrandizing elements of these blogs, particularly when it’s just more and more of the same bullshit. it’s like, you left your home country to come live in Spain for a year…congratulations. then a series of posts on nervousness/how to do what everyone else is doing/funny Spanish phrases/how to settle back in back home when it’s all done. arhg.

  2. Haha, all so true.. especially the last one. I don’t understand why some people expect everyone around the world to know their little town. I’m from the capital of Canada and even I didn’t expect everyone to know where/what it was. I was always surprised when people knew (even though I shouldn’t have been, considering it’s actually an important city in my country). It’s just a little arrogant to expect otherwise.

    • Yeah I think people also forget that a lot of kids (not all) don’t yet have that curiosity about geography and learning about other places. I guess it’s something we develop when we’re older.

  3. Ha! I particularly enjoyed the bit about watching bulls eat paella since that’s an accurate snapshot of my weekly life.

    To these 5 I will add a 6th ridiculous complaint: “Madrid has no playa.” Well OF COURSE it doesn’t have a beach. Did you not bother to Google a map of Spain before flying to Madrid?!

  4. Love this! So true about sticking to a ‘safe zone’ in the city, the usual response when I say I live in Cuatro Caminos is ‘I don’t know where that is’. And 1000€ euros a month – so much more than when I was an auxiliar! (OK that was 10 years ago, but…) That’s your standard Spanish wage, and the hours in most companies are erm, significantly longer than 16 hours a week!

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