Thursday, 18 November 2010


I am now into my third month here in Madrid.When I moved, I envisaged these first three months as something of a trial period, after which I could justifiably retreat back home if it had been a catastrophe. Happily, I have survived without any major disasters and as yet, have no intention of retreat.

However, although I still cock a smile at Spanish idiosyncracies and relish waking up to blue skies most mornings, I think it is fair to say the Honeymoon Period is over. It´s not that I am no longer captivated by the bubbly language, exuberant culture and unhurried etiquette, but rather my enchantment with Madrid has been slightly tarnished by occasional longings to go home.

When gloomily pining for London over a bowl of soup recently, a friend advised me to google ´culture shock´. According to Wikipedia, culture shock is something that most people experience when moving abroad: after the excitement of arriving in a new place subsides, anxiety and insecurity set in – with physical and emotional symptoms. Perhaps this is a bit dramatic to refer to relocations within Europe, but it does have some resonance for me.

My initial enthusiasm to meet charming, welcoming locals has unwittingly been replaced by a foot-dragging reluctanct to date supposedly charming, Latino strangers; the refreshingly laid-back, everything-in-your-own-time service has become infuriatingly inefficient; sipping a Fanta Limón while propped up against a bustling bar has lost its appeal and instead I´m craving a squashy chair and a pot of Earl Grey...

Whereas I previously enjoyed never quite understanding the day-to-day happenings (considering it as something of an opportunity to live in my own bubble), after a series of back-to-back confusions I am now weary of total incomprehension and fed up of never knowing what the hell is going on. The initial enthusiasm has subsided and left me feeling distinctly frayed around the edges: permanently chasing sleep and pining for a city where I can understand the barman and a friendly shoulder is never far away.

Last weekend I allowed myself a guilt-free break from all things Spanish, indulging my pangs of nostalgia in an Irish pub in the North of the city. I spent a happy afternoon drinking pints, watching rugby on a big screen and chatting to a Londoner who could have walked straight off the set of Only Fools and Horses. Two games and four pints later, I left feeling comforted and revived (probably the result of the Heineken more than anything).

By no means am I having second thoughts about moving to Madrid. On the contrary, I´m even more impatient to graduate from broken spanglish to fluent spanish: when communication isn´t such a fiasco I know I will feel more of a local and less of a tourist. As and when that happens, sporadic weekends of all-things-English and visits from friends will be sufficient to ease the waves of homesickness and to refocus my rose-tinted spectacles firmly on Madrid.

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