Leaving Madrid

It has been over three months since my previous blog entry (crazy how time flies) and our stay in Madrid is coming to an end. Over this time I have had the chance to travel and visit some more cities in Spain, get to know many more people from all around the world and I’ve learned a lot more about everyday life in Spain.

  In my previous post I gave a general overview about Madrid, its free time activities, climate et cetera; all the things I experienced in the first two weeks I spent here. In this post I’ll try to go more in-depth into what staying here long-term is like.

  I noticed a slight change in my lifestyle overtime. My initial state of feeling and acting like a tourist, always being on the go and not stopping for even a second, transformed into something more well-founded. I ’calmed down’ and started really living in the city, adapting to its rhythm. After getting to know my new environment and starting to feel settled, I began to notice and enjoy the little things and develop new habits. Habits like the sacred sushi-nights with my roommates, the evening walks to grab a taza de chocolate from my favorite bar, the unskippable jarra (or two…or three) of sangría on Friday nights to welcome the weekend… or being pleasantly surprised at the occasional warm, May-like breeze in the middle of the winter. It’s these little things that I’m going to associate life in Madrid with, and the things I’m going to miss the most once I’m gone.

If I were to point out some significant differences between the way people live in Germany (more specifically in Berlin) and in Madrid, the key words would be ’efficiency versus design and aesthetic sense’. In Germany everything seems to be perfectly organized. Schedules, appointments and deadlines are stuck to and everything just works. There are few unpleasant surprises and most things go as planned.

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In Spain on the other hand, the way things are done seems to be just as important the result itself. For instance, storekeepers and public employees might work more slowly but at the same time they make their clients feel more comfortable by smiling and chatting with them. The average person on the street is very well-dressed, even if the occasion doesn’t call for it, they pay attention to detail even when not strictly neccessary. There are dozens of little specialty stores in every street, my favorites being one which sells nothing but hosiery and different kinds of tights and socks, and another that only sells threads, needles and buttons, the likes of which I have never seen in Berlin. Some of these stores don’t seem to ’make sense’ at first glance, since all these different products could easily be purchased from one single supermarket, and they leave you wondering how they even make a living. Though these shops are slightly unrealistic, they are an incredibly delicate and enchanting addition to any neighborhood.

I also very much embrace the idea that taking a little rest, hacer una pequeña siesta, after lunch is by no means looked down upon and is a perfectly normal part of everyday life. Sure, it takes away time from being productive and working, but it also might result in employees being less deadbeat by the time they get home in the evening and leave them with more energy to enjoy their free time. As nice as this sounds, I can only imagine the reaction of my future German boss if one day I pitched the idea of three-hour-long lunch breaks. As seen from these examples, in Spain effeciency is sometimes reduced in a way that might be seen as strange and useless from a German perspective, but the end result is something extremely vivid, relaxed and unique. It’s a different way of doing things, but by no means a worse one.

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Since these are our final few weeks here, last Friday, January 17th, our host university, the Universidad Francisco de Vitoria, organized a farewell event for all its international students at which we each received a certificate stating that we have completed a semester abroad. The ceremony was complemented by speeches from professors and students of the university; even my fellow student ambassador, Gabriel Fritz, and I had the chance to give a small speech, reminiscing about our time spent in Spain, in an (for the most part) entertaining manner. The UFV’s International Office staff even put together a video for us, featuring photos of us during our stay here. The graduation ceremony ended with a small banquet where the dessert – following a meal of traditional tapas – was sponsored by the MHMK, and was accordingly from the German cultural area: Sachertorte and Apfelstrudel with vanilla ice cream. Needless to say, it was a popular choice. The event was, all in all, touching and a very nice way of parting from our host university. We shouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves though, as we are right in the middle of our exam period and the coming two weeks will decide just how flawless our parting will be. So keep your fingers crossed for us – partly so that our exams and final projects go all right, and partly so that despite all the studying we can still manage to say goodbye to this wonderful city by spending a few more memorable days (and nights) here!

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(The photos are from the WS’13 Madrid MHMK-community. Thanks, everybody, you’ve been great!)