Madrid, Spain and Expat Life – Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few questions about Madrid, Spain and expat life that I get with some regularity.
At this point I guess I’m something of an expert on expat life in Madrid (and, more recently, Barcelona). There are other experts out there, too, and they have blogs which you’ll find if you google around a bit.
Or you could check out some of my favorites here.
Anyway, you’ve got questions about life in Barcelona, Madrid and Spain, and I’ve got answers…
Time to A those Qs.
Q: So who the hell are you?
A: Oh, just some guy. I was born in Arizona, way across the pond, and moved to Madrid in 2004. By this time, I know quite a bit about the city. (Oh, by the way, I’m also a best-selling author and professional blogger. Also, semi-famous for my educational videos on YouTube and my two podcasts.)
These days – as of spring 2023 – I’m mostly in Barcelona. And that’s another story. Most of the older articles here are about Madrid, newer ones are about Barcelona or about Spain in general. There’s a little bit of everything.
Q: How did you end up living in Spain?
A: How I got here is a long story, involving two girls – the one who dumped me and the one who didn’t – a few international flights, and a healthy dose of youthful stupidity.
Why I stayed here so long is a more interesting question (at least to me) but unfortunately it’s one I still don’t have an answer to.
Life in Spain gets its hooks in you, and a lot of people find it difficult to leave. I’ve currently been here almost half my life.
Q: Why is this blog called The Chorizo Chronicles? Couldn’t you have called it something more poetic, like Daniel’s Über Profound Musings on the Expat Experience?
A: Woulda coulda shoulda. I chose The Chorizo Chronicles because it’s the opposite of poetic. Also, because the original version of this blog, over on Tumblr, was called Lard Hat (only 7 letters!) and I wanted to keep the pork thing going.
Here’s another one I get occasionally…
Q: What’s up with all the profanity?
A: Thank you for asking. Thing is, I love the expressiveness of the English language, and when I say the English language, I mean our Anglo-Saxon monosyllables.
If you want to talk like a medical textbook, good for you. Hopefully someone will give a speech at your funeral about how you never dropped an f-bomb, and everybody can applaud you for being such a good person.
I guess I should also mention that what you read here is heavily edited and toned down by the time I publish it. If you want profanity, you should see my first drafts.
(Update, 2023: I’ve reconsidered my stance on profanity in the last several years, and I guess I use a lot less of it now. I’ve recently turned 40, and age does some unexpected things to a guy, y’know?)
Q: Can I write a guest post for your blog?
A: Sure, if I like you. Hit me up on the contact form here.
I have several posts on here that are written by friends or random people from the internet. And as long as it’s fun and / or interesting – and Spain-related, I’m probably willing to publish it.
(Having said that, I’m not going to sell links or help you spam the whole internet with something that’s boring or useless. Terrible waste of time, and also bad for SEO.)
Incidentally, SEO is something I’m pretty good at. Maybe check out my guide to how to get blog traffic for more about that.
Q: I’m moving to Madrid with no job and no visa… Any recommendations?
A: Technically, you should get the visa thing taken care of before you arrive.
First off, you could check out a program called Auxiliares de Conversación. Google it. They might get you a job and a visa, at least for 9 months or so.
While it is possible to find work without a visa, you might have some trouble. Or not. I’m not really sure how it works these days… I’m out of the game. (Either way, any visa-less work will be in an industry that’s a bit chaotic anyway: English teaching, working in a bar, harvesting grapes. That kind of thing.)
And of course I’m not going to sit here on a public forum and tell you to break some Spanish law… so, don’t work illegally!
Anyway, if you want, I have a guide to working in Spain that might clear some stuff up for you.
Continuing in a similar vein…
Q: I want to move to Spain. How do I get a work permit?
A: I wish I knew. There are a few different types of visa and ways to go about it.
I get this question a lot and don’t have a very good answer. So I always recommend you do what I did: get a lawyer and prepare for your life to suck for a while.
Also, see the guide to working in Madrid I linked to in the last question.
Here’s the longer guide to work permits in Spain.
But really, the answer is to ask a lawyer. A good lawyer. I’ve got one in Madrid and one in Barcelona, if you send me a message I’ll give you the names.
Also, if you’re independently wealthy, you have more options. A lot of people are coming these days on a Non-Lucrative visa, which technically doesn’t allow you to work. But you can be here.
And this year (March 2023, supposedly) the government should be finalizing the details of a digital nomad visa, which might made it possible for remote workers to hang out in Spain. I’ll probably write about that at some point, when the law is officially on the books.
Q: Is it easy to find a job in Madrid? In Barcelona? In the rest of Spain?
A: Um… if you’re a “native” English speaker, then it’s easy to find a job teaching.
Even if you’re not technically native, you can probably find something as a teacher. If you mean some other sort of job, it varies. The Spanish economy isn’t great, and unemployment is high.
But it seems like people who really want to work are usually able to find something. (Salaries aren’t great either, but that’s another story.)
Outside of Madrid, I guess the situation is pretty similar in the other big cities. In small towns it’s probably harder, unless you want to drive a cement truck or pick grapes or something. Both noble jobs – don’t get me wrong – I’m just guessing that if you’re on this blog you’re not looking for work driving cement trucks.
Barcelona has a lot of international companies and start-ups, so that might work for you, if you’ve got the proper permission to work.
If you don’t have a work permit, there’s a lot of service industry jobs that’d probably not care much. I’m not really sure. Probably best to find some people in that position and ask around.
Q: Can I really make a living teaching English in Madrid?
Actually, I’ve got an article about just that topic: can I make a living teaching English?
The upshot of it is: yes, you can make a living. Just don’t expect to get rich. And if you want to know my (very biased) opinion about working for language schools, check out Pimping for Fun and Profit or The TEFL Job Interview.
I’m only barely exaggerating in those.
Q: What’s the cost of living like?
A: It’s not “cheap” per se, but it’s definitely not as expensive as some of the major world cities like New York or London. I’ve got an article about the cost of basic products here: cost of living in Madrid.
And compared to the US it’s not bad at all, once you factor in the fact that you don’t need a car, and that healthcare is ridiculously cheap or even “free”. Keep in mind, though: Spanish salaries also aren’t like salaries in other places.
Q: I’m coming to visit Madrid in four months. Wanna hang out?
A: Yeah, why not? I hang out with lots of random internet people. But it’d be better to talk about it when you’re actually here. Get in touch through the contact form, or find me on Facebook or something.
However, keep in mind that these days I’m in Barcelona quite a bit. If you’re there, we have a better chance of hanging. Anyway, let me know.
Q: I’m planning to move to Madrid. What neighborhood should I live in?
A: It depends. What’s your budget? What are your lifestyle expectations? Where do you plan to work or study?
Madrid is a pretty big city, but not nearly as big as London (for example). In any case, there are barrios for different tastes and price ranges.
Anyway, there’s quite a variety. Figure out what you want, and how much you want to pay. The hipper and more central, the more expensive it’ll be, usually. Then again, if you’re coming from New York or London it’ll still seem cheap to you.
Q: I’m thinking about starting a blog, and I want to be just like you someday.
A: That’s not a question. But you’re welcome to read The Zen of Blogging.
If you want some specific help getting started, I’d be happy to do some consulting – but it’s not going to be free. Contact me here.
Or, you could check out my article on how to monetize a blog. That one’s a lot of fun.
Q: I have a bar / restaurant / event / etc and I’d like you to take two hours to write an article about it, because someone in your audience might be interested and because…
A: Well, here’s the thing. This blog is mostly for my entertainment and I don’t particularly want to make it about your new vegan deli or whatever. Especially for free. And especially if it’s going to take up my valuable time.
Having said that, you can sponsor a post if you’d like. Get in touch. Maybe we can work something else.
Q: How could you possibly have said something I disagreed with, one time? You ignoramus… I’m offended!
A: Yeah, well, start your own blog and make it better than this one. That’ll show me.
I don’t do this to please the easily-offended, or to make puritans (or woke snowflakes) happy.
Really, I’m just trying to be as honest as possible about my experience. And if you’ve got a problem with that, well, you’re probably some sort of liar and hypocrite that I wouldn’t hang out with anyway. So have a nice life.
Q: Why are you critical of Spanish people? Isn’t it your job as a foreigner to talk about how great Spain is all the time?
A: Actually, that’s not really my job.
But if you want to hire me to talk about how great Spain is all the time, get in touch. For the right price, I’ll talk about whatever you want me to.
To answer your question, I don’t want to be the typical guiri blogger who just repeats the same theme of “OMG SPAIN IS SO FUN!” over and over again. I’ve been around way too long to idealize it.
I’ve had unscrupulous bosses who refused to pay me for work I had already done, and exploitative landlords who threatened to sue me for money they had no right to. I’ve seen this country go from rising star of Europe, through several years of economic crisis, and on to virus-themed fascist wasteland and back again.
And I’ve had a long etc of other ridiculous experiences.
I’m not exactly an objective observer, but who really is?
And by the way, one of the most popular posts I’ve ever published is a love letter to Spain. So there.
Q: You’re generalizing! I know at least half a dozen Spaniards who are nothing like what you describe!
A: Yes, I’m generalizing.
You probably know half a dozen Americans who aren’t overweight or obese, either, but that doesn’t mean the statistics aren’t true. You try writing about a nation of 46 million people (more or less) without generalizing.
Anyway, one of the top posts on here is from one of my students refuting some of my arguments. I’m happy to engage in dialogue, as long as it’s intelligent.
Q: You might call this humor, but I don’t think you’re funny at all!
A: I appreciate your concern.
Whenever somebody comes up with something that’s universally funny, let me know.
Q: You’re such an ignorant American and you’re only writing these things because all Americans are ignorant and I saw this video on YouTube about how Americans don’t know geography and…
A: Whoa, stop right there and chill out… Ignorance is one thing I’m pretty sure is nearly universal, actually. Americans don’t have any sort of monopoly.
I’ll write more FAQs soon, so subscribe or check back soon!
Madrid is always changing, and there’s always more to say.
P.S. I hope you enjoyed this FAQ about Madrid, Spain and expat life in my beautiful city. If you want to follow the Chorizo Chronicles on Facebook, I’m over here: facebook.com/chorizochronicles. And by all means, pop your email into the little bar up top to get all my updates (not too often, I promise).