Tapas and Tintos

The Spanish House of Deputies; Madrid, Spain

I was hoping that the culture in Spain would bring me to remember some of the Spanish I used to know from living in Miami, but I constantly kept thinking in Italian instead of Spanish. Even the simplest words like “hola” slipped my mind and every “gracias” accidentally came out as “grazie.” I did remember how to order at a 100 Montaditos though … in the city where the cheap, small sandwiches were born: Madrid.

Madrid was interesting. It is a pretty modern city, much more so than Rome is. I finally had my first Starbucks coffee since August (Rome does not have franchises … or any types of coffee that have long and detailed names like an “iced grande non-fat white chocolate mocha”), and the pace of the city was quick like New York.

Still, I felt more unsafe and more out of place than in any other city I have visited on my Euro-trip so far. There were Euro-crisis protests where some of the demonstrators holding picket signs and rushing congress buildings were the polizia themselves, and their men are even more forward and pushy on foreign women than the ones in Italy (which is impressively concerning). However, I did love their small-portioned dishes and seasoned taste buds (while eating tapas), as well as their experimental sense of fashion. After my weekend in Madrid, here are my updated notes on American perceptions of Europeans, European perceptions of Americans, and how our customs clash:

  • Americans are not considered as bothersome in this country. The people are nice to us and welcome our tourism (seemingly more so than Italians and Germans do).
  • They have a less stable economic position in the world than we do. When a day of rioting outside of government institutions for better labor laws is a normal day, this perception can be confirmed. (Note: their unemployment rate is at 25 percent, and vacation and sick days are becoming non-existent).
I did not get much on what they think of other Europeans and visa versa. They seem to speak fewer languages than most European cultures do and are less fluent in English too. They do eat delicious churros with chocolate for breakfast though, and they have better nightlife than Italians by far.