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Expat Spotlight: ­­­­­­Melissa's Top 3 Tips for Spain

Five years ago, Melissa traded in Seattle’s rainy, grey skies for Madrid’s (almost) year-round sunshine. Combining her passion for psychology and love for España, she became licensed as a psychologist in Spain and now helps other expats navigate the ups and downs of living abroad by working as a mental health therapist in Madrid and blogs at www.intentionalexpat.com.

Top 3 Favorite Restaurants in Spain?

Anything with a terraza (outside tables)! But when it´s not ¨terraza weather,¨ some of my favorite places to eat in Madrid are:

1) Madrid´s many Gastro-Markets – San Miguel, San Anton, San Illdefonso and San Fernando

2) La Taberna de Moncloa – A seemingly never-ending menu of ¨tostas¨ to choose from and the best ¨Tinto de Verano¨ I´ve ever had in Madrid.

3) Tapas bars in Alcala de Henares – While not actually in the center of Madrid, Alcala´s tapas bars are worth the 30 minute train ride from the Atocha station. I lived in this University town for 2 years and now that I´m in Madrid I really miss these bars where for only 2.50 euros you get a drink AND a tapa of your choice.

Top 3 favorite foods in Spain?

I have to admit that I was nervous to try each of these foods when I first came to Spain, but now I think if I moved away, I wouldn´t be able to live without them.

1) Tortilla Española

2) Paella de Marisco

3) Jamon!!!

Top 3 tips for new expats in Spain?

1) Find your niche in your new home. While it´s a great chance to try new things, it´s also a great time to meet people who like doing the same things you love doing at home. For me that´s dancing and I love going to Madrid´s many swing dancing events every week. MeetUp.com, Facebook groups, Intercambios, etc. are a great place to start searching!

2) Try to avoid comparing it to life back at home. Approach it with a curious attitude rather than judging things.

3) Start a blog. Blogging will help you keep great memories and put things in perspective. When Spanish bureaucracy makes you want to pull your hair out (and it will!) just remember that it’s going to make a great story to write home about.

Top 3 tips for travellers in Spain?

1) Watch your belongings! Spain is a pretty safe place, but there are lots of pick pockets who are good at spotting tourists. Keep your purse close to you on public transportation and always keep it on your lap at a restaurant.

2) Learn some basic Spanish phrases such as ¨No hablo español¨ and ¨¿Donde está el baño?"? You´d be surprised at how many people here do not speak English. Also Spanish people are very prideful and feel embarrassed if they don´t speak perfect English Sometimes if you stumble through their language they´re more willing to show off their less-than-perfect English skills.

3) The big cities like Barcelona, Granada, Sevilla etc. are popular for a reason, but don´t overlook Spain´s small towns to get a real sense of Spanish life, cuisine and culture. And a chance to take some picturesque photos without the risk of other tourists photo bombing them.

Top 3 tips for what to pack for Spain?

This list is primarily for people who are moving to Spain rather than traveling here:

1) Something that will make you feel at home right away. Print out some pictures, bring your favorite sweatshirt or a book you can read again and again.

2) At least in Madrid, clothes you can layer! The temperature can change drastically from the moment when you leave your house in the morning to when you leave work later in the day. Also, the subway can be incredibly hot, and it seems that all buildings are either so hot that you wish you were wearing a tank top or so cold that you´d like to keep your down coat on at all times.

3) Scented hand sanitizer. I know that this might seem like a strange suggestion, but you never know if bathrooms here are going to have soap (which is why you should also buy small Kleenex packets to keep with you at all times once you´re in Spain). And if you work with kids this is even more important. You can buy hand sanitizer here, but I have yet to find any that smells good.

Top 3 favorite places in Spain

Aside from the obvious answer of Madrid…

1) The Camino de Santiago .

2) San Sebastian.

3) Alicante (especially in June for the bonfires of San Juan).

Top 3 neighborhoods in Madrid

1) El Centro: Sol, Huertas, Gran Via – This is the Madrid I fell in love with when I visited for the first time 9 years ago.

2) Malasaña -It´s many people´s favorite for a good reason!

3) Madrid Rio and Matadero (Madrid´s old slaughterhouse turned cultural center) – It´s not a neighborhood exactly, but one of my favorite places to spend a Saturday or Sunday.

For more tips from Melissa on Spain, watch for upcoming posts on the Spain blog, her profile (and add yours now) or go to her blog, www.IntentionalExpat.com.

Interested in contributing? Contact erin {at} insidersabroad {dot} com!

Published October 23rd, 2014 by Melissa Parks
Posted to Inside Secrets to Spain

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