I've recently spent a week in Madrid. Over the years, I've spent a lot of time in Spain, visiting cities such as Seville, Cordoba, Alhambra, Barcelona, as well as Madrid, with the last two cities being where I spent the bulk of my time.
As someone who also spent over 7 years living all over Latin America, I can't help to compare Spain to Latin America. (They do speak the same language, after all.)
Here are some thoughts about Madrid (and Spain as a whole) in terms of how it compares to Latin America as a whole.
Madrid is super organized
Madrid feels Europe first and Latin second. It's an amazingly organized city where everything seems to function and work. There's police presence everywhere. The streets have no potholes, there's no crime (at least from what I noticed in the center areas where I stayed).
Everything just functions and works, almost as though you're in pretty much another European country like Germany or the Netherlands.
Madrileños are not “super friendly”
Obviously this is my opinion and my only, but I definitely wouldn't characterize Madrilenos (Madrid natives) as super friendly and outgoing. That may be the case for southern Spain (I didn't spend much time there), but that's certainly not the case for Madrid.
After spending many years in Latin America, I came to associate Spanish-speakers with super friendly and outgoing, but the people living in Madrid are definitely far more reserved than what I'm used to.
Madrid has a ton of great ethnic food
Coming from Eastern Europe where there aren't great Chinese, Mexican, Cuban restaurants just to name a few, it was a relief to have awesome tacos, great Chinese food and a legit “ropa vieja” in Madrid.
Even the Chinese food was amazing. Being a huge foodie, this was definitely one of my favorite parts of this trip.
When I lived in New York, I took all of this for granted, but once you started to live in a more secluded place without many different nationalities, you definitely start to notice. There's only so much chicken soups you can eat before you're yearning for delicious tacos al pastor!
Madrid is a great jumping point for exploring the rest of Spain (and beyond)
Apparently, you can take a super fast train from Madrid and be in southern Spain in something like two and a half hours. When I discovered this, I was amazed. I have always wanted to explore the southern coast, but this made it super easy. Unfortunately, I discovered this towards the end of my trip.
Then, there's the northern Spain with cool cities such as San Sebastian and Bilbao. Visiting those cities is a pain because the airline connections aren't as convenient, but flying to Madrid and catching a train is a great option.
Last but not least, you have the entire Latin America that you can explore with easy flight connections from Madrid.
Madrid doesn't really have much of a soul
Nothing against Madrid or its residents, but the city didn't really captivate me beyond its orderliness and organization.
It doesn't really have much of a soul and doesn't really fit in anywhere. The city doesn't try very hard to captivate you and entertain you. In fact, it's more or less indifferent to tourists and just goes about its time whether you're in town or not.
And, indeed, being the capital of a large country, it doesn't need to go out of its way to seek your validation and be liked by you. It just needs to exist.
That might also be because I visited it in the peak of winter, so I didn't really get to enjoy the “summer colors” of Spain: the constant sunshine, the long days, and the parties spilling from the neighborhood bars, but that still doesn't change the way I feel about the city.
Madrid is ideal for Latin American immigrants
Being an immigrant myself (not a Latin American one), I can see Madrid is an ideal place if you're someone from Colombia, Argentina, Mexico (and other countries) and just want to live in a new place to start fresh.
The language is the same, the customs are the same, and Latin Americans can receive permanent residency in as quick as just one year. It's definitely a great place to work hard, make money and build a family.
In that sense, everything that's negative about Madrid listed above when comparing to Latin America is actually a pro when you're a Latin American who's seeking a better way of life, especially someone who's from Venezuela watching their country torn apart from all sides.
The way to view Madrid is that you have this amazingly rich and organized city that resembles more of some Northern European capital than with its Latin heritage.
It's clean, the streets have good pavement, everything works, and people aren't really “playing games” with you like they do in Latin America. That last part is either a pro or a con, depending on how you look at it.
If I'm a Latin American immigrant, then it's hard to do much better than living and working in Madrid. It has everything I need in order to make things happen, such as building a prosperous future for myself and my family.
But as someone who's traveling to connect with the locals and their culture, I can think of many places to visit both inside Spain and beyond.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out:
- Building An Empire And Hustling In 2019
- 8 Things I Learned About My Sicily Vacation
- What Russian Supermodels And KGB Criminals Have In Common
- Ukrainian Culture Is Good For The Mind, Body And Soul
- #49 – Starting A New Life In Medellin, Colombia
- 11 Pros And Cons Of Eastern Europe vs. Latin America
- My Last Journey Through Ukraine