Today in IFG, a few people shared the sentiment that even though they are enjoying their time in Madrid, they could never see themselves living here. Many reflected a difference in priorities or an internal rhythm that doesn’t fall in step with that of general Spanish culture. Even though I’ve known for a while that I would certainly consider moving to Spain in the future, hearing these comments certainly brought my attention back to my own relationship with Madrid and Spanish culture. Spain and I, nos llevamos bien, we get along well. I am so grateful that within the first week of being in Madrid something just clicked – being here felt right and natural.
There are many things about Madrid that seem like they were molded for my personality. The late dinners to the even later night life; the lack of an obligation to constantly be working; and the people always ready to quedar. More than that, Spain and I seem to work at the same speed – not too urgently but not painfully slow either. I am not a fast person. I don’t run, I don’t eat fast, I don’t work fast and I hate being in a rush. I know that these are not necessarily the best qualities for a person to have and I know that my tardiness drives people crazy but I’ve been this way all my life and it’s simply not worth changing. I spent my first two years at Tufts apologizing profusely for being 10-15 minutes late to any meal, meet up or study date. I was constantly trying to will myself into the constant state of urgency that characterizes so many at Tufts and in the Northeast of the US in general. But being in Madrid has let me shake off that nagging voice always telling me that I’m going to be late and that I’m not busy enough. I grew up in Zimbabwe, in a culture with a notably stronger emphasis on community and taking your time to live. Zimbabwe’s pace is certainly a little bit too slow for me because I do like things to get done eventually, so it’s hard for me to consider a permanent life there especially in my young and energetic years. Madrid on the other hand, matches my pace. Madrid is the perfect midpoint between Zimbabwe and the Northeast of the US. And I think partially because of this, it has been a wonderful home for me these last few months and I am unbelievably grateful that I have another semester in this phenomenal country.
For whatever reason, or for a combination of reasons, it has been very easy for Madrid to become a home for me. I feel like I belong here and that I understand the people, the pace and just the general ~vibe~. Another striking thing regarding my adaption to Madrid, is how real this city feels. I have been fortunate enough to visit different cities around the world that I have found beautiful, charming, exotic and intriguing. But for the most part, they are not cities that I would consider living in. For example, visiting Lisbon after spending over a month in Madrid solidified my sense of belonging and comfort in Madrid. I could never live in Lisbon, it was too beautiful, too picturesque. It is the perfect holiday destination, but I simply could not see myself with a mundane day to day routine in that city. In Madrid I can. I can picture myself going grocery shopping or walking briskly to the metro hoping not to be late for work.
I am enchanted by Madrid but not because I have not found it overwhelmingly exotic, new and exciting. Of course, I felt that way at the beginning, but after being here for a few months, I love it because living here now feels effortless (does that mean I’m finally a local?). Madrid is a beautiful city with an intoxicating energy, but it doesn’t feel like I’m stuck in a parallel universe or am on a really long vacation. For me, Madrid is a place where I can walk briskly down a street trying to get to class on time and feel okay, not bitter, that it’s 8:55am and I am out of bed. Madrid is home.