Hamming it up in the supermarket (aka I’m definitely not in Arkansas anymore)

Continuing the Q&A:

Do we need to plan on bringing a warmer coat than what we use here in AR or does it not get much colder?  I looked on the site you sent in your first email and it says the average in winter is around 30 Fahrenheit which I didn’t think was too bad.

I don’t think it gets much colder than it does in Arkansas. It snowed more here, but the temperature is about the same. I wouldn’t purchase a warmer winter coat, just bring what you use in Arkansas.

Did you ship any clothes over with you or just pack what you could into one suitcase and make do?

I made do with just one suitcase, and I made sure to include my winter coat! However, I ended up spending a fair amount of money to buy clothes to supplement the slim wardrobe offerings. Looking back, I think it would have been less expensive to pay for a second suitcase. (However, the hassle of arriving with 2 suitcases was also one of the reasons that I made do with one.)

What is the average cost of your phone usage per month?  I am considering bringing my phone and getting a Spanish SIM card so I want to find out which would be cheaper.

I have a pay-as-you-go plan, so the amount I pay differs every month. Phone contracts are less expensive but require a minimum of 18 months. Right now I probably pay about 20-30 euros a month for my phone, probably more when I travel and call to make reservations and such. I’m not sure how it works if you want to bring your own phone and get a Spanish SIM card, but I do know friends who have done this so it’s not impossible.

I don’t want to be silly, but what sort of clothing do you wear on a day-to-day basis?  I don’t want to look too out of sorts on the streets and it be really obvious that I’m a foreigner.  Also, what is typical male dress?

Fashion is a fickle beast, and in a style-conscious city such as Madrid, it changes overnight. To get an idea of the latest trends, check out these websites by setting the country to Spain: Zara, H&M, Stradivarious, Bershka, Oysho.

A more general tip is to blend in by accessorizing. Girls here sport scarves as often as watches…two things which aren’t nearly as popular in Arkansas. Other ideas would be jewelry, purses of all colors, and headbands and hairclips.

By October the boots will already be trotting around. Get a pair or risk the questioning eyebrow. Flip-flops scream tourist, as do some tennis shoes. Ironically, for guys a sort of casual-yet-sporty shoe is all the rage. You probably know the type—modeled off of some brand like Nike so that in theory it looks like a sporty shoe but in practice would never be good for jogging.  Flat, Converse-type shoes or something like this are also popular for guys.

Typical male dress includes the “manpri,” which is, indeed, a capri-pant designed for men. Not to worry, jeans are common. Plain shirts or shirts with sayings or designs are also popular.

Finally, is there anything we can bring you from home?  A favorite food that you miss perhaps?  Or something that would be cheaper for us to buy here in the US than it would be in Espana?

I’ll tell you the good news first. If Spain has everything you need for basic living, then Madrid has everything you need for plushy living! A trip to the supermarket may give you the opportunity to try products from other countries such as Portugal and France as well as Spain. You’re not coming to a third-world country so don’t waste space on your typical brand of tampons or shampoo (unless you are really, really faithful to your fav hair products). One exception is stick deodorant–my beloved US brand costs more than 9 euros a pop!!!

If you cook, be sure to bring your own set of US baking cups. Other food items to think about packing (read: things you will pay an arm and leg for if you are lucky enough to find them): Jell-o, ready-made frosting, boxed cake and bread mixes, chocolate chips, tortilla-lime potato chips, any sort of Mexican or South-American food product such as refried beans, pumpkin pie filling, liquid vanilla, cream of anything soup, Hershey’s kisses, etc. Also: Your favorite brand of __________________ (fill in the blank). Check out the website for Madrid’s Taste of America store to get an idea of other foods that are difficult to come by.

I would recommend stocking up on medicine and such. Of course you can find Ibuprofen and basic meds, but I have had some difficulties describing exactly what I want and I think sometimes I’ve ended up with something that wasn’t quite spot-on. Keep in mind that since you will be working with students (young or old) PLUS living in a big city and taking public transportation, YOU WILL GET SICK. When my parents visited recently they stocked my medicine cabinet with Mucinex and non-drowsy Night Time Pain Reliever/Nasal Decongestant.

Other things I miss or are hard to come by are decent Ziploc bags and index cards. Pack all of your stuff in Ziploc bags so you can reuse them here! Also: Learn from my mistake and invest in a good umbrella, and possibly an extra travel umbrella, before you come.

Finally, thank you for your offer! The thing I miss the most right now is natural peanut butter. PB is still catching on here, and though you can find some brands, I have never been able to encounter the stuff in its raw form. If you could pack a jar (in a Ziploc bag, of course!) that would be awesome  🙂