Deciding to embark on an expat adventure is a major life decision – and a scary one at that! Once you’ve picked your destination, you’re thrown headfirst into the madness of planning for your new life. One thing that I wish I had known during this hectic time was exactly what to bring with me to Madrid. Although back then I thought my 20kgs were perfectly packed, my first few months in Madrid told me otherwise. Here’s what I wish I knew during those many hours of packing.
Do bring… a water bottle
Between job interviews and exploring the city – you’re going to be doing a lot of walking! I don’t even want to know how much money I wasted on buying water when I first arrived. To remedy this, invest in a good reusable water bottle to accompany you on your travels. As well as being good for the environment, you’ll be encouraged to stay hydrated – which is especially important if you arrive during in the summer months.
Don’t bring… stationery
You might be under the impression that you’ll need to pack a whole classroom’s worth of supplies in your suitcase – but this isn’t true. A notebook or two to get you through your time on your TEFL course and help keep you organised in your new home is all you need to start with. Save the precious space in your suitcase and head to Tiger or Muji while exploring the city for some awesome stationery that you’d never find back home.
Do bring… layers
Spain might have a reputation of being constantly sunny – but Madrid must have missed that memo. Madrileños like to say that the city is “nine months of winter and three months of hellish heat” and they’re not wrong! Temperatures in the summer can rise to over 40 degrees and in winter dip below 0 degrees so you’ll need to pack clever to survive both extremes. To maximise your suitcase space, pack light clothes that layer well so you can use them in both summer and winter.
Don’t bring… a winter coat
Although you will definitely need a winter coat in Madrid, don’t bring one with you. Save the suitcase space for something more valuable and wait until you arrive to invest in your winter protection. Zara is so much cheaper over here, so you have no excuse not to!
Do bring… an e-reader
Step onto any metro carriage and you’ll find yourself surrounded by e-readers. As well as making your train journeys pass so much faster, it’s a good way to fit reading into your busy schedule. If reading on the metro doesn’t tempt you, take your latest book to a bar and enjoy some tapas in the sun! Of course, it’s always great to pick up some Hemingway to get into the expat state of mind.
Don’t bring… all your favourite products
You might be tempted to stash all your favourite things in your bag – cosmetics, snacks, medicines, whatever. But don’t! Sure, bring enough to get you settled but don’t spend your entire time abroad stressing over how much of your favourite deodorant you have left. When in Rome! Learn the language, eat the food, and buy the products.
Do bring… chocolate
Ignore the last point about not bringing an entire suitcase of snacks, and bring chocolate instead. Not because you can’t find it in Madrid and not because it’ll remind you of home – but because people (mainly Brits and Americans) LOVE to argue over who has the best chocolate. Sure, all that Milka in Madrid is a good middle ground, but it’s always useful to have evidence in the great Hershey’s VS Cadbury debate.
Don’t bring… a suit
So many people seem to be under the impression that teaching English is the most formal job in the world. In reality… it’s pretty easy going. As long as you’re clean and dressed relatively smartly, most places won’t expect you to look like you’re attending a business meeting. This also goes if you’re working in a school – Spanish teachers dress way more casually than their US and UK counterparts.
There you have it – four things to stuff in your suitcase and four things to leave behind. Do you have any other things that would have helped your stay in Madrid get off to a smoother start? Or is there anything still sitting in your room that you haven’t touched a year later? Let us know in the comments!
Looking for more information on living abroad or teaching English? Check out TtMadrid’s blog, or follow TtMadrid on Facebook. TtMadrid offers a four week TEFL course to teach you everything you need to know about how to Teach English as a Foreign Language. For more information contact our TEFL Course expert, Helen.
Rosy Parrish grew up in Britain and now lives in Madrid. She divides her time between teaching English, writing about expat life, and befriending dogs in the street. You can tweet her at @shutuprosy.