Friday, 1 July 2011

Expat Excellence with Pierre Waters

Pierre is a 26 year old French and British expat entrepreneur behind the relocation company in Madrid. He has lived in Paris, London, Barcelona, Beijing and Toronto, but still prefers Madrid. He loves discovering new things, tapas and wine, writing for a blog for expats in Madrid, reading and rugby. But why Madrid ? Here's his answer !

Did you ever think about living in Spain? Let me tell you why I believe Madrid could the best place for you.

I’ve been living in Madrid for nearly 3 years now. And as in many relationships, three years is the key moment to look back and think about why I love to live in Madrid. Of course, every expat in Madrid has their own reasons, but I hope my “why I love Madrid” post will help you find out if Madrid is the city for you.

A view of Madrid's old quarter at sunset

A view of Madrid's old quarter at sunset

A "village" capital city vibrant with the local Spanish way of living

To start with, Madrid is a capital city but it still feels personal and human-sized. Having lived in London, Paris, Beijing and Toronto, I believe other developed country capital cities do not feel the same. They are gigantic worlds where you seldom get a personal connection for your everyday chores for instance. In Madrid, within the first year I already had my favorite places where people recognise me, and this is true for my local supermarket, favorite bar, favorite tapas place, favorite restaurant and sports activity. There’s always locals happy to have a chat and to make you feel you belong to the place.

Strongly rooted in its traditions and still international and diverse

Madrid is still authentically Spanish and Castilian but international at the same time. First example: the Spanish coast is famous for being so full of expats at times that local fiestas are advertised in English. Even Barcelona, for instance, is maybe too international now, to the extent that it is really difficult to find a restaurant with “typical catalonian food” in the city centre. The best cal├žots, typical catalonian recipe, has to be found out of the city. Madrid however has a good old taverna with cocido madrileno in every neighbourhood. And at the same time, it has all the international food you want: Lavapies is there with its great Indian restaurants, and I have also tasted Russian, Ethiopian, Colombian, Ecuatorian and authentic Mexican food (not tex-mex) for the first time in Madrid.

Just the right size

All in all, Madrid is small and has everything you need at the same time. I live near the city centre, and I can say I usually walk to all places I go to, apart from work. The centre is quite small, and has an impressive number of tapas places, international restaurants, theatres, operas, pubs, shops and universities… Of course, the suburban sprawl and the spanish real estate craze means most of the 3 million people living around Madrid live further out than before. But still, if you live in the city centre, you sometimes still feel like you are in a town or a village. See my favorite square, Plaza Olavide, just 100 yards from my place and feel the village side of Madrid.

My local square, traditionally Madrid - Plaza Olavide

My local square, traditionally Madrid - Plaza Olavide

Another thing I love that makes Madrid so small and easy to navigate is that the public transport system is one the best in the world (world #2 in number of stations per capita).

Furthermore, at any time of the night you can find an official taxi in a minute, and there are always people in the streets so you always feel secure coming back home alone and I always feel secure when I know my girlfriend is walking back home, compared to other capital cities where this is sometimes not the case.

The place where you're most likely to get a job as an expat

I believe you have more opportunities as a foreigner to find a job in Madrid than in any other city in Spain. Madrid has been growing faster than Barcelona over the last 10 years, and my feeling is that the Madrid job market needs more international profiles than it has right now. Madrid until the 90s had few foreigners compared to other capital cities. So it’s catching up, and it is still the richest region in Spain! For instance, I landed a job in Madrid in the largest management consulting company, and guess what? I was the only employee who did not speak Spanish as its mother tongue. So I was then the expat, and everyone in the company knew I was the French and British guy.

So is Madrid the city for you ?

If you feel a bit overwhelmed with sprawling cities such as Paris, NYC, London, LA, love to have a great weather, and you are looking to move to a typical Spanish speaking city with the right amount of open-mindedness and traditional mix and the best job opportunities as well, then Madrid is the city for you.

If you're really interested in Madrid and want more specific advice on moving to Madrid, such as which neighbourhood is best for expats like you, have a look at my blog on my Madrid relocation site to prepare your move and my expats in Madrid blog to have a taste of what it will be like !

If you have any questions, or if I can help you in any way, please leave a comment or just contact me at !

Yours madridly, Pierre

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