Madrid- Do’s and Dont’s

There’s a tale I want to tell you. It brings us back to the 19th Century… complex times for Spanish History: Napoleon invaded the country, main authorities were divided between conservative, traditionalist ideas and liberal, progressive ideas. We invented guerrilla, bandoleros and a slang word originally used in the Carlist Wars that is still used nowadays: guiri. Wikipedia explains far better than me what is a guiri for a Spaniard:

“Guiri is a colloquial Spanish name used in Spain applied to foreign tourists, particularly from prosperous countries in northern Europe or the Anglo-Saxon sphere. They are strongly associated with beach tourism and commonly stereotyped as blonde with pale skin”

So let’s say that for us a typical guiri looks like this:

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This brings me to the topic of this posts: what things are acceptable to do in Madrid, and what aren’t. Here’s a short list of most common errors.

Outfit

Don’t: socks with sandals or crocs. Do: any other shoes would be ok

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Simply terrifying

I know they’re confortable and practical, but you must know that wearing crocs or socks with sandals is a big, red flag for Spanish people. I must say most of the people find them ridiculous. If you don’t want to were an invisible big neon light with a “GUIRI” on it, please choose any other shoes- high heels, sneakers, moccasins or whatever. Please.

Don’t: wearing a big camera hanging around your neck. Do: carry it in a bag

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This is more a security tip. I know you may want to shoot the best pictures to bring some nice memories back from Spain. But that memories can become a nightmare if your camera is stolen. Madrid’s downtown is unfortunately plenty of pickpockets. Wearing a big, expensive camera at everyone’s sight can be a magnet for these people, especially if you are chilling and having some drinks. Why don’t you carry a bag with you, to keep it save? An ideal one would be made of leather, with zips on it, but bags like Herschel, Samsonite or Kanken are perfectly OK.

Don’t: getting heavily sunburnt. Do: wear sunglasses and a hat, drink water and read this post about the best time to come visit Madrid.

Ordering food

Don’t: refusing to drink anything but sangría Do: Try vermouth or tinto de verano

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We know you are dying to drink our marvelous sangría… oh, wait. I’m afraid to say it used to be a good drink until they spoilted the good name of sangría. Now, sadly, quality has frankly decreased. If you want to try other alcoholic drinks with similar or lower price, but better quality, here are two suggestions.

Tinto de verano is nothing more than wine with soda or lemon soda and ice. Very fresh and, as the name suggests, perfect for summer (verano=summer). Vermouth was out for many years, but now is slowly coming back. This is a very traditional drink, made also with wine that has been flavoured with cinnamon and several herbs that make it sweet. It’s also served on the rocks and traditionally goes with a tapa of olives, so I think it’s a win-win situation!

Don’t: thinking that churros are a dessert. Do: having churros for breakfast

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I have a little thing to tell you: although they’re delicious, churros aren’t a dessert to order after lunch and they aren’t available in any single place. Spanish people use to have churros with hot chocolate for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. What is also typical in Madrid is the porra, wich is similar to churros but even greasier, and it’s acceptable to have it with coffee.

#MadridHack Always ask first for the number of churros included in every portion. Most common portions are dozens or half dozens of churros, so it’s ok to ask for just one portion to share with more people.

#MadridHack: the most typical place to have churros in Madrid is Chocolatería San Ginés (Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5), but you can have very tasty churros at Valor (Postigo de San Martín st, 7) or Pastelería San Onofre (San Onofre st, 3).

Behaviour

Don’t: selfies inside churches Do: show some respect

Spain is still a catholic country, but not as faithful as it was years ago. That doesn’t mean we have lost complete interest- there’s still religious people that go to church on a regular basis. So if you want to visit any temple or the cathedral for non-religious purpouses, please remember to show some respect: be quiet, mute your phone, don’t use flash if you’re going to take pictures and, above all, please avoid selfies inside the Lord’s house – they’re seen as a big lack of respect. 

Don’t: using maps or touristic guides in an ostentatious way. Do: use apps or cover your guide so it may look like another book

This advice is only in order to avoid pickpockets once more. You may feel disoriented and it’s normal, ‘cause is your first time in Madrid and you want to get to places. Don’t let others take advantage of that.

Don’t: peeing in the street. Do: use a bathroom, please!

I assume you are all grown-ups, so you can skip this advice… Still, it’s good to remember that you are exposing yourself to a fine if you’re caught in the street by the police. Madrid’s local council has recently installed public toilets in several points of the city. If you can’t find one, you can always go to the Corte Inglés, to Fnac Callao or just come into a bar and ask for something to drink and to use the toilet. We will all thank you.

At the end, all these advices can be summed up in one statement: act normal. You are visiting a new place, is this the image you want to show of yourself?

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See you in Madrid, Madlocals!

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