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From England to Spain: The Madrid Guiri

24 April, 2017 08:07  Erin Erin

The Madrid Guiri My name is Nathan Brenville, I’m from England; I’m an artist and I keep an illustrated blog about my experiences in Spain called The Madrid Guiri (www.madridguiri.com)

1.    Why did you move abroad?
My girlfriend is Spanish, we lived for several years in London but Spain became more and more attractive – she missed her friends and, like most Brits probably, I’d always had a desire to live the “Mediterranean lifestyle” – but more specifically Madrid offered me everything I wanted – better weather, cheaper rents, great food, friendly people, and more social habits, while still being a busy, capital city full of life and things going on that I’d become used to from 13 years in London.

2.    How do you make a living?
I’m a freelance animator and illustrator. I work from home. Most of my first year was spent still working for English clients, and I’m just starting to make the transition now to working with Spanish people. The only real difference I’ve noticed so far for freelancing is that it seems to take a lot longer to get paid here (1 month in England compared to up to 3 months in Spain)

3.    How often do you communicate with home and how?
I have a Lebara SIM/account which allows me to phone the UK for normal domestic rates (I pay between €10-15/month) I also use Skype now and then.

4.    What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Spain?
Just learning the language and absorbing a different culture, I find it pretty fascinating

5.    What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Spain?
I don’t know – probably whenever you have to do anything administrative and feeling slightly out of your depth and unsure of whether you’ve understood everything correctly – fortunately that’s not too often.

6.    What do you miss most?
Sunday roast dinner with all the trimmings

7.    What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I was very lucky because I had a community of friends already there through my girlfriend (She’d previously lived 9 years in Madrid before I met her in London) so I haven’t found it difficult meeting people or falling into the natural rhythm of local life. But on top of that I’ve been attending Spanish classes (http://laemadrid.com/) which has not only been great for becoming more confident with the language and thus being able to socialize more with Spanish people, but also for meeting fellow expats.

8.    What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?

I find it quite annoying that all the small shops in the city close between 2pm and 5pm. During the week the most convenient time for me to go to the shops is after lunch, but nothing is open.

9.    What is a myth about your adopted country?
Well, I was going to say the siesta, but given half the city is closed between 2 and 5pm perhaps they are having a siesta! In my experience though, it’s just an occasional thing, no more often than people have naps in other countries – normally everyone’s far too busy, at least in the cities!

10.    Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
In general it’s slightly lower here than London, but rent especially, and that made a real difference to me last year. Now I’m accustomed to it, and thanks to the plunging exchange rate of GBP, I don’t feel it makes a big difference.

11.    What advice would you give other expats?
Learn the language of the place you live. Try and meet local people, don’t just hang out with English speakers.

Whenever you have the time, walk. You see a lot more than on the bus or in a car.

12.    When and why did you start your blog? Brenville Madrid
I’ve been blogging quite a long time, posting various bits of art that I do, but The Madrid Guiri blog came from the sketchbooks I keep – I try and draw everywhere I go, and arriving in a new country was obviously very inspirational for wanting to record all these experiences that were so new and different to me. The blog allows me to focus and organize these sketches and provides me with the motivation to do more and learn more in the process, so it really helps fuel that feeling of curiosity and interest in the country I live in.

Blog LinkNathan's blog, The Madrid Guiri

Guide for expatriates in Madrid, Spain 

  To find out more about living in Spain, refer to our

Madrid Guide


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