Category Archives: Madrid

El mundo pijo

Pijo is an interesting Spanish word, which translates to mean something like “posh” but with its own Spanish connotations. It’s both an adjective and a noun, so a person or thing can be pijo or pija and people can be pijos (male) or pijas (female). It can unfortunately be confused with another word in the feminine form.

We don’t really have a landed aristocracy or strict class system in the United States so the closest thing I can thing to translate posh or pijo to is prep or preppy, although it’s actually a lot simpler than that. In Europe, things are much simpler; the rules of society are laid out from a young age. Rich people are born rich and in the right class. They’re usually conformist twats who know their place and fill it well. Same with the middle class, working class and poor.

The main reason there isn’t a lot of tension is because the differences aren’t all that large in income, compared to the US, and because they’re so separated. And most people don’t care for social climbing in Europe, which reduces tension and kills the rat race desire. If you’re posh you’re totally okay with it, just like if you’re working class you like to show it off in the way you dress and talk. In the US, on the other hand, there is the weirdness of dressing up and down between classes, and the use of subtle indicators that only people of your class can notice.

Also, in Europe, opinions, work and schooling are of secondary importance (as opposed to primary in the states), which makes the whole thing quite innocent and easy to fathom, since how you dress and talk who you’re parents are is pretty much everything. In the US, good luck being upper middle without having gone to an Ivy league school or close to it or holding the “right opinions.”

So, what is a pijo? Well, here are some pictures.

The pijos tend to inhabit the major cities, mainly Madrid and Barcelona, and only in the central or northern barrios of Madrid as far as I can tell, ranging from Chamberi to Salmanca to Opera/Sol. The pijo is decidedly non-Bohemian, which is oh-so bourgeoisie these days. The pijo is posh, which means that they do not wear t-shirts, but rather artfully layer their clothing. The more articles the better. I won’t go too much into the clothing, but to put it simply, it’s usually of the prep brand name, simple, classy stuff, like Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and co.

Usually they have a lot of mom & pa’s money, sometimes a car, they prefer to take the metro, they play golf and tennis, they use a lot of anglicisms in their speech, have super straight hair (females) or the clean-messy gel look (males). As for politics, they’re supposedly more for the PP (center-right) but are very pro-Europe and free-market and hope to see Spain become more like the northern Europe.

But probably more important than than all that is their mode of speech, which uses a lot of foreign words and sort of has its own accent and ways of expression.


Careful what you say

The other day I asked for a pan tumaca for breakfast and was met with an insolent stare by the short, half-bald elderly Spanish barista.

“Pan tumaca is catalan, here in Madrid we have pan con tomate (bread with tomato).”

“Pan con tomate, then.”

A quick lesson it was to me on the regionalism of Spain.

Though, of course, the guy wasn’t bad-natured, and as I went on to explain to my friend what he was saying to me he smiled and laughed and said that it wasn’t a big deal, just a common error that for some reason had spread far around the world.


Posted by on May 17, 2011 in Food, Madrid, Politics, Spain


“Intercambios de idiomas” in Madrid

Intercambio roughly translates to “exchange.” An intercambio de lenguas is a language exchange, a meeting of people who speak diverse languages. Usually these events take place at bars (alcohol always facilitates language speaking), and usually are centered around English-Spanish conversation, although a good number of German, French and Chinese speakers tend to show up.

While they’re marketed toward foreigners, the majority of people I meet at intercambios are Spanish, and a good portion of the time they end up speaking in Spanish to foreigners wanting to learn Spanish. They’re usually a lot of fun and are a great way to meet people if you’re new to Madrid. Think of it is a bar where everyone is open to talk to everyone else in whichever language they feel like speaking at the moment. Oh yeah, it’s totally free, too.

I’ve compiled a small list of intercambios below, sorted by day. I’ll update them as I hear about more. Don’t fail to let me know if you know of more.

O’Neill’s, 22:00; Bacchus, 21:00


Beer Station, 22:00; J&J Books and coffee, 21:00

4D, 22:00; J&J Books and coffee (quiz night), 21:00


And apart from going out, there’s also the option of looking on loquo to meet one-on-one. Though I’d be careful with that. I’ve heard most people on there want to exchange more than languages.


Madrid like you’ve never seen it

This link was sent to me by one of my friends. It shows some impressive shots of Madrid and its surrounding areas. For those of you who don’t understand Spanish, the idea of the narrative is that all these shots appear like some other place . . . Scotland, Italy, Sweden . . . but they’re all found in the Community of Madrid.

This is one that I liked in particular, but they’re all pretty impressive.

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Posted by on April 10, 2011 in Madrid, Photography, Spain


Friendly Pickpocketers

I’ve heard stories pickpocketers (and purse stealers) in small town America being so kind as to only take your cash and mail back your drivers license, wallet and credit cards. It’s happened to some of my family members and friends, in fact. And I’ve even heard of people getting their wallets returned to their home doorsteps in the middle of the night. Apparently the thief knew he wasn’t going to take any chances with identity theft and decided, instead of tossing out someone’s personal items and causing the person a great deal of trouble, to return his items and relieve his conscience a bit. That’s rather moving, even if he did commit a crime initially.

Well, guess what. This happens in Spain, too. In big city Madrid no less. It’s happened to two of my friends so far and I imagine it happens often throughout Europe in general. Let’s call it “noble thievery”. If I were poor, unemployed and hungry, and had to turn to stealing somebody’s cash, I would do the same. So I imagine that a lot of pickpocketers are not stealing from the evil of their heart, but because they have to.

Then again, I met a girl who got robbed $900 in the subway and I’m sure she wouldn’t care so much if she got her driver’s license back at that point. What was she thinking going around with $900 in her pocket on the Madrid subway? Well, she wasn’t thinking at all.


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Posted by on April 5, 2011 in Crime, Madrid, Spain


Madrid’s Big Three Museums

I finally completed going to Madrid’s three biggest art museums.

Madrid’s big 3 or “triangle” of museums – the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen – are conveniently located on the Paseo del Arte (Avenue of the Arts).

I highly recommend them all. I preferred the Thyssen (the least popular), but it may have just been because I was in an especially good mood that day.

Madrid boasts about the same amount of quality visual art as Paris or London, but unfortunately there are far fewer small galleries and, as far as I know, no “art walks”. A lot of modern art is hit and miss—too much shock effect—but it’s nice to see new fresh things; nice to know people are still attempting to create new things. Madrid does have most of the works of Picasso and Dali, two of the greatest “modern” artists, but modern art is quite old now.

My favorite Spanish artist? Goya, sin duda. And a close second is Dali.

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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Art, Madrid, Museums, Spain


Easy, legal way for Americans to teach in Spain

Americans in post-2000 Europe find themselves hard-pressed to find legal work. Moreover, Europe has no worker program for young Americans, like it does for Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians. Americans, therefore, have few options when it comes to working on the continent.

Fortunately Spain, of all nations, has a teach-abroad program targeted mostly at Americans, but also for any other Anglophone nations. There are some other possibilities, especially the Fullbright program, but the requirements are often higher, the time frame is longer and the planning is more extensive.

Spain’s program is called Auxiliares de conversacion.  Technically speaking, it’s an academic grant, but it’s pretty clearly teaching work. You are a teacher’s aide in Spanish classrooms, mostly primary, and work about 15 hours a week for a monthly stipend. The stipend is 700 Euros outside of Madrid and 1000 in Madrid. (They don’t tell you this at the outset, mainly to dissuade too many people from choosing Madrid. In case you’re wondering, 1000 is enough to survive, and with a little knowhow you can easily take in 500 more a month through private classes.)

The program’s duration is 9 months, from October to the end of June. You are permitted to renew one year and one year only. You have government covered health insurance and the position is secure. The application deadline is usually in February or March, so you should begin planning around Christmastime the preceding year, because you will need a letter or recommendation, health certificate and a Spanish motivational letter.

Personal, I recommend Madrid. It’s the seat of Castilian Spanish, so you needn’t worry about one of Spain’s many dialects and languages, and it’s right in the center of the country, making it easy to travel throughout Spain and to catch flights abroad. You also make more money and the city is not nearly as expensive as most European capitals. You can actually go out and have fun without having to worry about it very much. Also, if you’re looking for another job for the coming year, it’s a good way to start out, make contacts and find work at an ESL institute.

Any questions about this position or how to apply, post them in the comments.

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Posted by on March 10, 2011 in ESL, Madrid, Spain, Spanish