It’s been a little over three weeks since I’ve been in Madrid and I’m having a hard time not comparing it to Hong Kong.
I studied abroad in Hong Kong in 2014, when I was 22 and had the time of my life. You can read it about it on here (just search Hong Kong). During that time, I became close with four friends in particular: Jane, Jim, Tom, and Fergus. And, there wasn’t much of a culture shock for me as I love being in asian countries and everyone spoke English there!
It took me a month to adjust and of course, when you move to a new country…there comes a period of time where you can feel depressed, because you’ll miss home but overall I had such a wonderful time. I know it’s not right to compare the two countries because I’m still new to Spain and don’t speak the language, but I thought I would make a list of what I think about Spain so far compared to Hong Kong!
Hong Kong: In Hong Kong, everything was a bit more pricey unless you knew where to look. I paid $500 USD my first two months living in a hotel and sharing a room with one other person (one hour away from the city), and then $800 USD living in a hostel and sleeping on a bunkbed in the city. Also, in Hong Kong I didn’t have a kitchen or fridge so every day I would have to buy water bottles and food. Even if I had leftovers, it would be hard to eat them because I didn’t have a fridge. Keep in mind that I was on a student budget and therefore didn’t have any money coming in.
Madrid: In Madrid, I was able to get a room in an apartment for 650 euros. This includes all utilities and cleaning service as well. I’ll share some photos of my apartment soon, so hopefully you’ll stop by and take a look at it 🙂
As for food, food is much cheaper here with tons of great pricing. In the morning, I can grab a simple chocolate croissant for 1 euro, do grocery shopping for a week for about 30 euros and also can cook. I am also teaching English with CIEE so that means that I get an extra 1K a month and working on freelance projects as well so that brings in additional income. Overall, I find living in Madrid easier to save money.
Atmosphere / Environment / People
Is living in Madrid hard if you don’t speak Spanish?
Are people nice in Hong Kong?
Do you experience racism in Madrid?
Hong Kong: Actually, I did experience some racism in Hong Kong when I first came because it was during the umbrella movement and I stupidly spoke Chinese. I remember that some people refused to serve me or they threw my change back at me (this only happened twice). It also doesn’t help that I look Chinese either.
But, navigating Hong Kong was super easy because everyone spoke English! I found the city was always busy, and some people weren’t that polite to me. There were many times when people scoffed at me and customer service was a joke at most places. Either way, I was a bit used to it since I’m from Vietnam.
Madrid:In Madrid, getting around is a bit more difficult. I am truly shocked by the amount of people who don’t speak English here. Even my landlord doesn’t speak english so most of the time, I feel like I’m in a host family…we find it hard to communicate with each other. What is the most surprising is the amount of teenagers and young adults who don’t speak english at all. I was lost last week and ran into three teenagers in the park and asked them for directions, they all asked each other, “Hablas Ingles?” and all of them shook their heads. They didn’t know any english! So, Google Translate it was…
As for the people in Madrid, I find them very friendly and open! Customer Service is a little bit better than Hong Kong, and though they don’t speak any English they are always happy to help. And racism? I don’t experience any in Madrid, I was a bit worried but so far no one has said, “Ni Hao” to me so I’m happy,
This one is important to talk about. In Madrid, since I stand out so much compared to others I was worried that I would easily be a target. Especially at just 5’0, I was worried that people would pickpocket me or mug me. So far, that hasn’t happened but it’s still too early. Let’s hope it doesn’t.
Pickpocketing is a big issue in Madrid, within 24hrs after someone landed in Madrid they were pickpocketed and 3/5 students in Madrid return home with a different phone! So, I wear a fanny pack every day and keep my valuables close to me.
Hong Kong: I like Hong Kong’s metro. I think the lines were easier to understand. Also, I had an octopus card so getting around was extremely easy for me. I believe it was $20 USD a month for me while I was a student.
Madrid: In Madrid, since I’m older now – I have to pay at the minimum 50 euros to get around Zone A and then 70 euros a month to get to where I have to teach. It’s quite expensive, but I’m older so…. what can I do haha.
I do like how Madrid has uber, a taxi app (Free Now, highly recommend!), and buses. In Hong Kong, I was able to stick with only metro but in Madrid I have to go on buses. To be honest, I prefer buses.
Winner: Hong Kong
Hong Kong: was simply amazing for food. I am biased because I definitely prefer asian food but in Hong Kong, it was so much easier to find different kinds of food. Also, they have little night markets as well which were the perfect place to try new things.
Madrid: Madrid….I actually don’t like the food here. I find it lacks spice, and I am really tired of eating carbs all the time. The food that I’ve been eating are: tortillas, patatas, croquettes, hamburgers, bagels, etc. There is different cuisine though, but even the pho here was just OK. Maybe I should venture out more?
Winner: Hong Kong
Hong Kong: In Hong Kong, I remember going to Wan Chai for ladies night until 3 AM and because the metro closed at 1:30, we had to wait until 6 AM to catch the metro back. We went to a 24hr diner for 1 hour to eat, then headed to Mcdonalds to “Sleep” or spend the other few hours waiting for the metro to open. Wan Chai was amazing for night life and LKF but surprisingly, I didn’t drink too much in HK.
Madrid: I thought Hong Kong had a great night life… Madrid has an even better one! But, unlike LA where you can start lining up for a club at 10 and they close at 2…in Madrid, the clubs open at midnight and close at 6 AM! Which is crazy.
So far, I’ve gone clubbing at a 7 story nightclub (Kapital, more on that later), gone to a pub crawl where it only cost 8 euros and you get to go to 5 different bars and get a free shot at each one (totally worth it). Madrid has such an amazing nightlife but this old grandma just can’t keep up!