I’m going to start off with a disclaimer: yes, I have friends in Madrid. I’m actually surprised how often people ask me if I have friends in Spain. (I guess it’s kind of a good intro question to life in another country…) But to me, friends are like food. Erm… I mean friends are as much as a life necessity as food. If I didn’t have at least one or two close friends in Madrid I would probably cease to function as a normal human being. And from what I’ve gathered, I’m still functioning quite well. So despite what this post might lead you to believe, I do, in fact, have friends.
But the friends that I have are not quite what I was expecting when I got to Madrid. I envisioned finding more of a friend group, kind of like the ones I had at home. You know, where everyone knows everyone and there are house parties and friend gossip and drama and… yeah. So I’ve spent many of my free days and nights searching for this elusive friend group, and here is how my quest went:
Stage One: Everyone is a potential friend. The first few weekends in a new city is all about exploring, getting out, and meeting people. The fact that I had just moved to Madrid made friend meeting easier. Oh you just moved here last week? But you speak Spanish really well? Well here’s my number. We should go eat octopus sometime. The fact that I just moved here made it obvious that I had no friends and was (very) open to hanging out with new people. My phone contacts list grew a lot that first month and every time I got a new number I was like omg look! I’m making friends. This is so exciting.
Stage Two: Newcomer novelty wears off, desperation sets in. I hung out with my new friends a few times. It was fun. But we didn’t really click, and slowly ceased to see each other. But I kept looking. At work, in bars, on couchsurfing.org—for those of you who aren’t familiar with couchsurfing it is a totally socially acceptable way of making friends. I swear.
One night in a bar I met a Mexican girl who had just moved to Spain. She was very nice and was a history major (like me!). Hey what’s your phone number? Oh you don’t have a phone number? Well, we both use email. Let’s exchange email addresses! Who cares that the chances were actually very slim of this email address making it from the napkin, to my purse, back home, and onto my computer.
Stage Three: Redefinition of the word friend. By February I had played chess a few times with a random (but nice) guy from couchsurfing. I had gotten coffee with a Spanish friend of a Spanish friend of an American friend of mine from college. She was also nice. I had been to a German house party. But still no friend group. At this point I started to think differently about the random people I was spending time with. Maybe we wouldn’t be friends in the normal sense of the word. But we spent one wonderful day or night together exchanging witty banter and common experiences before going our separate ways. Isn’t it beautiful? I am lucky enough to meet and chat with–for a brief time–the amazing people of the world. How optimistically poetic of me.
Stage Four: Negligence/acceptance. This weekend was a five day weekend. Most of my actual friends from Madrid had travel plans, but I did not. So for five days I did nothing. The only meaningful non-skype conversations I had were with Moni, my Dutch roommate, and the guy at the bank who asked me if it was raining outside. I watched four movies, read a book, did laundry, went to Segovia by myself where I had to resort to photographically challenged strangers to take pictures of me (see below), slept a staggering number of hours, and updated this blog for all you lovely people. I did not get on couchsurfing.org. I did not ask bank guy for his phone number. I did not text friend of a friend of a friend to get coffee.
You see, the friends that I have here (thought they may be few) and at home (though they may be far) are enough. In fact, they’re more than enough: they’re pretty friggin’ awesome.