I was looking through Expatriate Cafe for some information I’d seen over the summer about airline and travel websites in Europe and quickly remembered a time not too long ago when I obsessively checked that website every minute of the day. Expatriate Cafe was an excellent source of knowledgeable former, current, and potential assistants in Spain. The millions of facebook groups are great, but they’re really only good for when you’ve actually been accepted, in Spain, and enjoy reading the stupidest questions known to mankind.
Once I was accepted (some time in April or May), one of my biggest worries was how on earth I was going to find a piso (AKA an apartment). I arrived on a Thursday to Las Musas hostel in Madrid. A great hostel experience due to the fact that 90% of those staying there were Auxiliares. It made the whole being social thing a lot easier, especially when you’re as antisocial as I am. Aside from that, I took awhile to get myself started. WHile people were already viewing pisos on their very first day. One girl found one within 24 hours from arriving and did not hesitate to brag to the room full of frustrated, annoyed, desperate Auxiliares on their laptops in the living room of the hostel.
A reason for my late start in piso-viewing was that I was having trouble getting my phone situation resolved. I forgot to unlock it. Something I recommend you do before you get here. There are forums/videos that will teach you how to do it. Sadly, I still was unable to do it. I decided to take it to a place to get it unlocked. I was hesitant. They could have easily stolen it or bricked my phone. Thankfully none of that happened. I took it to a place on Miguel Servet, called Mobitech. It’s right off glorieta Embajadores. The guy charged me 8 euros. Something I asked about first before he started working on it.
The phone thing took longer than expected and ate away a couple days of my time. I went with the Orange Delfin tarjeta plan. 3.50€ a week for 50 text messages and unlimited internet. Unfortunately, minutes are not included, but its not too bad something like 9 cents a minute (plus 15 cents connection fee). the unlimited internet was what i wanted really. The only time i was going to use the calling feature was just as long as it’d take me to find a piso as you call A LOT.
I believe i contacted about 40 places. I only got about 10 callbacks and only actually viewed 5 places. The first place was going for 300€/month and it was perfectly located in La Latina, right in front of the rastro. I had my new friend, Angelica, come with me for moral support.
I was nervous. The building was nice, and the lobby area was beautiful. It had a beautiful curved, white, marble staircase. When we entered a beautiful spanish couple were exiting with their beautiful baby in it’s expensive stroller. All signed pointed to good things. I reached the piso and a scruffy man answered the door. *gulp* “don’t judge a book by it’s creepy rapist-looking cover” i thought to myself. I took a step inside and it was an immediate “HELL TO THE NO”. The place was fucking filthy. The floor had never been mopped. He showed me the living room which was roomy and with a beautiful view of the plaza, but the place was a fucking dump. he showed me his bedroom – a matress on the floor covered by tons of shit. He said he works from home – aka he’s always there. “My” room was fucking filthy too. I had a large window to the courtyard, but it looked like a homeless person last lived there. The bed was unmade there was stuff all over the floor, old shoes and things strewn across the room. I was ready to go, but good ol’ Angelica wanted to view the kitchen. Sure enough it was everything that should have been expected. Dishes had never been washed, the stove had never been cleaned. Grime/Roach city.
It was a bit traumatizing for a first experience.
Here’s what I learned after viewing Hoarders: Euro edition, the apartment of my dreams, and the apt I am now in. It’s good to write out what is most important to you in a home:
- smoking in the house (yes or no?)
- a window (courtyard view or street view)
- neighborhood (proximity to supermarkets is important!)
- number of roomates
- size of room/kitchen/piso in general
- proximity to metro/cercanias (if you’re working outside of Madrid like i was, i recommend looking up what cercania you have to take and find out the stops along that route that you could potentially live in)
- roomate personality (are you ok with living with an older couple, a family, 19 yr-old Erasmus students, gay-friendly folks etc)
- presence of cockroaches (it’s perfectly OK to ask this. You don’t want to be surprised later on and decide you can’t live there because of it and have to find another place all over again)
- visitors (do you plan on having ppl over for the night? find out if thats ok with the new roomates)
- gastos (find out how they’re split up and what is included, etc)
I’d maybe order these in the order of importance and maybe write it down and take it with you. These are things you’ll want to find out when you’re viewing the apartment. It’s important to ask questions, be as upbeat as possible, don’t just answer questions about yourself, find out about them too! You want to seem interested, because there is about 100 more people emailing and viewing the place as well. I made the mistake when viewing my dream apartment with the dream roomates. I was nervous for multiple reasons and didn’t ask any good questions, but worse: i didn’t ask them questions about them and what they do or are into.
The room i ended up going with is very clean and with 2 other women (plus a bf i guess). The place is so clean. I play 290/month plus gastos. Gastos even include toilet paper, hand soap, dish soap, paper towels, laundry detergent, etc, which is great not having to worry about who’s turn it is to buy what. The lease holder, Viki, is a sweetheart and around 31 yrs old. My other roomate, Tami is 20 yrs old and is super guay. The bf, well I’ve learned to hate him, but y’know, not everything can be perfect.
I realized that cleanliness, good vibing roommates, visitor privileges, no cockroaches, and location (walking distance to Atocha station) were most important to me. And whileI had dreamnt of french windows with a balcony overlooking the city, that was something I had to compromise.
http://www.idealista.com/ (i think i found my place through this site)
P.S. I recommend putting an ad up on one of those sites, it’s easier to have people contact you about a place than vice versa.