A Month in Madrid


So I survived my first few weeks in Madrid and have been ramping up at IE Business School.  I didn’t think I would work as hard as I did while getting my first Engineering degree, but it sure has been intense considering we just started.

Its been very interesting to see how many people here have dogs.  Lots of little ones out on walks – most of them amazingly well behaved.  Unfortunately for me, I believe the dog that one of my neighbor’s has does not match that description.  I don’t know about his other behavior traits, but he loves to go on barking sprees at various times.  At least I don’t hear him at night!

As I mentioned I have very little Spanish skills (more than a beginner, less than an intermediate level I’d say – so I probably should retake Spanish 201 – third semester University level Spanish in the US – as I apparently have forgotten all of it!).  I am really looking forward to classes starting on that topic as a key reason I chose Spain for my MBA was the language.  It really is quite challenging to get around here without speaking Spanish as a relatively small number of Madrileños speak English.  On the other hand, Its always pretty humorous when I stumble through something in my broken Spanish only to have the other person speak perfect English to me.  I think a lot of my classmates speak 3 or more languages – they may not consider it impressive but I sure do.  I can’t wait to be bilingual …

I’ve been closely following the challenges faced by the Euro lately and its a pretty interesting chain of events.  The more the Euro drops, the less I will spend while I am here so I have a vested interest.  Greece reminds me a bit of some states in the US that know they have serious money problems but are having trouble coming up with the political strength to do what needs to be done about it.  California comes to mind.  In the case of Greece they could focus on targeting their tax evaders and cutting public services until their economy recovers.  What is Greece’s strength economically?  I don’t actually know, besides tourism and perhaps some food.  And Spain is another interesting case – there is this perception that its been horribly run and that is why they are running massive deficits, but my recollection is that Spain is basically Arizona economically (and perhaps partially in terms of language 😉 ) without the support of the US Federal Government to bail them out.  What can you do when you have a tourism and real estate based economy and it collapses worldwide?  Its a tough situation to be sure.  I wonder how Spain could change its laws to become more economically competitive while keeping a good quality of life?  I think the line that we always hear about the problem being “too many services” is probably not the core of the problem – I think its more about competitiveness and efficiency of local markets and their resilience in the face of a very rough recession.  The large number of small shops here are very charming, but it seems like it would be tough to compete against what we have in the US (massive stores all over the place).  I think you lose some culture, but the Walmartification of the US (something I was always angry about) does make goods cheaper.  Having fairly short store hours is also good for work life balance, but it makes me miss being able to buy something at any time of the night (driving there nonetheless!  I miss my car).

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