Richard Morley: British Expat in Madrid

Richard Morley: British Expat in Madrid

This month at Cheap In Madrid, we are speaking to Richard Morley. I met Richard a few years ago at the Madrid Toastmasters club. After travelling and living in many countries around the world he decided to make Madrid his home. He is also an author of another popular Madrid blog called ¨A view of Madrid¨. However, between it all he runs a language group and teaches technical English. Lets find out more from this Englishman who left Great Britain more than 3 decades ago.

Sarah of Cheap In Madrid: What brought you to Madrid?

Richard Morley: I started volunteering at the English villages while I was still working for the oil companies. It was because of my constant visits to Madrid that I decided to make the city my home after my divorce. I didn’t begin teaching English until I was made redundant some three years later. (English Village are English Language camps organized all over Spain in remote non-touristic village to teach and improve English without distractions). My other previous contact with Spain was San Sebastian, while holidaying in the South of France. Previously, I had been busy flying over most of Europe to Asia, the Middle East and down to Africa and its only in the past decade or so that I started exploring Europe.

Sarah: So when did you decide to stay?

Richard: On my first evening in Madrid. It was more like love at first sight, at first smell and at first hearing. Madrid caught my attention right from the time I landed in Barajas Airport. My first impression was that of a modern airport. I then got into a modern and clean metro with a Spanish woman fanning herself with an abanicó.This demonstrated a dichotomy of Madrid and Spain in general that has fascinated me ever since. I arrived in the Spring (it was May) of 2005.Therefore on my first evening in Madrid I left my hotel and let the smell and sound of the city lead the way. I ended up in the Retiro Park and I enjoyed a cold caña taking in the serenity of the park. It was the lack of “hustle and Bustle” that attracted me. I thought that one day I could live here. After my divorce it was an easy choice.

Sarah: What is currently keeping you busy?

Richard: I teach specific and technical English to executives, scientists and other professionals. I also help professionals prepare and rehearse for their presentations. Recently, I helped an executive at the meteorological institute of Spain to prepare and rehearse a keynote address.

Cost of living in Madrid

Sarah: Now a question that is on the mind of many Cheap In Madrid blog readers. Is Madrid a cheap city to live in?

Richard: It depends. For instance accommodation is not necessarily cheap everywhere. (In fact people tell me rents are increasing!) In particular, the centre of Madrid is quite expensive. One would be very lucky to find an apartment to share at 500 Euros.However, if you look and take your time, you could find an apartment on the ¨outskirts of the centre in a quiet area, with a park nearby, like mine, and far from the noisy, tourist centre. At the end of the day it depends on personal taste. With respect to food and going out, again it depends on where and what you eat.However its still relatively cheaper than other Europeans cities like Paris and London.

Food and eating out in Madrid

Sarah: Food and eating out in Madrid?

Richard: I cook a lot and even experiment with various flavours influenced by my travels and stays in Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia. My greatest feat has been getting the Spanish family I live with to try my picante (spicy) dishes.(Most Spanish people don’t like spicy food).At the end of the day, I’m a tapas guy, but take out time for lunch between my classes.

Learning Spanish in Madrid and Spanish Culture

Sarah: And your Spanish? Do you practice with the Spanish family you live with?

Richard: Well, I can communicate and be understood and also understand. I listen to the radio a lot to improve my understanding. The family I live with, with whom I get on really well, is fluent in English. Therefore, we always find ourselves speaking more English than Spanish. However, when I first arrived in Madrid I had one to one lessons.

Sarah: Spanish favourite phrases?

Richard: I dont really have any, but I like the expression: El mundo es un pañuelo and to grab attention in class or at my Friday evening group I remark, “In the words of the King, “Por qué no te callas”. Why don’t you shut-up?”

Sarah: Have you had some funny or embarrassing Spanglish moments?

Richard: Well yes! In one incident with my teacher, I innocently enquired about the ¨Corte Ingles ¨ or ¨English cut as I interepreted it¨. I had seen the Corte Ingles advertised at one hair salon. Her eyes grew big and she proceeded to explain and demonstrate to me that Ingles is a bikini line wax. Pointing out that the “’” accent over letters is REALLY important in Spanish. Often, waiters and so on go ¨perdona¨ to me, and since my Spanish friends say they understood me the first time, it’s probably because people don’t expect an obvious Englishman to be speaking Spanish (smiles).

Sarah: Did you experience any culture shock in Madrid?

Richard: Not really. My experiences during my travels and stays in Africa, Asia and the Middle East really opened up my point of view. For instance, not all Islamic countries are the same.For example I wrote about the reaction to the veil in Spain here. And so there was no culture “shock” as I have leant to accept that people are different. That doesn’t stop me being amused by some of the little Spanish quirks.

Sarah: Tell us about your blog. How did it come about?:

Richard: While in Sevilla, and after writing 2 or 3 posts for Notes in Spain, I answered a forum question  about Sevilla in about  1000 words. Then my friend and founder of Notes in Spain, Ben Curtis, asked me when I was going to start my own blog. I have a deep interest and curiosity in history, and therefore as a guiri the blog “A view of Madrid”, which really should be My view of Madrid, is me researching, exploring and getting to know the city. I have been pleasantly surprised by the response and following of my blog. The blog is read in every time zone in the world, and there are readers who ask advice and specific questions about Madrid through the blog.

Renting and finding accomodation in Madrid

Sarah: Was it easy to find a place to stay in Madrid?

Richard: Yes, I was very lucky. I actually put up an ad which was replied by the Spanish family with whom I live today. My ad simply read: ¨Middle aged Englishman looking for an apartment to share long term¨. I’m fortunate and enjoy every day living with this family who can only de described as the nicest and most generous people. I can hear birds and children playing from my spacious room and have a private bathroom with full use of the kitchen.

Sarah: How did you start the language group?

Richard: The initial idea was to start a group to recruit into Toastmasters. However, the group took a life of its own. We currently meet every Friday at a bar in Moncloa. It’s really a group where anyone can speak English without being corrected. I call it the happy place where people can speak English. More information can be found on la tienda de lanas on Facebook.

Travelling in Spain

Sarah: Have you travelled a lot in Spain?

Richard: Some. My travels are always impulsed by my interest in history or architecture therefore I have gone to places like Sevilla to appreciate the bridge Puente del Alamillo from close. As a guy I like large constructions and for me it was the Puente del Alamillo, a modern bridge across the Guadalquivir river that was the highlight of my visit. Of course I appreciated the historical aspects too. I have also come to know some places like Aragon for their still unsung wine and would like to visit and learn more about Barcelona.

English teaching jobs in Madrid

Sarah: English teaching jobs have become scarce. What is the secret to getting more jobs in times of crisis?

Richard: The way to get more teaching hours is to differentiate yourself. The crisis has also left many executives and professionals without jobs, as well as the need to modify or adapt careers. For this reasons I teach specific English and adapt all my material, conversation and grammar to the discipline of my student be it Sales Executive, Oil Plant Manager or Chemistry Professor. Being a few decades older than the average English teacher, and with a background in Science, technology and management helps me to identify with the needs of my students.

Advice for tourists visiting Madrid

Sarah: Advice for tourists visiting Madrid?

Richard: Avoid eating in and around the places I coined the 3 P´s. The 3P´s being Plaza Mayor, Museo del Prado and Palacio Real. The reason being the prices are exorbitant and they feel very touristic. On the other hand he recommends parks like Parque el Retiro,  Parque Carlos I and the new Madrid Rio after a day of sightseeing in Madrid.

Sarah: To people who will be moving to Madrid soon…what do you advice them?

Richard: You need to be open-minded and accept peculiarities. Rather than trying to change anything, see how you can adapt. For example in July in Madrid, and in most of Spain, most institutions close. If you are moving to Madrid, know that Madrid is a safe city and the people are friendly and engaging.

Sarah: Then to people who already live here, do you recommend any traditional fiesta, like the end of year Sol party with 12 grapes?

Richard: Sol is a great tradition which newcomers should do once, but THE traditional fiesta for me is San Isidro around May 15th. That’s when Madrid shows itself off.

Thanks for taking time to speak to us,and see you at the language night soon!

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