Sunday, January 24, 2010

Adventures in the Madrid Nightlife

One of the purposes of studying abroad, I am told, is to experience things we would never do in our stateside lives by experiencing local culture. One of the defining aspects of Spanish culture, it seems, is a undying love of "going out" (it's actually the same word in Spanish). Spanish people don't socialize in the home and dinner rarely starts before 9:00 (except in my house - Pilar goes to sleep by 9:30 because she leaves for work by 6:00 AM, so we eat around 8:30), so socializing tends to take place in other establishments in late night and early morning. That in mind, it was still a surprise to me when Pilar, a woman who appears to be in her mid-60's, told me that 3:00 AM was pretty early to get back from a night out.

I'm beginning to get down the dinner part of the evening. I'm still pretty confused as to how to figure out whether the bar you're at will serve sufficiently filling tapas to cover dinner or whether you will have to buy a ración (a real meal) to get subsistence, but I assume this will come with experience.

After dinner, most people seem to go to bars. There are two types, as far as I can tell. The typical bar, or cervecería (beer-ery) serves mostly domestic beer (usually Mahau or San Miguel), which is cheap and not very good, as well as some cheap wine and mixed drinks. The other option is a bar de copas (copas refer to cups of mixed drinks), which I haven't really tried yet. They're more popular with the young crowd, are more trendy and expensive, and play louder music. The main difference is intention: you aren't supposed to get drunk at a cervecería (that's why they give tapas), while that's the whole point of a bar de copas - ir de copas actually means to drink in order to become intoxicated. It certainly helps that a mixed drink here, while pricey, is a cup half full of alcohol with a small bottle of mixer on the side.

Bars generally close around 3:00 AM, so the last part of the evening process, if one chooses to participate, is going to a club or disco. They open at 12:00 and generally run until 5:00 or 6:00. This is something I despise in the U.S. I don't like loud music, I feel silly dancing, and the overdone sexuality generally makes me feel sort of sick. I've gone clubbing twice, but now I avoid both clubs and club-like campus parties. Being here, especially with Boston University students who are really into it, I decided it's something I should give another shot.

I tried going out twice this week: on Thursday, I went to Chueca and, at the advice of a bouncer, ended up at a tiny gay disco called delirio, which had no cover. On Friday, Molly, my friend from high school, was in Madrid with her friend from college, and we went to Kapital, a giant seven floor disco in my neighborhood, which most Spanish people seem to think is a bit too intense. The experience is pretty different than in the U.S. People are much less likely to dance together here. Actually, I'm not sure I saw anyone dancing in pairs at delirio. People either dance alone or in circles. It's sort of like middle school, except no one seems awkward about it. At Kapital, Molly and her friend did each dance with a guy, but the men were awfully chivalrous about the affair. It's worth noting, though, that both of the guys were Argentinian, so it's not exactly representative. Also, the music is not nearly as loud. You can still have a pretty reasonable conversation, even right next to the speakers. A lot of people don't even dance - they just hang out and chat, which seems to be a good way to work on my colloquial Spanish.

The most amusing moment of the weekend, perhaps, was a conversation at delirio. This guy dancing next to me appeared to be lip-syncing all the songs. I asked:

"Do you know all the lyrics to the songs"
"No, do you?"
"No, it seems like a lot of these songs are translated in Spanish, and I only know the English lyrics"
"I think this song is in English, isn't it?"
"Oh, I guess so. I'm sort of isolated from pop culture"
"Where are you from"
"The United States"
"Like, New York"
"Oh, what neighborhood"
"Uh, like 30 minutes away"
(in a disparaging voice) "Oh, you're from New Jersey"
"'ve heard of New Jersey?"
"You can't say you're from New York if you're from New Jersey!"
"Yeah, I never would say that in the U.S., but most people here haven't heard of it."
"No, you just can't say that. You're not from New York!"
"Yeah, I agree with you. I was just assuming people here wouldn't know."
"You just can't say that. It's not ok! You can't say you're from New York!"

With that, he walked away. I was a bit shocked to say the least. I didn't really know anyone here would care. My other surprise of the weekend was sleeping until 3:40 in the afternoon on Saturday and missing the paella lunch Pilar had made for her son's visit. They were both quite surprised to hear that I had "only" come home at 3:30.

1 comment:

  1. Can I just say about that guy, HAHAHAHA!

    I have heard that about Spain, that you go out until super late. I'm glad you tried "going out" again, even tho you don't like clubs. it seems you mind these spanish ones less... what do you think? do you still go to them? do you like them, or jsut don't dislike?