Where Everybody Knows Your Name – Not Lonely In Madrid

in madrid

Language exchange night at JJ’s Books and Coffee in Madrid.

Every expat gets the blues, misses family and friends, and wonders what the hell were they thinking when they decided to move to a foreign culture. Lauren Linzer writes about how she deals with feeling lonely. 

By Lauren Linzer

Frost crystals are gathering on the window pane as I gaze out of my tiny, 10 ft by 10 ft apartment at the sun setting over Madrid. Not every day in the winter here is so dreary, with many surprisingly spring-like days peppered throughout the season; but today is one of those lonely evenings where it’s far too cold to venture out for long and the walls of my flat are slowly closing in. Homesickness is a common drawback to living far from home, even in fabulous España. Where’s a forlorn expat to go in the big city when the parks and terraces are not an option and a taste of familiarity is the only thing that will satiate the hunger for home?

This is what some long-time expatriate residents had in mind when they decided to take matters into their own hands and create a warm slice of comfort in the heart of Madrid. Jamie, a California native, opened J & J Books and Coffee almost 10 years ago as a cozy spot for native English speakers to gather and find English titles difficult to locate anywhere else in the city. Nestled in the Malasana district of Madrid, this converted Chinese restaurant is now a haven for Americans, English, Irish, and Aussie residents to remove themselves from Spain for a moment and indulge in a familiar, home-grown atmosphere. Sitting for hours at the small, intimate bar to chat it up with the regulars, roaming the stacks of extensive used English book titles in the basement, or parking in a plush cozy nook with a hot chocolate and an old classic at J & J’s are the perfect cures for the winter funk.

Lauren with friends at Carnencita’s in Madrid.

Just a short stroll up the road is another popular spot for expats, visitors, and local Spaniards alike. Carmencita opened its doors just one year ago and is, unequivocally, my favorite watering hole in Madrid. Owner Marianne had a vision of a bright, cozy atmosphere accompanied by a fusion of modern American and classic Spanish fare. Her Spanish-American background is evident throughout every facet of her bar, from the food to the guests.

J J’s Books and Cafe in Madrid

Even when the weather is frightful, the setting is always uplifting in the light, airy space filled with constant laughter and a positive energy.  An early evening pop in to say hello frequently transforms into a late night with new friends, downing gin bowls (massive gin cocktails) and chupitos (flavored Spanish shots) and munching on chef Yoel’s creative culinary creations.

Do not be mistaken. Getting lost in the Spanish culture is a year-round treat in Madrid; but once in a while, when home seems much farther away, it’s nice to know there are always places to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.


J & J’s Books and Coffee: http://www.jandjbooksandcoffee.com/

Carmencitas: http://www.yelp.com/biz/carmencita-madrid

Lauren Linzer, from Raleigh, North Carolina, gave up the day to day grind of corporate sales to embrace life in Spain as an English teacher and travel writer in Madrid. Read more about her experiences at:   http://linzersadventure.blogspot.com/



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  1. carole linzer (mom)
    Posted February 16, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    I loved this article that you wrote. I can feel myself sitting there with a large cup of java enjoying the atmosphere. Great job and very proud of your achievements! As always, your writing makes me feel like I am sitting beside you enjoying everything that you write about. It is sad that you are away from home, but at least I can enjoy what you feel when you are in Espana. Love ya!

  2. Posted February 17, 2012 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    Yes, Lauren takes us to right where she is, and that is one reason we like her writing so much!

  3. Posted February 17, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Great article idea Lauren – how to beat the home sickness.

    Another solution could be to consider Madrid as your home ! At some point, I just realized Paris was not anymore my home, but that Madrid was ! This was a great moment ;-) Dont know if I make sense, but anyway, this helped me:-)
    Now I’m homesick when I’m in Paris !

    Hope to see you soon,

  4. admin
    Posted February 17, 2012 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Pierre, yes makes sense. What changed your mind when you decided Madrid was your home?

  5. Posted February 19, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    I have to say that I have never felt homesick in Seville, I suppose because Spain has felt like home since I first arrived here almost twenty years ago. Like Pierre, I get homesick when I’m away from Spain. So I guess it mostly depends on where you consider your real home.

  6. admin
    Posted February 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Never? Not even for some sort of food or something? I miss the Oregon Green sometimes, and the smell of rain….but mostly I am happy in Barcelona.


  7. Posted February 22, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Nice post! I’ve only been to J&J’s once, and it was a *long* time ago; didn’t know there was a thriving community there!

    Agree 100% that once you accept Madrid as your home you will find peace & happiness. =) I’m married to a Madrileño and have been in Madrid since 2004. I *still* get homesick… That said, I spent 6mo. in SF last year– and you guessed it –I missed Madrid terribly! We go back and forth about staying in Spain, or moving back to the US. I have figured out one thing though– home is with my hubby. ;-p

    Will check back with this blog, and will def stop by J&J’s sometime soon.
    Un saludo!

  8. Posted January 29, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Yes, I’ve been to J&Js, & agree with every word! Also, in Madrid, the Toastmasters used to hold an English-speaking session every Friday night, where you got to meet Spanish people, too. Don’t know if they’re still held, or where, but I know someone who *might* know … if only I can find his email address!

  9. admin
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 3:06 am | Permalink

    Thanks for those tips Keith!

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