Do you know the saying, ‘When in Madrid, do as the Madrilenians do’? Well, maybe it’s not exactly like that… But you know it refers to the importance of adapting yourself to the customs of a certain place and behaving like the locals!
So, what better way than speaking like the Madrilenians? We’ve collected a bunch of words and expressions for you to learn before heading to Madrid so you can truly mingle with the locals!
Taking an early morning walk and see a friendly face? Say “buenas” while passing and they’ll think you’re from Madrid. It’s very common for a stranger to say “buenas” on the street and you can use it any time of the day. But more specifically, “Buenos días” is the morning greeting, “Buenas tardes” is used in the afternoon, and “Buenas noches” is the evening greeting!
When to use it: When you enter somewhere, when you run into someone on the street. Use at all times of the day for informal situations.
Meaning: How are you?
Do you want to strike up a convo with a local? Saying “qué tal” will certainly grab their attention. Depending on the person, you’ll either get a short response, or they might pour out their entire life story 😊.
When to use it: When you are greeting someone in an informal way. It’s an equivalent to “What’s up?”
TÍO / TÍA
Meaning: Buddy. Literally, “uncle” and “aunt”
If you hear someone calling “tío” or “tía” in your direction, don’t worry! It’s very common to call people this as a replacement for “dude” or “girl”. And it’s way less formal than “hombre” or “mujer”. The Spaniards will be pleasantly surprised if you understand and use the slang.
When to use it: In a casual conversation with someone you already know, to emphasise what you’re saying, or to call their attention substituting their name.
Meaning: How cool!
When you see or hear something cool and you want to tell others around you about how awesome it is, you just say “Que guay!”. Young people use it quite a lot, but it’s not weird in not-so-young people.
When to use it: When shows or tells you something you find interesting. They’ll appreciate the comment and probably give you a look of approval.
Meaning: I love it
Spanish can be tricky sometimes. Words change depending on your gender, but “me flipa” works for both! It’s informal and quite a statement. If used by Madrilenians, it means they really like the thing/situation!
When to use it: When someone asks you for your opinion on something, and you not only like it, but love it!
DE MADRID AL CIELO
Meaning: “From Madrid to heaven”
It’s Madrid’s well deserved and obviously true self-congratulatory motto. It’s also a perfect Instagram caption for any scenic pics you snap of the sunsets or the striking architecture! It implies that it’s so pretty here, you’ve got to be close to heaven! All Madrilenians are familiar with this phrase.
When to use it: This can be used in the context of speaking about how beautiful the city is. Say this to madrileños while you’re having an amazing experience in their city and you’ll earn their hearts!
Meaning: Pardon me. Literally, “with permission”
While this phrase literally translates to asking for permission, it’s used when you want to say “excuse me” in the context of getting through a crowd. Some spaces in Madrid can get crowded, so using this will help you be polite AND still get where you need to go! It’s already formal so no need to add “por favor” (please) to your request.
When to use it: When you’re stuck behind people on the metro but you need to exit, or whatever situation you’re tempted to say, “I need to get through, please.”
Meaning: Enjoy your meal!
It’s courteous and typical to tell someone this when you see them eating, and you don’t need to necessarily know them. All Madrilenians use this phrase!
When to use it: It’s perfectly normal to say this to the people at the nearby table. If you see some Latinos or Spaniards eating at the common areas of your hostel, maybe you want to impress them!
Meaning: See you later. Literally, “until later”
It’s used to say bye to a friend pretty much everywhere. For more native touch, use “Hasta luego Lucas”. This expression was popularised by the famous 90s Spanish humorist, Chiquito de la Calzada. The common phrase has remained as part of the country’s popular imagery.
When you use it: When you’re leaving work, a restaurant, or the hostel. It’s not neither formal nor informal. Works for everything!
UNA CAÑA CON TAPA, POR FAVOR
Meaning: A small beer with tapa, please
‘A caña‘ is a small beer, and tapas are essentially Spanish finger foods. If you’re looking for a typical Spanish dining experience, ordering “una caña” with tapas, is the way to go. Examples of tapas are: patatas bravas (fried cubed potatoes served with tomato sauce), croquetas (a delicious breadcrumb-covered and deep-fried snack typically with ham or cheese inside), or Spanish tortilla (fried potato and sautéed onion omelet). Need we say more? Yes, you’re going to eat a lot of tapas when in Madrid. ¡Buen provecho!
When to use it: in bars more than in restaurants. Like the ones where people eat standing (a very common Spanish tradition!)
LA CUENTA, POR FAVOR
Meaning: “The bill, please”
When dining in Spain, you must ask for the bill when you want to pay – it won’t be brought to you until you ask. To politely and efficiently ask for the bill, just get the attention of your server and say “la cuenta, por favor”.
When to use it: Well, whenever you’re done enjoying your cañas and tapas! 😊
Now that you’re ready to speak like the Madrilenians, you just need to book in the best hostel in town! Naturally, Cats Hostel Madrid Sol is where you want to be for the best backpacking experience!