Apartment hunting in Spain was one of the most unique experiences I’ve had in a while. This past week has been full of ups, downs and surprises. I cried and was grumpy at times. And I laughed because well, you have to. But yesterday night I found my piso (apartment) and all is well. The epic saga lasted about a week and I thought I’d re-account it here.
It all began one week ago last Thursday. First of all, let me just say that that seems like over a week ago. Perhaps the stress of not knowing where I’d live made the week seem to drag on forever. However it was one week ago that I was on a bus from Malaga to Granada. Malaga is the big Spanish city on the coast with an International airport. Hence, that was where I flew into. Granada is less than two hours North by bus. So I arrived and checked into my airbnb. Ah, I have arrived!
So in Spain a majority of people live in apartments. Most have 3-5 and maybe even 6 or 7 bedrooms. Yes, you can get your own place to yourself and pay usually at least 100 euro more a month, or you can share and pay as little as 140 euro per month. This option means you have your own room but share a kitchen and bathroom space. Not only did I want to share, but I wanted to share with Spaniards. As most of you know, I speak Spanish as a second language. However I didn’t really, really start speaking it till about two years ago. Furthermore I figure that if I’m in Spain, I want to immerse myself as much as I can. I can surround myself with English speakers in the US, after all.
I reserved an airbnb because everyone STRONGLY recommends that you don’t agree to a piso before seeing it in person. You never know because photos can be deceiving. So thus, I booked an airbnb for 5 days.
Now most of you who know me know that I like to plan ahead. Also, my biggest personality strength and flaw is that I choose not listen to negativity. I had heard from past language assistants and read on blogs that the piso hunt was tough. Everyone is looking at the same time and you have to do it in … Spanish. Whenever I hear that something is challenging, I always think “well there just must be another way.” In this case, I thought exactly that. I was like “well if I come to Spain with plans to view like five pisos, one will work out and I’ll just move in!” Oh how I wish it would have been that easy. It was not.
So I start in maybe May or June looking at apartment listing websites. Sure, it was way too early. But I love looking at the pictures and I was just imagining my life overseas. As the beginning of September approached, I started reaching out to people. I made a little ad on one website in Spanish saying that I was looking to live with Spaniards near my age. I got a lot of responses. I felt good and I felt prepared. Then I decided to circle around with those people a few days before leaving to see if they still needed roommates. Two of the four had already rented the rooms. Oh well. It’s not like I ever said “save it for me!” I just simply told all of them I would come see it when I arrived. So that left me with two that were still available. I still felt great about it and truly felt that one of the two would work out.
So that Thursday I viewed the first one and like everything except the fact that it was a tad farther from the city center. I viewed the second one Friday and liked everything about it. It literally checked off all of my boxes for what I wanted in a piso. I would have had three Spaniard girl roommates ages 26, 27 and 32. It was centrally located. It was just a nice, cozy place. The girls seemed very nice. I told them right then that I wanted it. It seemed as though they were like “well we need to talk to the girl who is moving out and let you know when you can move in.” But perhaps I misunderstood … I am communicating daily in my second language after all.
So because I thought I had a piso, I spent Saturday and Sunday relaxing. I walked around Granada and ate tapas. I simply relaxed. I thought I would check back in with the girls Sunday afternoon. When I did, they told me they had more people to come see it and that they would make a decision after that. I was crushed. But I knew I couldn’t just wait around. So I went back to my airbnb and cried. Then I dried my tears and got on the computer. I must have sent out like 20 whatsapp messages to people looking for roommates. I got a lot of people telling me that the room was already rented. However little by little I got responses. At the end of my night, I had four viewings planned. It seemed promising.
The sh*t show
That next day was ridiculous to say the least. The first viewing was an apartment super far North. The interesting thing was that the listing was for a piso in the center of the city. However she told me the rooms she had available were in that neighborhood up North. When I arrive, I send her a whatsapp message. She’s 30 minutes away in a pueblo (small town) and will be 30 minutes late. I had a seat and started looking around. I was just like “lets be real … I’m not going to live here.” I didn’t want to waste her time, so I cancelled.
Piso two was AMAZING! It was in a neighborhood slightly south of the city but super accessible with lots of shops, restaurants and other things. I would have had one roommate age 25 and a dog. Her dog was adorable too! Oh and it had a beautiful terrace. It just seemed like a very chill situation. I liked it but had two more viewings that day. The second viewing was in that same neighborhood. I show up and there’s a 9-year-old child. The woman never put that she had kids in her ad! Like not at all. It turns out she’s a sweet Honduran house cleaner with two kids ages 9 and 15. Her brother sometimes stays in the apartment too. But the fourth room they have they rent out. While she seemed nice, I just was not interested in living with a family. However I left it open as you just have to in the piso hunt. You just don’t want to be completely out of options. Also she said she would pass my number along to people wanting English lessons … win! The fourth one of the day was cancelled. I guess they had someone they liked enough that they didn’t even feel the need to meet me. Disheartening? Yes. But life goes on.
That evening I return to my airbnb to continue looking at listings. As I’m sitting in the kitchen, I get a text from a girl who is looking for a fourth roommate. She seems super cute and fun. She tells me that she is not interested in ANY Spanish roommates because she loves living with foreigners. She loves practicing English and learning about different cultures. I think “wow, this could be really good. This could be it.” So I agree to go see it.
First of all, it was a hike. Like it was not central at all, but had the same price as pisos in the center of the city. I arrive and all looks good. There’s a Spaniard, a girl from Portugal and an Italian. Oh and it had a BEAUTIFUL view of Granada. Honestly, if it was closer to the city center, I would have taken it right then and there. But it was far and expensive. So I said thanks and as always, kept it open. After all if I couldn’t find anything and that was an option, life could be much worse. I’d rather live with them than the Honduran family anyway.
As I’m walking back from that viewing, I get a message from a girl named Pilar. Except I’m still getting used to Spanish names and I assumed Pilar was a guy. Now I know Pilar is a girl’s name. She was like “I saw your ad. I’m 28 and live with my dad. We have a room free.” My dad is super low-key and chill, so I thought it was worth checking out. So I agree to meet them on my way back.
As I enter the apartment, there’s cat stuff everywhere. I forgot to ask about cats! I myself am super allergic and it’s usually one of my questions as I’m acquiring information about an apartment. But I figure since I’m already there, I might as well have a chat. I’m invited to sit on the couch and chat with her and her dad. Her dad was nothing like mine (apart from the whole my dad being an American thing). Her dad is 71 and seems to be one of those older people who just says whatever they want. One of those people who knows that the outlandish things they say and do are part of their charm. I’m convinced that certain types of people exist in every culture. This is a perfect example. He mumbles on about the financial crisis in Europe and has a weird fascination with my hands. Apparently they are big and nice looking. He keeps saying things that make her go “papi!!” out of obvious embarrassment. I’m thinking this one is a no. Apparently they have found an apartment and just need a third. I’d have my own bathroom. I’m still not convinced. I figure I already have a dad and didn’t move to Spain to get another. However like the Honduran woman and the far away apartment, I left it open. Like “oh I’m looking at other places but I’ll let you know.”
The next day I view a few more and start/stop writing a message to the girl with the dog and terrace. I wanted her piso but for some reason was hesitant. I then get a message from Pilar that her dad is going to an old persons home and she wants to live in the center of the city. She wants to be my roommate. While that was an odd switch up, I was open. I still viewed like maybe one or two more that day, and chatted back and forth with Pilar. It was nerve wracking and I often felt a tad sick. What if I found nowhere?
I just had to keep on keeping on
Yesterday was crazy. The first place was just like rooms to rent and it felt like a convent. I will say though that one of the rooms was huge and tempting to just take. The landlady made you sign a contract (not super common in Spain). I honestly felt like it was just a boarding house.
The second place I didn’t even end up seeing. I arrive and send the landlord a whatsapp message. I hear nothing back and have a seat on the bench in front. At least I have a bench! I’ve gotten real good at silver linings in all of this. She comes out about 10 minutes later with the girl and is like “se alquilada! Lo siento!” The chick took it right out from under me! What in the heck? It probably sucked anyway. So I just said thanks and continued on my way.
I was super hungry, so I stopped at a cafe and sat in the corner. I start to cry … all by myself in the corner of a cafe. Folks, this is also a part of the expat life. It’s not all sunshine, rainbows and Instagram updates like you might think. Sometimes you just feel so helpless and alone.
A girl had started messaging me on whatsapp that morning and I just had a different feeling about it. Like perhaps that was the one. I also more or less straight up told her that I had been searching with minimal luck since last week. I said if I liked it, I would want it. She seemed okay with this and it made me happy. Also she was 29 like me!
That evening I decided to be happy no matter what happened. I changed clothes, touched up my makeup and started smiling. I sat in a courtyard and people watched. I browsed shops. Even though it sucked to still be homeless in Spain, I was in Spain! I also told all my friends to pray/send out good vibes for me.
Eventually it was time to view the piso. Upon walking in, it just felt like home. The place just felt clean and well taken care of. My room would be small, yes, but with lots of closet space. I would also have direct access to the balcony and a trundle bed! All there of the roommates were from Spain just like I wanted. I just had a good feeling and said yes. And like that, it was mine! The hunt was over.
Things I realized
- People won’t always be direct with you. If you tell someone you want it and their response is “we still have other people coming to view it,” it could mean just that. Or more often it means they want to keep roommate searching. If they were enthralled with you, they would have just let you have it then and there.
- Next year, I may just put more money down up front for my own 3-4 bedroom and then do my own roommate searching. Then I control the conversation instead of the other way around.
- Panning ahead in Spain is just not a thing. My plans were more or less for nothing.
- If you have a bad gut feeling, just don’t do it. One guy wanted to offer me a free room in exchange for “english lessons.” Oh and and he would give me massages. Yeah, I turned that one down.
Other odds and ends
- The girl with the crazy dad’s new piso wouldn’t have been ready until November. But she said I could live with her dad until then. Yeah, no. That was my last last last resort. Who knows if November would have turned into December and so forth.
- I may hang out with some of the people who’s pisos I viewed. Thats a plus. And lord knows I need friends in a new place.
- I finally got a response from the girls in the second piso I liked so much. They chose another girl. Go figure.