Being Asian in Spain





iHola a todos!

This week flew by quickly even though the days feel longer here. I am still having the time of my life living and going to school in Madrid. I am currently in Porto, Portugal for a weekend getaway with a few friends from my program.

Boat tour on the Douro River. The river lies between Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.
Overlooking the São Bento Railway Station.

Before I update you on how my week went, I want to talk about a topic that grabbed my attention and that is the immigrant population in Spain, especially East Asians. Most immigration to Spain has only started growing significantly in recent years. Out of the East Asian countries, the biggest immigrant population in Spain is Chinese. The reason why I am talking about this topic is due to the attitude and stereotypes toward the East Asians population here in Madrid. For example, during my first week in Madrid, I learned that convenience and street shops where you can buy items such as an ice cream cone or candy are called “chinos” because they tend to be Chinese-owned. The word, chino(s), translates to Chinese in Spanish. Even though I am not someone who gets offended easily, I originally found this name slightly uncomfortable because it felt like they just assumed every convenience shops are own by Chinese people. Some also categorize East Asians all under the term “chino/a” due to their lack of knowledge about the different countries that exist in Asia. Before leaving, I was also warned by a friend previously studied here that Asian people tend to draw unwanted attention because of their “exotic” appearance. This is something I have noticed on the metro as I get slightly longer stares compared to the typical Spanish stare I mentioned in last week’s post.

I am aware that I am not someone who is an immigrant to Spain so I will never understand what it is like to settle and start a new life in Madrid. However, I do empathy with them because my parents are immigrants to the U.S. and I grew up listening to the struggles and sacrifices they went through. After some extensive research, I learned that there are a lot of generalizations and assumptions about Asian people in Spain. At first, I was shocked by the testimonies from the Asian community living here because I personally have never experienced anything close to it when I first arrived in America or in this city. Nonetheless, I came to realize that these actions are not done out of spite or racism. What is prevalent is general ignorance and lack of world knowledge. Because the immigrant population in Spain has only begun to grow, I believe that it will take some time for Spain to adjust to their new melting pot and learn about the different people and the culture that they brought with them. Regardless, the large amount of migration has influenced the Spanish culture.

On a lighter note, I have created a daily routine to help me adjust to life in the city. Going to school via the metro has given me a new perspective on what it is like to live in a big city where public transportation is a necessity. If I am late by just a minute, I would have to wait at least 6 minutes to catch a new train, therefore, timing is everything! From Monday to Friday, I have my Spanish class at 9 A.M. and missing the train is not an excuse. My Spanish teacher is an incredibly funny and sassy person who previously taught my older sister when she studied in Madrid.

It has only been two weeks since school started, but I have already learned half a semester worth of information. The track that I am enrolled in is made up of four consecutive Spanish courses (Elementary Spanish I/II and Intermediate Spanish I/II). This means that in four months, I will be learning four semesters worth of Spanish. It sounds like a scary thing taking four classes in such a small amount of time but the lessons and work load are manageable as long as efforts are being put into it. My classes typically end around noon so I have a lot of free time to explore the city, here are the places I have visited this week:

  • Mercado de San Miguel, a popular gourmet tapas market popular amongst tourists, is within walking distance from the city center. There are different vendors that sell a variety of tapas.
Paella at Mercado de San Miguel.
  • Takos al Pastor again (for the fifth and sixth time)
One of the best things about Madrid! One euro tacos!
  • Vicálvaro is a district in the southeast of Madrid and it is where my universidad is located. After exploring the neighborhood, we decided to go to a local Colombian restaurant called Chulapas Cafe.
Vicálvaro 1/3.
Vicálvaro 2/3.
Vicálvaro 3/3.
  • This weekend my friends and I took a trip to Porto, Portugal or Oporto in Spanish.  Initially, we had some difficulties at the beginning of the trip. For example, we had trouble getting to the airport due to an ongoing strike in Madrid and Barcelona between taxi and Uber/Cabify drivers. In addition, I encountered some technical difficulties when my phone shut off by itself on the first day and there was nothing I could do because there is no Apple store in Porto. If I am being honest, I did let the situation get to me and I felt sad the whole day. Then, I thought about how incredibly fortunate I was to be in a city that some could only dream about and here I was allowing frustration to ruin my trip. Miraculously, my phone turned on this morning! I would like to think it was due to me letting go of my negativities from the previous day! Regardless, phone or no phone, I was determined to have an amazing day and I did! I do have one more day in Porto before returning to Madrid so I will update you guys in next week’s post. In the meantime, please enjoy these pictures I took from the last two days:
The São Bento Railway Station, a 20th-century railway station, is known for its walls covered with 20,000 splendid azulejo ceramic tiles which describe the history of Portugal 1/2.
The São Bento Railway Station, a 20th-century railway station, is known for its walls covered with 20,000 splendid azulejo ceramic tiles which describe the history of Portugal 2/2.
Our first meal at Fábrica da Nata! I had a croissant sandwich, cafe con leche, and pastel de nata. Pastel de nata or Portuguese custard tart is what Porto is known for.
Igreja e Torre dos Clérigos or the Clérigos Church is a Baroque church in Porto. Its bell tower can be seen from various points of the city and is one of its most characteristic symbols.
View of the river and yours truly from our Airbnb at sunset!
Livraria Lello or The Lello Bookstore is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal and frequently rated among the top bookstores in the world. The bookstore also served as an inspiration for J.K. Rowling as she wrote the Harry Potter series.

Hasta Luego,


Song of the week: “Best Part” – Daniel Caesar and H.E.R