Madrid Slang

Madrid Slang

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Learn basic Madrid slang and enjoy a great experience interacting with locals. By committing just a few key phrases to memory, you can enrich your encounters while traveling.

Word: Olé!

Translation: Yippee! Alright!

In Spain, this expression is used to convey great joy and excitement. The first time I heard someone exclaim this, I was sitting in a local sports bar watching a soccer match that featured Real Madrid. In the dying moments of the game, a Real Madrid striker placed a perfect chip shot into the back of the net for the win, and the bar erupted with shouts of "Olé, Olé!" I was confused at first, but as I looked around and observed the elation in the faces of my fellow patrons, I knew it had to be a good thing.

Word: Movida
Translation: To Party

The party capital of Spain, Madrid, of course, has local lingo to represent this favorite pastime. Any event or occasion is an excuse to throw a movida. The first day I arrived in Madrid, a friend of mine called me and explained that he had been offered a new parking space in his apartment building lot. Excited, he invited me to celebrate with him. I agreed, but had no idea what awaited me and was absolutely stunned by the number of people crammed into his home – all to celebrate the acquisition of a parking spot! After being in Spain for a while, I began to appreciate such zest for life, for its magnificent victories as well as the smallest of pleasures.

Word: Movil
Translation: Cell phone

This word is used very often, and I'd suggest any visitor to Madrid commit "movil" to memory. Spain is a country that boasts of one of the largest per capita users of cell phones in the world, and in every corner, you'll encounter someone attempting to sell you a phone card. Be sure to read the cards carefully if you plan to purchase one. I learned the hard way that most phone cards only work with mobile phones based in Spain. On the flip side, street vendors are happy to sell you pre-paid movils at a fair price, and this can save you a fortune if you plan to regularly make local phone calls. Most of the city's pay phones cost an arm and a leg to use, and they are harder and harder to find.

Phrase: Que tal?
Translation: Hello, how are you?

Locals in the city are some of the friendliest people I've ever encountered, and this is one of the slang phrases in Madrid that is perfect for casual usage. I found that every person I met was more than happy to converse with just about anyone, anytime. Spark up a conversation using the country's local language. You'll be showing respect for the culture and taking a good first step in meeting locals in the know. Basic communication can help you find the best restaurant, sites off the beaten path, and the nightlife that lasts well into the morning. Learning a few key words and slang terms can make a big difference when it comes to interacting in a meaningful and pleasant way.

Phrase: Vega hombre amigo
Translation: Are you serious, my friend?

In Madrid, seeing is believing, and words are only as important as the evidence you use to support the story. This great phrase "Vega hombre, amigo" is used to convey a joking disbelief. On many occasions, I've listened to my friends playfully argue about any number of mythical creatures that they have caught on the end of the fishing line. One of my fondest memories is sitting under the Madrid stars with friends and a few beers, listening to big-fish stories and the repetition of "Vega hombre, amigo."

Word: Vale
Translation: Okay

"Vale" is used exactly the same way that English speaker uses "OK." One of the simplest local Madrid slang terms to learn, this word is also one of the most frequently used in everyday conversation. Knowing even the simplest of words in a foreign language can make a world of difference in your daily life abroad. Pronounced "valley," this Madrid slang can be used a number of ways but is most often employed as an agreement to someone's question.

Word: Tapas
Translation: Appetizer

Tapas restaurants have popped up all over the United States, so many Americans are at least somewhat familiar with this term that is used to describe small portions of meat, potatoes, fish, and vegetables that are commonly served with cocktails. When ordering tapas in Madrid, keep in mind that what the locals consider small portion sizes may easily feed two people; it simply depends on the establishment and the appetites in question. The last time I was at a Tapas bar in Madrid, I sat down with some friends and ordered three items off the tapas menu. Only two days later did I actually finish the copious leftovers from what I thought would be a small order. Start slowly, ordering a bit at a time.

Word: Genta maja
Translation: Kind person; gentle and warm personality

Flattery is a mainstay of Spanish culture and serves essentially as elevated politeness. Everyone everywhere appreciates good manners, right? As a whole, Madrid locals love to know that others have enjoyed their talents or words of wisdom. After exceptional service at a restaurant, compliment the server by saying, "Bien genta maja." This kind appreciation is certain to elicit a smile.

Word: Madrileño
Translation: Someone who comes from Madrid; local historians

Tourism is a huge industry in Madrid, and rightfully so. Historical sites and attractions are plentiful, and you could easily spend your entire holiday exploring the riches this city has to offer. Because this is such a big business, there is no shortage of madrileño offering guided tours throughout the city. You'll see many signs lining the main streets in Madrid advertising "Madrileño Guia Turistico," which translates roughly to "Madrid Guided Tours." If you are hoping to truly experience the vast wonders that have made Madrid a historical mainstay, these folks can make it happen.

Word: Hincha
Translation: Fan of a specific soccer team

Real Madrid is a cultural icon in Spain, an obsession of most every person I met in the city. When it comes to football, here you're either a die-hard fan or out of the loop; there is no in between, no moderation to speak of. This Madrid lingo, hincha, refers to such extreme fans. If you are visiting Madrid during the football season, you'll see the football madness, the loyalty and enthusiasm for the national sport. Show your support of Real Madrid by voicing the simple, yet poignant exclamation, "Viva Real Madrid." Not into football? Give it a chance, Immerse yourself in the culture, and you may find yourself converted.

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