My Spanish Story: ‘Madrid taught me to follow my passions and dream big’

After 15 years living in Madrid, Dublin-born comic Dominic Anglim is upping sticks and moving to Berlin. Here he reflects on how Madrid has changed, and how the city has changed him. And why Spain will always have a place in his heart.

My Spanish Story: 'Madrid taught me to follow my passions and dream big'
After 15 years Dominic Anglim is leaving Madrid. Photo: D. Anglim
Many moons ago, we packed up our life in Ireland and bought a one-way ticket  to Spain. 
I had just gotten my TEFL certificate and even though I'd never taught a class in real life, I was blindly optimistic.  Madrid, back in '03 was a very different place.  For one thing,  you could smoke cigarettes everywhere!  The metro platforms,  the metro, (although I think technically it wasn't allowed there) the bank & even the hospitals! 
Teaching work was slow to begin with, so I'd spend my days in locotorios, searching for call center jobs where English wad required. No joy though.   
Eventually I began handing out flyers for Sala Joy, in Sol. Not because it was a joyous activity, but because at €9 per hour, it was more than I would make staying home, sleeping. The park by the river didn't exist yet and the Matadero was just a group of derelict buildings. 
In those days, we spent our weekends in Retiro,  playing frisbee and watching the sunset to live drumming sessions by the lake.  Madrid was seducing us. I only spoke basic Spanish back then, but that was fine, because people were friendly and that made it easier to get by.  And with what seemed like blue skies everyday and warm open people, life passed by pretty quickly.
Things I won't miss…  
The bureaucracy!  
Spain's stance on bull fighting! 
Dog poo in the streets! No, that is something I've seen a lot less of over the years thankfully.  
Overall though, I love this country. 
Now that the time has come to leave, I'm reflecting on everything I will miss and what pearls of wisdom I'm taking with me.  
Pearls of Wisdom
The siesta. 
I love siestas. If you break the word down, it's Si, Esta or Yes, that.  Whether it be a 20 minute power nap or a two hour sleep on a Saturday afternoon, the 'Yes, that' will always have a place in my daily life.  Thank you, Spain.  
Escalator etiquette.
For anyone that doesn't know…
You walk on the left and stand on the right. And another thing, at rush hour, if you're walking up the escalator at a very slow pace, look behind you! If there's someone that's walking faster, step to the side, allowing that person to walk past. These are the unspoken rules of the escalators, the escalator code.  
Bright and early on a Saturday morning, you can hear the sounds of birds singing sweetly and a distinctive high pitched whistle, of the knife sharpening man. He cycles around, sharpening knifes.  
I love that it's never too early for a drink in Madrid. A caña at 12pm or a Carajillo for breakfast, there's no judgment here. And a bar can be as simple as a room, with a shelf, a few bottles of spirits, a few chairs and a TV! 
Menu Del días .
A full three course meal, bread, wine, dessert y/o café for around a tenner! Amazing value.  
How people greet you when you enter somewhere and say see you later when you leave. Saying 'Enjoy your meal' to strangers as you enter a restaurant. 
There's a real sense of community here, which I love.   
Supermarket wine for less than a fiver!  
Large copas in bars where they just keep pouring till you say stop! 
One of the cleanest metros I've ever experienced. Platforms so clean you could eat your dinner off them. 
Bars that stay open all night. Being able to buy beers in the street. Being able to drink in the street – discreetly. 
I'm grateful for the life I've had here.  
It was here that I started doing stand up comedy, improvisation and then worked as a storyteller. It was here that I made my first short film, directed my first music video and got cast in my first feature film.   
I re-discovered myself here. Explored my other passions like music and singing on the open mic scene. Started organizing my first comedy mics.  I got to work as a performer in cities all over Spain. 
The food, the climate, the people – there's a lot to miss! I spent 15 years of my life here and it went by like that! Between all the 'Yes, thats' and 'Enjoy your meals', after all the thousands of hours of teaching and thousands more of performing, I look back with gratitude and pride.  
Madrid taught me to follow my passions and dream big and for that reason Madrid and, I suppose, Spain too, will always have a place in my heart.  
Read more from Dominic Anglim at his blog here. Find out about his first short film here and be a part of the film project 36 Husbands that he is currently involved in HERE.



Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.


Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 


Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.


Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.


The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.