Living in a Spanish Apartment: Noise, Noise, Noise

Living in Madrid has many upsides: great public transportation, mild winters, lots of parks, and all sorts of restaurants to try. But there are some downsides as well, and one of those seems rather obvious.

Noise

If there’s one thing I can’t stand about apartment life here, it’s the noise. I’ve lived in apartments in the U.S. and never encountered the noise problems I’ve had here. I don’t know if the walls are thinner or what, but noise is present almost all the time. What types of noise?

Neighbors walking in high heels

My upstairs neighbor likes to walk around in high heels, which means I get the privilege of hearing clunk, clunk, clunk at periodic intervals throughout the day.

Neighbors’ epic sound systems

The neighbors besides us have a really great sound system. While I’m happy for them, I wonder if they always watch Lord of the Rings, because there are always seems to be some epic music and fight scenes going on.

Children crying, screaming, running

Enough said. Children aren’t really great at respecting quiet-time rules, but some parents do a better job than others. (Ahem.)

Random heated conversations

Every so often, I will hear random snippets of conversations that seem to be turning into heated discussions or even flat-out shouting matches. Often, I’m not sure what they’re saying, but I can tell they’re ticked.

Dogs barking

Man oh man, people here love their dogs. I don’t blame them; I too love dogs. But sometimes it seems cruel to keep them cooped up in a tiny city apartment for so long! They get restless. The neighbors below me have a very yappy mutt.

Soccer goals

Living in Madrid means it’s generally when Real Madrid scores. I’ve found out our next-door neighbor is a Madridista. Our upstairs neighbor, however, is a fan of the Atlético de Madrid. How do I know? By listening for shouts of “Goooooooollllllll” when there’s a Real Madrid or Atleti game.

Neighbors who pump 90s music for their Saturday-afternoon cleaning session

There’s just nothing like old-school Britney music for cleaning, am I right? I don’t always share my neighbors’ taste in music, though. Haven’t they heard of head phones?

Screams and shouts from the park below my building

This is not so bad, as the children are in the park only until about 9, when it’s time for dinner here in Spain. Still, it’s not something I ever encountered in the U.S.

The mailman ringing every apartment’s bell until someone opens

I am quite jumpy, so my apartment’s bell (which is loud!) sometimes startles me. The mailman rings each tenant’s bell in quick succession until someone hits the button to open the front door for him so he can put our mail into our individual mail boxes.

Whenever your neighbors are in obras

This is the worst. Drilling, hammering, sawing … you name it. Oh, you don’t like to start at 8 a.m. on a Saturday? Your neighbor does.

What are other sounds have you heard while living in an apartment building?

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22 comments

  1. Hahaha…SO true! The area around my apartment in Cantabria is pretty tranquila and in general my neighbors are fairly quiet, but I definitely hear more things than I probably should. There is a gypsy family that lives above me and it seems like about once a week the husband and wife or the husband and one of his sons get into a very heated shouting match that usually ends with someone slamming a door somewhere :-/ I also have a neighbor that sings in a chorus and I often hear her practicing too, though in general somehow these things don’t seem to bother me too much. None of my neighbors walk around in high heels in their piso or have barking dogs which is good. I think the walls in Spanish apartments must be thinner than in US ones though! I love your blog Kaley!! Been reading it for awhile and I can relate to almost everything you write! :-)

    1. the noise issue is totally true, but there is something that must be said,

      walls in Spanish flats are not thinner than those in the USA, in fact our walls are stronger and more solid, for they are made of bricks and cement, then once the bricks have formed the wall, a layer of more cement is added on the whole wall, and finally another layer of plaster is added, and now if the wall is in the toilet or in the kitchen you also add ceramic titles, or if the wall is in the sitting room or in a bedroom you just add paint.

      whereas in the USA walls are made of wooden frames, and you fix usually a thin prefabricate panel of plaster with either nails or screws! and finally you add paint or even only decorative paper.

      having said that there is a question: how is that there is less noise in USA even if their walls are more fragile, thinner, and not so solid? the answer is because in the USA they do install noise insulation between the wooden frames.

      as for having a Gypsy family as neighbours..you are lucky if they don’t play a guitar and sing Flamenco at midnight :)

  2. Hahahaha this is hilarious and I can definitely related to the high-heels, sound systems, and yappy dogs. But to be honest I really am gonna miss the bagpipe player who lived above me this year…always beautiful Galician music playing in the afternoons! :P

  3. Considering nearly every house on my street has been rebuilt into a McMansion, we’ve dealt with construction noises for over the past 10 years we’ve lived there. The house right next to us is scheduled to be demolished and redone so we’ll be dealing with that soon. The contractor who rebuilt the house on the other side of us actually used dynamite to blast through the bedrock to build a basement, it caused some of the tiles on our fireplace to fall off. Granted we were almost never home, we were mostly at school/work but it was noisy-ish.

    But this post pretty much sounds like every complaint I’ve heard from someone living in a NYC apartment. Something I’ll probably be dealing with pretty soon… yippee.

    1. Don’t feel ashamed! I didn’t mean for it to come off that way. Honestly, Spanish people are kinda loud, yes, but these apartments let so much sound through! Somehow I offended some other Spaniards when all I wanted to do was compare it with what I grew up with

  4. Between 8 and 9 pm, my upstairs neighbor in Getxo (Bilbao) always watched the same tv show. The theme music was always sooo loud! I never cared enough to figure out what show they were watching. But they always kept the TV on until around midnight. And yes, always yappy dogs everywhere! And the first apartment I lived in was in obras the entire time I lived there, they completely redid the entire front hall and stairs. Loud noises, dust, paint fumes, and workers smoking cigarettes inside ALL DAY EVERY DAY.

  5. I completely agree with this. I always just thought I had bad luck with neighbors, but apparently it’s pretty universal. Living in apartments in Madrid has completely shot my nerves :(

  6. Oh no, no, no. Could not deal! In one apartment, I heard the drunk old man screaming like a lunatic early in the morning (fun). Far better than my friend who had the vomiting man upstairs. Every night she was treated to the sound of this guy chucking it 2-3 times.

    Oh, alcoholism…

  7. I am fortunate to live in an apartment on a pedestrian plaza, so we don’t get much street noise (and the kid who played the trumpet behind us realized that he was terrible and was better taking up something else). There are occasionally gypsies singing, but it always makes me laugh and they’re usually gone by the time I go to bed.

    Won’t be much or a problem anymore, though – we bought a house!!!

  8. I am so with you on this! Unfortunately, it happens because the houses don’t have cavity wall insulation. Although it’s designed to reduce heat loss (which may explain why they don’t use it), it also does a sterling job on reducing noise.

    I think I experienced every one of the things you mentioned (and the frustration that goes with them) last year. However, I’d take ALL of them over this year’s problem. My neighbours’ bedroom is right next to mine and they insist on having unbelievably loud sex (even though I’ve made it clear I can hear them!). This happens at all times of day and night, often several times a day, and it lasts for hours. Having told them to shut up on several occasions, I finally lost my rag a couple of weeks ago and screamed at the girl to shut the f*** up, called her a prostitute and told her to “work in some other room”. And I haven’t heard her since!

    1. Ha my old neighbors were the same. One of my roommates asked them to tone it down a bit, because they shared one of those thin walls.

      Their response? They purposely did it even LOUDER and started moaning the name of the girl who’d asked them to be quieter.

      (She threw a carton of raw eggs at their sexy times window when she moved out to get back at them. Bad behavior all around.)

  9. This post hits a bit *too* close to home. There’s the sound of the elevator being called and the annoying publicity mailmen who ring ALL THE BUTTONS trying to find one kind soul to let them in. For me the worst noise comes from my neighbor–her 30-something son comes every day for lunch and their escalating conversations always sound like arguing, even though I imagine that isn’t always the case. Ugh.

    Although I can’t compare Spanish piso-noise with the US equivalent, I’m pretty sure an American apartment wouldn’t have this same “bonus” noise.

  10. Spanish apartments really are noisy. Obras are the worssssst. High heels upstairs are a close second. Who even wears their high heels at home?? Taking them off when you get home is so nice!

    My downstairs neighbors are ravers who always start their parties at 4 p.m.-ish. I think their record for a non-stop electro music party is something like 3 days.

    Also…I had a new apartment noise shock when I walked into the entryway at 5 a.m. after a night out and turned around to turn the light on. There was a couple in their 40s getting it on (pants down and all). It was so awkward! I just said “Oh gosh, sorry! Have fun!”

    In retrospect, I realized THEY should have been apologizing to me for having sex in my building! I don’t think they even live here.

    1. Finally….was almost scared that Spaniards and Americans in Spain do not have sex!!!! Wouldn’t that be one of the “special” noises?

  11. Well, my first apartment in Spain didn’t have any noise problems at all. The second one had a couple. Every night, around 2 am or so, there would be this old lady from the next door building blabbering and playing loud old school Spanish music at the same time. There had been many times neighbors would yell at her to shut up, but she wouldn’t. And then every Sunday, the neighbor upstairs would blast music from the 90s or like emo rock songs. Then you’d hear him stop the music as soon as someone entered the apartment (yes, we could hear all that).

    Fortunately though, when we had parties (and they end around 4am or so) in our apartment, no one complained so it’s not a lose-lose situation. Plus, both apartments are on the 5th floor so no noise problem from the streets.

    The thing is though, several apartments my friends and I lived in Chicago also had noise problems, so it’s not just Spain.

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