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First of all: This post is not my creation. It is borrowed from facebook group. I just loved it and had to include it. At least some bits of it.
It was initiated by a young foreigner who spent a year in Spain and apparently “absolutely loved it”. They are all observations about Spanish life, which makes it different to other countries and cultures. And it is meant to be taken as ‘tongue in cheek…’
So… You know you have lived in Spain when…
- You think adding lemonade, fanta or even coke to red wine is a good idea.
- You can’t get over how early bars & clubs shut back home – surely they’re shutting just as you should be going out?
- You aren’t just surprised that the plumber/decorator has turned up on time, you’re surprised he turned up at all.
- You think it’s fine to comment on everyone’s appearance. And to openly stare at strangers.
- Not giving every new acquaintance “dos besos” (two kisses) seems so rude.
- On msn you sometimes type ‘jajaja’ instead of ‘hahaha’
- You think that “aceite de oliva” (olive oil) is a vital part of every meal. And don’t understand how anyone could think olive oil on toast is weird.
- You’re amazed when TV ad breaks last less than half an hour, especially right before the end of films.
- You forget to say please when asking for things – you implied it in your tone of voice, right?
- You love the phenomenon of giving “toques” (quick calls) – but hate explaining it in English
- You don’t see sunflower seeds as a healthy snack – they’re just what all the cool kids eat.
- You know what a “pijo” is and how to spot one (not translateable…).
- Every sentence you speak contains at least one of these words: “bueno”, “coño”, “vale”, “venga”, “pues nada”…
- You know what a “resaca” is (Hang over).
- A bull’s head on the wall of a bar isn’t a talking point for you, it’s just a part of the decor.
- You eat lunch after 2pm & would never even think of having your evening meal before 9.
- You know that after 2pm there’s no point in going shopping, you might as well just have a siesta until 5 when the shops re-open.
- You don’t accept beer that’s anything less than ice-cold.
- The sound of mopeds in the background is the soundtrack to your life.
- You know the difference between cojones and cajones, tener calor and estar caliente, bacalao and bakalao, pollo and polla, estar hecho polvo and echar un polvo…and maybe you learned the differences the hard way!
- On some Sunday mornings you sometimes have breakfast before going to bed, not after you get up.
- Floors in certain bars are an ideal dumping ground for your colillas, servilletas etc. Why use a bin?!
- You see clapping as an art form, not just a way to express approval.
- You know “ensaladilla rusa” has nothing to do with Russia.
- When you burst out laughing every time you see a Mitsubishi Pajero (thanks Stuart Line for reminding me of that one!)
- You have friends named Jesus, Jose Maria, Maria Jose, Angel, maybe even Inmaculada Concepcion…
- You know that “ahora” doesn’t really mean now. Hasta ahora, ahora vuelvo…etc
- When you make arrangements to meet friends at 3, the first person turns up at 3.15…if you’re lucky!
- Aceite de oliva is “muy sano” (very healthy), of course. So you help yourself to a bit more.
- Every single news bulletin on TV has at least 10 minutes on Real Madrid news and another 10 on Barcelona Soccer Club news.
- When it’s totally normal for every kitchen to have a deep-fat fryer but no kettle.
- When you know what a guiri is / have been called one
- When you add “super” in front of any adjective for emphasis
- Blonde girls actually start to think their name is ‘rubia’
- When you accept that paying with a 50 euro note is going to get you a dirty look if you’re buying something that costs less than 40 euros
- If something is great, it’s “de puta madre” (sorry, not translateable…)
- You can eat up to 5 times a day – first breakfast, 2nd breakfast around 11.30, almuerzo, merienda, cena
- You know the jingle for “Los Cuarenta Principales” (Top 40 radio station)…
- When you go into a bank/bakery etc, it’s standard practice to ask “Quien es la ultima?” (who is last?)
- Who needs a dryer when you have a washing line outside the window of your apartment?
- You know what ‘marcha’ and ‘juerga’ are.
- You are more likely to call your friends tio/a, nena, chaval, macho or even tronco than their real name.
- You answer the phone by saying ‘Yes’, (well, or ‘Tell me’) and when identifying yourself you say ‘I’m…’ not ‘It’s…’. And when you try those tactics back home, everyone thinks you’re mad or rude!
- If you eat a lot of something, you’re not going to ‘turn into’ it, you’re going to ‘get the face of it,’ e.g ‘te vas a poner cara de chocolate.’ Somehow a lot more amusing!
- Drinking coffee out of a glass is entirely normal.
- ‘Son las nueve, las ocho en Canarias’ is how you are used to hearing radio DJs announce the time
- You’ve been to your local town’s feria/fiesta/semana santa
What a question… On one side, it is great to find out about the interest on our habits. But… Oh boy, what a question…
Where to start… I guess we have a million typical habits. I would like to mention a few, but I would rather like to ask all of you back. PLEASE, help me out and leave your comments with what you think are the most typical habits of Spaniards.
TALKING: First and probably most descriptive: We have the habit of talking, talking and talking. When we don’t, we laugh and sing loud all the time. The best of all, is that we have the habit of doing it all at the same time. When we are less happy about something, you get the same effect on the opposite: we discuss and complaint
TIMING: We come late everywhere. Actually live late: Lunch late, dinner late, go out late… I guess you could talk about our “Late Back Mentality”
SOCCER: We watch soccer, talk about soccer, live soccer, love soccer. There is only one country in the world with more national soccer team coaches than Spain. It is Italy, and simply because it has a few more inhabitants.
PLAY ON WORDS: We have the habit of playing ith words constantly. make jokes about everything and invent double meanings and having 15 different words for everything.
A MILLION LITTLE THINGS: We also have a lot of small little habits that are very deeply anchored in ourselves. Such as listening to music everywhere and everytime, putting olive oil on everything (its healty and we love it), or parking in a “touchy” style. We call it to park “of hearing” (guess that is why they build car-bumpers and actually call them that way).
EXAGERATING: Last but not least, we have the habit of exagerating. We love to exagerate. It is our passion. We live for it. We can’t breathe without it. Day and night and night and day. 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, again and again, nonstop! Well, maybe I am exagerating a bit now.
But if there is a habit that would really describe us is the one of opening a bottle of red wine, sharing it with friends and talking for hours after lunch or dinner. You know what? I think I will grab a bottle of “The Spanish Quarter” Cabernet-Tempranillo and walk over to the neighbours, see if they want to join a discussion about why we love being so “Late Back”…
that is a long question you must think. And you are right. I am still figuring out how to position the questions in the headline. Tips are welcome. Heck some of you really have complicated way to express your doubts and questions… But I love it.
Nevermind. To the point.
A great question that I enjoy in all its different versions. The relaxed but still intense lifestyle in Spain is indeed something that surprises foreigners a lot.
First of all: it is true. It is not a rumour.
Some of the reasons:
1) We do sleep less
2) We start to work later
3) We make more breaks
4) We need longer for most things (not always a bad thing).
Bottom line: yes, we are more relaxed.
Here comes an average day of a Spaniard living in a major city (which might be the closest it can get to American lifestyle).
7 to 8
Wake up call. Rush in the bathroom. Breakfast honours the second part of the word: fast, faster, Spanish breakfast. Most of the time it is a bite and dark coffee. It might be in your own home or downstairs in the cafetería. Nothing beats churros at that time.
8 – 9
Get to work. Bus, car, tube, train… Maybe a quick stop on the way for a coffee? If you work in a store, you start towards 9.30 or 10.
11 – 12
We take a break. Coffee, maybe churros (delicious grasy and sweet. Sort of the sinful version of doughnouts) , a fruit if you are on the healty side.
Lunch break. We go out and most often have a proper meal. And yes, we most of the time have a glass of wine with lunch. A healthy habbit if you ask me. The lucky ones manage to get home, eat, have a 30 min nap and go back to work. That is what we call “siesta”. My father did tis programm all his life. Or you do like a good friend of mine, who lived too far from work to go home, but had it quite close to his mothers place. He had the luxury of eating at mums for half his career.
16 – 19
Afternoon session. If you have a meeting, there goes the afternoon. Take it easy. Have a coffee. A “cortado” (a cut coffee), which is an expresso with a tiny bit of milk. Or have a “cafe con leche” if you are less in a hurry.
19 – 21
Go back home. Kick off your shoes. Or have a glass of wine with friends or colleagues after work. Do some shopping if need be, or if you did not get to it during lunch break. Or put your kids to bed if you have any… Or you start preparing dinner…
Dinner. We love cooking. The cocooning trend happens in Spain often in the kitchen. I call it “Cookooning”. But if there is something we love equally as much is going out for dinner. Either or, the whole procedure happens most often as of eight or nine in the evening, and goes till midnight, and is accompanied by wine and a good conversation.
What we call “sobremesa”, meaning “over-table”. We keep seated and talk talk talk. Or tell jokes or, yes, lets be honest, we watch television. At more or less midnight we go to bed. The rest is rest.
Having said all of this: We also have commuters, half day workers, single parents and all sorts of byproducts from a high speed globalized world. And yes, we are getting more and more influenced by other cultures and countries (I call it the tupperware-effect).
Maybe that is why I try to share a bit of Spain with the world. Who knows, maybe we end up saving some of the relaxed attitude. Want to give me a hand and spread the word?
Or jusy try to do it and get back to me with your feedback. In the meantime, I will finish my glass of “The Spanish Quarter” red wine and go to bed. It will soon be 1 o’clock. But don’t worry, my first meeting starts at 10. I think I will sleep in and blame it on the traffic ;-).
Unbelievable but true. I continue the series. You must know that we Spaniards are not good at discipline… But we have other qualities. For example:
Let me set this clear: I do not imply that we are superior musicians, composers, dancers or anything (though we do pretty good). What I mean is what a role music plays in our lifes, in our culture.
Music in Spain is everywhere, everyday. Spain in general is quite a loud country. But interestingly, that loudness is seldom anoying. I have noticed and thought about it? I think the answer is music. It is always there, adding a note of acoustic color to the loudness.
Music in Spain is enormously varied. Few countries have experienced such an incredible cultural traffic. We have been invaded/visited by Phoenitians, Iberos, Celts, Romans, Arabs, French… Even today we get invaded/visited, especially by Brits or Germans. We call it now tourism and charge for it, as opposed to die from it (at least most of the time). And yes: we love tourists. Seriously!
Well all of those folks/visitors/invadors have left a tremendous cultural legacy in our peninsula. And musical influences are definetly a great part of it. From the Celt tones you find in the north, north-west, to the obvious arab influences you find in flamenco music. I think its remarkable what an acoustic footprint has been built over the centuries.
We have the Jota in Aragón, the Sardana in Cataluña, the Chotis in Madrid… And this is – believe me – just a small selection. In Andalucía alone we have Flamenco, Soleá, Bulería, Cante Jondo, Sevillanas, Fandago… And that is just one region.
There is a long list of famous Spanish musicians to choose from, but that would deserve another post.
We usually prefer to sing in Spanish. We are not very good in speaking English. We might not have a clue about the words of this or that song or what it means. But we try our best and our loudest…
One of many sayings in Spain that are linked to music is: “Quien canta su mal espanta”, meaning: He who sings scares away his evil. Maybe that is why we tend to be in a good mood?
Or is it our wine? Not sure. I think I will sing out loud, along with a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” Tempranillo-Cabernet and try to find out. Why don’t you try the same?
Today you should leave your car home and hope for non-overcrowded public transportation. That is due to the famous “Cabalgata de Reyes” (sort of “the kings ride”. And NO, it is not a special spicy sauce from a famous burger restaurant!). This is a massive event to celebrate epiphany, that consists on:
- Closing down all mayor center roads.
- Dressing up tractors and other bulky, strong, slow and polluting cars (in other words: what in the US standards would be considered a “practical metropolitan vehicle”).
- Handing over to as many people as you can a musical instrument and a weird “did-not-make-it-for-super-hero-costume” .
- Dressing up three adults in the proper kings costumes.
- Putting all of the above in a line
- Making them walk through the closed roads for hours and hours.
If you think this all sounds like a non-rated version of “Christopher’s Day” on Prozac, I admit that you got a point…
Also: I recommend you wear a helmet in the streets. How so? Kids love candy, so each of the many cars/tractors transports a ton of “close-to-expiration-date-sweets”. The candy is usually packed and has a minimum weight, so it can be thrown into the expecting crowd. The heavier the candy, the further you can throw it. As per Murphy’s Law, you certainly will get hit on the head by a piece of candy. Hence the helmet…
Today, millions of kids are fed with free sugar simultaneously in all nation. Parents in Spain have today the toughest mission of the year: get their kids to bed. The kids:
- Are full of sugar after the candy and full of energy after for two weeks vacation
- Have been waiting for their presents for weeks, while bombarded by TV ads of toys that are scaringly big and expensive…
- Know which presents they want: ALL!
- Have seen the kings with “all their present boxes”
- Think that the same parade that made it through town will pass by their living room to drop the presents.
On top of all, you probably had the chance to attend a session of the famous christmas carols dedicated to the three kings (sung by kids, of course, as mentioned in an earlier post)… Anyone who gets them down before midnight is either a hero, or is using Chloroform… Dear parents: you have my fullest admiration!
What I recommend? Make sure you have a bottle of “The Spanish Quarter“, or your favorite Spanish wine, for when it all finishes. Have a glass to the health of the kings, Santa, Rudolph, the elves and the holy cow. And pray to God that your kids figure out the next morning how to open and operate the presents by themselves. At least, you might have a chance to sleep in…
New Year’s Eve: Probably the single biggest party event in the world. Independently of religion or believe, this seems to be the day that the largest amount of people globally have agreed to celebrate.
Dinner is of course spectacular. It seems like a revival of the Christmas Eve Dinner that I described in a recent post. Only that this time, mood is generally even happier and everyone has a bit of uncle Antonio. After all, we have had a lot of “dinner rehersals” over the past days.
The big moment comes. We are approaching midnight. You can welcome the new year at home with family and friends or in a bigger party, which we call “cotillon“. But the most fun is to celebrate in the streets.
In most countries the year enters with a countdown. We do it infront of the television, with the twelve bells from the midnight clock. There is the official clock in Madrid at the Puerta del Sol. By the way this is theoretically the exact center of Spain, with its “kilometro 0”. Most roads in Spain count their distances in km from this point. But that’s a different story…
The funniest and most peculiar tradition for new year are the twelve “lucky grapes”. One grape per bell tone. You might have heard about it and thought it was a myth. It is not. I promise. This year, the tradition has its 100 year anyversary, since it seems to have been initiated in 1909. The overstock of grapes of that year was distributed to celebrate the new year with the wish of prosperity. As you can imagine, a day or two before the 31st of December, grape prices sky rocket.
At midnight, everyone stares at the TV, waiting for the clock to ring the twelve bell tones. It would be too simple to just ring twelve times, and you would not need TV moderators for it. We like it complicated: first you have a lot of small bells that announce the four quarter bell tones. Then -surprise- you get the four quarter bell tones. Their are double tones (sort of “dind-dong”) so it is actually 8 tones. Then – FINALLY – the twelve tones of midnight. Everyone puts a grape in the mouth per bell tone. This all happens at high speed amd everyone is excited. Plus: twelve grapes is a lot. That is why, by the time the new year actually enters, 40 million people in Spain have their mouth full, absolutely full of grapes. We will consume about 1.500 tons of grapes in the 36,6 seconds that the procedure lasts all together. This is why “happy new year” in Spain is “fffooellisss aaannniiio mmhuebbbho”. This is more or less how “feliz año nuevo” sounds when your mouth is full. No matter how often you practice, how many times you tried to say Pamplona with a polvoron in your mouth. It is a mess. And it is terribly funny. We love it…
I have enjoyed new year’s eve in a few different countries in the world. No matter where and in what time zone I was: I always had my twelve grapes with me, and I always started the countdown at 12 to 12. And I always got funny looks from those around me. And last but not least, my new year always started with:
“fffooellisss aaannniiio mmhuebbbho”
Maybe this year I will try to have a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” Chardonnay-Albariño to spill down the grapes.
Salud and “fffooellisss aaannniiio mmhuebbbho”
The clock is ticking! You have your grapes ready? What do you mean “what do I mean”? Let me recover from the Christmas madness and I will soon tell you. Promised!
Hope you had a wonderful Christmas eve. I hope you have enjoyed and/or survived your traditions, your alc-punch, the food and the family.
We in Spain also have our traditions. Not better or worse. Like so often, just different. Lets look at a few:
FOOD: No, we will not eat Paella for Christmas. It is interesting, but we do not have a super-standard-Christmas-dinner, like a the USA-Turkey (By the way, it always sounded more like a soccer game than a menu for me… Anyhow). Dinner menu in Spain varies largely by region. But for dessert, we all have the world-famous turron. There are two versions of it: the hard one and the soft one. Both delicious. Selection is purely based on teeth and cheek strength. Other than turron, we have polvorones and mantecados. All of these delicious specities consist on honey and almonds. All are terribly tastefull and full of calories.
Ah! Don’t forget to practice Spains favourite Christmas sports: say “Pamplona” with the mouth full of polvorones. Quite a funny sports I must say…
DRINKS: Guess… yes of course we drink Spanish red and white wine with our dinner. But not that many people know about the outstanding sparkling wonder of spanish cellars. “CAVA”. Easier to pronounce than “Champagne”, at least half as expensive and equally tasteful. You don’t believe it? Find out yourself! Check out a bottle of e.g. Codorniu Cava. This is Spain’s oldest producer, and the inventor of Cava method (which is exactly the same than Champagne, but in Spain). I bet with you you won’t tell the difference. And if you do… boy, you missed a career as somelier, or you are just too posh for this world…
MUSIC: You will hardly hear me say anything negative about Spain. Not that I am biosed, there is just little negative to say;). But Christmas songs… Yoy have to know, that the ones in charge of carols in Spain are exclusively the kids. Don’t get me wrong, I like kids. But with the amount of sugar they get, and the fact that they have already been on vacation for a while by the time they get there, it can get a bit too much. Let me see if I can find an example for your -ehem- “enjoyment”. We should let them grow up, learn how to sing, come down from sugar and try again.
PRESENTS: Everywhere in the Christian world kids are now coming down from hyperactivity after an overdose of sweets and the excitement prior to the opening of the presents. Not in Spain! Yep: probably as a remainder of the dark years of sadistic Spanish inquisition, we keep them suffering a few weeks more. Until the 6th of January, to be precise. The three Magic Kings from orient (which indeed sounds like the party menu of a famous burger restaurant brand) are the ones in charge of the presents. That gives us Spaniards a bit more of time to get our presents.
BUT WHAT I HAVE LEARNED:
Some things though, seem to be definetly common to all of Spain, but also the parts of the world that I have the pleasure to celebrate Christmas in:
1) There is too much to eat and to drink
2) Dinner lasts for hours and hours
3) Uncle antonio gets terribly drunk and starts telling dirty jokes
4) Aunt Maria breaks up in tears because grandma used to love so much these reunions, and now she no longer here
5) Whoever has brought the most kids acts and feels the most important and is actually the most anoying
6) It is impossible to agree on music or which television program to watch
7) There is always someone who mentions, that we should enjoy each other and forget about TV/music (and he/she is right, though nobody listens).
But most importantly: great moments are shared, great feelings are in the air and something special covers the night when we all finally go to bed.