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Hola

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…

  1. You think adding lemonade, fanta or even coke to red wine is a good idea.
  2. You can’t get over how early bars & clubs shut back home – surely they’re shutting just as you should be going out?
  3. You aren’t just surprised that the plumber/decorator has turned up on time, you’re surprised he turned up at all.
  4. You think it’s fine to comment on everyone’s appearance. And to openly stare at strangers.
  5. Not giving every new acquaintance “dos besos” (two kisses) seems so rude.
  6. On msn you sometimes type ‘jajaja’ instead of ‘hahaha’
  7. 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.
  8. You’re amazed when TV ad breaks last less than half an hour, especially right before the end of films.
  9. You forget to say please when asking for things – you implied it in your tone of voice, right?
  10. You love the phenomenon of giving “toques” (quick calls) – but hate explaining it in English
  11. You don’t see sunflower seeds as a healthy snack – they’re just what all the cool kids eat.
  12. You know what a “pijo” is and how to spot one (not translateable…).
  13. Every sentence you speak contains at least one of these words: “bueno”, “coño”, “vale”, “venga”, “pues nada”…
  14. You know what a “resaca” is (Hang over).
  15. 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.
  16. You eat lunch after 2pm & would never even think of having your evening meal before 9.
  17. 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.
  18. You don’t accept beer that’s anything less than ice-cold.
  19. The sound of mopeds in the background is the soundtrack to your life.
  20. 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!
  21. On some Sunday mornings you sometimes have breakfast before going to bed, not after you get up.
  22. Floors in certain bars are an ideal dumping ground for your colillas, servilletas etc. Why use a bin?!
  23. You see clapping as an art form, not just a way to express approval.
  24. You know “ensaladilla rusa” has nothing to do with Russia.
  25. When you burst out laughing every time you see a Mitsubishi Pajero (thanks Stuart Line for reminding me of that one!)
  26. You have friends named Jesus, Jose Maria, Maria Jose, Angel, maybe even Inmaculada Concepcion…
  27. You know that “ahora” doesn’t really mean now. Hasta ahora, ahora vuelvo…etc
  28. When you make arrangements to meet friends at 3, the first person turns up at 3.15…if you’re lucky!
  29. Aceite de oliva is “muy sano” (very healthy), of course. So you help yourself to a bit more.
  30. Every single news bulletin on TV has at least 10 minutes on Real Madrid news and another 10 on Barcelona Soccer Club news.
  31. When it’s totally normal for every kitchen to have a deep-fat fryer but no kettle.
  32. When you know what a guiri is / have been called one
  33. When you add “super” in front of any adjective for emphasis
  34. Blonde girls actually start to think their name is ‘rubia’
  35. 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
  36. If something is great, it’s “de puta madre” (sorry, not translateable…)
  37. You can eat up to 5 times a day – first breakfast, 2nd breakfast around 11.30, almuerzo, merienda, cena
  38. You know the jingle for “Los Cuarenta Principales” (Top 40 radio station)…
  39. When you go into a bank/bakery etc, it’s standard practice to ask “Quien es la ultima?” (who is last?)
  40. Who needs a dryer when you have a washing line outside the window of your apartment?
  41. You know what ‘marcha’ and ‘juerga’ are.
  42. You are more likely to call your friends tio/a, nena, chaval, macho or even tronco than their real name.
  43. 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!
  44. 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!
  45. Drinking coffee out of a glass is entirely normal.
  46. ‘Son las nueve, las ocho en Canarias’ is how you are used to hearing radio DJs announce the time
  47. You’ve been to your local town’s feria/fiesta/semana santa
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Hola!

two of those please!I don’t get it. It actually drives me nuts. Why is one of the few sentences every foreigner that comes to Spain knows “dos cervezas, por favor”?

People don’t get it! We are a wine nation. Actually I believe we are THE wine nation. Yes we have great beers. Worldwide famous and ubiquous “San Miguel” or increasingly trendy Barcelona beer icon “Estrella” to name a few. But its beer!

Can you imagine two brits coming to spain and ordering (nevermind an eventually perfect accent) “dos platos de pescado empanado frito y patatas fritas con vinagre” (which would be “fish’n’chips’n’vinegar”)? Or two Germans ordering “codillo de cerdo al horno con albondigas gigantes de patata y miga de pan y zucrut” (that would be “Schweinshaxe mit Knoedel und Sauerkraut”. Sorry for the last one, there is no true translation for “Sauerkraut”).

I guess you get my point. There is a famous saying that reads: “in Rome do as the Romans and in Spain drink wine” (few people know this second part of it…)

So today we go for a simple Spanish lesson. Erease the beer from your hard disk and repeat after me: “dos vinos, por favor” (notice I made it quite easy through replacement).

Another advantage: “vino” is red-wine-cheersnot only tastier and more authentic, but also easier to pronounce than “cerveza”.

How much do you have to know about wine or Spanish wine before drinking it? Nothing! Wine knowledge is anyways overrated. People talk too much about it and drink too little.

Once again, repeat after me: “dos vinos, por favor”. See? already much better.

Come to Spain and practice. If you can’t right now, have a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” or your favourite Spanish wine and practice with friends.

Salud!
Francisco

“Buen provecho!”

O “Que aproveche”. Music to my ears! It is Spanish for “enjoy your meal”, or “bon appetit”, which has turned out to be the almost universal expresion.

When we don’t laugh or sing in Spain, it is often for one reason: our mouth is full. Which take us to

Reason Nr 3 for loving Spain: FOOD

paellaA couple of our dishes have definetly made the round. “Paella” is probably the most famous one. No, it is not our national dish. As you probably know by now, Spain is a country full of nuances and differences. There is not one Spain, there are infinite Spains with lots in common.

But back to the kitchen. We have “Cocido Madrileño” in Madrid: heavy but delicious. “Fideua” in Cataluña: similar to paella, but with noodles and of course alioli. “Gazpacho” in Sevilla: a refreshing and actually quite light cold vegetable soup. “Rabas” in north Spain: one of the tastiest ways to prepare octopus.

tapitasWe love garlic, we love olive oil, we love meat, fish or vegetables, we love cooking, we love Food. Trust me and give it a try: you will love Spanish food!

We might have exported less dishes than the Italians (they managed to steal pasta from China and pizza from north Africa, but no one beats them at selling that stuff).

We might have less sophisticated dishes than the French (or at least less sophisticated sounding, since I believe one of the keys of success is to make a fish soup and call it “Vichisoise” or similar).

But Spain is the only country I can think of that has succesfully exported an eating philosphy: Tapas. You can read about it in an earlier post. Before you do so, I suggest you treat yourself to a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” or your favourite Spanish wine and enjoy the reading.

Salud!
Francisco

Hola!

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:

guitarra EspañolaReason for loving Spain nr 2: MUSIC

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!

jota aragonesaWell 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.

quien canta su mal espantaBut what really strikes foreigners most, is how much we love singign loud. It does not matter if we are good at it. It is fun. It feels good.

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?

Salud!
Francisco

Hola!

kings riding a camel... Where is my helmet?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:

  1. Closing down all mayor center roads.
  2. 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”).
  3. Handing over to as many people as you can a musical instrument and a weird “did-not-make-it-for-super-hero-costume” .
  4. Dressing up three adults in the proper kings costumes.
  5. Putting all of the above in a line
  6. 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…

Salud!
Francisco

Feliz Navidad!

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:

turron duro

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 turron blandoUSA-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.polvoron

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 cavaabout 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.

Feliz Navidad!
Francisco

You are going to love this one!compartiendo tapitas con vino

Tapas are becoming more and more popular. I am amazed, happy and proud when I see more and more tapas bars popping up all over the world. In most cases they are actually quite good.

What very few people know, is where the name and the tradition come from.

First you need to know, that the word “tapa” means “lid” in Spanish.

Then, you need to grasp a bit of our culture: Spaniards love to talk, discuss, joke and sing together. We love also to go out. A perfect evening has often been to leave home and go “de tapeo”. Could be translated in “go tapa-ing”.

This has always been like this, also in times where higenic laws were more easy going, and bars -specially in the summer- were full of flies. We don’t drink quick. Steadily and during hours, but not quickly. To avoid flies getting into your glass of vino tinto (red wine), you got your glass served with a lid. That lid was a sliece of bread or a tiny plate with something on top. It could be a slice of jamon serrano (the best ham in the world, which deserves an own post), cheese or any other tasty something.

And as you might have guessed, this bite literally served as “lid”, which in spanish is “tapa”. That’s all the mistery.

Some things have changed with the time: bars are clean, have few/no flies etc. We still love to talk and drink and eat at the same time. And we love the tradition of offering a tasty bite.

Unfortunately you get charged for your tapas in more and more places every time. But not everywhere! I will soon get back to you with more about this though

Till then: enjoy your tapas with a glass of “The Spanish Quarter” or your favourite Spanish wine.

Salud!
Francisco