06 de març 2007


Dear Kim,

You’ve asked a post about everyday life in Spain and I feel extremely glad to oblige. As it is a bit difficult to summarize everything in a blogger post, I'll try to explain some things foreigners usually find surprising or strange. Here we go:

1. Our timetable. We Spaniards are late risers and late everything. We start working about 8.30 - 9.00 a.m. Have lunch between 2.00 and 3.00 p.m. And work 'till 6.30 or 7.00 p.m. Yes, we work 8 hours a day with a loooooooooooong lunch hour in the middle. 1 hour for lunch is a rarity. Most people have 2 hours. And diner? You'll think we are mad... During the week we use to have dinner about 9.00 p.m. and at the weekends.... things go crazy! If we go out to a restaurant with friends, for example, we start eating around 10.30 p.m. Yeah! Why this crazy timetable?

2. Because we eat huge meals. Really. Our weakest meal is breakfast: just a coffee or a juice and something else... a yogurt, cereals, toast.. nothing more... And then the big ones: lunch and dinner. Imagine a full meal with two main courses and a side dish, bread, dessert and drinks. For lunch and for dinner. Yep. That's us. If it is a special holiday, like Christmas, it gets even worse... And, remember, as we start eating about 3.00 p.m., we don't leave the table till 6.00... Obviously, we love food. In our culture everything is related to food and family meals. Of course, this is directly related with the fact that we have this wonderful Mediterranean diet.

3. Siesta is a topic but also pleasure for most of us. We only have a real siesta whenever we've got time. That is: weekends and holidays. However, we love it. Being able to do a siesta means that you can relax and don't have to go anywhere or do anything for a while. And, considering the huge meal we have already eaten... A siesta is most welcomed.

4. Spain is not only flamenco, castanets and bullfighting. Actually, most of us hate bullfighting and flamenco and castanets are a cultural feature of the south. Spain is a very diverse country culturally speaking. Not only are there 3 different historical nationalities (Catalans, Galicians and Vascs) but even the Spanish traditions are diverse. In my case: we speak another language, have our own self government, our own traditions... bla, bla, bla. And Mexican hats are, precisely, Mexican. Let's remember that Mexico is a wonderful country 10.000 kilometers away from Spain.

5. Spaniards are gregarious we don't like individualism and don't like being alone. Family is really important, we can't understand life without seeing often our own people. That means we don't live far away from them, we spend most of Sundays together, etc. However, families aren't big anymore. Spain has had the lowest birthrate in Europe for many years. Why? Social changes involving women's role, welfare services.

6. Religion: Spain is a Catholic country. Yes but no. Yes, 85% of us are baptised and, officially, Catholic. However, a 15% of us never goes to church and another 20% just goes once or twice a year. We are more culturally Catholic than religiously. Like we have all these Catholic related bank holidays but just a few really observe them. Homosexuality, abortion and atheism are seen as private matters. We don't ask our governants to be religious, to believe in God or to go to church. Actually, the Church's influence on public affairs is a matter of Right and Left politics.

7. Spain is noisy. Yes... We are noisy people. Our volume is high. We talk like we are shouting. Foreigners have this usual headache... And when a group of us is abroad, our nationality is the most recognisable thing ever. Just look for a group of people shouting and laughing at each other, like they were alone in the world... A pity!

8. Spaniards aren't necessarily short, hairy, dark and plump. Of course we are not as tall or blond as the Swedes but you'd be surprised with some blue eyed and fair skinned people.

9. Spain is not different anymore. We had this awful dictatorship that finished in the middle of the '70s. Spain was much different from the rest of Europe then: not full developed, not full industrialised, big social differences, poverty etc. In 30 years Spain has changed a lot: full modernised, full industrialised, a huge middle class, etc. In some matters, like welfare, our state provides for the poor and needed more than the British, for example. Our unemployment rate is about the 5%.

10. Prices are funny. Housing is incredibly expensive. A 50 square meter flat in Barcelona costs about 350.000$. Salaries are not that high. A secretary earns something like 25.000$ per year. You can have lunch in a restaurant for 15$. Alcohol is extremely cheap. You can have a beer for 3$.... No doubt about the hordes of Englishmen coming to Barcelona just to get drunk...

Dear Kim, I hope to have been successful in satisfying your curiosity.. You can ask for more whenever you like.

4 comentaris:

Kim C. ha dit...

Thank you. Well done!
May I ask a couple of questions?
Do you speak Spanish as well as the language of your own area? Is much of the population multi-lingual?
How aware of American culture and lifestyle are the people of Spain? I'm guessing that due to TV (doesn't the whole world watch many of our programs?) the rest of the world knows a lot more about us than we know about them.
Is there a deep sense of time and history there? Living in such a young nation (barely 200 years old!), I am filled with awe at the thought of nations who can look back on a millenium or more of history!

Gatxan ha dit...


Yes, we speak Spanish as well as our own language. In my case, this is Catalan. Everybody from the historical nationalities is bilingual and this is great when it comes to learning more languages...

I think we are really aware of American culture and way of life... Yes, it's TV's fault. However, in my opinion it is also an extremely biased knowledge: just the good things of the American-way-of-life.

And, finally, yes there is a profound sense of history here. As an example, some years ago we celebrated the 1000 aniversary of Catalonia. Actually, our political and cultural differences and struggles are, precisely, based on this sense of history. Imagine, we've even got Roman vestiges in most of towns and cities!

Kim C. ha dit...

I envy that history. We think it's amazing to see an artifact from the 1800's here. Our founding fathers, back in the 1700's are part of our ancient history. :)
The part about prices really surprises me. Beer is cheap at $3? What do they pay in England? Here, we think $2-3 is reasonable in a restaurant, but prefer to drink at home where we pay $6-8 for a six-pack of very good beer. The cheap stuff is half that price.
A 50 square meter apartment sounds very small, even by our family's standard. We have 10 people in just under 1200 square feet (120 square meters, I think?)which is insanely crowded by American standards. How big is an average family home? Do most families live in apartments?

Gatxan ha dit...

About prices, a six-pack of nice beer in the supermarket is something like 3€ = 3,75$. A beer in a restaurant (half a pint) may cost about 2€ = 2,5$. The same in England costs about 5€ = 6.25$!!!! And with strong alcohol like whisky or vodka the difference gets wider.

Yes, a 50 square meter apartment is pretty small but we are only 2 people and a cat… An average family home (4 members) in Spain is more or less like your home, from 100 to 120 square meters. Yes, I'm aware that American homes are much bigger. But you have a great advantage: lots of land. Here everything is packed. In rural areas most families live in houses but in cities like Barcelona flats are the only option. And we do not have extensive cities like yours. Because the same problem (lack of room) cities are more concentrated and everybody lives in apartment buildings. So, you can imagine a family of 4 members and a pet living in a 110 square meters flat in the middle of a heavy populated area. That’s the most common thing.