It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, mostly because I’ve been busy volunteering and playing tour guide to some friends. I’m so lucky to have friends that held a cookout in honor of the 4th of July. We ate good food and swam in the pool. Mitzy came too, and we learned that she freaks out when she sees people swimming in the pool. Here she is trying to rescue me.
Also, my uncle and some close family friends came to visit, and it felt really great to have them here. We saw a lot, including Toledo.
This weekend, we went to Diego’s home town to get away from the city for a couple days. It was great to relax, read a book, sit in the kiddie pool with a beer, chat with Diego’s family, and watch the boys on their dirt bikes (I even got a quick ride!). Oh, and we both got much needed haircuts! Mine was the first I’ve gotten in Spain, which I had been putting off in fear of a misunderstanding or a bad hair dresser. But it came out great, and she curled my hair which I really liked!
Now that I’ve got the updates out of the way…lately I’ve been thinking of a topic that I thought people may enjoy reading, and that I would enjoy looking back on later–things that make me laugh here. Sometimes when you move to a different country, the culture difference alone can cause funny situations. But what I love the most are the things that you really wouldn’t expect to happen. When you travel from one civilized, “first world” country to another, you bring with you certain expectations. And somehow, without fail, no matter which two countries you’re comparing, there will be differences that surprise you. So I’m not saying that someone going from Spain to the US wouldn’t find a lot of things funny or unexpected. Actually, I know for a fact that most Spaniards that move to or visit the US find a lot of stuff funny (and stupid. Very, very stupid).
So here we go with what this Americana finds funny here in Spain:
Uncensored English songs
Last week I was in the grocery store picking out some cereal when a Lil’ Wayne song came on (a little odd for the grocery store, but ok) then all of a sudden he started singing about bitches and hoes and a whole bunch of super offensive words. I stood there frozen, my mouth dropped, and I looked around to see how everyone was reacting. Nothing. Everyone just kept going about their business, shopping normally as if nothing had happened. Then I started laughing so hard. But this wasn’t the first time that I had heard an uncensored song played publicly. It actually happens all the time in stores and on the radio. When I asked Diego about it, he said that they aren’t allowed to play bad words like that on the radio. So I guess it’s a matter of them just not knowing what they’re playing, which makes it even funnier.
5 liter bottles of olive oil
One thing that Spaniards find funny about the US is the size of our bottles of ketchup. Yeah, we like ketchup, and if you use a lot, why not get a big bottle? Here, they claim that they have to have small bottles of condiments because they don’t have a lot of space (and they don’t use condiments very often). But when we first moved into our apartment here, we were given a five-liter bottle of extra virgin olive oil. Also, when you go to the large grocery stores here, you can find a literal bucket size container of Nesquik powder. I also laugh about the ketchup thing because although they don’t use ketchup much here (who can eat french fries without ketchup?!), they use a ton of mayonnaise.
Wivestales and superstitions
“Going outside when it’s cold will make you catch a cold”. “Air conditioning is bad for you to breathe in”. For good luck on New Year’s Eve, eat 12 grapes during the 12 strokes of midnight. And the best one: if you accidentally brush the feet of a single woman while sweeping, she’ll never get married. I know we have a bunch of similar ideas in the US and other countries, so I can’t say Spain is that weird.
If it’s not olive oil, it can’t be good
When you go to the grocery store to buy cooking oil, what kind do you look for? In the US, I would typically buy two types: vegetable oil and olive oil. The vegetable oil I would use for baking (breads, pancakes, frying) and the olive oil I would use for lighter cooking or making salad dressings. But here in Spain, it’s really difficult to find vegetable oil. Actually, what I did find was sunflower seed oil, which is fine, but Spaniards look at me like I’m a loca when they see me using the sunflower seed oil. “What do you need that for? Why don’t you use olive oil?” I try explaining the top 2 reasons: first, that olive oil gives a much stronger flavor (which may not be desirable in some things, like banana bread) and second, that olive oil has a much lower heat tolerance. Despite this, most Spaniards use olive oil for everything, and won’t be convinced otherwise.
Perception of the US (through movies)
When you meet someone from Spain who has never been to the US, most of their perception of Americans comes from what they’ve learned from American movies. Generally, this is bad. Pretty funny, but bad. I guess this is our own fault. The other day, a guy that I work with asked me if it’s true that everyone here eats meatloaf all the time, because he’s seen it in so many movies. Other themes that are associated with Americans: riding in yellow school buses, eating at McDonald’s, driving big pickup trucks, owning and carrying around a gun at all times, being protestant, having a big house with a big yard, working a lot, having a pet golden retriever, not knowing geography well, driving when we’re young, acting really stupid when we travel to Europe, college parties, playing and loving football, cheerleaders, and Campbell’s tomato soup, just to name a few. Crap, they’re right…we ARE like the people in those movies. I think I just described a bunch of people I know…
Whenever I’m running late for something, I have to remind myself that it’s really going to be okay. I seriously stress too much. Because every time I arrive somewhere on time, no one else has showed up yet. And when I’ve been late, nothing bad happened. No one looked at me weird. In fact, once we were 15 minutes late to an appointment we had with a government official to declare my residency and I thought for sure they wouldn’t see us, but they did. Also, when speaking Spanish, I’ve noticed that they have built in Spanish time. For example, when people say “hasta ahora” it literally means “until now” or “see you now” but what it actually means is “see you in a few minutes” or “see you soon”. In this case, “ahora,” or “now,” isn’t what us Americans would think of as now. They also say “ahora volvemos” or “we’ll be back soon” which literally translates to “we’ll be back now”. So I like to say if you want to figure out the Spanish time, just add 30 minutes to whatever time you think it may be.
Hazard lights = free illegal parking
On the street I live on, one thing we have noticed is that at night, people like to park their cars in one of the driving lanes and put their hazard lights on. You may look at it and think, oh it’s just that one car and they probably are dropping someone off. NO. It happens almost every night, especially on Fridays and Saturdays, and it’s a person literally going to get a drink at a bar or eat at a restaurant, and they couldn’t find another place to park, and didn’t want to pay for parking. Yes, this is definitely idiocracy (and illegal), but a lot of people do it, and I’ve learned to laugh at it. I mean really, people are parking their car wherever they want, putting their hazards on, and getting a beer. This is wrong on so many levels, and that is why I get a laugh.
Audrey “Herbum”. Seen in a bar in a town in northeastern Spain. I cracked up and took a photo while everyone else had no idea why I thought it was funny.
And last but not least,
Mobile colon cleansing
Spain, I love you.