Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Don't Touch the Fruit! And other curiosities about Spain

Once I was at the supermarket buying fruit, and a lady was doing the same. She picked up some runner beans with her hands, and put them in a plastic bag to be weighed. The gentleman next to her said 'you need to use gloves' to which she replied 'what I touch, I keep'. I see the logic in that. Why put on plastic gloves, just to pick up fruit and veges that you're either going to wash, peel or cook? But that's something you do here. You get a plastic glove and only touch the produce with it, or risk being told off like the lady did.

I've been here for a few months now, so here are some more cultural curiosities that I've noticed, or partaken in, or looked like a fool of because of them:

They're smaller, not all of the produce sections are refrigerated, sometimes you have to weigh and price fruit before going to the checkout, other times you don't... I never really know. Some things are refrigerated that shouldn't be; other things (like some types of fish) aren't refrigerated at all. It really depends on the place. It's uncommon to buy fresh milk because UHT is so much cheaper (0.60 euros for a litre compared to 1.60) and good old tasty cheese doesn't exist (but many other delicious things do, like jamón and the most amazing hummus I have ever bought).

The work day starts later, around 10am, pauses at about 1pm, then kicks off again at about 4 or 5 at night. But not everyone has a siesta. Or not every day.

Kids stay out
It's not uncommon to see kids out with their parents in bars etc. I think it's a really nice way of socialising children, but sometimes it's so late! Seeing children walk down the street at 11pm or later with their parents is kind of strange

People are always out with their friends
Whenever I leave my apartment, there are always groups of people - young and old - doing things together. Elderly friends or couples, young kids kicking a ball around, groups of middle-aged men and women. Spanish people are very social, and it's great. 

Public transport
... is so cheap! For me, it's 20 euros for unlimited use of the Madrid transport lines - busses, metro and trains. It's been a godsend. Thank you Madrid.

Sometimes you get free tapas; sometimes you have to pay for bread
Restaurants bring out a basket of bread when you eat out. Sometimes it's free, sometimes it's not, and sometimes they bring out free tapas when you order a drink. But I never know when it's free or not and now have learnt to always ask. When it's free, they say so like I should know that. But it's not always free, so I never know. It's complicated.

There are footpaths and there are narrow roads, but hey, let's separate them using not kerbs or paving, but these annoying knee high metal poles that you always accidentally kick or walk into. Bollards: 1, Anita: 0.

Customer service
Isn't really a thing. But sometimes it is. And you never know when. Example: went to Vodafone to set up internet. Guy was super helpful and friendly until he discovered that we didn't have residency cards (not needed on a shorter student visa); he then told us no provider would give us internet. We went next door to Orange, told the salesperson straight away we wanted internet but had no residency cards, and he still said it was fine because I had a passport.

I pay my rent in cash every month... which is pretty normal. But my landlord's bank just doesn't seem normal. For once, you either have to pay it in using a machine, or go between 8am and 10am on a Tuesday or a Thursday between the 10th and 20th of the month to pay in cash. And 2 out of the 3 times, the tellers have let me do it on the 1st of the month because I say I didn't know about the timetable. There's probably a reason for it, but I don't know what it is.

The changing rooms at Zara.
A multi-story department store, with 3 levels dedicated to womenswear. But only three changing rooms. I have never managed to have the patience to wait to use them, once I waited for 30 minutes before giving up. Then went to another Zara store 5 minutes walk away and there were NO lines.

The speed limit
The roads are safer than NZ roads, so 120km/h is actually a safer speed (because everyone would probably drive that anyway). They are multi-laned, and big barriers between the two different sides. So good. Have reached speeds of 150km/h much to my mother's worry.

I'm lucky to have a lovely landlady (who I've never actually met, only communicated with via text). But some landlords are crazy! I've been in apartments where they have security cameras in the entrances and in the lounges. Also have friends with hyper-strict rules about guests (no guests allowed at all, and neighbours get involved if they sense guests are there). 

New Zealand is not Australia
Happens to me every time I say I'm from New Zealand: 'Where are you from?' 'New Zealand' 'Wow, how far away' 'Yes, it's quite far' 'I really want to go to Australia'. Noooo you don't, come to New Zealand! Ah well.

Museo del Jamón
While you're out buying cheese and meat/ham, why not get a plate of chorizo and some beer. Best concept ever.

100 Montaditos
Likewise - the 1 euro menu for Wednesday and Sundays means you get cheap mini sandwiches and beer/wine/tinto de verano, and always end up eating way too much. They even have chocolate bread with oreo sandwiches, a winner in my book. It's everywhere around Spain too - I think it even came to Florida in the US.

Phone contracts
I don't text - I use whatsapp, like everyone else in the population here. It's really uncommon to send an SMS or make a phone call, because plans with data are a lot more common here.

and my favourite

Old men say it to you. Old ladies say it to you. Creepy men say it to you. I now say it to my friends. It just means 'hello beautiful' but I think it's also the standard greeting in my suburb slash all of Spain. One of my neighbours always says it when I walk past her in the stairwell, and I can't help but smile and wonder if I should say it back...

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