Traveling the world, learning languages, and immersing myself in new cultures.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

14 Random Things This American Notices About Spain and Europe

I am learning something new everyday here in Navarra; usually it's a new Spanish word that I immediately forget or the name of someone I've just met. My brain is always working, whether actively to help me reach my goals, or passively causing me to zone out in Spanish class and think about unrelated things. Whenever I think of something, I write it down so I don't forget it. Well, if you do that enough, you end up with a list of random things that you decide to share with people via a blog. Here's that list:

Spain related things

1. I have no idea why (and if anyone wants to chime in and explain, please do) but Spanish gas stations have plastic gloves for use while pumping gas. I have not seen this outside of Spain and I have never used the gloves.

gloves to pump gas

2. It seems it is taught in Spain that there are only 6 continents. North and South America are not individual continents because the are connected, unlike Europe and Asia... I also learned that in the past, people were taught there were only 5 continents (hence 5 Olympic rings) as Antartica is just a block of ice and not land. I'm sure there were some offended penguins somewhere.

3. I have searched high and low, and I have not been able to find relish in Pamplona. I've tried to describe it to store clerks with my rehearsed-so-I-know-its-perfect Spanish, yet it is still an unknown product here. 
no relish

4. I commented once on the late times of dinner here in Spain, which leads me to the point that Spanish old people be up mad late ("are awake really late" for those who don't know ebonics). It strikes me as unusual when I see an octogenarian at the restaurant at 11:30pm, and going strong too. In the U.S. our old people are asleep by the time Spanish happy hour begins! 

5. I love when I ask the locals what their last names are, because you end up getting a 2 minute speech. Spanish people have their entire family tree in their last name, so you know exactly where their family is from, and sometimes, what the family does/did for a living.

 The Spanish (at least in Madrid and Navarra) are some of the worst parkers in Europe. How can you double park on a one lane road? Putting your hazard lights on doesn't make it ok. This one really burns me because I see it a lot, yet I'm the one who gets towed because I didn't pay for parking in a half empty parking lot that is never full.

Non-Spain specific things

7. High school and university sports in Europe are awful. There is no excitement and very little support for the student-athletes that represent their schools. In the U.S., maybe we overdo it a bit, but I think supporting youth sports is more important than your favorite futból club.* 

*Travelin' with the TMax and its subsidiaries do not agree with or support this statement. Our lawyers have advised us to place this disclaimer, in accordance to the European Futból Fans Are Crazy Act of since the beginning of time, section 7, paragraph 10. Dictated, not read.

Gamecock nation representing
Student-athlete's support in the U.S.
no fans
Student-athlete's support in Europe

8. The UK is part of Europe, but they don't always act like it or talk like it. I thought it was quite funny to overhear a British guy, when referring to the continental part of Europe, call it "Europe", as though the UK isn't part of Europe. I wonder if Texans, upon leaving the state, say they are going to the U.S.?

9. In the '70s and '80s, men wore tights to workout or go running. They don't do that anymore... except in Europe. Guys run in tights, and do manly things in tights, like wash their car in tights, or walk their Pomeranian in tights (the man in tights, not the dog).  It's quite funny to see a guy come in the gym, change into tights, tuck his shirt into said tights, and get ready for a workout. It's like, "Where's the Pilates class?" "What you got against Pilates?" "Nothing, nothing. I am interested in trying it out... I hear it is good for the glutes." 

men in tights making a comeback
They say fashion is cyclical...

10. Whenever I stop for gas, I like to clean my windshield, especially on road trips. That is not always possible in Europe, as not all gas stations have the squeegee-wiper blade combo available. How curious. Some do, some don't. It's not written on the sign on the highway next to the gasoline symbol, but it should be, because it's not a given, and maybe I won't patronize your gas station due to lack of amenities.

11. I'm not very squeamish about finding a hair in my food, but the lack of hair nets at restaurants here in Europe seems to exponentiate the occurrences that this will happen to me. Also, wearing gloves  doesn't seem to be standard either. I don't even want to think about them going to the bathroom. 

Finding hair in your food
So much hair eaten!

12. Swimming caps are required in most pools. Really? I have more hair on my chest than my head, but I have to cover my head? And in Belgium, I was required to wear speedos, as swim shorts were unacceptable.

13. Amazon-dot-anything-not-com sucks. Plain and simple. The selection is a fraction of what sells. always has the products I want, but never in stock. seems to be in some weird language that I can't understand.  And does not sell food at all. Plus, shipping and handling from Germany and France are killing me. This is not a good place to be addicted to online shopping.

14. I was laughing so hard after walking into a Decathlon store here in Pamplona and realizing, like the ones in Belgium, the inventory is quite different from a Dick's Sporting Goods or other sporting goods stores in the U.S. I was surprised that there was even a hunting/fishing section, and that it was respectably sized. I knew that the futból section would be a full aisle, if not two, and that the tennis aisle would rival it. American football and baseball equipment is sold in Europe as soccer and tennis would be in the U.S.; though, now, the U.S. generally sells everything in similar quantities. 
sporting good stores in europe
Hmmm, something seems to be missing

What do you think? 

This list is based on my experiences and I'm curious if you agree of disagree. For the non-Spanish/Europeans who have visited Spain/Europe, what experiences you've had? For the Spanish/Europeans, how do you feel about these, or the alternatives, from other cultures? 

Did you like this post? Check out the second part of the series with 21 More Random Things.

Thanks for reading! For more on my life in Navarra, check out VEN con TMax.

(some of the images/videos used in this post are from other sources and not my own)



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