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

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

21 More Random Things This American Notices About Spain and Europe

The millisecond after I published the article 14 Random Things This American Notices About Spain and Europe, I already had new ideas for a follow up list. This one is new, improved, and even more random than the first list. These things are interesting to me, to you, and to everyone you have ever met in your entire life, with all of whom you will share this. That is all. Enjoy.

Spain related things

1. The 1st of April, April fool's day (United States) and Poisson d'avril (France), is a day where we play pranks on each other. In typical Spanish fashion (late), they play their pranks December 28, and call it el Día de los Santos Inocentes (read more about it here)

2. The food here is good, which is why it is not unusual that I see more fat people in Spain than rest of Europe. And, of course, when I say fat, I really just mean plump or fluffy, as they have not quite reached American levels of obesity here. I even came across an article about it.

3. I've seen more Spanish people wearing berets than I ever saw in any part of France. Good ol' inaccurate American stereotypes.

4. The Spanish don't seem to use duct tape. They sell it in the stores here, but I've asked several people about it and half of them didn't even know what it was.

5. I hate beating this dead horse about the Spanish and punctuality, but one would imagine if you have an appointment at a government office, it would mean something... it doesn't, at least not at the foreigners office, where I still had to wait in the non-appointment line.

6. I find it interesting that I can enter a commercial center (mall), yet every store inside is closed for siesta. Why is the mall even open then? Usually, it is because it is a cross-through or walkway from one part of the city to the other.

7. Maybe they exist elsewhere, but in Spain, electro stimulation gyms are popping up like Starbucks in the states. I even went to one to try it out. *cough*gimmick*cough* 

8. Neox is a TV station that plays a lot of American sitcoms (dubbed, of course). Most TV shows are programmed with commercial breaks in mind and therefore have breaks at certain points. Not on Neox. The characters can be in the middle of a sentence and suddenly we are having a 6 minute commercial break. Then the show will return for 30 seconds and then right back to another 7 minute commercial break. Then, there are no credits or commercials after shows and when one show ends, the next starts right away. Quite random.

9. This could be a product of the times, but I have asked my friends in other countries, and not one is quite so invested in Whatsapp the way Spain is. People here don't say "message me" but rather "whatsapp me". It is not uncommon to see "contact us via whatsapp" on billboards and for businesses.

10. In Spain you will hear "8 o'clock in the afternoon" or "1 o'clock at night", which are quite a contrast to the very systematic American time tables. The lack of "evening" makes the afternoon much longer here. 

Spanish timetable according to the TMax
*has not yet been approved by the Spanish Ministry of Timing, who said they would confirm mañana

Non-Spain specific things

11. In the states, when we break a leg, we have crutches that fit under our armpits. Usually, the neurologically disabled or partial paraplegics (I don't know the pc way of saying these) use crutches that are supported at the wrists. Here in Europe, the former is not used at all, so it is not wise to assume everyone here has some sort of disability, but rather may just be recovering from a broken bone. 

12. Potato chip bags have a sticky strip for closing and reopening the bags, even on the small bags. In America when we open a bag of chips, regardless of size, we are eating the whole thing. If we really need to close it, we'll use duct tape (see #4). 

13. Filling out documentation in Latin-based countries can be confusing, as nombre (Spain), nom (French), and nome (Italian) can be the first name or whole name, and you have to pay attention to the form to determine which it is.

14. I'm learning a lot of British because that's the English they know here in Europe. The Europeans do know American slang, however. But now, I sometimes find myself using these British words in order to communicate effectively, and it doesn't even sound funny to me anymore. Maybe that's because I say those words with my best Scouse accent... 

15. One of the craziest things I see in Europe is people begging for cigarettes instead of food. I won't even go into. (Here, I go into it).

16. Hotels, outdoor picnic areas, your house, all have very limited plug outlets. If you plug in more than two items in a room, you likely aren't going to be able to plug anything else in without a power strip. And the locations of the outlets are always in the most inconvenient and impractical locations, like at eye level, or right behind a door.

17. In the states we use McDonald's as a marker for real estate, because they are everywhere and quite strategically located. The equivalent in Europe are pharmacies. Not CVS or Walgreens, there is only one type of pharmacy here: the green cross pharmacy (the universal pharmacy logo), each branch is individually owned, yet are all simply called "Pharmacy". The green cross is the most common and most superfluous sign here, with up to 42 (arbitrary number I choose at random) in a single neighborhood.

18. Europeans don't seem to have a lot of muscular looking people. When I go to the parks, pools, and beaches in the U.S. there are always at least 10 dudes that are ridiculously big and muscular for no reason. Here, I'm that dude, and I'm not even that big.

19. Body image - piggy backing off the last one, the Europeans see the human body as just that, and not necessarily sexual. Public breast-feeding is all too common with full boob visible, naked kids are rampant at all swimming locations, European (fat) women go to the beach in bikinis and even go topless, while the (fat) men are in their speedos, man boobs, and back hair, with absolutely no remorse. Body image does not seem to be as highly correlated with self-confidence, as it seems to be in the states. 

20. I mentioned the idea of lack of censorship here in Europe before, but it is still strange to hear Spanish children using joder (f***) or French children saying merde (s***), in public, in front of people and their parents. Of course everything that is imported from America to Europe is the trashiest and most f-bomb ridden, so they think it's normal to use these words in English, when in the states, we are highly sensitive to these words and don't often use them, especially not as children.  

21. A different type of racism exists here. I would say the U.S. has a more sensitive and violent racism, whereas in Europe it is a culturally accepted manner of reference (similar to a white southerner's grandmother saying, "That colored fellow is so articulate.") I touched on it a bit in another article about language.

Europeans keep asking how I feel about police shooting black people in the states, and I really don't have an answer for them without explaining the entirety of our short existence as a country. 

The Dutch have Black Pete, Dutch Santa Claus' slave, which I wrote about during the 3 Kings Celebration. Here in Spain, Bardinet sells a liquor called Negrita (little black woman) with a stereotypically black lady on it (probably Aunt Jemima's cousin) and it means nothing. Also, in Spain, they call the multi-purpose stores los chinos (the Chinese), most likely because they are typically run by people of asian origin. I highly doubt any of the above would fly in the states without some sort of protest. 

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 countries/cultures? 

Also, if you want to know a little known fact about me, check out Where Are You From?

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)

Location: Pamplona, Navarra, España


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