Where to start? I have so many thoughts and photos to show from Brussels but maybe I should concentrate on Spain as we are here now!
We arrived last Friday to Zaragoza and spent the first five days there before heading to O’s parents’ village yesterday evening. In Zaragoza we stayed with my youngest BIL (brother-in-law) and we met up with my SIL (sister-in-law, I love how all my “in-law abbreviations” make words in Swedish; BIL, MIL, FIL, SIL) and her 2½-year old daughter M who was a little bit shy at first as most children are… We also spent some time with my oldest Spanish friend R and his girlfriend L – R and I studied together in Venice and he just happens to come from Zaragoza! We were in Geneva at the same time doing internships and then worked together for 9 months in Brussels – even sharing an office. So you can imagine his excitement when I met and even married a guy from his hometown 🙂
Anyway, I won’t make this post too long but here are some observations from Spain (most of them are not entirely new for me but I still find some of them puzzling):
- You can’t buy fresh milk in the supermarkets, only UHT (is that an English abbreviation or just French?). O told me that when he was a child he would buy fresh milk in the bakery – it was sold in plastic bags!?
- I still have a problem with throwing the [completely useless] paper napkins on the floor in the cafés and tapas bars. It just looks so messy and dirty when the floor is full of napkins…
- The lawns are being watered – in February! Even though it is quite cold, it doesn’t rain a lot but it is still strange to see water sprinklers turned on in the winter time! And by the way, if O thought that “smörgåstårta” was complicated, try to remember that “césped” (with a lisp) is lawn in Spanish!
- Just like in Italy the supermarkets provide plastic gloves in the fruit and vegetable section. However, I haven’t seen anybody use them and I haven’t (so far) been yelled at for not using them (which happened a few times in Italy) – c’mon, don’t they wash the fruit / vegetable anyway before eating it??
- People don’t drink black tea (I am aware that I am generalising like crazy here) and the tea section in the supermarket is full of “infusion”, camomille, and some rooibos tea. At least I have found Earl Grey here, which you don’t in Puerto Rico where my hate tea No 1 – Lipton Yellow Label is the only black tea to be found!
- People are definitely much more polite in Puerto Rico – I still expect people to say “Salud” (PR) or “Jesús” (Spain) when I sneeze in the street, as they actually do that in Puerto Rico!
- More politeness: My BIL and I stood up in the bus to leave our seats to two older women – they got completely confused when they realised that we didn’t stand up to get off the bus. They apologised profusely but thanked us!! In Puerto Rico you always give your seat to older people, and in many cases young guys will leave the seat to women of any age! I can’t remember who recently told me of a foreigner being yelled at by a Swedish woman who was insulted when he left his seat for her “I am not that old!!”
- In Sweden you see men walking pushing prams and having “fika” in cafés with their babies – long live paternity leave! In Spain you see grandparents with their grandchildren, going grocery shopping and taking care of them during the day…
- Children playing in schoolyards wear matching blue “play-jackets” and older women wear “cleaning-coats” (städrock in English??)
- Any Swede who remembers “spanska svängen” (the Spanish turn; O now knows another very useful Swedish expression, ha ha!) from driving school? Well, I understand why it is called that – every junction is like that! The junctions are constructed so that left-hand turns are avoided – you first turn right and then drive straight across the junction, which is safer than crossing the on-coming traffic! It does mean extra traffic lights and some extra turns – I got very confused in the beginning why we kept turning around and around in the junctions…
- Maybe just in my family-in-law, but the siblings keep referring to “tu hermano” / “tu madre” (your brother / mother) when talking to each other – and I keep thinking, shouldn’t it be “our”? Example: O is talking on the phone to his sister, then turns to his brother and explains “I am talking to your sister”. Maybe it’s just me who find that strange?? My parents would say something like that, but we wouldn’t between us siblings
- Spanish tv… maybe not as bad as Italian but these shows where people sit around a table and just discuss whatever (one topic was Rafa Nadal’s “tableta de chocolate”, i.e six-pack – I don’t find him very good-looking at all but maybe he’s a sex symbol in Spain??) – I just don’t find this kind of programmes the least interesting! The discussion programmes are also very common in France, and of course sometimes the topics are more serious than a tennisplayer’s six-pack!
What are these “trolleys” called in English – caddies?? In Sweden I learnt a few years ago that people call them “dramaten” which means “pull the food”. Anyway, by the Spanish supermarket entrance you can park your trolley / caddy (compare with my photo of a “Dog parking in Sweden a few weeks ago)! In Sweden I think most elderly people actually use them as trolleys inside the supermarket as well
Well, some of my observations during the last week – I hope you understand that I am not criticising, only observing and finding these different customs very interesting!