Totally Normal Things in Spain that Would Never Fly in the US

Despite having already lived here for three months last year, there are still so many things that continue to surprise me about the culture in Spain, and so many new things I am learning and noticing. Living with a Spanish family instead of with other Americans has definitely contributed to this, so I put together a shortlist of the things that still make me go wait, what?

  1. Young children are awake until midnight, and sometimes even later. I will be eating dinner with Daniel and Mar at 10:30 (normal dinner time in Spain) and baby Natalia will be in her stroller next to the table watching us with bright eyes as we chow down on our chorizo and Iberian ham.
  2. As an extension of #1, parents bring their children to restaurants and BARS until all hours of the night. Children will literally be wandering around as Pepe the Village Drunk finishes his 5th cerveza one table over.
  3. Blanca (the three year old) has a babydoll with a PLASTIC PENIS. The babydoll has ACCURATE HUMAN BODY PARTS AND NO ONE THINKS THAT IS STRANGE. Which I guess is a good thing, as opposed to children growing up thinking it is normal to have smooth genderless nothingness down there.
  4. In grocery stores, if you want a plastic bag to carry home your newly purchased items, you have to ask. And you have to tell them how many you want, which usually ends up with me doing a cursory survey of my items and thinking, “yeah, I could fit this all into one bag,” in attempt to save the 5 cents, and then lugging home a 10 pound plastic bag on the verge of explosion because I am cheap and a bad guesser.
  5. Beer is a daytime drink, not a nighttime drink. If you are going out, you drink liquor. Not a lot, because this is not America and therefore the goal is not complete oblivion, but still, beer is considered a casual refreshment meant for the daytime. Gone are my days of drinking out of a keg in a dirty frat basement.
  6. Doorknobs into many apartments or buildings are often in the middle of the door, instead of on the side. And they don’t turn, you just open the door with your key and push on the giant, unmoving knob in the center. It feels awkward and unnatural, like the center of balance is off and you need to exert more force just to open the door.
  7. Wearing shoes inside the house is not only acceptable, it’s customary. Even if you live in the house and just got out of the shower and are headed to the fridge for a merienda, you best be wearing shoes. I’m not sure if there is some sort of reasoning behind it or if it is just tradition, but it has been an adjustment having to remember to slip on my sandals when I leave my room so I don’t “influence the children” to start going barefoot as well.
  8. This one may be something that also happens in hotter parts of the US, but living in the Northeast I have never experienced such a thing–canopies over outside seating at cafés that shower mist down on you at timed intervals. It gets so hot here that the seating area literally sprays water at you as you eat to cool you down, like being in a tropical rainforest that also serves coffee. Hide your iPhones!
  9. No screens on the windows. And it’s not like mosquitoes don’t exist here–they do. I guess Spanish people just deal with the bug bites and buzzing in their ears at night?
  10. Clothing driers are a rarity. People hang their clothes from clothing lines and pray that they don’t fall victim to bird droppings or passing meteorites.
  11. Water costs money at restaurants, and so does the bread basket that comes with your meal. But I suppose this is made up for by the fact that most tapas cost under 3€ each.

I’m positive this isn’t everything, but these are the things that have stood out to me in my past few days here. I’ll keep you updated on other cultural differences I come across in my travels as a under-cultured Americana.

Hasta luego!

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