How to Know if You’re Turning Spanish

Expat life in Barcelona

Expat life in Barcelona, Spain

By The Scoop Staff

If you’re doing the following, you just might be turning Spanish.

Five gallons of olive oil:

Do you have a mammoth five-gallon jug of olive oil purchased for less than €20 at the local grocery in your kitchen? Then chances are you might be living in Spain. We buy olive oil in bulk. I have not bought butter in over eight months, and never cook with it. I love a creamy square of butter on toast, but I’ve just forgotten all about it living in Barcelona.

Forget about a clothes drier in Barcelona.

Forget about a clothes drier in Barcelona.

Drying out:

If you’re now used to line drying all your clothes, you may be living in Spain. Driers are few and far between. Wardrobe is subject to the weather report. Luckily, it’s sunny more often than rainy in most parts of the country. Hey, line drying reduces your carbon footprint and your clothes smell like sunshine. (But the occasional pigeon poo and stiff towels take some getting used to.)

Bag competition:

This might really depend on the state in the US, but back in the olden days there was someone to bag groceries at the check-out counter (either the cashier or some teenager). Not in Barcelona. These days I am trained to position myself at the end of the check-out station and store my groceries as quickly as possible with my own bags from home. Really, grocery shopping is a two-man job. One person places the items on the belt and pays while the other bags the food as if his life depended on it. There is some unspoken competition going on for who can bag all their groceries in under 30 seconds.

Honestly, checking out at the supermarket makes my stress levels soar. To mess with the system, and the other pushy people in line behind me, I sometime do not bag my food until the very end. I take my time, relishing in the nervous stares I get from other shoppers. What is she DOING!? appears in little cartoon bubbles above their noggins. I bag slowly – I think this is called being passive aggressive.

Many buildings in Spain do not have elevators = Buns of steel.

Many buildings in Spain do not have elevators = Buns of steel.

Buns of steel & five flights of stairs:

There are plenty of places in the USA and elsewhere in the world where one might live on the 5th floor with no elevator. Such is my case. In my time in Spain I’ve lived on the fist floor (noisy), 5th floor (made me quit smoking), 6th floor (never forget anything at home, and never get the flu) and now the 4th floor (not too bad, but I always pack light for trips). A couple times I had an elevator, which was like heaven.

In Barcelona and all over Europe, many buildings are too small to install an elevator so hoofing it up and down stairs becomes normal. The up side is that living on the top floor means a daily workout resulting in buns of steel and shapely legs. The downside is…well, there are lots of downsides. Like hauling groceries up all those flights of stairs. I have almost everything, apart from vegetables and fruit, delivered to me (it’s a free service).

Moving is more than a borrowed pickup truck:

Have you ever moved using a platform? I knew I was turning Spanish when I hired an elevator platform to lift my furniture from the street so it could be moved swiftly into our new, fourth-floor flat through the balcony door. This was the easiest, and most expensive, move I’ve ever had. Part of the reason for hiring the platform was that many of our furnishings (refrigerator, couch, table) would not have fit through the stairwell. In fact, in a former apartment I made the stupid mistake of buying a couch and then realizing it was too big for the elevator and stairwell. It was impossible to move it into the house.

Since the last move with the platform, there have been other items, like a headboard, that we decided to buy and bring up the four flights of stairs. One starts to feel Spanish (European) when cursing and sweating up that endless staircase. My perspective on shopping has radically changed. I think long and hard now before buying anything. I carry a tape measure with me. I measure both the space in the house and the potential furniture several times before making a purchase. This is connected to the stairwell issue, but also the fact that in Barcelona most flats are pretty small. Not only am I careful about what I buy but I frequently give things away or throw things out if they are not necessary. A place for everything and everything in its place. Whereas in the USA I might have just tossed an unused item into the bowels of the garage or spare bedroom, here my space is calculated to the centimeter.

From stair-stepping, to cardio bagging, to a diet rich in olive oil and short on butter, it’s hard to argue that life in Spain is not healthier than it was in the USA.

1 Response

  1. This is great…and so true! Just spending 10 days in Sevilla in a house with three flights of stairs to get to the “main” floor of the house and experiencing the bagging phenomenon allows me to giggle and comprehend your post! The olive oil thing, well, I am married to a Spaniard, so even in the U.S., it is a main staple in our kitchen.

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