People ask me all the time what the cultural differences are between the U.S. and Spain and when I say “people”, I mean “nobody” and when I say “all the time”, I mean “never”.
Nobody ask me never what the cultural differences are between the U.S. and Spain.
But I’ve been here for two years now and I’ve held on to my American pettiness as long as I possibly can. And the urge to assimilate is strong, so I figure I should warn other Americans before my will to bitch is gone completely. It’s only a matter of time before I’m happily waiting to eat dinner at 10pm like any other Spaniard.
I’m telling you, you guys would be shocked — SHOCKED — to know how upside-down it is over here. I’ve put together a list of some of the more egregious conduct I’ve witnessed but you should know that the tomfoolery is multifarious. I’m utterly flabbergasted. Spooked, even.
1. No big box stores.
Where the hell am I supposed to get my giant jugs of pickles, my buckets of ice cream, my mountains of toilet paper?
The woman who owns the little market across the street gave me the nastiest look when I bought all the toilet paper she had. It wasn’t nearly enough, though, so I also went to the market on the next block …and the market on the next block as well. Turns out, there are at least 28 little markets within a 5-block radius and not one of them sells anything in bulk.
2. Fellow passengers— PASSENGERS! — called me out when I tried to sneak onto the bus without paying.
Listen. In America, we mind our own business. If someone’s sneaking onto the back of the bus, they probably have a good reason.
Maybe they’re short on rent this month. Maybe they’ve been eating nothing but macaroni, crackers, and cereal for the past two weeks. Maybe they don’t have exact change and they can’t go back home and pull up couch cushions right now or they’re gonna be late for work. If they’re late for work, they’ll lose their job and really won’t be able to pay their rent or bus fees.
Or maybe they just wanna stick it to the man, alright?
Here, you get chewed out and kicked off the bus for not paying! Can you believe that?!
Granted, it’s much cheaper to live here and you’re never more than a ten-minute walk from a metro station where you can buy a weekly pass. And drivers carry change. The pace is slower here too. If you’re late for work, it’s just assumed you were outside smoking or talking or something. So there’s really no reason to get onto a bus without paying…
They didn’t have to drag me that hard, though. Buncha goodie-two-shoes.
3. Children and old people.
I spent 8 years in San Francisco, where every single resident was between the ages of 18 and 42. You really don’t need anyone outside that age range in order to run a Post-Respectable Capitalistic Semi-Democratic Fascist State.
Kids and old people can’t be cogs in that wheel. They don’t have the ability to sit their butts in a chair and type at a computer for hours at a time. They have too much lust for life. They’re too unpredictable.
Anyway, why have a kid when you can have a dog?
Why have old people when you can have cats?
4. Healthcare and drugs.
Has the Spanish government considered that maybe I want to set up a GoFundMe to pay for my emergency surgery so that I can see who my real friends are?
If Spain keeps trying to sell me that €8 insulin, I’m gonna lose my shit. I want the good stuff. From America. Charge the $275 to my GoFundMe credit card. They just sent me one with the highest interest rate available because I’m kind of a big deal back home.
5. Olives taste good here.
Olives are nasty, ok? You know it, I know it, every red-blooded American kid who’s ever grumbled down at his or her or their plate for hours while their parents insist that they can leave the table only when they’ve eaten three whole olives ….knows it.
But something unsettling is going on here because the olives in Spain are addictive.
I suspect that my body’s natural ability to detect poison has been compromised and they’re slowly assassinating me with olive and goat cheese salads. Send help.
6. Where can a girl get a decent bottle of hot sauce?
Either waiters here don’t believe me when I say I want my food “picante”, or they just don’t know what that means. It means I grew up in Arizona. It means I burned my tastebuds off years ago and I can’t taste your food. It means whenever I go back to the states, I go to my favorite hot sauce store and stock up on bottles of something called “Butt Pucker”.
Restaurants here don’t offer five different types of hot sauce at every table. They sometimes don’t even offer salt. And when you do find hot sauce at the store, it comes in these bottles with a tiny little pinprick opening at the top for the sauce to drip out of as carefully and slowly as possible, as if to say, “Oh, you couldn’t handle this”.
It’s offensive is what it is.
What’s crazy is that, despite my outrage at these things… I can feel my perspective shifting. This place is getting to me, man. Black is blanco. Down is arriba. My taste buds are growing back. I’m paying my fair share for public transportation. I’m… taking occasional mid-day naps??
It’s only a matter of time now. The caganers are at the gates. Remember me as I was — typically American. Play Grand Funk Railroad and Missy Elliott at my funeral.
Just don’t expect that funeral to be any time soon ’cause… you know… free healthcare.