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Thursday, December 29, 2016

10 Things I Hate About Spain

Before I got together with Duncan, I thought to myself, "Damn, if I'm ever in another relationship, it sure would be nice to travel regularly again with someone." Actually, I had a long list of "nice-to-haves" with regards to my imaginary new boyfriend. As luck would have it -- and I mean really have it, because I was oddly specific in some points -- he checked off all those boxes perfectly...

except the whole Spanish thing. I never said anything about a Spanish Spaniard from Spain

...but here we are.

It's my third trip to Málaga, Spain in the past two years and, of course, I find myself now completely qualified to share my subjective opinion about a city (that will probably bleed over into my subjective opinion of the entire country). I'll start with the "negatives", which are admittedly a lot more difficult, because my trips have been overwhelmingly awesome.

Runner Up: Chemtrails

Jk that shit doesn't exist.. There's just a bunch anti-chemtrail graffiti around this neighborhood. And I told you this list would be difficult...

Chemtrails nos fumígan (= Chemtrails smoke us)

10.) The Baggage Claim in Terminal 2 @ Aeropuerto de Málaga

The very first time I arrived in Málaga my first impression was, "Goddamn... what a crappy little airport." Turns out, it was just only one particular old and crappy terminal at the airport. Terminal 3 is nice and modern and shiny. It's where you leave to go back home. However, you arrive in the older Terminal 2 with baggage claim conveyor belts that are slow as molasses. This time, our plane arrived about half an hour late (close to 1 am) and then we had to wait nearly 30 minutes for our bags to crawl to us. And even when we arrived on time, it still took forever to get our shit and get on with our vacation.

9.) Moped/Motorcycle/Car/Pedestrian Death Wishes

Twisting, steep, narrow, and jam-packed. That's one way I would describe Spanish roads. Another way to describe it would be to say that everyone on the road, whether or not they're in a vehicle, acts like they have a death wish. And, if they don't explicitly want to die, they act as though (at the very least) they don't really care to live. Mopeds and motorcycles weave carelessly through heavy traffic. Pedestrians hover close to the sidewalk and seem to cross almost anywhere except the zebra stripes and totally "trust fall" style.

8.) Let's All Talk at Once

From my experiences, I feel like this is a typical trait in so-called "polychronic cultures" (you know, the type of cultures that have "no concept of the space-time continuum", as my monochronic, US American father liked to describe my polychronic, Trinidadian mother. See also: Caribbean Time). In these cultures, conversational "turn-taking" is less/not regulated. I guess because if you remove time from the equation (the unit of measure keeping and determining the order), then multiple overlapping conversations become the norm and participants flit in and out of topics and themes like busy little social bees.

Growing up in such a large family and among so many Trinis, it's a very familiar practice. It's also exhausting as fuck. Spanish conversation has the additional demerit in that I can maybe only follow about 35% of any given conversation. That is, I can pick out major nouns and some verbs and sort of figure out what is happening to whom. The speed of speech, overlapping, and the Andalusian accent bump up the difficulty quite a few notches. It's next to impossible for me to participate in a conversation and when two or more conversations occur simultaneously... I zone out quickly.

6.) Language Arrogance

Over the past year, I've felt very lucky to have spent around 23 years learning German. The German language gets a pretty bad rap thanks to its compound words and umlaut-y bits. But... I swear to Gott... if you even make the most minimum of efforts to speak German to a German, their eyes will well up with tears of joy (plus, a side of admiration and respect). You say, "Guten Tag! Wie geht es Ihnen?" They say, "Oh my! Your German is sooo good! I can't even hear an accent!" And you feel so proud of yourself and it encourages you to learn more and more and improve, etc. That is, until you reach your fluency plateau and discover that Germans basically fawn over anyone learning their language, regardless of their actual capacity to speak it.

This is not the case for Spanish. You say, "Aprendo español". ("I'm learning Spanish") and they're like, "Of course you are. Over half a billion people speak this language. The question is: why don't you speak it better?" I'm around the A1/A2 level with the corresponding vocabulary. I can speak in the simple present tense and present perfect tense. That's two of... so many, many... many tenses in Spanish. And Spanish speakers are like, "Jajajaja! You speak like a baby." No, I speak worse than a baby, but let's hear you say Apfelschorle, Freundchen.

7.) La Siesta

Siestas sound awesome. Like a three hour break in the day for you to just fuckin' chill, right? It's cool when you're on holiday, but this would be one of the reasons why I would probably have a hard time living in Spain on a long-term basis. Imagine going to work in the morning, then in the afternoon you have to take a three hour lunch and then come back at 5:00 pm and work until 9:00 pm. That sounds terrible.

Also, during this three hour break, it's not like you can get any important errands done, because those places are closed too. It's the same thing that annoys me about the afternoon breaks for banks in Germany. I have time in my lunch break to go to the bank, but its usually closed at that time. I just wouldn't have the energy to go back to the office after a three hour break.

5.) Public Toilets

Again, I don't know if this is all over the country or just here in Málaga. Challenge #1 - Old toilets into which you can't throw toilet paper (or else it'll clog everything up). The solution is a trash can next to the toilet with used paper. Challenge #2 - If you do find yourself somewhere with a more modern toilet paper capable baño, the chances are 50/50 that there will be no toilet paper at all (or a near-empty roll). I feel like this is a really common occurrence, because I watch women do a TP check before entering a stall. Challenge #3 - Missing toilet seats, in general. So many toilets look like they belong in a dive bar on Hamburger Berg.

Oh, good luck finding soap. Just pack some hand sanitizer and wipes and you'll be more or less good to go.

4.) Spanish Beer

Spanish beer is terrible. Sure, there's probably good Spanish craft beer out there. I'm talking about the stuff you can get on hand, anywhere. Luckily, there's lots of delicious wine and it'll even come with free food (aka tapas) in some cases. But this is my hate list and not the love list. Stay away from the beer.

3.) No Insulation

At least in southern Spain, the houses are really built for summer. It gets fucking hot here. So houses generally have stone/marble floors and little insulation to keep them cool during the blazing heat and various hot-ass winds that blow through (e.g. terral). However, the lack of insulation also keeps houses positively refrigerator-like in the cooler winter months. And keeps them just loud as fuck 24-7. Ever want to be all up in your neighbors' business? This is the place for you!

2.) Traditional Gender Roles

This isn't just a Spanish thing, of course. In fact, I feel quite similar whenever I'm back in Oklahoma. I consider myself a little lucky since Duncan's family is more nontraditional than most. Still, outside of his family circle the "women are like this/men are like that" remarks are positively sitcom-like... if life were a terrible sitcom that made sweeping generalizations. So, basically like a real life The Big Bang Theory. *shudder*

1.) Organizing a Group of People to do Anything

This is certainly a subset of Spanish polychronism. It is also the #1 thing that drives me nuts. In a nutshell: Apparently in Spain, no one can tell other people what to do (I mean, I guess besides the laws or whatever). But basically everyone's talking in the super kiss-ass subjunctive all the time, e.g. "If it is no imposition upon your schedule and you would be so kind, then perhaps we could find a mutually agreeable time that we could use to discuss our respective pastimes -- should that be what thou dost desire, my lord."

It doesn't matter if it's two people or 10 people, a consensus must be reached. If nine people can meet at the restaurant at 3:00 pm and one person can't come until 3:45 pm. Then the whole meetup time can shift for one person... even though everyone will show up at like 4:30 pm anyway.

Me: When are we meeting up?
Duncan: I don't know yet.
Me: Where are we meeting up?
Duncan: We haven't decided yet.

***4 hours of indecision later***

Duncan: Ok, we are meeting in 10 minutes at Café BlaBla

And with that... stay tuned for the things I actually really love about Spain.

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