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SPANISH HABITS

My Spanish habits that foreigners just don’t get

Do the Spanish have certain habits you just can't work out? Here Spanish author Alberto Letona lists a number of typical national traits or customs that leave his foreign friends bemused...or if queuing is involved, even enraged.

My Spanish habits that foreigners just don't get
Spaniards like to pace along the beach. Esparta Palma / Flickr

1. We are very noisy


Photo: SETShots / Flickr

Noise is everywhere in Spain whether in restaurants, on the buses, or at the beach. In bars the TV is often on, even if people aren’t watching. This makes conversations louder and the Spanish difficult to understand, for non-native and natives alike.

The latter are more resourceful; They will raise their voice even louder to be heard.  

.2. We go to bed late


Photo: Bark / Flickr 

Staying up late is part of daily life in Spain. At home it is not unusual to have dinner at ten and if you go to a restaurant, you’ll find it difficult to get a table before 9pm. At weekends we don’t start going out until at least 9pm and the night can be very long. Work is mañana.

3. We kit ourselves out for sport


Photo: The Pug Father/Flickr 

Dressing in the correct way to take exercise is a rule for the locals. So much so that you’d be forgiven for thinking you were at the Vuelta de España with professional cyclists when you use Spanish roads on the weekends. Don’t blow your horn at them, they would not take it graciously.

4. We like to be in a crowd (in pre-Covid times)


Photo: Allen Skyy/Flickr

The Spaniards are very gregarious. We all go out for a stroll at the same time and usually to the same places. Sometimes with friends, and other times with family, but very rarely alone.

5. We like to party…a lot


Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

The summer fiestas of every village in Spain are a kind of social event that you cannot miss. This is the place to see and be seen. The younger ones enjoy their first drinks in life, and their parents are most likely enjoying themselves preparing traditional dishes with their friends.

6. We are a contradiction in terms


Photo: AFP

Liberal-minded but conservative in their life style is a description that fits many Spaniards. Even the most politically left wing citizens are ready to take part as a pious believer in the religious processions at Easter. 

7. We pace up and down the beach


Photo: Esparta Palma/Flickr

Pacing up and down the seashore is a favourite pastime for anyone over thirty. Sometimes the beaches get so crowded with people marching back and forth that it is difficult to imagine this activity as a pleasurable stroll. But we do it anyway. 

8. We all want to work in the public sector


Photo: tec_estromberg / flickr

Being a “funcionario” (civil servant) is a very sought after and carefully planned occupation for many. A job for life is often a source for admiration or envy among the different social classes in Spain.

9. We abandon our offices en masse at 11am


Photo: Alda Chou

Mid-morning is the time when everybody working in an office walks out to have a long coffee break in the bar with their colleagues. This is the moment to talk about the trials and tribulations of domestic life. Sometimes if the conversation is very engaging the break can go on a long time.

10. We don’t do queuing


Photo: Garry Knight/Flickr 

Jumping the queue is a national trait. Very few people respect queues in this country. If you are catching a bus, please be aware of old ladies. They are sometimes the most pushy and will try to go first, even if they know that you have been waiting longer.

Alberto Letona is the author of Hijos e Hijas de la Gran Bretaña – Sons and Daughters of Great Britain – in which he delves into the psyche of the British in an attempt to explain them to his own countrymen. 

Read more on his opinions of the British

For members

CLIMATE CRISIS

Will there still be drought restrictions in Spain after all the rain that’s fallen?

After an incredibly rainy Easter helped to refill Spain's dwindling reservoirs, some have started to wonder if drought restrictions planned or already implemented in certain parts of the country will be lifted.

Will there still be drought restrictions in Spain after all the rain that's fallen?

If you were in Spain over Easter, you might’ve noticed that it was a pretty wet one. In fact, the rain was so bad in some parts of the country that many Holy Week processions had to be cancelled.

For many drought threatened parts of the country, however, notably Andalusia and Catalonia, though this was disappointing from a cultural point of view, it was welcome relief for the parched land and reservoirs.

Around areas of Cádiz, Granada and Málaga, some towns saw over 100 litres of rainfall per square metre in a single day.

In fact, rainfall during Semana Santa this year was more than three times the usual levels around most of the country, according to data from the State Meteorological Agency (Aemet).

READ ALSO: Tenerife to call drought emergency as Spain struggles with water shortages

Water reserve levels in Spanish reservoirs have risen to 63.1 percent of their capacity, 5.3 percent more than the week before. As such, many might now assume that the heavy rain over Easter has alleviated these drought problems, and there’s now no need for the restrictions implemented in some parts of Spain.

Is that the case – or will there still be drought restrictions in Spain such as lowering the water pressure from taps, a ban on filling swimming pools and watering gardens?

Andalusia

Known for its scorching summer temperatures, it had been many years since Andalusia had a wet Semana Santa. Though it will take the Andaluces a while to recover from their cancelled processions, many hope that the abnormal rainfall could ease potential water restrictions, at least for a while. In the southern region these have included water pressure restrictions and even overnight cut-offs in some towns.

La Junta de Andalucia has pledged to study its water saving measures once the runoff from the Easter rains is over and the authorities have a better idea of the picture moving forward. The signs seem positive, however: according to data from the Guadalquivir’s Automatic Hydrological Information System (SAIH), on 25th March capacity was at 14 percent — a week later it has exceeded 70 percent thanks to the rain.

However, La Junta had previously announced that, however heavy the rain, restrictions in some parts of the region, as well as works on the water system, would go ahead because the lack of water is “a structural problem.” One positive impact of the rains is that Andalusia now seems unlikely to need to ship in (literally) water from elsewhere because the reservoirs could, if managed properly, serve local areas for several years.

The rains have brought “relief” from the serious drought situation in Andalusia, said regional President Juanma Moreno, so that “it will not be necessary to bring in ships loaded with water” this summer. However, he also urged Andalusians to continue to be responsible “in the use and consumption of water.”

Catalonia

The other region at major risk of drought is Catalonia, where large swathes of the region had gone as long as three years without significant rainfall and the authorities have already introduced more extensive water saving measures.

Pere Aragonès, head of the Catalan regional government, recently declared a drought emergency after reservoirs in the northeastern region fell below 16 percent of their capacity, the benchmark set by authorities for the implementation of water-saving measures. Restrictions in Barcelona and 201 other municipalities are currently in place, affecting over 6 million people and almost 80 percent of the Catalan population.

READ ALSO: Barcelona to send letters to 24,000 residents who use too much water

Reservoir capacity levels improved somewhat following the Easter washout, but will likely do little to combat the long-term structural drought problems in the region.

The Easter rain helped, but not to the extent it did in Andalusia. According to data from the Catalan Water Agency, on Monday 1st April the reserves in internal basins were at 16.35 percent of their capacity.

Reservoirs in the Ter-Llobregat system now have a total of 103.59 cubic hectometres, pushing it over the lower threshold outlined in the region’s Special Drought Plan, which sets the state of emergency at 100 hectometres and below. This does not seem like a significant enough improvement for the government to change course on restrictions.

Is the drought over?

It’s true that the Easter downpours in Spain will go some of the way to refilling its dwindling reservoirs and perhaps, in some parts of the country, reduce the need for water restrictions. But this will only be for a short period of time – whether months or years.

Summer will soon be on the way, and if recent summers are anything to go by, they will be scorching hot. So hot, in fact, that they could likely undo some of the welcome relief over Easter with temperatures in the high-40s and likely weeks or months without any rainfall at all.

If anything, the short-term relief of this year’s rainy Easter points to the longer term structural problems that demonstrate the need for water restrictions in some regions. Such strong and sudden downpours (the storms killed four people in northern Spain) are symptoms of climate change and more extreme weather — of all types, whether rain, wildfires or gale force winds — that will likely worsen the drought conditions over time.

That’s why so many local and regional governments have been trying to implement restrictions, or at least get their residents to think about moderating their consumption. Following the Easter downpours, it seems some restrictions could be relaxed in Andalusia, if anywhere, but is less likely in Catalonia. In recent weeks, the government of Tenerife also declared a “hydraulic emergency” on the island amid the threat of extreme and long-lasting drought in the midland areas of Tenerife and a critical risk of water shortages in the coming months and years. 

The fact that the drought situation around Spain now seems to depend on abnormally heavy rain (described as ‘a miracle’ in the Spanish press) speaks volumes about its severity in the medium to long-term.

READ ALSO: Spain on track for warmest first quarter on record despite Easter downpour

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