… in no particular order.
1. Things with wheels rule, so too pedestrians, at least on walking streets. You often can get there much quicker on foot than by car.
2. Cleaning is paramount here. While just about everything closes on Sundays, the workers who clean the streets and collect garbage seem to work 7 days a week. In fact, I’m pretty sure our street cleaning time is 3:30 AM Monday morning each week. Hmmm.
3. Garbage is carryout style, with separate bins for bio – glass – plastic – paper and then anything else that cannot be recycled. We are still wondering if that fluorescent bulb really did belong in the Bio bin???
4. Brush and bulky, Tucson-style, happens here every week. You just need to find out which night and you put old furniture and other household items out on the street and they are picked up the next morning. Often the items are recycled by someone else who happens to be walking by the pile. Either way it beats hauling them to somewhere else.
5. Dryers are fairly uncommon in Spain. Most clothes drying takes place on balconies …
or on collapsible racks in living rooms, sometimes alongside the bikes.
The dryers I’ve seen have a compartment to extract water (similar to a detergent dispenser in a washer), which you need to empty between loads.
6. Siesta is still observed throughout much of the city. Stores and businesses close around 2 pm and reopen around 5 pm. No guarantees though, when it comes to reopening for the evening. Unfortunately, schools are exempt…
7. Baby powder is a rare commodity. Found only at Carrefour (a French multinational retailer similar to Walmart in US). Why baby powder you ask? It’s great for removing oil-based stains.
8. Specialty stores are the rule here. Lightbulbs – won’t find them in the grocery store. Must visit the ferreteria. Vitamins, you might find them at a “bio” store, (a reference for health food stores), but likely must go to the farmacia. No Whole Foods here, thank you very much. Boutique stores for clothing, shoes, and small businesses galore. Hmmm isn’t that how it’s supposed to be in the US?
9. Children hold an important place in life here in Barcelona. They seem freer than children in the states (based on my observations in the short time I’ve been here). It is common to see a child running down a block ahead of her/his parents or playing freely in one of the plazas – known in Barcelona as a placa.
I have also witnessed on several occasions where a seat opens up on the metro and the parent will give their child the seat and continue to stand, instead of sitting and holding the child in their lap.
Children express themselves more openly in public, very loudly sometimes screaming in joy or anger. It seems “Being seen and not heard” is just not the guiding principle here. I like it.
10. Three very important words:
Vale – OK, understood, yeah… . In fact sometimes, it seems you hear an entire sentence with vale, “Vale…. Vale….. Vale, vale…sí,..vale, sí,…vale……vale, vale……sí…vale, vale.”
Claro – a way to say “yes”, used more often than sí.
Tranquilo – means calm, but seems to be used like many Americans use “no worries”. You know when someone says tranquillo, everything is alright.
And at the end of even the most challenging days, life here is “tranquilo”.
© 2013 by Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds. All rights reserved