Due to its many kilometers of ocean coast and pleasant Mediterranean climate – Spain is commonly referred to as Europe’s holiday destination.
But don’t mistakenly assume that around here people are permanently set to “vacation mode”. No way! Spaniards, just like Americans, have many daily preoccupations.
Certain things people worry about are universal.
“What should we make for lunch? – Does the dog need to go out? – Did you seriously use my toothbrush again?!?!” – These are the common dilemmas that take place in our apartment (I’m sure you experience some of these same problems if you live with a puppy and/or have a roommate who gets distracted easily and grabs and uses the first toothbrush she puts her hand on in the morning… whoopsies….)
Anyways, I have come to conclude that there are some things, however, that are unique to Spain when it comes to “common worries”. Below is a list I’ve compiled describing which Spanish preoccupations are, for me, the most interesting. Read on to learn about certain things people in Spain fret about that we seem oblivious to (for obvious or mysterious reasons) in the US.
What the people worry about – unique to Spain
Oxidation of Vitamins
Sometimes I like to have half of a piece of fruit and wrap up the other half to save for later. I’ve noticed that many times Diego warns me that doing this will cause the fruit to “oxidize” and thus lose some of its vitamins. At first I thought this worry was unique to the Santos family…. but then I heard it repeated by other Spanish people!
For example, we went over the summer to an exposition in Gijón where companies displayed their new products. While we were there, Diego talked to a saleslady about this fancy food processor. I remember asking the woman if the processor could make fruit smoothies. She assured me that yes, it could, and went one to explain a specific recipe I could make. I recall her mentioning, though, that it would be important for me to add lemon juice to the mixture lest the fruit of the smoothie oxidize while I was blending it!
Do people in the US worry about exposing unpeeled fruit to the air? Is it just my family and I who disregard this “rule” and consume half-eaten brown apples from the bottom of the refrigerator without thinking twice about their vitamin and mineral content?? I’m curious to see if this is a cultural thing about fruit – or if it’s just ignorance on my part! 🙂
Buying presents for Epiphany Day
In Spain, the holiday season doesn’t end after the New Year like it does in the United States. January 6th (called Epiphany Day in the English translation) is a nationally recognized holiday here and I would argue that in Spain it’s just as important as Christmas Day.
Spaniards celebrate January 6th as the day when the Three Kings or Three Wise Men visited the baby Jesus. On this day, people of Spain exchange presents like we would on the 25th of December. They even have a similar tradition to our Santa Claus where children believe that the Three Kings come to their houses on Jan. 6th by camels at night and leave presents.
Finally, in many cities in Spain a procession takes place every year on this day featuring three men dressed up as the Three Kings who hand out candy and wave to the children. (I remember the Spanish woman I lived with in Salamanca a few years ago told me that, in her village, every year someone had to paint their face black so that he could accurately portray the King Balthazar who is traditionally of African decent!)
With most families, then, some gifts are exchanged during Christmas Day – and then again on Epiphany Day. That’s a lot of family gatherings and gift buying! On the bright side, if you live in Spain your Christmas holiday always extends until the Monday after Epiphany day. I guess that fact alone makes the “worry” of buying more presents and celebrating more days worth it!
Covering your neck in cold weather
This folks, has intrigued me from the beginning of my experience in Spain. Instead of covering their heads to prevent catching a cold, Spaniards cover their necks! I’ve had heated discussions with Diego and others about this specific topic. The argument is is that we have a lot of glads in our necks which are susceptible to the cold. They should be covered by a scarf or neck warmer in order to prevent getting sick in the winter.
What do you think? I always remember people telling me when I was younger to wear a hat in the winter because the heat from your body escapes from the top of your head. Is that what you learned too? Are you concerned about covering your neck in the winter? I must admit that, since starting to live here, I’ve starting taking care to keep my neck covered!
America things Spanish people never have to worry about
To round out my list, I figured I would include some things that are common in the US to worry about, but are irrelevant here in Spain.
Remembering which day is garbage, recycling, and leaf pick-up day
In Spain if you live in a city in an apartment (like most people do) then you don’t have a yard so you don’t have to worry about yard work or remembering which day they come around to pick up the bags of leaves and grass clippings. (Something I definitely don’t miss from home!)
Likewise, Spanish people don’t have to remember what day is garbage day – since garbage is picked up nightly. On every block the city provides garbage and recycling cubicles . This means you can take your garbage out any time you want! We live in a gated community with a “door man” (don’t get jealous, this is common around here – we by no means live in a fancy place) anyways, one of the duties of said door man is take the garbage to the curb from a community garbage can we all share. Thus, Diego and I don’t have to walk all the way outside with our trash – score!
Being unable to nap during the day due to too much light
This bothered me so much during university. The last year at college I lived in a house rented with a bunch of friends (A Hello Shout-Out to: Gibbs, Hillary, Kaitlyn, Emily, Wiegel, Chrip, Maddie and Alessandra!) and I remember being frequently annoyed that so much light entered into my room making my daily naps quite uncomfortable.
Would you believe that Spanish people almost never have to worry about that? Look at this sweet system they have in place on all their windows.
They have installed these heavy-duty window blinds, made of metal that completely block out all the sunlight when fully extended. Genius! I know we have special curtains you can buy in the US that block out light – but what they have in Spain comes standard with any house (strangely though they don’t have screens on their windows like we do…) I guess I would call Spain not only Europe’s Holiday Destination but also a Nappers Paradise 😉
What are your opinions about what I mentioned above? Do you worry about the vitamins in fruit, covering your neck, or celebrating Epiphany Day??? Are these universal – or purely Spanish preoccupations?