Monday, 12 July 2010

Things wot I learnt in Spain

In my first year and a bit in Spain, I've learnt a lot. Admittedly, I've probably forgotten a lot of it, but here's a list of some of the weird/wonderful/bizarre/pointless things I've picked up. Feel free to add to them in the Comments section if, like me, you've been lucky enough to live in Spain for a bit.

1) Guys christened José are frequently called Pepe. It took a while to find out why but I finally discovered that it comes from the fact that José is the Spanish version of Joseph. Joseph was, allegedly, the father of Jesus. "Alleged father" in Spanish is "padre putativo", which begins which 2 Ps. P, in Spanish, is pronounced like "Pay", so put 2 Ps together and you get "Pay-pay" or Pepe!

2) In Spain, you start with 12 points on your driving licence. If you do something wrong, you have points taken away, until you reach zero, and then you're banned.

3) The north coast of Spain has a climate very similar to that in the UK.

4) Pretty much all Spanish (women's) shoes have high heels, even the sandals.

5) In Spain, jamon (ham) in not considered to be meat.

6) The festival of Corpus Christi, despite being a clearly religious celebration, last year in Toledo consisted solely of a military parade lasting about 2 minutes, for which rather a lot of people lined up for a good 3 or 4 hours.

7) Whether they're 2 people or 10 people, the Spanish will somehow find a way to block the entire pavement, making it impossible to get past without risking life and limb by stepping into the road.

8) I can buy Heinz Baked Beans in the local supermarket, but buying a half-decent potato for baking to go with them is much more difficult.

9) Re number 8 - cheddar cheese is purchasable, at vast cost!

10) Carrots are so hard I've broken 2 vegetable knives cutting them, but potatoes are so soft you almost don't need to cook them!

11) Una caña - a standard draft beer, can range in size from a thimble to about 1/3 of a litre, depending on where you order it. And "un doble" doesn't appear to be "double" anything!

12) The sidreria near Sol, off C/del Carmen, makes fantastic sangria, containing six or seven different alcohols, then a tiny splash of lemonade.

13) The famous statue in Sol, which has recently been moved back to its original location, is either a bear and a cherry tree or a bear and a strawberry tree, depending on the source of your information. "El Oso y el Madroño" translates to both online, though Madroño appears to be "arbutus" which should be "strawberry tree".

14) When you fill in your annual tax return in Spain, you can note a tick-box to show that you want a small percentage of your taxes to be donated to either NGOs (unspecified) or to the Catholic Church, or to neither (so it all goes to the government). Every Spaniard I've asked so far has said they choose either NGOs or no-one.

15) The word for Sir is "señor", for Madam it's "señora", for Miss it's "señorita". However, for Master, you might expect "señorito". No. Señorito is apparently a somewhat disparaging old term for a rich man who owned a lot of land.

16) Mosquitoes don't necessarily wait until summer to start munching.

17) "No two without three" - the translation of a Spanish saying, suggesting that if something happens twice, it is likely to happen a third time. It's not quite the same as our "bad things come in threes" because it refers to all events, good or bad.

18) Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente - Spain's equivalent of David Attenborough. Also known as El Hombre de la Tierra (Man of the Earth). He made lots of nature programs in the 1970s but in the early 80s was killed in a helicopter crash while working.

19) A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that I had the brownest forearms of anyone on the Metro! A rare occurrence.

20) Every single day of the year is a Saint's Day, sometimes more than one saint.

21) The 25th of May is Saint Emma's Day!

22) Public holidays can be moved to a more convenient day if the actual day falls on a Sunday, though they don't have to be moved at all. One of my students said they're like the "jokers" in a pack of cards, or the "wild card".

23) Most people I speak to here can't believe that we don't have ID cards in the UK, nor can they understand the opposition to them. They're surprised that we don't have a single document that we're legally obliged to carry round with us to prove our ID in case we're stopped by the police. I guess since the new government scrapped them, it'll be a shorter answer from me when I'm asked about them.

24) It may be expensive electricity-wise, but when I come back, I'm getting a flat with air conditioning!

25) Giving English classes in cafés doesn't really work. I tried it a couple of times but the noise is too much and the students are usually rather self-conscious. While sitting in a café on my own I watched a guy give a class across the room and it clearly wasn't successful. I won't be doing it again.

26) I still can't get used to the Spanish newspapers referring to the queen as "Reina Isabel II". The first time I saw it I thought, "How funny, they got her name wrong", forgetting that all names in the public eye are translated to the Spanish version. Isabel = Elizabeth. Weird. 

27) Metro strikes are a real pain! Legally, the Metro staff are obliged to offer a 50% service even during industrial action, but at the end of last month, they called a 2-day all-out strike. Chaos!

28) Staying up drinking/partying all night, then going for brekkie and heading home about 10am is pretty normal. Not for me. Too damn old for that!

29) South facing balconies are the best!

30) You really can't get halloumi!!!!