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It's like I'm in another country

So I've noted a lot of differences on this journey, but most of them haven't felt culturally deep, even if they are. Missing water fountains, good trains, legal prostitution and pot, driving on the left, bakeries, clerks who get to sit down... A lot of this is random, or could be changed easily by law, even if getting a legislature to make the change would be really hard. And what feels deep is totally subjective, like the intuitiveness of geometry proofs. And on prostitution and drugs I view the Dutch as too conservative and my fellow Americans as incomprehensible aliens. But everyday life can be like the US, with some quirks and a different language.

In Spain, a difference in lifestyle is harder to avoid. From what I belatedly read, a Spaniard has a light breakfast, then a huge meal at 1 or 2 pm, followed by siesta nap. Further hunger is abated by tapas snacks, because meal 3 will be a medium dinner after 9 pm, with a nightlife easily going past 2 am.

And I've seen it and been part of it. Places were closed in mid-afternoon. The most economical big meal is what initially scared me, the menu del dia (menu of the day) where you get a first and second course, dessert, and coffee from a changing menu for far less than ordering those items off the regular menu. I haven't been out at 8pm yet, but I did go out from 10 to midnight and things were hopping. Lots of restaurants open from 8 to midnight. And non-restaurants, catering to the crowds: souvenirs, hairdresser, jewelry. Strong signal to change one's eating and sleeping habits.

Both del dia meals have come with a roll of bread but no butter or olive oil. Maybe I have to ask?

First courses have been more interesting than second: salad Nicoisse vs. Meatballs and potatoes, seafood paella vs. Steak and fries. Today's place is cheaper, I get dessert or coffee, and the "plantano" I nodded to is just a banana. In its peel, but with knife and fork. That's €11 vs. €17, I guess.
Also I'm in a smoking restaurant. :( Got offered coffee after dessert, but it cost me another €1.30

I've seen full launches of dry ham in the supermarket. Also a museo del jamon, seems to be a chain restaurant devoted to ham, also with haunches hanging from the ceiling. Wiiiilllllbuuuurrrr!

Last night accidentally found the red light district. Half a dozen streetwalkers a block from a police station. And lots of men thrusting strip club fliers at me.

I found an actual laundromat too; nice to know. I'll probably keep shower washing stuff. Unlike in Scotland, wet things here dry quickly! Unfortunately including my nose.

Oh yeah! Faces! Remember when I noted the US had a shortage of French or pure Spanish people? Yeah, one look at the subway passengers and I knew I wasn't in London, Amsterdam, *or* Paris.

Hmm, haven't been up that long, but poor sleep and big meal suggest siesta. Do people prefer rare long posts or more frequent shorter ones? Shall post.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 28th, 2010 02:59 pm (UTC)
I prefer the longer ones. Also glad that you like spain (country of lazy people...).

And: Cultural differences go deeper than observed, even in northern europe.
Oct. 28th, 2010 03:24 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure if getting up at 8 after partying to 2 or later is lazy... word is globalization is depriving Madriders of their siesta, but they're not changing anything else. Whole country of sleep-deprived people?

Alleged cultural differences fascinate me, or the idea of them does; I rarely observe them myself. People talk about different parts of the US differing in politeness, but I mostly notice variation everywhere, not regional differences. Of course, my US experience is mostly 'different large and/or liberal cities". My parents said Americans would shoot dirty looks at parents with small kids, while in Spain manly men would come up and coo over me as I got my diapers changed in cathedrals across the country.

Riffing off the electorate behind legislative differences, Netherlands used to have age of consent of "12 with parental consent, 16 otherwise", and a teen pregnancy/sex ed article said the Dutch were not only open about sex ed, but that parents would let their teen kids have their lovers sleep over, rather boggling to the UK/US mentality; that where Americans assume infatuation that will blow over and should be treated as immature, the Dutch took the emotions seriously. And had an actual average age of first sex a year later than the UK.

Recently I've heard Germans tend to be bluntly honest and don't treat good board games as an exotic nerdly occupation but fun for the whole normal family, which makes me somewhat regret not visiting since a whole country of honest nerds sounds attractive. :)

Of course, having German schools only operate in the morning sounds like a *huuge* difference, and maybe visible if the kids are out in the afternoon. Comment?
Oct. 28th, 2010 08:40 pm (UTC)

I remember those from when I was in Madrid! Pretty weird, yeah?
Oct. 29th, 2010 12:44 am (UTC)
I still haven't figured out how to generate euro signs or accent marks on the usual computer -- though come to think of it, my phone does handle accents, so I was being lazy or didn't notice the need.

Doesn't seem to be an actual museum...
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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