After 2 months in France, we admit that we were culture shocked after coming to Denia, Spain. There is a large population of retired expats here from northern Europe and our first thought was, “Wow, this is where old people come to die!” Not that we have anything against old people, but there just seemed to be a lot of them.
The next thing that was shocking was the food. The Spanish LOVE their meat. We all agree that we would not want to be reincarnated as a Spanish pig. Without a doubt, your cured hindquarters would be proudly displayed from a butcher shop window before too long.
Not only do the Spanish love their meat, but they also love everything packaged. When we were in France we constantly remarked how great it was that the food was not overly packaged. You could touch it, smell it, and do whatever else you might need to do to pick the perfect whatever-it may-be you are shopping for. And of course, it cuts down on waste. In Spain, everything is packaged and usually in large quantities. At the grocery store you cannot buy one onion, you must buy four.
It must be the influence of the northern European or UK expats here, but the vehicles are much bigger than they are in France. They are still generally smaller than in the United States, and I have only seen one Hummer. We rarely saw an SUV in France, but in Spain, there are a lot of them. When fuel is close to $8 USD a gallon, it is surprising to see why anyone would want to drive a gas-guzzling vehicle.
Not to insult the Spanish, but they talk kind of funny! At least compared to our Latin American neighbors. I was a little confused when everyone was telling me “grath-e-us” for thank you and “think-o” for five. To be honest, they talk like they have a lisp and cannot pronounce an S-sound. I was told by a few people about the story of a Spanish king that had a lisp and made it law that everyone was to talk like him. After looking it up, it was just a story and has no facts to back it up. Maybe they just need some good speech therapy!
And what’s with the long siestas? Everything but the bars and a few restaurants close daily from 1pm to around 5pm so that everyone can take a siesta. At first it was really frustrating as we wanted to do stuff and everyone was just hanging around drinking in the middle of the day or lounging on the beach with family. We have learned to not go shopping or visit museums during those times.
When American’s think of siestas, we think about taking naps. While some Spanish may actually spend their siestas doing just that, the people we see are enjoying the company of their friends and family and just enjoying the sunshine and warm weather.
From having a small picnic on the beach with family, to hanging out at a café enjoying a cup of coffee or beer with friends, it’s all about enjoying the good things in life.
Things are much more different than we had imagined and it does take time to adapt to the Spanish way of life. Everything is much more relaxed here and us high-strung Americans have found it challenging to match their pace. After 18 days in Spain we are still adjusting and are finally beginning to see the beauty of their culture and way of life. The longer we are here, the more we find we like it. And perhaps we will consider returning after we are old and retired.
Maybe it would do us all some good if we could just learn to take things a little slower and enjoy the good things in life.