Small Differences Between Barcelona and Home

24th July 2013

– At the airport, there are defibrillators on the walls. Is this true at home, and I’ve just never noticed it? 
– Instead of sweeping, a woman drives a golf cart with a giant push broom attached to the front.

– The apartment keys are huge, like old-timey jail keys in a cartoon.
– My pillow case is open at either end, instead of being sewn shut on one side.
– In the shower, I have about four minutes to shave before the water goes icy and goose bumps make it impossible.

– The washing machine is tucked in a corner of the bathroom. It’s about the size of a mini-fridge, but a bit taller and slimmer.
– There’s no dryer, but a line outside on the balcony with a bucket of clips. I can see all of the neighbors’ clothes drying in the sun, and I study each article, trying to ascertain whether it’s indecent to hang my skivvies outdoors.

– There’s a Starbucks near the apartment where sugar seems to be the only element of your drink you can control. You have to ask for milk, and straws, and napkins.
– At casual restaurants some of the sugar packets are huge, which means there are small plastic spoons tucked inside.
– Coffee or tea comes with a little cookie.
– Soda often comes in bottles, and I’m continually surprised that my drink is empty because the bottles and cans are slightly heavier than at home.

– In restaurants, they charge your card at the tableside with handheld scanners. Presumably so the waiter never walks away with your credit information.
– If you don’t ask for it, no one will ever ever ever bring you the check.

As I mentioned, lights in public restrooms are often motion sensitive and rarely stay on long enough.

– Cab drivers know where to find most everything. I never once had someone get lost, or ask for directions to where I was going.
– Food is delivered on scooters, with warming boxes attached to the back that say “DOMINOS.”
– Olives are cured differently. They taste awful to me, almost like vomit, and the first time I taste them I am sure they’ve gone bad. The second and third times too.

– At the antique mall just outside town, there is a huge stall filled with nothing but fur coats, stoles, and other furry particulars. The abundance of animal pelts hanging on racks, pooling over chairs, lumped in baskets, seems improbable, and startles my Californian sensibilities.

– Kids here are welcome, just part of life — they’re everywhere, tearing around on bikes by themselves, having dinner with their families at late hours by our standards. Hank stays up until midnight eating, playing with us in the square, and no one bats an eye. This is perhaps because there are tourists everywhere with their equally jet lagged kids in tow. Regardless, it’s lovely.

If you liked this post, you might also like:
Small Differences between Puerto Rico and Home
Small Differences between Hawaii and Home
Small Differences between Buenos Aires and Home, Part I and Part II

11 thoughts on “Small Differences Between Barcelona and Home

  1. Stephanie

    “If you don’t ask for it, no one will ever ever ever bring you the check.”

    I remember being in a Madrid restaurant for three hours with my friend, drinking wine and feeling like I had all the time in the world. The Spanish sure know how to enjoy a meal. I wish it were the same here. We’re always rushing.

  2. Ceci Bean

    Love the observations! I was in Barcelona at the beginning of May, and was nodding my head in agreement to a few of these, for sure. The check never comes without asking for it! Europeans don’t use dryers! The sugar packets!

    And then some surprises. I never took a cab there, didn’t notice bad olives, and never got a cookie with my coffee!

  3. Catherine

    Yes! I love the observation on the washing machine, especially that you found them in the bathrooms. When I lived in England (I’m from the states) I was surprised that both places I lived had the washing machine in the kitchen. Little cultural differences!

  4. Meg

    Yes to the defibrillators.

    Please take detailed pictures of the washer! I am very curious.

  5. sp

    the other reason they charge your card at the tableside is that european credit cards require a PIN (more secure)

    also, i like europe’s preference for soda in glass bottles – the portions are reasonable. no 40 oz big gulps there!

  6. Frances

    Where do you put your washing machine in the USA? You have to tell your taxi drivers where to go??

    Lots of this has just made me curious about what your home is like.

    Maybe I’ll just have to plan myself a trans-Atlantic trip to surprise my European self.

  7. Olga

    I am a local (from Barcelona).

    It’s true that we don’t use dryers a lot. The weather is nice enough most of the year to dry the clothes outside. I prefer it and I’ve never owned a dryer machine. In fact, I was surprised to find that at the USA you can throw a towel in the dryer to make the clothes smell like “dryed outside” ha ha ha Well, I do just that, I hang them outside!

    I guess your water heather in the bathroom is electric, which means you have only a limited amount of hot water. I prefer the gas ones, no cold water in the middle of your shower.

    I think the lights at public restrooms aren’t mainly motion sensitive, but you have to keep pushing a button because, again, you only have light for a limited amount of time (usually not enough). I guess they use them to avoid clients leaving the lights on all day.


  8. Christy

    The thing that I always tell people about Spain generally and Barcelona specifically is that you can’t get coffee “to go.” There are no lids to be found unless you go to Starbucks. Even at the airport, where the coffee was served in a disposable cup, there were no lids. It’s like they are telling you, “Sit the hell down. Where in the world do you have to go that you can’t sit down and drink a cup of coffee!” I love that.

  9. Ali

    Wait a minute, pegging your laundry on a washing line outside isn’t normal? I thought that was the standard option for drying laundry

  10. Laurel

    I’m a Texan that lives in New Zealand and my husband cannot fathom why we use dryers in Texas. It’s so hot! It’s so dry! Why? Why? It really doesn’t make any sense.

    Get a hot chocolate at Cafe l’opera if you’re still there. It’s life-changing.

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