What’s Wrong With You People?!

Some reactions to living in a different culture. I have to start by explaining my title for this newsletter. First, I don’t use “you people” to refer to any group, and I find the term offensive when used to judge any group behavior. Nonetheless, I think it is the best way I can think of to describe that angst that occurs when. I am interacting with people of different cultures and find myself reacting to
cultural differences as if I was still in California. So, with tongue firmly in cheek, here are a few personal examples of cultural differences that can cause a tourist or expat some angst (I love that word).

Here’s an outdoor restaurant we sometimes go to. Notice there are no curbs separating the sidewalk from the street. This is so that the biker, Amber beer truck, and people can use either without bumping over a curb. It first seemed very wrong to have a quiet meal with bikers, pedestrians, cars, and trucks passing within a couple of feet of our table, but wine and time helped us adapt.

For example, if people are chatting, looking into windows, or otherwise blocking the sidewalk, we have to step into the street to avoid them, thereby violating Rule 1 because they are violating Rule 2. And, if they don’t have a concept of personal space or, God forbid, touch us they are violating Rule 3. So how do we react to these rule violations? Some thoughts might be: “Why are these peoples so rude?” or, “They must hate Americans here, I wonder if they are socialists.” There are only two strategies to deal with this problem: Adapt or avoid. I use a combination of both. First, I avoided crowds in the US, so this is my main strategy here. I enjoy taking back streets and avoiding tourist areas. And, over time, I adapt-wine helps.

Time is wrong is Spain; here’s why. Note that the the 0 or Greenwich Meridian in the map on the right passes through the eastern tip of Spain, so the country should be in the 0 or Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) Zone, and it was until 1942 when Francisco Franco changed to the +1 or Central European Time (CET) so he could be on the same time as his buddy Adolph Hitler. WW II ended, but the country is still on the same wrong time. Being in the wrong time zone means that the sun comes up an hour earlier and sets an hour later than it should. So in the mid-summer it doesn’t get dark until almost 23:00.

Finally, our son Matt, who learned Spanish in Puerto Rico as a kid, took this picture. I asked a couple of Spanish guys about the name and they said it had no meaning in Castilian Spanish, but I think it might mean something else in Latin American Spanish.

Ok, enough gripes. They got a lot of things right. Here they are: The Metric system. No more miles, furlongs, stones, bushels or pecks. Also, for those mariners, all soundings are in meters; no more worrying about feet or fathoms. Four countries still use the Imperial system: UK, U.S., Liberia and Myanamar.

Tipping. It’s is voluntary, not expected, and not done unless service is beyond what would be expected. Oddly, I found this very hard to adapt to.

Two-hour. lunches. You almost always have to make a reservation for lunch, but you have the table for at least an hour and a half. You have to ask for the check and wait a while to get it-they don’t want to rush you. Oddly, some tourists complain that the service is slow.

Day/month/year. The U.S. is about the only major country that still uses the month/day/ year system. This was a hard transition for me even though I used the d/m/y system for all those years in the Navy.

Public transportation. The cabs here are abundant and cheap. Buses run about every 10-20 minutes. Trains are frequent and fast.

Don’t need a car. From our apt. we are a 5-min. walk to: 3 food markets, 2 barber/beauty shops, 10+ restaurants, a dentist, 2 pharmacies, 3 hardware stores a stationary store, and a camera store. I miss the solitude, wildlife, great sunsets, and starry nights of the country, but I sure don’t miss driving 2 miles to get to a county road and a half hour drive to get to anywhere.

Paternity leave. Sixteen weeks! Same as maternity leave. I didn’t believe it either. https://www.barcelona-metropolitan.com/living/family/spain-progressive-paid-paternity-leave-leads-europe/