Cultural Curiosities, Part 1.

We've been here just over two months, though it seems like far longer, and I've been picking up on some some curious ways that the Spanish do things. Most of these things I encountered before during my time in center city Madrid, and I'm seeing them with a new perspective after two years away and a constant companion that is also observing life here and can reflect on cultural curiosities with me. Some are entirely new things that I've noticed. The following list isn't a list of "bad" things here, but merely things that I find to be curious, interesting, and worth commenting on. If you've been to Spain, maybe you can relate to this list and have experienced tilting your head and asking yourself what on earth is going on. This is Part 1 of an ongoing series.

1. It's time to mop...the sidewalks?  Yes, people mop their sidewalks here. They get out their buckets filled with soapy water, their fluffy yarn-headed mops, and take to the streets. Well, to the sidewalks anyway, because there's a truck that washes the streets. It's primarily store owners who have the self-imposed sidewalk-cleaning duty.

2. Number two.  I don't mean to be crass with this one, but I'm shocked by how many people do not pick up after their dogs. Come on now. I know it's not fun, but it's your dog and you decided to take care of it, so don't make the rest of us suffer when we momentarily take our eyes off of the ground and slip in some brown stuff. Perhaps this is why so many people mop the sidewalks, then. I feel like putting this sign up everywhere, (correctly) translated into Spanish:



3. Slow down, you move too fast...  No one is ever in a rush. 99.9% of the population is content to move at a significantly slower pace than I am used to, and no one is moving out of the way, either. You either adapt and take a deep breath, or you find creative ways to scoot around people. These tactics are especially important when you are approaching a group of abuelas (grandmothers) that is four people wide: it's you vs. them, and you will lose.

4. See?  I never noticed it until another American pointed it out, but I've seen many a Spaniard (tour guides, teachers) exaggeratedly point to her eye when saying something like, "Puedes ver las instrucciones aquí" (You can see the instructions here). And because I've seen the teachers in my classrooms do this, I've begun to mimic it, too. (But the pointing and exaggerated talking is a whole different discussion about teaching second language students that I'll leave for later.)

5. Who's last?  When you walk into a bank or the butcher's shop, or anywhere else where there is a group of people but not a very clear place to form a line (the big grocery store in town has a TV monitor that you line up behind, and it tells you which cashier to go to next, for example), you have to ask, "Quien es la última?" or "Who's last?" The person who is last tells you, and then you know your place, so to speak. You can sit down on a bench or run errands, as one woman did at the bank (she had time because we must have waited a good 25-30 minutes in line!), and you simply have to watch the person who is directly in front of you to know when it's your turn.