Monday, March 3, 2014

The same but different

If Hollywood had been based in Spain then the Friday the 13th series would have been retitled as Tuesday the 13th. It's the Tuesday that's unlucky here. And April Fools? Quite right, December 28th, el Día de los Santos Inocentes.

There are lots of other things that are similar but not the same. Sidney Lumet's film, Twelve Angry Men revolves around Henry Fonda persuading the other eleven that the man they have before them is innocent. He would have had to persuade three less in Spain; only nine people on a Spanish jury.

Cats, famously, have nine lives. Not Spanish moggies though, just seven, which maybe explains why we see so many dead at the side of the road.

Whilst we are on animals they speak Spanish too. You may well think that a cockerel wakes you with cock a doodle doo but if you live near a Spanish farm expect it to say kikirikí or ki-kiri-ki whilst dogs go guau guau, guau and birds go pío pío. Spanish humans also have different ideas about sounds – 5 litres of ice cream down my throat and I would say yum, yum but if I were Spanish I would smack my lips and say ñam, ñam. Lots of the interjection and pause words in everyday speech are also subtly different.

Obviously every culture has different ideas about the age for certain prohibitions. The age of sexual consent though is significantly different between Spain and the UK. It's thirteen here rather than sixteen though there was a proposal in May 2013 to raise that to 16. By the time you read this article it may have changed. Driving licences? Well if we generalise about four wheel cars and say that it's 17 in the UK then it's 18 here.

Comparing the UK to Spain cars obviously drive on the wrong side of the road in one country or the other but historically Spanish trains don't. Apparently it was British engineers who designed and built the first train lines in Spain and it never crossed their minds to have them go the odd continental way. Nowadays both systems operate in Spain. Spanish railway lines have, traditionally, been wider, had a larger gauge, than their UK counterparts too. I also read somewhere, though I haven't been able to confirm this after hours of Googling that Spanish motorway lanes are generally 12cms narrower than their UK counterparts.

Not quite the same but confusing, for me at least, is the layout of Spanish supermarkets. I have an idea that certain things go together – things you spread on bread like jam should be next to the peanut butter and chocolate spread but Spaniards make different associations and the peanut butter is with the sweets. Same for dried products with rice and pasta often in different areas. Obviously it varies from supermarket to supermarket but if you've ever gone round in circles searching for something then it must be the same for you.

When Brits eat in a restaurant the usual idea is that your starter is your starter and your main course is your main course. For Spaniards it's very normal to put a bunch of starters in the middle of the table for all and sundry. Likewise Britons tend to pay for drinks upfront in a bar whilst Spaniards expect to pay when they are about to leave.

None of these differences are earth shattering, none of them are likely to cause sleepless nights and there are lots more but, then again, they do help to make our Spanish experience just a tad more exotic.

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