Annoying things in Spain, Culture Shock

Is Spain the noisiest country on earth?

About two and a half hours ago I threw a jug of water on a woman’s head. What a hooligan you are, I hear some of you cry. You might be right. Maybe I am, but that’s what happens when I get woken up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning by a group of three idiots chatting loudly below my window.

Now that's a great idea. Photo by BarleyFitz
Now that’s a great idea.
Photo by BarleyFitz

“Oi, some people are still trying to bloody sleep,” I shouted.

Perdona,” said the lad, who wasn’t the one talking so loud. But did that stop the woman ranting on about the guy who had just split up with her? (probably deservedly so) No, it didn’t. So I took the matter into my own hands, filled up a jug of cold water from the fridge, opened up the shutters on my balcony, and launched the water in the general direction of the woman.

I was expecting a shouting match, but, funnily enough, she just shut up and walked off. There wasn’t even a slight scream, which gave me a boost of confidence that I’d done the right thing, or maybe I’d missed her. Sometimes you have to put people in their place. Did she not realise how loud she was blurting on? Hopefully she won’t do it again.

It’s not the first time I’ve been disturbed by the noisy ladies of the night. I did about three years ago when we lived in an even rowdier part of Sevilla, just up from Plaza Salvador, on a road which seemed to lead to everyone’s house at 3 a.m. I was just entering REM when two ‘ladies’ woke me up with their cackling. I stumbled over to the balcony in a doze and peered out. One was in the middle of pavement crouched down with her skirt raised up having a wee.

“Oi,” I shouted. “Some people are trying to sleep.”

“What do I care?” she replied, wiggling her bum as she stood up.

“Yeah, shut up you old bastard,” said her mate as they toddled off laughing. I didn’t have a comeback, I was far too shocked. It wasn’t the fact she was having a wee, well maybe it was a bit disturbing, but it was how they just didn’t give a hoot about the people living in the area. That and the fact she’d called me an old bastard.

Maybe karma is catching up with me. I remember doing some crazy stuff on the way home from nights out at the pub. We used to play knock down ginger on the way home a lot, and it was normally my idea. Once I stupidly ran over the top of a car and set off the alarm; absolute idiot, especially as the owner was awake and chased us away. Luckily I managed to hide in a bush and am still around to tell the tale.

It’s probably just as well I was woken up this morning though. Just after my boy woke up for a bottle, which was probably my fault for shouting at the group, the painters started. These are not your average painters who use a normal tin of paint and a quietly stroking brush, but the ones who need an electronic lift to rise up to the fourth floor of the house in front and spray paint the house with a machine which has a deafening engine. I can understand starting work at 8 a.m. during the week, but on a Saturday?

Which leads me on to another point: the crazy hours of the days that the builders start work here. During last summer we were woken up every morning at about seven by ogre type builders scraping up sand with their shovels on the concrete floor. The first thought that came into my head every morning was to throw a bucket of water on the sand, there’s my hooligan side coming out again, but I managed to refrain. I did sneakily drop a dog poop in their pile of sand one morning though. I still wonder whether they found it, or if it’s inside someone’s wall somewhere (If only I had).

If you hadn’t guessed already then this is a rant. After being forced to move out of our old flat because of the noisy workers in the warehouse below and boisterous drunks, I thought we spotted a relatively peaceful flat outside the centre. But it seems that no matter where you are in the centre of Sevilla, the noise gets to you in the end.

I’m actually a deep sleeper, but my wife has been wearing ear plugs for the last six months, not because of my snoring, but due to the racket that starts up every night. I keep telling myself that it’s my fault. Maybe I should have checked out the area more at night before we moved in. It’s fine in the day, you get the noise from the traffic but it’s not off putting. I like to hear some form of life. But at night it kicks off. There are a couple of bars round the corner, which we thought were far away enough so we wouldn’t hear the racket, but one bar doesn’t shut until three in the morning every night, and it’s not helped by the fact that now and then flamenco groups decide to practise there.

Part of me wants to blame the locals. Spanish people are generally noisy. They speak loudly everywhere they go, in the bars, restaurants, in church, and even during quiet processions in Semana Santa. I guess they have a lot to say and like to be heard. It’s funny watching tourists sitting in bars sometimes, it’s like they are mutes and just sit and stare and the noisy locals. It’s not only Spanish people making noise though. There are a load of Erasmus students here too, and the drunk foreigners are probably just as bad.

So what can I do? Absolutely nothing: put up with it and just accept that Sevillanos are noisy. Or maybe move even more out of the centre, but something tells me that the noise will follow. What do you think? Have you had problems with noise in Sevilla? What’s it like in other parts of Spain?

9 thoughts on “Is Spain the noisiest country on earth?”

  1. I have now been living for almost 11 months in Andalucia, and I will tell you that I love mostly everything about it, EXCEPT the NOISE. And it’s not mainly the “people noise” I complain about, but the DOGS. Dude. ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE, you have CONSTANT BARKING and HOWLING. Especially in the countryside, but also in the towns.

    It is so sad, because there’s so much to love about this place. But if you can’t sleep nor work (yes, I’m also pretty sensitive to noise, but not THAT extreme either), then you really have a problem. I often ask myself “Dude, don’t the Spanish THEMSELVES freak out because of their OWN dogs’ noise???”

    1. Indeedy. We’ve just moved out of the city, and the only noise is in fact dogs barking at night, but I can live with that, for the moment anyway. I’m sure Spanish people know that they are noisy, but maybe it’s like the Chinese, who eat loudly when the eat to show their appreciation. Maybe Spaniards have to be noisy to show they are having a good time, or living the life, or something daft like that. Thanks for writing!

  2. Noisiest people alive or in UK, as far as I know
    1. Spanish
    1. Polish
    3. Chinese
    4. Italians
    5. Nigerians
    6. French

  3. Same here in the center of Valencia. There isn’t a moment’s peace ever and the noise pollution never stops. We live in an antique building which has thick walls and double glazed windows – which helps shut out some of the noise. But if you want to air out the place during spring or in fall then sleeping with earplugs is an absolute necessity. Of course during Las Fallas it gets even worse as the entire town turns into a madhouse and marauding drunk Spaniards plus tens of thousands of international tourists are urinating all over the place when they’re not busy throwing petardos (i.e. firecrackers) at each other. The only way to retain your sanity is to skip town until it’s all over and the dust has settled.

    We do see quite a lot of groups of young students visit as we live near La Lonja, which is an UNESCO heritage site and thus a popular destination for school trips. Watching those children and their teachers has been quite eye opening and offers a pretty profound insight in the cultural differences between Southern Europe and us Northerners. In Northern Europe children are being taught starting at young age to be quiet and to not make a ruckus when out in public. Here in Spain I have never ever once see a Spanish teacher control or discipline a single child. On the contrary actually – La Lonja staff uses their own tour guide for children and guess what – he actually encourages them to scream and to follow him through the street yelling slogans. None of the Spaniards ever bats an eye at that – it’s simply part of the culture and you’re expected to be loud. As a matter of fact I have this theory that you may lose your Spanish citizenship if you do not wake someone up at night at least once per month 😉

    I could go on but I think you get the gist of it. Spaniards are loud and they can be pretty annoying. It’s part of the package here and it’s something to either get used to or which to accept suffering silently. Don’t even try to make them understand that stumbling about town at 3:00am screaming and cackling is anti-social or should not be condoned. They just don’t get it. Nobody has ever told them to be quiet since childhood – EVER – it’s an alien concept to them.

    1. Sorry for the ridiculously late reply Michael.

      Yeah I agree with what you say. My son is starting to talk more now and he’s noisier than all the neighbours round here put together, he just doesn’t get it, but then he’s only 2…my daughter is equally as noisy…and she’s only 1…I have a long battle ahead. I guess I’m getting more used to the noise in Spain now, and out where I live it can get too quiet.

      Anyway, thanks for writing.

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