Culture Shock

Helping out the street sellers in Spain!

I’m guessing people have been selling stuff on the streets in Spain ever since they invented the peseta. I’m not a massive fan of actually buying stuff from street sellers in Sevilla because necklaces, handbags, and scarves just ain’t my thing.

street seller in spain
Paco Vender, the first street seller in Spain. Photo by dreabjb

Saying that, I was impressed when I read this article on El Pais in English about how Barcelona street vendours are living less in fear from the police. It states that in Barcelona the City Hall seem to be helping the street sellers to gain work visas, give them training, and provide them with grants.

I think it’s great that people in charge in Barcelona are slightly more open-minded than ones down in the South of Spain. It’s good to see the government helping immigrants to make some hard earned cash while they provide a service for the public. I can never imagine that happening down in Andalucía.

I find it quite entertaining to watch the street sellers in action in Seville, especially down the Avenida Constitucíon, Sierpes or around Nervion Plaza. They often set up their products for sale over blankets on the floor, so they can snap them up and leg it when the police are close. They signal to each other by whistling, then wrap up their stock and scarper up the road; normally hiding in shop doorways or round the back-streets.

It might seem sad, but most of the time they are laughing as they play hide and seek. I guess they see it as a type of game, albeit a dangerous one. On a few occasions I’ve actually warned them that the cops are close to help them out. I’ve never seen the sellers get caught though. The police must know they are there, but are probably too lazy to do anything about it, can’t be bothered with all the paperwork involved, or fancy getting a new handbag.

You can also catch some guys selling packets of Kleenex at the traffic lights. It always baffles me how they make any money and how they survive, but I guess they earn more than they do in their own country.

The most famous street seller in Seville has to be Howard Jackson, the guy who sells packets of Kleenex by the traffic lights in front of Plaza de Armas. I used to live by that area and everyday I’d see him in a different outfit, normally of the female type, strutting his stuff, joking about and selling tissues.

A couple of times I also saw him pissed out of his head; dancing about to music and having a laugh. Good on him. The guy has had it hard, after losing his family in a war in Liberia, he battled hard to get to Spain and is now studying law.

I wonder just how many of the street sellers in Spain have a similar story.

What do you think of the street sellers where you live in Spain? Are they more integrated or constantly being hunted by the police? What do you think can be done about it?

Culture Shock, Uncategorized

Are there really more Spanish vegetarians?

I’ve just got back from a barbecue, in February. Fair enough, what started off as a planned barbeque did actually just end up as lunch indoors because of some mean looking clouds, but the meat loving idea was there.

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Slice of Jamón anyone? Photo by Ivana

That thought of meat sizzling on the hot coals as early as February was definitely a first – I normally wait until at least May. It was great getting stuck into some burgers and pork though. I actually tried fresh spinach for the first time, which might have actually been the highlight.

I could never become a vegetarian. I see the benefits and like the idea of it, but I don’t think I could get through a week without some meat sliding onto my plate, especially as I live in Spain, and my wife is a meat lover. So, I was astonished to read today on Think Spain, that nearly 1 in 13 Spaniards are now vegetarians or vegans. According to this article titled Vegetarian revolution, the number of restaurants and food stores catering exclusively for vegetarians and vegans has doubled since 2011.

The question on my meaty lips is how many of those vegetarians are hard core ones who never touch, smell or even look at meat and fish, and how many allow themselves to eat jamón. In the restaurant round the corner from where I work, I swear they had never even heard of the word ‘vegetariano’ until we had a teacher who didn’t like meat about 10 years ago. They actually suggested she eat jamón, I mean, who doesn’t eat jamón? I also know a teacher who considers herself as a vegetarian, but does have the occasionally leg of ham.

I’ve never thought about the impact of being a vegetarian in Spain, but it must be pretty hard work. The only pure vegetarian meal I’ve had out is pisto (a Spanish equivalent of ratatouille), and it’s one of my favourite dishes ever. I eat a lot of veg during the week, pisto, spinach with chickpeas, salad, and whatever else I can stomach, but when the weekend comes it is time for carne.

Eating out in Spanish restaurants is great, we don’t do it so much anymore, but meat is always on our wonky table somewhere. There’s just so many types you can have. When I was in a restaurant in Rota last summer, there was a great big chalk painted drawing of a pig on the wall, and all the parts were labelled with the specific name of the meat. One of my favourites has always been solomillo, and I found out that was the back part of the back. I also like presa, which is the front part of the back.

I can see why more and more Spaniards are becoming vegetarians though – it’s healthier, cheaper, and morally right. I also think it’s about time restaurants are catering more for those non-meat lovers. Compared to back home, I miss the option of having veggies when I go out for a meal. Whether I’ll chose them with so much lovely meat available is another thing.

What about you? Have you had any problems being a vegetarian in Spain? Do you think you are well catered for?

Culture Shock

El enchufe in Spain, is it wrong?

enchufe-in-spain
Enchufe in Spain…it’s who you know…Photo by Daquella Manera

If you’re not familiar with the term, enchufe, then here’s a definition: the influence or recommendation of someone to get a job, or similar benefit, without the qualifications or merit. It other words, getting work or something of use because of who you know, not what you’ve done.

I’ll give you an example. Imagine the Head of a school has 14 brothers and sisters. Now imagine that all of those brothers and sisters were teachers, and just by chance, they all happened to work for same Head because they got them the job, well, that would be a massive enchufe.

After reading an article this week on El Pais English, titled The Dirty Business of nepotism at Seville University, I wasn’t shocked. After checking what nepotism meant in the dictionary (favouritism to family), I read that Maria Luisa Diaz, a cleaning supervisor, gave 22 cleaning jobs to family and friends. This includes close family, in-laws, neighbours, and it’s even been reported that she gets her dog to run errands for her around the premises.

Does it really matter if the boss of a cleaning company has helped out her relatives? I guess not. What’s wrong in helping people you know? After all, she must have trusted them, and what’s more important than trust in the workplace?

The whole enchufe business is ripe in Seville, and I think Andalucía, but I can’t honestly comment about the rest of Spain (maybe you could below). It’s a phrase I learnt early on. I remember a comment from a student in a business class as we were talking about work ethics. Three of the employees were cousins, and their uncle was the boss.

‘I had to work my balls off to get this job. I had to do oposiciones, which took nearly 3 years of study, but these guys got in by a big fat enchufe.” I had to laugh as the cousins shrugged.

I guess really it comes down to who you know, not what you know, but isn’t that the same in any industry around the world? If you get on with people, then they’ll be more likely help you out.

I think the main issue is that there are loads of enchufes in politics, but there’s no surprise there.

If I could get my nephew a job in the future in the school where I work then I would. If I have some writing contacts in the publishing industry and my daughter decides to become a writer, then I’ll help her out, why wouldn’t I?

The problems come into play when other people miss out. Going back to schools. The system to become a primary and secondary school is extremely complicated. Basically you have to get a degree in teaching, then pass exams and fall in the top 10% before you are given a slight chance of a job, and even then it might not be in the same city, or even region. So, if a director of a school sorted out their relatives a job, but they hadn’t done the necessary exams, then I guess that is unfair as they have done over the ‘system.’

Personally, I’ve only ever benefitted from an enchufe once, and it wasn’t related to work. A student’s father is a lawyer, and helped me with some major issues when buying my property. If he hadn’t been around when we were closing the deal, then we could have lost a lot of money. I offered to pay him, but he wouldn’t accept, so I bought him a lovely bottle of red instead. Can that be considered as an enchufe too? If so, then what’s the problem? People help each other, you look after your own, and so I don’t see the problem.

My wife, however, did get a massive enchufe when she got a job working for Iberia. There were loads of brothers and sisters and cousins working there, but we didn’t complain.

Maybe you know of more incidents of the enchufe? Have you suffered because of it? Leave a comment below.

Culture Shock

Top 5 Spanish Christmas songs, with videos…

Not long now till Navidad comes along and wipes us all out with loads of jamón, packets of turron, and powdery mantecados. Are you excited? Can you feel those jingle bells running down your leg?

There’s no way that Spanish Christmas songs are better than British ones. There’s just no comparison with quality, quantity, and romantity. Saying that, there are a few that I’ll sing along too, mainly when we’re putting up our Christmas tree, which we’ll be doing in this puente.

It’s a bit of a tradition here that we get the in-laws round, ply them with wine and anis, and see who can throw the most amount of balls at the tree without it toppling over. Now with my kids running around, I’m sure it won’t be long untill the balls are on the floor, the tinsel is round the dog, and the Star ends up in the washing machine.

So, if you want to get some Spanish festive spirit in your home while you put up the tree, or any time this Christmas, then chuck on these songs and have a happy Navidad. These are in my order of favouriteness, ending on my mostest favouritest.

5. Feliz Navidad

Make sure you don’t missay the año without the ñ…and confuse it for a simple n.

You see what I mean about how English songs are better though, even this Spanish all time greatest hit has English lyrics.

4. Rodolfo the Reindeer

Poor little Rudolf gets the mick taken out of him no matter which country he’s in. Worth having this on, just to scare away the real one.

3. Mira Qué Bonita – Cameron de la Isla

There’s just no escaping flamenco in this country. They can even squeeze it into Christmas somehow. I’m suprised one of the wise men isn’t playing the flamenco guitar in this video.

2. En Navidad, Rosana

Got fond memories of this song. Prancing about with funny Christmas hats and trying to sing along. The only part I can normally get out is the bit about the donkey. That’s why I’ve put the one with lyrics.

  1. Bell on bell action…or Campana sobre campana..

Whoever dares to name their child Belen after hearing this song is just cruel. Whenever it gets near Christmas and I have to ask Belen, whoever she may be that year, a question in class, I normally end up whistling or humming this tune.

So, Feliz Navidad, have a prosperous año, and all that malarky. Next week I’ll no doubt be blabbering on more about Christmas too. Have a good one.

Culture Shock, Great things about Spain

Thank you, Sir Columbus, for this wonderful day off!

“Mummy, Mummy, I don’t wanna go to school today.”

“But you’re the teacher.”

“I know, I know it’s just. Hang on, what day is it?”

“The 12th of October, dear.”

“Hell yeah. Then I don’t have to.”

“Why not?”

“It doesn’t matter, it says it here in my annual calendar.”

“Bloody English teachers.”

day-off-spain
Photo by bravenewtraveler

It’s come round again. That great day know as Fiesta Nacional de España (previously Dia de Hispanidad), the day that we get off after just starting back from the three months summer. The one which this year has unfortunately fallen on a Wednesday. Saying that, waking up on Monday morning was more comforting this week. Knowing I had that little break in the week did wonders for the motivation. One mustn’t grumble if one doesn’t have to go to work. I suppose it could be worse, it could have fallen on a Saturday, like it did a few years back, and then absolutely no one would give a damn about the 12th of October. Continue reading “Thank you, Sir Columbus, for this wonderful day off!”

Annoying things in Spain, Culture Shock

Lateness in Spain? No pasa nada!

The other night I was waiting for a film to come on Antenna 3, one of the more popular Spanish channels. It was about 10.30pm, and the film was due to start at 10.30pm. Now this wasn’t during the Olympics, a long tennis match, or a delay on TV thanks to some stupid political debate between stupid Spanish politicians. It was just your average Sunday night.

late-in-spain
Always late, for a very important date! Photo by Laura2008

“How can the TV be late?” I asked my wife. She looked at me, sighed, and raised her eyebrows, knowing what was going to come. “It’s the TV. Surely, it’s automatic these days. When the clock clicks to 10.30, the film comes on. Or is there still a funny little chubby guy with a fat moustache loading up the reels at Antenna 3. Maybe he’s having a fag break or something, and just forgot he was supposed to be putting the Sunday night film on. Or maybe he is getting paid cash in hand for allowing a couple more adverts on, just to wind up the public.”

“What does it matter?” my wife said. “It will be on in a minute.”

“It’s just not right. It’s three minutes late. Back home people would be starting riots, burning down the TV station, and out in the streets with placards complaining that the television world has gone into crisis.”

“But this is Spain. No pasa nada,” she said, shrugging her shoulders, just as the film came on. Continue reading “Lateness in Spain? No pasa nada!”

Culture Shock

No more heat, no more sweat, no more wasps

My body and mind were up to breaking point about a week ago. A dreadfully long summer is finally over. Not a day in July and August did the scorching heat go below 38 degrees. Every day and night hot heat blew in my face. I had to sleep with a fan on full, sometimes waking at four in the morning in pools of sweat. One day I even had 5 showers, just to keep my brain sane.

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Wasps have gone…almost… Photo by Pasukaru

The mornings were fine. We could normally keep busy doing something or entertain the kids in someway, although the park was often out of bounds by about 11.30am because the slides were hot enough to turn my son’s legs onto little barbecued sausages.

The afternoons were a killer though. Fortunately I’ve been able to battle through the heat after lunch, with the help of a gale force fan in my lounge, and managed to bash through about 5 chapters worth of editing in July and August, so I’m over the moon on that front. Continue reading “No more heat, no more sweat, no more wasps”

Culture Shock

Adios Cockroaches…

I’ve never been that bothered by cockroaches, unlike my wife, whose scream sets our dogs off every time she sees one. They don’t scare me, make me feel sick, or even put me off my cornflakes, but after seeing what I saw this summer, I’ve been marked by the blighters.

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Adios indeedy…great truck for Roberto, legend! Photo by dimitri_66

It all started back in June, when an increasing amount of cockroaches began to creep out each night for a midnight feast. They knew exactly what they were doing. Once we’d prepared the dinner, got the kids to bed, and were in the lounge eating, they would scuttle out into the kitchen looking for scraps of food.

Every night when I went back in for my yogurt, or a top up of wine, I’d catch one, or two, or even five cockroaches playing rounders with bread crumbs. They’d shift round the edge of the kitchen floor, hoping to score a rounder, while the others watched and clapped. My wife kept going on at me, saying we must have had a nest somewhere. At the start I told her they would get bored and go away, but when they started to crawl into the lounge, we called in Roberto. Continue reading “Adios Cockroaches…”

Culture Shock, Great things about Spain, Humour

Is country life all it’s cracked up to be?

life in the country
This is not my house. Photo by Moyan-Brenn

Well, there aren’t pigs trotting about, or cows waking us up in the morning with some noisy mooing, but life out nearer the country is, as we’d hoped, a lot more pleasant. It’s been about three months since we moved out the centre of Sevilla and I miss it less as each day goes by.

If you’re thinking of moving to the outskirts of a city, especially in Spain, then have a look at my latest article for Expat Focus titled You can’t beat a bit of Country Air. I babble on about being close to nature, country air, the lack of noise, and outside space.

For a look at some of my other articles about expat life then look here.

Culture Shock, Expat Focus blogs, Humour

Navidad, Navidad, Crappy Navidad!

Okay, Christmas in Sevilla is not crappy, it’s not as special as it is back in London, but it’s not crappy. It’s just that I’ve adopted my own version of the song ‘Navidad, Navidad, Dulce Navidad.” My wife tuts when I sing it, and fair enough it’s not the most jovial song for Christmas, but it’s become my anthem at this time of year.

Just like my trip home at Xmas. Photo by Puzzler4879
Just like my trip home at Xmas.
Photo by Puzzler4879

I love Christmas: stuffing my face full of goodies, gathering with friends and family, and barging people out the way in the shops. Last year I celebrated Christmas in Seville. It was my first time, and probably won’t be the last time, but I much prefer it at back home. Mainly because I’m with my own family and mates, but also because it’s just a bit more special back in England.

I did enjoy Christmas in Seville, and there are a lot of reasons why it can be special. To read more check out my latest article for Expat Focus titled You Can’t Beat Christmas with your own Kind.  

To have a look at my other articles for Expat Focus have a look at my Columnist Page.

Hope you all have a great Christmas. Be back in the New Year!