7 Things that Make Life in the Philippines and Spain Different (Part 1)

Moving to a new country spells a lot of adjustments. As I lived all my life back in the Philippines, my movement to Spain as an English language assistant has been teaching me a lot on how to adapt to the culture and people.

While they say that due to the long history of Spain in the Philippines, the culture of the two may be alike, I have to say there are still a lot of differences. When I started a new chapter of my life in Spain’s capital, Madrid, I realized that with the daily activities I experience in this city, there are those simple things I have to unlearn from the culture I got used to back in my country. I listed some of them, sharing the way I perceive the Spaniards and the people here live their lives, comparing it to the Philippine lifestyle I grew up with. 

Also read: Filipino Phrases Borrowed from Spanish that You May Find Amusing

1. The water from the tap is drinkable

In the Philippines, especially in remote islands, drinking the water from the tap could probably cause you a bad stomach as its cleanliness is questionable. On the other hand, Spain’s tap water is potable. For me, Madrid’s tap water is perhaps one of the tasteless waters I’ve drank. What I like much about it is that I already said goodbye to spending money weekly on buying those blue plastic water jugs for the mineral water.

At my home in Madrid, I simply get a glass and open the kitchen faucet to get water. At the restaurant, I don’t buy water either. In fact, it’s a common tourist trap to order bottled water (which is expensive, eh!), where in fact you can just request for a pitcher of tap water that’s absolutely for free. You can simply ask: “Una jarra de agua por favor” ("A pitcher of water, please") or “Un vaso de agua del grifo por favor” ("A glass of tap water, please").
Potable water in Granada, Spain
In some mountainous provinces, there are even faucets or fountains in the outdoors that have potable water. In fact, the water is very tasty and fresh as it comes from the mountains. When I traveled to Granada during summer, I was able to trek the Albaicin area and stand the insane heat by drinking water from the outdoor faucets. 

2. No baggers at the supermarket

When you reach the counter to check out grocery items in the Philippines, you usually see two people: the cashier and the bagger. In Spain, don’t expect any bagger at all, so you have to do it yourself. During my first few weeks in Madrid, I remember causing a queue for bagging my items very slow. As days went by, I slowly got the hang of it and sort of adapted to the fast-paced movement of the Spaniards (they always seem like in a hurry!). 
Also, it’s strongly advised to bring your own bag for the grocery items. Most of the stores in Spain (not only supermarkets) charge an amount for a plastic bag as a simple environmental movement to avoid use of plastics and to recycle. The cashier often asks “quieres una bolsa?” or sometimes simply saying "bolsa" (plastic bag), which means asking if you want a plastic bag, but remember that it’s not for free but with a fee!

3. Shops are temporarily closed during siesta time and totally closed on Sundays

Spain takes the lunch break seriously, to an extent of closing most business establishments from 2PM-6PM then reopens at nighttime. For some people, they use the break time for an afternoon nap, called a siesta. Unlike in other countries like the Philippines, stores remain open during lunch time as employees take turns to keep the store open all the time. With that, I always make sure to buy the things or process matters I need to do before 2PM, because business establishments close in the afternoon. 
Typical food shop in Spain
Also, expect a ghost town on Sundays in Spain, especially in the suburbs or provinces. It’s very different in the Philippines, for example, where food shops are all open on Sundays from hypermarkets up to the smallest sari-sari store since it’s the culture-driven time people do their groceries. In Spain, small groceries don’t open on Sundays. You can only catch one open if there’s a hypermarket in the area. With that, it’s not always a good idea to do grocery shopping on Sundays. 

4. Toilet paper can go straight to be flushed into the toilet bowl

Spain’s sewage system is amazing both in public and private toilets. The water flush is so strong it could easily flush anything in the way. Also, I have to mention that toilet papers sold in Spain are made up of eco-friendly material. They’re manufactured in a way that they could easily dissolve in the sewage.

With that, it means after wiping away your stuff with toilet paper, you can conveniently throw the used paper into the toilet bowl. This is great especially when there’s no trash bin around or when the bin’s already full. No need to worry the toilet bowl might clog, nor the need to call the Mario Brothers for a plumber, haha!

5. The people aren’t huge fans of an umbrella

Unlike in the Philippines or even in Asia, I noticed that people in Europe don’t use an umbrella much. It’s pretty understandable that men don’t like using it, but even women in Spain don’t use it either. I’m thinking maybe Europeans enjoy the sunlight very much to the extent of not using an umbrella too one when it’s raining.
When there’s a chirimiri (drizzle), I find it strange that people just go on walking or doing their businesses without bothering to open an umbrella or even put on a head cover. This is in contrast to the culture I was used to, where drizzle is thought to cause you the flu more than the rain, thus you have to cover your head quickly to avoid getting sick. Also, as someone who got used to a bipolar weather in the Philippines (where in the morning it’s sunny, then suddenly rains in the afternoon WTF!), I still haven’t lost the habit of carrying an umbrella in my bag and some of my Spanish friends would smile at the thought of me bringing one.

6. Parks and dog culture

The huge Parque del Retiro in Madrid
Given the challenging times of the pandemic where enclosed areas seem at risk as CO-VID19 is said to be airborne, the abundance of spacious parks is something I treasure at the moment while living in Spain. I admire that almost every block in the neighborhood has a small park with benches. In bigger parks, there are more attractions and things to do, such as having basic exercise equipment anyone can use for free. Not like in the Philippines, especially that I lived in the capital, Manila, there’s scarcity of parks, fewer trees, and more pollution, which to me add up to stressful life in the metro.

In parks, I also always see people walking their dogs regardless of the time and weather. I have to say the Spaniards are such dog lovers, and I feel like each household owns at least one or two dogs. In the grocery, there’s always a huge dedicated space or aisle for dog or animal needs, which go to show how pet-friendly Spain is. 

7.  Drinks come first

When you sit down in a restaurant in Spain, the waiter would probably hand you the beverage menu first, then ask “Quieres algo para beber?” (Do you want something to drink?). Contrary to Philippine culture I got used to, the drinks are usually asked and served at the same time as the main dish. In fact, the Filipinos don’t usually drink alcoholic beverages first before eating anything. Unlike in Spain where people love drinking wine and beer so much, they don’t care much if the food hasn’t arrived yet; they drink it right away!
A Spanish guy told me that there alcoholic drinks that trigger hunger (e.g. vermut) that are regularly ordered in Spain, and so maybe that’s why ordering of drinks is asked here first. The drinks can make you feel very hungry that you will have to order a lot later (LOL!). Also, I noticed the Spaniards don’t heavily eat and order food especially if they’re just in a coffee shop or bar. With that, maybe the waiters’ thinking is that the customer would only order drinks. 

Have you lived abroad? What are the adjustments you had to make?

7 Things that Make Life in the Philippines and Spain Different (Part 1) 7 Things that Make Life in the Philippines and Spain Different (Part 1) Reviewed by Shelly Viajera Travel on 15.11.20 Rating: 5

No comments:

I want to hear from you! Please leave your comment! (:

Powered by Blogger.