The Shame In Spain

“Es una vergüenza…”, “Así nos va”, “Normal, este país”

Last week, a nurse in Spain became the first person to catch ebola outside of Africa. Scary? Maybe. A cause for extra precaution, for more education? Definitely. Shameful? I don’t know if we should go that far. But during this past week, I’ve heard a lot of reactions from Spaniards—friends, Twitter personalities, politicians, newscasters, etc. Some offered support to a person who was risking her life to save someone else. But a lot of people talked about shame. Shame? Yes, shame.

La vergüenza ajena

I love Spain. I think it’s a pretty cool country—beautiful, with great food, open-minded people (mainly). It has its problems, but it’s overall a nice place to live. I am sometimes shocked by Spaniards’ views on their own country, the way they insult it, as if their problems made it a terrible country. As Spanish National Television put it in a blog post, “We Spaniards feel shame constantly.” As the blog mentions, everyone feels a twinge of shame when your drunk uncle does ridiculous things at a wedding. Of course! But Spaniards seem to feel shame where most of us wouldn’t, to feel shame when they personally haven’t done anything wrong. La vergüenza ajena, feeling shame on the behalf of another person.

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Things I Don’t Understand about Spain, Part 1

I’m starting a new series to talk about some of the stuff I just don’t get about Spain. There are lots of things I do love and get about Spain (see: food, wine, walking, no tipping), but there are others that just cause me to scratch my head.

So, let’s start off the series with one I see almost every day.

Why do Spanish companies charge customers to call them?

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Saying Hello at the Gym

One thing I will never get used to … saying hi to someone as they are naked in the locker  room. Why, oh ye gods of politeness, why? I mean, Spaniards answer the phone with “What?” and “Tell me.” Is that polite? I don’t think it would go over so well in Indiana. So why must I awkwardly greet the sweaty man with BO on the elliptical or the old lady with a bright orange headband huffing and puffing on the treadmill at 2.5 mph? Tell me that. Please.

By the way, have you heard of the nudist gym in Spain? Oh those Spaniards …