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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11 Little Things that Make Me Smile, Madrid Edition

It’s the little things, isn’t it? The big things are great, wonderful—but they’re often few and far between. Of course, the fact that they are indeed scarce makes them all the easier to appreciate.

Puerta de Alcalá (HDR)

Photo by Emilio García

But the small things? They’re the type of occurrences that could and do happen every day. We just have to learn to notice them.

  1. All the crosswalks are green when you get to them, even those pesky ones with two distinct lights, meaning you usually have to stop in the middle of the street to wait for the second.
  2. Arriving at the metro station and hop right on the train, both at the first station and your transfer station. Bliss.
  3. There are available seats on the metro. In fact, there are more than enough so you don’t have to squeeze in like a sausage!
  4. Remembering an errand you forgot to do, only to walk right by the store you need, whether it be the supermarket, the hardware store, or the bank.
  5. When there’s no line at the bank.
  6. When the cashiers at the supermarket smile and treat you kindly.
  7. When there’s a long line at the supermarket and they actually open a new line—and you get to go first.
  8. When your Spanish comes out perfectly the first time.
  9. Seeing the weather forecast app predicts sun, sun, sun for the foreseeable future. Not only during the weekend, but the weekend too!
  10. The tapas bar is full, but not too full. If you get what I’m sayin’.
  11. The wine you order is a) delicious and b) costs less than €2 per copa.

What little things make you smile in your city?

Spain, the Internet, and Me—All My Internets Are Belong to … ?

I’m a Millennial. (I scored 34/100 on the Pew Research Center “How Millennial Are You?” Quiz., so maybe not that Millennial.) And despite what you may have heard about us, we’re not all spoiled brats who don’t value hard work. But one thing that almost of all us do value: high-speed Internet. I use it for everything: reading news, social networking, watching television, listening to music, talking to my family/friends in another country, and much more.

We first got the Internet at home when I was in fifth grade (this would be 1998 or so). We had dial-up, and we all shared an email address. Conveniently, that address was It was slow, I’m sure, but I don’t recall the slowness because it was all so new and I didn’t have anything with which to compare it, although I do recall counting to ten while waiting for certain pages to load. Also: lots of chain emails about BSB vs. ’N Sync. In high school, we got DSL. DSL was amazingly fast back then! Of course, I rarely did anything on the computer but use Yahoo!Messenger to chat with my boyfriend. Oh, and do my homework, of course.


Then came college. Internet was fast and cheap (if not free). The whole campus was connected to wifi: inside, outside, even down in the library basement. Ah, the good old days.


Leaving the land of fast, free Internet for my second venture to Spain in 2009

My first encounter with Spanish Internet was while studying abroad in Toledo. My friend had warned me that the Internet at the residence was abysmal, so I went in with low expectations. But these low expectations had to be lowered as well. The Internet worked about 50% of the time, but I never knew when or where to place myself in the building so that it would work. Skype conversations were all but impossible. I counted myself lucky, though, because most students lived with host families who—gasp!—didn’t even have Internet! To my “spoiled” self, not having Internet in 2008 was just weird. I mean, I could understand if you were 70+. But young university students all living together? That was just foreign to me.

Nowadays, in 2012, it seems to me that having Internet and Wi-Fi at home is much more common than it was just four years ago, in 2008. But it’s still way slower than I’m used to. Most people still have DSL. It’s not slow, but it’s not like the cable Internet I was used to in the States.

Another thing I don’t get: we live in Madrid, a large, cosmopolitan city with over three million residents. And only two companies could actually install Internet in our home: Movistar and Orange. No Jazztel, which everyone tells us to is the best offer. Nope, no such luck. I hadn’t heard good things about Orange, and Movistar is basically a monopoly, and who doesn’t love Monopoly? Thus, we chose Movistar. However, we found out that their DSL would only be able to provide us with an Internet speed that’s slow as molasses—and yes, that’s the technical term. So we’re (rather reluctantly) making the upgrade to fibra, fiber-optic Internet, which is indeed fast, but also expensive. But we’ve been waiting on them to come and upgrade for a week, and there have been no calls. Patience, patience …

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the molasses.