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9 Weird Things My Spanish Apartment Has

Moving from the suburbs of the United States to the middle of nowhere in Spain has been a steady stream of small culture shocks. It took me months to get used to people greeting me with kisses on both cheeks, to remember to bring my own grocery bags to the store, and to learn not to say “estoy caliente” at the discoteca.

From time to time I still find myself gazing at my own house with amazement and wonder.

1. Bidet


My First Thought: “Cool, a mop sink!”

I still do not understand why bidets exist if we already have toilet paper, but every person in Spain must have the answer. Bidets come standard in Spanish apartments and hotels. They even exist in some school bathrooms, unless those were just misplaced urinals.

2. Giant Orange Gas Cans

Gas Cans

My First Thought: “Is that safe?”

In order to power the gas stove and the gas water heater, most homes in my town have gas cans delivered.  Confusingly, the Spanish word for these gas cans (“bombona”) is very similar to the word I learned for marshmellow (“bombón”). This made the entire process even more confusing and less delicious than I had anticipated.

3. Washing Machine in the Kitchen

My First Thought: “What a strange-looking dishwasher.”

Have you ever wanted to make an omelette and wash a load of towels without the inconvenience of taking three steps? I’ve seen some Spanish homes that have a small laundry room, but many homes simply place the washing machine in the kitchen.

4. Doorbell that looks like a light switch

doorbell switch

My First Thought: “Three light switches, just in case.”

Some apartment buildings have small pictures on the switches to help answer the question, “Which one will help me find my keys and which one will piss off my neighbors?” Living in an apartment with unmarked switches has helped me to perfect the Spanish phrase for “Oh shit. Sorry, Mr. Sanchez.”

5. Espresso Maker


My First Thought: “This is not enough coffee.”

I did not realize that espresso was so strong, because I was so used to drinking frappuccinos and gas station coffee back in the US. My kitchen came with an espresso maker and regular-sized coffee mugs, which was a recipe for an energetic first day at school.

6. External Lock


My First Thought: “How do I open this door?”

The door lock here is outside the door and visible, compared to American locks which are usually inside the door. Fortunately, this means always being able to tell whether or not the door is locked when you get home and have to hide from your neighbor whose doorbell you accidentally just rang.

7. Bucket of Lighters in the Kitchen


My First Thought: “Spaniards must smoke in the kitchen.”

The only purpose I’d seen lighters used for in North America were smoking cigarettes and lighting birthday candles. Life is very different here in a house without electric stoves, electric water heaters, and parents that care about me not being set on fire.

8. Dish Draining Closet

draining closet

My First Thought: “Why have I never seen this before?”

I do not know how much of my life I’ve wasted drying dishes, but those days are gone. I do not have to waste any more time drying dishes and can save my energy for more important Spanish things, like napping and not pronouncing the letter “H.”

9. Clothes Line

Clothes Line

My First Thought: “What is this, Bangladesh?”

Americans typically use electric dryers to dry their clothes, while most Spaniards hang their clothes to dry on the roof or the balcony. So no one in this country has to struggle with the eternal question that many Americans face: “What do my neighbor’s boxer shorts look like?”

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22 Responses to 9 Weird Things My Spanish Apartment Has

  1. Anna October 27, 2013 at 10:11 PM #

    In Spain we also have tumble dryers, but they cost a lot of money (about 2€ every load you dry) and they are not environmentally friendy. Unless you have one of those really great jobs, you use the sun to dry your clothes, which is free! :)

    Btw, I don’t know where you live, but I haven’t seen bombonas for a loooong time. I think in Barcelona we have moved on already.

    • Kate Peregrina October 28, 2013 at 11:06 AM #

      Barcelona- no bullfighting and no bombonas. Sounds like my kind of town!

      • Kaley October 29, 2013 at 7:15 PM #

        Yes, must be Barcelona! …. Or not. No bombonas to speak of in Zamora or Madrid, so yeah. No.

        I too remember flipping out about a few of these, especially the washer in the kitchen. I’ve not seen the bucket of lighters, though! My apartments have all been a bit newer.

    • Lala November 14, 2013 at 2:10 AM #

      Not in the republic of Barceloneta.. the guy with the cylinders comes clanking down the streets thrice a day here.

  2. Whitney October 28, 2013 at 12:34 AM #

    WELL SAID!!!! I had lots of the same thoughts my first years!!!!!!! LOVE THIS POST!

    • Kate Peregrina October 28, 2013 at 11:11 AM #

      Thanks! How long does it take before you start using the bidet?

      • Perico el de los Palotes November 4, 2013 at 6:17 PM #

        Nobody uses the bidet :)

  3. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas October 28, 2013 at 9:17 AM #

    Ugh, hanging my laundry out to dry from the fourth (ahem, fifth) story of my building is, for real, the bane of my existence. I am glad to have moved in with my boyfriend where we have a vitro ceramica, an enormous water tank so we can both shower one after another and a dishwasher.

    Oh, and just WAIT for winter and the braseros.

    • Kate Peregrina October 28, 2013 at 1:15 PM #

      Thanks! Are braseros the weird heaters that look like space ships? Can’t wait!

  4. Season October 28, 2013 at 10:04 AM #

    Love number 3! I thought the exact same thing when I first moved to Spain. I was stoked to have a dishwasher and then went searching for the washing machine. When I didn’t discover one, I was really confused. It took me until opening it for the first time to do some dishes that I realized it was not a dishwasher!

    • Kate Peregrina October 28, 2013 at 10:59 AM #

      Good to know I’m not the only one! :) I legitimately thought my first apartment had 2 dishwashers for about a week.

  5. Ag October 28, 2013 at 4:18 PM #

    I <3 bidets. Never in my life have I felt so clean. If I go back to Canada I'm getting one installed.

  6. Liz October 28, 2013 at 8:05 PM #

    OMG this is hilarious! I always used the bidet to store wet umbrellas and I deffo do not miss the bombonas! Great post!

  7. AJ November 4, 2013 at 8:46 PM #

    Next time you get the runs tell me if you’d rather use paper or water plus it’s nice for just washing your feet

    In Spain I grew up calling marshmallows jamón, nube or esponjita…http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malvavisco

    Not many people use Bombonas nowadays…

    The external lock is in case the owner wants to keep you out he can change it from the outside without going in your apartment…never in houses

    Gas is what every professional cook would rather use hence not having electric stove tops

    As far as the clothes line and draining closet it make your clothes smell nicer ususally, clothes which are dried naturally in the breeze outside will suffer far less and it will not set a stain in so easily and dishes are cleaner when dried like that plus with all the sun in Spain it is easier than in most of the US

  8. MAG November 6, 2013 at 4:01 PM #

    Are you aware that washing machines in the kitchen are common all over Europe? Most houses in the UK are the same.

    • Kate Peregrina November 6, 2013 at 7:35 PM #

      Yes, I’ve since seen them in other countries. It was just a surprise to me because I had never seen a house with a washing machine in the kitchen before I moved to Spain.

  9. Eddie November 6, 2013 at 8:03 PM #

    I’m going to share with you a pro-bidet argument that once I heard someone said, and that I have to admit makes sense (a lot of, actually).

    Imagine that, for some reason, you get your arm dirty with excrement. Nasty, right? And… would you be ok with just washing it away with paper? Wouldn’t you want to clean it with loads of water? Of course, you can leave it to the time you take a shower or a bath, but I’m sure you don’t want to hang around with not-so-very-well-cleaned excrement in your arm, right? Well, that’s what bidets are for, but instead of cleaning your arm, they clean down there.

    • Kevin August 17, 2014 at 10:08 PM #


      People used to think I was weird for using wet wipes. I’d say, “If you got poo on your arm, would you just wipe it off with dry toilet paper? Or would you feel better wiping it off with something damp? You say I’m weird, I say I’m more hygienic than you.”

      I’m stoked for bidets.

  10. Non Ignorant Person November 6, 2013 at 11:17 PM #

    Articles like this are why Americans have a bad reputation across the world. Sorry to all the normal Americans who have suffered as a result of the ignorance and stupidity of people like this.

    My God.

    • Kate Peregrina November 6, 2013 at 11:33 PM #

      I’m sorry that you didn’t like this article. If you define ignorance as making jokes about the differences between two things, then I suppose that I am ignorant.

    • Uno Más November 29, 2013 at 12:27 AM #

      I’m spaniard… and I don’t see it offensive.
      I understand the situation. When you go abroad there are many “culture shocks” like those. I think she’s trying to write it in a funny way.
      Anyway, evry thing is true, and every thing has it’s reason. Also the house seems to be middle-low standard and at least 40years since the last renovation.

      Is funny to see owr cotidianity from the extrangers eyes, even when we have to use owr sense of humor ;)

      • pablo September 29, 2014 at 9:20 AM #

        I agree with you, Uno Más, l´m also spaniard and l don´t see it offensive at all.

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