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.
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
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
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
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
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?”