Categorized | Daily Life

Where is the Volume Control Knob?

Posted on 22 July 2015 by American expat!


…because I would like to notch it down, just a tad.

Let me explain.

Shouting is literally (and I don’t use that word as a misuse of the word figuratively. I mean Literally with a capital L) considered a normal speaking volume here. The other day I was in a shop selling specialty products from the south of Spain. This guy was helpful, friendly, charming…and (figuratively) blowing my hair back with the force of his voice. I kept creeping backwards to get out of the path of the powerful sound waves, but of course the personal space norm here differs, so he kept creeping forward.

You witness this everywhere. The guy at the end of the bar shouting into the other guy’s face, he isn’t arguing. He is  having a little tête-à-tête after work with his friend.

That dinner group of 6 that just sat down next to you in the restaurant? Be prepared to start leaning close in to hear your own dinner partners. They will all begin talking at once, in ever increasing voices as the wine flows. Oh yes this happens at lunchtime too, make no mistake.

Get a clutch of little old Catalan ladies together and you’ve got the loudest offenders of all. Fortunately, they usually congregate outside for their get-togethers. Though when that happens to be outside your window, it isn’t so lucky.

You’ll hear your neighbors all the time. You’ll hear your neighbors loudly conversing and their children crying in the stairwells, through the walls and ceilings, floors, from the balconies. You’ll hear their televisions. You’ll hear their parties. Consider yourself lucky if they play their musical instruments well, because you are going to hear those too.

Next is the constant noise of construction–nothing gets done quickly here., Construction goes on forever and ever, frequently waking you with all manner of drilling, jack-hammering, shouting and music blaring at the work site at 8:30am. Bewilderingly, this will then cease at 10:00am as they have their breakfast break, and frequently won’t begin again until the next morning. Jack hammering tends to be the favorite task of mornings.

Then there are the children. Please don’t make me go into the offensively loud children again. Suffice it to say that children here are coddled. Parents raise children, they don’t raise adults. I wish parents (this goes for all of them, from the US as well) would raise their children with the end goal of creating a self sufficient, capable adult and not treating their children as if they will never be anything but children. Maybe that’s the reason people live with their parents until they are 35 here? Food for thought.

Finally there are the 500,000 2 stroke scooters zooming through the streets, the blaring televisions out of every bar, and the rumble of buses, trains, tramvias and metros reverberating through the ground and you have got yourself, without a doubt, the loudest European country,



8 Comments For This Post

  1. Shan Says:

    I’d like to add the loud American tourists that drive me nuts! Yes, I am American but I certainly know when to turn my vocal volume down. Dear fellow patriots… The world doesn’t want to hear all about your personal life when trying to enjoy a meal out.

  2. Southern Colonist Says:

    I wonder if I was alone considering the loudest people in the world the Catalan-speaking grannies, followed by the rest of Catalans. So stuck-up, they believe they are something else wearing brand clothes and salon styled hair. They are loud as hell, and rude as shit. Country bumpkins abroad, the more Catalan speaking, the louder.Their children are even louder. When I meet them, here or abroad, I feel blessed to look like a guiri, to be fluent in English and to don’t be considered from the same country. I cannot bear them.

  3. JustASpanishGuy Says:

    My name alone should leave it clear, but, in any case, I´m Spanish. I´m reading this out of curiosity, just to know what people of other countries think about us. It seems we´re not very well though of. While I agree with all of you about some Spanish people being pretty rude, and it´s a fact that we are VERY loud, that´s it, just SOME people are rude. I think everybody tends to give stereotypes to people from other countries. For example, in Spain we think that Americans are fat. And that´snot true. Not ALL Americans are fat. We speak withut knowing, basing ourselves on what we see on TV. In my opinion, all of us should inform before speaking and avoid stereotypes. (The author of the post is an exception, as he seems to have visited Spain)

  4. American expat! Says:

    Hello Carlos,
    Thanks for your message. Of course, everyone uses stereotypes because they usually refer to the majority of a population, and of course there are ALWAYS exceptions to any stereotype. Yes we should find out for ourselves before we judge (but as an American who happens to be visiting the US at this very moment, I am shocked at how fat we are as a nation in general. I am far from fat, in fact I am quite skinny. But I agree with the fat American stereotype in general.) So I think we shouldn’t take stereotypes personally and should try not to get too defensive when we are talking about stereotypes.
    Just a couple of corrections for you: The author is a female (me) and has lived in Spain for 7.5 years at the time of writing this.

  5. Michael Says:

    SO TRUE about the construction! Here in the center of Valencia they are renovating a whole bunch of buildings right now and the jackhammer or other loud machinery starts on schedule at about 8:30. And then suddenly ceases at 10:00am not to be heard again until the next morning at 8:30. Unfortunately I have an online U.S. business and work late into the night. So being woken up so late really kills me. But that’s Spain for you – the loudest country on earth.

  6. Richard Says:

    Having a house in a very small mountain village I am amazed that visiting Spaniards from the city talk about its tranquility. Even when they are not there durring the winter shouting at each other in general conversation there is noise.
    The locals shout at each other, the fish van the bread vans the fruit van and all the other vans all sound their horns at full volume. The fruit van sounds as if it is warning of world war 3. The dogs bark day and night, the city dwellers have their houses demolished and rebuilt. And in the summer a rock festival that starts at midnight and ends at seven in the morning with huge amplifiers and speakers making the house tremble. Even with double glazing an shutters close and metre thick walls it was still 65 decibels inside. Not a single one of the permenant inhabitants attended the rock festival. So if I need peace and quiet I go to my small flat in the city where there is some enforcement of the law.

  7. Clare Says:

    You had me until the paragraph about children. C’mon… Are you serious? Saying “Maybe that’s the reason people live with their parents until they are 35 here? Food for thought” is INCREDIBLY unfair and disrespectful towards Spaniards. Shows how much you’ve really integrated… It seems you’re oblivious to their economic crisis. A part of immersion is understanding the circumstances of the people you’re living along with, instead of pondering from a priviledged US position and making quick judgements from the irritation of a certain moment in time. Real arrogant of you, sorry to say.

  8. American expat! Says:

    It’s not a quick judgement when you’ve had nine years of observation and the experience of living in 5 other countries for comparison. And the economic circumstances have far less to do with it than you would imply.

    It has everything to do with culture. Even children of the very rich here are not out on their own at 18, or even 21 – ever. Children are not encouraged to work, in fact I’ve seen parents get insulted and angry that a neighbor would offer a baby sitting position to a 19 year old student living at home (“her job is to study!”) People in general are also not encouraged to be creative or work outside of what they may have studied in, so that when they graduate from university with zero work experience and also zero practical experience (universities here are almost exclusively theoretical and not experiential, thus students graduate with no idea how to actually apply their work) so companies do not want to hire new graduates.

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