Categorized | Daily Life

Summer is underway.

Posted on 16 July 2013 by American expat!

The weather is heating up and the days are long, which means frequent trips to the beach. During the week, you head there after work to cool off and to give in to the gravity that has been pulling at your eyelids every afternoon at your desk. On the weekends, you spend entire days–6 to 8 hours or more–by the sea. You arrive by foot, bicycle, metro, train or scooter (rarely ever does anyone head to beach by car here in Spain) and stake your claim in the sand, as close to the water as possible. If you are lucky, you’ll have a bit of shade from a palm tree. If you are smart, you’ll have brought an umbrella. If you have neither, you’ll require a lot of sunscreen and frequent runs into the sea to cool down.

This is the time of year where the beach offers fantastic people watching, especially in Barcelona. You’ll hear languages from all over the world, and depending on what kind of travel specials are being offered by airlines and hotels, any given week you will hear gaggles of French girls speaking through pursed lips, American accents and laughter ringing out across the sand, or Italians speaking animatedly over one another. Congregations of English and Germans have their regular times too, and while they are immediately recognizable (read: sunburned) they are less audibly observable

The chiringuitos are in full swing, offering shade, views, music and the worst service you will ever experience. Perhaps they do not have enough room in the tiny, temporary kitchens to actually produce more than two dishes at a time, or perhaps they only hire servers based on their ability to speak multiple languages, or perhaps, like all Spanish companies, staff are just expected to figure out a process for how things should be run on their own with no way to work together to get things done. Fortunately, you are in the shade with your friends and music and breeze off the sea make it OK that you will wait forever and your order will always be wrong. Sometimes you will even be told that they are too busy to make food for you, which is why you always bring snacks and drinks in your beach bag.

As always, that amazing cultural, lingual and racial mix that is the Brazilian manifests in a grip of hard bodied expats who occupy the volleyball nets from morning until dark. It is a wonder to observe them, not only because they have invented new ways to play volleyball because normal volley is too easy (a common one is using only feet, heads and chests for example), but also because they maintain their beach dress codes from home, sporting the tiniest swim trunks (not speedos but still tight and lycra) and bikinis as they jump and sweat at the ball. 

It is often that your evening plans go unrealized, as your day at the beach spills over into the evening. The sun moves lower in the sky, and the chiringuitos bring in DJ’s, or sporting events are displayed on flat screen tvs hung off the ceilings as there are no walls. It’s easy to plan to pop in for one drink before leaving the beach and stay until way past sundown, which comes at almost 10pm. Those afternoons you planned only a quick snooze and a swim can easily turn into tapas and drinks until midnight. It is easy to forget time when you don’t have to worry about clothing.  

Soon, the visitors will overrun the beaches, and you too will need to get away from your city, to change your routine and see something different, just as the visitors are doing in your city. But for now, every hot, still morning holds the promise of the salty breeze your afternoon could hold (if you make the time). There is still some peace and space on the beach, still the chance to find your friends walking down the boardwalk. You still wish it was summer all year long. So you step out onto the balcony to collect your towel and swim suit, both baked and stiff from the sun. 



3 Comments For This Post

  1. Len Says:

    Britt, I can’t resist pointing out that this is an insulting stereotype:

    “like all Spanish companies, staff are just expected to figure out a process for how things should be run on their own with no way to work together to get things done”

    It may reflect the companies you worked in and with, but that isn’t all of Spain. I live in Spain, but don’t actually work here. I do, however, work with a lot of Spanish companies and most of them (large and small) do not work that way. I’ve been here long enough (17 years this month) that I no longer consider myself an expat, maybe this changes how I see things. After years of working with many companies in different countries I’ve seen that there are good and bad, organized and disorganized companies everywhere.

  2. American expat! Says:

    Aw, Len!! Don’t be insulted. Americans don’t have any stereotypes of Spaniards (outside of historical ones, if at all) because we don’t know anything about Spain. Half of us (probably more) don’t even know where it is.

    Consider the following occurrences, all within the last 2 months:
    A client of mine I’ve been working with for close to a year, who knows I am sometimes in the states and sometimes in a place called Spain, responded “Oh wow, have fun in Europe, what are you doing there?” when I informed was no longer in the US and was calling from Europe. Meaning, she didn’t know Spain is…yeah.

    Another: A woman I worked with last year contacted me the to see about my availability for a project, and asked me to remind her where I live. I said Europe, and she responded, “Oh yes I remember. Brazil, right?”

    Another: In a peer meeting/interview for a project via Skype, the interviewer asked me (rather haughtily I might add), “So you live in like, Mexico or something?”

    And OMG don’t even get me started on the random people I chat with in department stores and Starbucks.

    Now try to imagine what these (educated, mind you) people would say if you asked them to share their views on how businesses are conducted in Spain. Pretty sure they would be slack-jawed. And while I could actually point to Spain on a map before I came here, in fact had visited along with every other country in Europe (OK, except Portugal), I too, had zero preconceived notions about Spanish businesses and didn’t form any until after working in them and experiencing the (now daily) frustration of trying to explain my profession to Spaniards when asked, because it doesn’t even exist here.

    Now, I gleefully admit that it’s a sweeping generalization on my part. And it may be a stereotype among other expats here- but that isn’t where I got my opinion. And it is understood in the subtext that exceptions of course exist–just as every single one of my friends and family can get the fucking continent correct when given the name of a former world power, I myself can point out several businesses that are run efficiently here. (Frustration not directed at you Len, but at my gaspingly ignorant countrymen.)

  3. ChrisH Says:

    Very nicely written.

    Come on Len, have a sense of humour: of course it’s a stereotype. It’s a great literary comic device.

    Not all the English are sunburned, we don’t all go to the beach after work, fat Brazilians exist, etc.

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