Tag Archive | "Spanish efficiency"


More Spanish efficiency

Posted on 05 April 2011 by American expat!


A while ago, I wrote about how efficient the Spanish blue collar workers are. But now I have an exciting new story to share. Believe me, this one is so much better!

A few weeks ago, because of the way the air flows through this flat, one of the windows literally was blown out by the wind when I accidentally left the bedroom doors open. The wooden doors on the opposite end of the house open out onto a tiny balcony. The nails in the flimsy wood pieces that held the heavy glass part of one of the doors were sucked right out by the wind tunnel that formed, and the glass smashed onto the balcony railing and shattered onto the narrow pedestrian street below. Fortunately no one was on the receiving end of the falling glass shards. But it did grab the attention of the neighbors, who then called the owner and the fire department. (I was in class, so I came home to some serious mayhem.)

The owner of the flat arranged a repair company to come out the same day. Two guys showed up to  measure for new glass. Then they told me it would be ready in one week. Now, knowing how these things typically work, I did not even bother telling them I would not be in the country for the next 9 days. So I put plastic over the window and left.

After my return, it rained. It even hailed one day, sending little ice balls smacking against the plastic taped over the window in my living room. All so very relaxing. And still I had no phone call.

Finally, 12 days after original visit, the company called on a Monday to set an appointment for two days later. It rained the day of the appointment, so evidently that means they don’t work, so no one shows (or calls). Friday a man arrives at my door. He arrives empty handed.  The guy looked at the window, asked where the missing piece of wood was (um, it’s broken? It’s with the rest of the window in the trash?) and left. The purpose of this visit still eludes me.

He is supposed to call the next day to confirm returning either in the morning  or the following day in the afternoon. He doesn’t call.

I wait four more days.

Finally, my landlord calls to ask if I will be home that Friday for the company to come out. I say Yes. I am ready for a window. They show up one hour late, but with wood and glass and silicon. And then they display the level of expertise that is unfortunately what you can normally expect here:  They fumble about and remove nails from the old wood, then put tiny dots of silicon where the nails used to be, and reuse the old wood to hold in the glass. Even I, someone who is nowhere near a carpenter, know that six blobs of silicon on balsa wood is not strong enough to hold in a 15 pound lead glass window that sits at the end of a powerful wind tunnel. Hello. I’m guessing at the very least you should at least cover the wood with silicon? I stare open mouthed and try to wrap my head around how these guys are make it through life.

Hey, I’m not complaining, it could have been worse. For example (and there are so many examples to choose from!) recently a friend caught electrical transformer and subsequently his wall on fire. He had no electricity for over a month and, having all electrical power (no gas for hot water or stove) had to shower and cook at a friends house. The day the workmen arrived (one month later, remember), they arrived an hour late, immediately left for a one hour breakfast break, then left before the work was complete because they had another appointment. I think there were three more visits before all was said and done.

So let’s sum up. It took three weeks and three men to cut a piece of glass and a 2 foot piece of balsa wood and glue gun it all in place. And that wasn’t even an extreme example of inefficiency.

I just hope I don’t have any better stories than to share with you in the future.

PS As hair pullingly frustrating as all this sounds, this level of workmanship, responsiveness and efficiency is far better than the bureaucracy should you decide to legally reside here as an American. But that is another story.

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Open letter to Spain about staying

Posted on 03 March 2009 by American expat!

Hey Spain, can we talk?

We just passed the 5 month mark, and I think we are getting to know each other pretty well, you and me.  I feel like we tolerate each others quirks and can appreciate our good qualities. And I really appreciate the slack you cut me in the airport travel department, for example, the full bottles of water, lighters, screwdrivers and pocket knives that you have let go through security in my carry on. All those things come in very handy and when I only have a carry on, well, there is no where else to put them, so thanks for turning a blind eye every time. Oh, and its nice that no one ever looks at my passport when I enter the country. Though the last time I returned from Italy, no one was even in the booth for non EU citizens, and that meant no line, which was excellent as I wanted to get home quickly.

But listen. I don’t want to push or anything, but I really have to know if this is going anywhere. I mean, I never expected it to get this far when we started out. But I have gotten to know so much about you and, well, the more I get to know you the more I like you. So I have to know if you want me to stay,  because sometimes I get the feeling that you don’t. You know, like the fact that I haven’t had any overhead lights in my flat, and none at all in my bathroom, for almost a week now. I know, I know, not a huge deal in the scheme of things, but OK what about your weather? I mean, it was Spring for two weeks and now what the hell? It was freezing today!

Which brings me to the point that you really need to get moving on helping me find a job, because, frankly, my eye is wandering. Oh yeah, it is. I’m no going to lie. I’ve been talking to Italy, did you know that? And you know how charming and good looking he is.

OK, now I’m not saying I want to stop what we have going on or anything, but seriously, you need to get your act together, because I cant stand this limbo much longer.  There, I said it.  Now come on, let’s hug it out.

PS:  By the way, your little friend Catalunya isn’t helping. That the whole two languages to learn thing?  That’s just bullshit.

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Spanish Efficiency

Posted on 30 January 2009 by American expat!


Today I hoofed it home (18 min walk approx) at 3pm to meet my landlord at 3:20 at my flat. I meet him outside and we haul ourselves up four steep flights of narrow stairs in the 300 year old building. There is painting that needs to be done on a part of the kitchen area (it is a studio remember). I could not care less about the unpainted bit, but he has come in from Germany to see to it that this gets done.

3:25 – We enter flat and have a chat.

3:45 – the workman hasn’t shown up yet. This is totally normal and no mention of it is made. We keep chatting and I offer up seats, as I can see this might take a while.

4pm – Landlord calls the company and is routed to hold music. He puts his phone on speaker. We have just finished a conversation about how the customer service in the US is amazing and how that makes up for the number of hours Americans spend working. He thinks he could never live in the US because we are so focused on work. I have lived in 5 different countries and all of those had shorter workweeks than the US, however in the US I always always enjoyed more leisure time because I never had to waste time waiting around for people to do their jobs. There, Shit. gets. done.

4:15 – A voice comes on the phone and he explains no one has shown up. He is put on back hold. We chat about Obama and Europe’s obsession with him. I eat crackers.

4:30 – A voice comes back on and tells him someone arrived the day before, but went to the flat on the ground floor. He commences to explain that the scheduled time was for today, for the flat on the 3rd floor. Send someone out. He is put on hold again. I eat a pear.

4:40  – A voice comes back on, says no one can come out for two weeks. He explains he is only in town for three days from Germany and to send someone out stat. We chat about how my Spanish is coming and visiting the Basque region.

4:50 – The voice comes back on and a 5 minute conversation ensues. I have stopped paying attention because I just want to go back to work at this point, knowing that even if someone could get sent out this afternoon, I would not be able to be there anyway. Landlord is put on hold again. I comment about customer service in general and good customer service makes ones life easier in general. He mentions it is actually worse in Germany, and I choke on my gum in disbelief. But he has a point, in Germany if they do not have rules to follow, they will not take any action. At least the woman on the phone is trying to figure something out.

5pm – The voice comes back on and he gives them my phone number instead of waiting longer, and says to call me when someone can come and that I, the resident, will confirm whatever meeting time they choose. Which is what should have happend in the first place instead of him coming out and hanging out in my studio apartment while we wait for someone who isnt going to show up. I send instant messages to my boss while trying not to lose temper. Boss laughs at me via instant messenger.

5:05 – We say goodbye and I run back to work. I return to find boss has spilled entire jug of tea on desk, lap and floor. I enter my “office” (which is actually a little conference room) and laugh at him via instant messenger. Revenge is mine.

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