Small Curiosities of Everyday Life in Spain

Persianas in Spain

Persianas, the typical Spanish blinds. Source.

They aren’t necessarily good, and they aren’t necessarily bad. They’re just curious.


What are these big metal things outside my window? Storm shutters? No, friends, those are persianas, the typical Spanish metal blinds that double as blackout shades. They’re in almost every home, apartment and building, including my school.

Want to protect your window from wind and weather? Lower the persianas. Want to block out all sunlight as you regret the previous night’s activities/eat chips in your bed? Persianas are your new best friend.

I’m personally not a huge fan of them — they make the room too dark for my taste. However, almost all my neighbors put them down at night. Either they’re afraid of people peeking in, or they really, really hate being woken up by the sun. I would sleep till 12 if I used my persianas, but hey, everyone’s different. And you really can’t beat them for blocking out that notorious Spanish sun and heat, which is going to be very important come June.

Side note: The rattle of persianas being raised in the morning is, oddly, a sound that will always remind me of Spain.

Garbage Cans

Cubos de Basura

The four trash cans in my apartment.

Garbage cans alone aren’t unusual at all. But we have four at my apartment, which qualifies them as curious. We have separate cans for:

  • Glass
  • Plastic, cans and cartons
  • Paper
  • Organic, which is supposed to be for food waste. However, according to Irene, the organic container is where we toss anything that doesn’t fit into the above categories.

I like to recycle, so think this is a great idea. But the whole “organic” thing confused me for awhile. I thought it was only for food waste, so I was at a loss when I had to throw out dirty paper towels or old sponges. Irene eventually explained what was what, so now organic is our catch-all. The only downside is we have to buy special color-coded bags so the portero knows which is which when he collects our trash, but that’s a small price to pay for efficient recycling.

Music Instead of School Bells

I know this doesn’t happen at every school in Spain, but it does at mine, and it’s seriously strange. At my school, they play loud music instead of using school bells. There’s music before recreo, the morning break, and then there’s music after our two-hour lunch break. Then there’s one last song at the end of the day.

You can even hear the music outside. What fun for the barrio!

Songs include:

  • Classic 80s rock before the break
  • “My Immortal” by Evanescence after lunch, which is presumably meant to calm all the children down before they go back to class. (Spoiler: It doesn’t work.)
  • Spanish rock for the end of the day
  • A random Celtic-hard rock hybrid that’s a special treat for Fridays

Supermarket Lockers

Supermercado Taquillas

Typical taquillas, or lockers, which you’ll find in most Spanish supermarkets. Source.

Taquillas o consignas are small lockers that you use when you enter a supermarket with other bags. If the bag you have is big
enough to use to steal something, you should probably put it in a taquilla. At least I always do, but I’m also weirdly paranoid that someone’s going to think I’m stealing.

They even have chain locks that you can use to tie up your carrito, or personal shopping cart. Each taquilla requires a deposit of either 50 cents or 1 euro, but you get your money back once you open the locker again.

Carrito de Compra

A carrito de compra. I want one, but everyone tells me I’ll look like an old lady. Source.

Metro Kids

People in Madrid tend give up their seats on the Metro or bus for children. Now, I can understand this if the child is very small/at risk of falling over because it can’t hold on to the handrails. But my friends and I have seen it happen with children who are 8-11 years old, which is just bizarre. The adults who give up their seats have been on this earth for much longer than the children. I think a kid could probably handle standing for 20 minutes.

We’ve even seen people give children preference over abuelas for a seat. How does that make any sense?

Cara witnessed an argument once thanks to this phenomenon. A woman wouldn’t give her seat up for an 11-year-old girl, so the dad continuously made loud comments, i.e. “I can’t believe she won’t let you sit down, hija that’s so strange!” until another Metro rider told him to be quiet. Metro justice was served that day.

Naming of Events & Memorials

In Spain, nearly every special day, protest, event or memorial gets a special nickname. They use the number of the day plus the first letter of that month. For example, there was a huge protest in March and they promoted it as “22M, Protest for Solidarity.”

Other examples:

  • September 11 becomes 11S
  • Atocha Bombings (March 11, 2004) becomes 11M

Have you noticed any of these in Spain? What do you think is curious about where you live?


2 thoughts on “Small Curiosities of Everyday Life in Spain

  1. These are interesting curiosities! In my high school in Wisconsin, the interestingly played music during passing times in the hallways. It was always a weird mix, but I can’t say that it calmed students down at all. I’m looking forward to experiencing all these other “phenomenons” come September!

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