Here are a few of the things we have observed living in Spain:
- Jamon (pork) is HUGE here. I had heard it before coming, but you have to absorb it in daily life to understand...it is definitely the primary and favorite source of protein. You can buy a huge pork leg and a special device to hold and slice it at the neighborhood grocery store or even the local roadside gas station/self-service restaurant. There is serrano ham, iberico ham, chorizo and various other forms of sausage. Jamon iberico, especially the "black hooved" pigs who feed on acorns, is supposed to be the pinnacle form. Being a person who doesn't favor pork, I am fortunate that in this coastal region seafood is equally ubiquitous, though I have tried to experience the culture by tasting some of the pork. The best dish I tasted thus far was a bowl of chorizo (not spicy) in red wine sauce. It's hard not to love culture that treasures jamon and wine. Even a package of snack-mix we recently purchased had pig shaped crackers among the "standard" shapes.
- Dogs are extremely popular. I cannot speak to whether this is a countrywide phenomena, or specific to our town/region, but almost every household owns a dog and there is little concern about their barking. Many cats roam as well, but a dog seems to be a must. Maybe this isn't anything cultural, just something I notice because of walking around a lot?
- The siesta schedule remains alive and well. Despite apparent efforts to move to a more universal schedule (and calls from women's groups for more family-friendly work schedules), almost all businesses close for a few hours mid-afternoon. The meal schedule generally remains traditional as well, with bigger, later lunches and dinner being served at around 9 PM. In the tourist areas, restaurants may accommodate preferences for earlier dinners but you will not see many Spaniards in the restaurant before 9-9:30.
- Things move on island time, or in this case peninsula time. No one seems in a hurry, anywhere. Life comes at its pace and trying to change or hurry it is, well... pointless. Moreover it is frustrating and unnecessary. Go with the flow.
- Futbol is THE sport. Players are celebrities and you have to watch (and loudly cheer on) your team. On a recent evening out, we got to watch the big game with the locals in a bar--and by locals, I mean the men. The women all sat on the other side of the establishment playing Bingo.
- A favorite activity is el paseo. In many towns, there are wide walking areas where couples, families and friends gather to take a stroll...on a nice evening or Sunday afternoon, everyone seems to be out.
- People often enjoy a wine or beer...just about any time. You rarely see anyone having a soda with food...perhaps coffee, but more typically a glass of wine. There seems to be more enjoyment of a drink, less getting drunk. And, the wine is super-inexpensive (You can buy a bottle for 3 Euro in the grocery store..and it's not horrible, actually quite good. Or, better yet, find a place with large casks and fill your empty plastic water jug for 2 Euro/liter!).
All in all, a pretty wonderful culture...