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Conner's Big Adventure 2017

Spain - The People

SPAIN | Thursday, 22 June 2017 | Views [816]

Conner making friends :)

Conner making friends :)

The People We Met

We had plenty of neighbors in Vera, but we only ever met one of our neighbors in our own apartment building (not counting the occasional “Hola” as you pass by in the halls). He was an older gentleman named Carlo who lived in the apartment next to ours, and he spoke not a lick of English. That didn’t stop him from being as neighborly as could be. He would smile and talk to Gregg and I any time we crossed paths, including at the Saturday market. The only problem was that Gregg doesn’t speak Spanish, and my Spanish is rudimentary at best. Gregg would just smile and say he didn’t understand until the man got bored and went back to his apartment. I was able to carry on a little bit of a conversation, but for the most part we just smiled and nodded at each other like a couple of loons. The last week we were in Vera he started bringing us watermelons when we got home in the evenings. We got three watermelons over the course of four days, and on the last night he asked if we wanted another and I explained that we were leaving very early in the morning and wouldn’t be able to eat it before we left. He smiled and went back to his apartment and I went about getting Conner ready for bed. Then when I was in the bedroom putting Conner to sleep he came and gave Gregg a huge bag of oranges! Gregg tried to politely refuse with what I would call questionable success since the end result was a jug of fresh squeezed orange juice for us to drink on the drive to Valencia the next morning.

This generous and funny man was a great example of the type of people living in Vera. Friendly, open, welcoming, and people who love their city and take care of it well. Everything in Vera was clean and well kept. The parks were old, but clean. Garbage cans were abundant and emptied regularly. Shop owners swept or washed down the sidewalks in front of their shops every morning, and in a city that smokes (though not so much as in Zadar) there were surprisingly few cigarette butts left on the ground. Vera was a town full of smiles and welcomes.

Vera was also a town full of English people! Well, I should say the Vera Playa area was full of English people, especially in the town of Turre, but we heard and met quite a few expats who had moved themselves from England to Spain and settled themselves in the Vera region. Absolutely no surprise to me since I could happily see us living there as well, but it was a funny thing to run into. Strangely, both of my Zumba instructors in Spain ended up being English which led to a few lovely mornings of post Zumba coffee and information sharing about Vera, Spain, and England.

One interesting thing about Spain (that we first noticed in Croatia actually) is that when grocery shopping you are expected to bag your own groceries. This was a rather embarrassing lesson the first time we went shopping in Zadar and had no bags with us. There were bags for purchase at the store for about $0.05, conveniently located way back at the beginning of the line of people staring at us…. If I didn’t already have “Tourist” stamped on my forehead I did now. The thing is, in Spain it almost seemed like a bit of a local joke. The first few times we went shopping it was like a race to see how fast they could throw your groceries at you before giving you your total and waiting for you to fumble out your wallet and get your card in the slot while still bagging groceries with your other hand. Then one day I was stuck behind a lady with a huge cart full of groceries. The clerk went at a leisurely pace and helped bag the rest of the groceries when she was done. Then she patiently waited while the woman counted out what seemed like $50 in change. My turn next and it was game on again. Still, somehow it never seemed rude or malicious in any way. The clerks were always polite and would wait as long as it took and not say a word. It was almost like you could feel the joking smile, but not see it. Gregg and I both commented on it, else I might have thought I was imagining it, but a couple of days after my incident with the full cart lady Gregg came back from a quick trip and said “I think they are getting used to me at the store.” I asked what he meant and he said that the lady was tossing groceries at him like he was on Supermarket Sweep (yes, we are now that old) and when she gave him the total and he already had his card out and ready and most of the groceries bagged she gave him a smile and helped bag the rest of the groceries while he worked the credit card machine. Like I said, it never felt rude, just maybe like an inside joke ;-).

I would say that the pace of life here was a bit faster than in Zadar, but still quite slow and enjoyable. People take their time over coffee and stop to chat when passing by friends. Most people seemed to walk around town rather than drive. I saw many more cell phones in Spain than in Croatia or in New Zealand, but the people, and kids, using them weren’t completely absorbed in them. The used them for a bit and then put them down and socialized or watched kids play. One of Gregg's favorite sights was walking home at night past a cafe below our apartment and the couple who owned it would be sitting outside sharing a bottle of wine after closing time.

One of the most interesting things about Spanish living was the split days and late nights. Where we were in Vera and in the surrounding towns everything shut down between about 4-8 and would then reopen for about 2-4 hours. Shops rolled down the doors, restaurants closed the kitchens and only serve coffee, beer/wine, and sometimes tapas. It made for quite a few “damnit!” moments for us, but mostly it was just interesting. Because of this people stayed out much later. It was common to see kids still playing at the parks or eating at restaurants at 10:00pm when I would walk out of my Zumba classes. We were somewhat prepared for this, so Conner’s bedtime was pushed back to 10:00pm in Spain. Living like the locals is what this trip is all about after all! ;)

Something else different about being in Spain has been the relief of not being hassled all the time like I feel is common in the US. What I mean by that is since people in Spain are generally paid fairly in both retail and in restaurants (or so we’ve been told) you aren’t constantly being hassled by people looking for tips or commissions. This in no way means that they are inattentive, quite the contrary actually. Wait staff was always standing by to get us anything we needed, but you won’t see a waiter at your table unless you catch their attention and wave them over, which is much easier than it is in the US, I would say for a couple of reasons. They are not working for tips, so anyone will come and help you regardless of whether you are at “their” table, and also they don’t seem as understaffed here so there are plenty of people to share the work load, thus more people available at any given point in time. Likewise, you can walk into a retail store and see three or four employees who will smile and say hello, but only ask if you need help if you actively attempt to get their attention. While people in Spain seem like skilled and diligent workers, they don’t seem overworked and seem to enjoy a less stressful working atmosphere than you find in the US. All of this being based on my very limited point of view of course :-).

As a whole, Vera was filled with friendly people who were pleasant to engage with and happy to help us learn about their town and their culture. In a word, Vera was quite comfortable.

Tags: people, shopping, vera, vera playa

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