these spanis

I’ve said before that Spanish people are very social.  That word sounds a little vague but it is the absolute best word to explain EXACTLY how they are!

I’ll try to be more specific in this post.

They walk around just to walk around with someone and see other people.  Maybe they go into a bar and get a coffee or a beer, but they would be just as happy walking around for 1, 2, 3, 4 hours and not actually doing anything!

The kids just hang outside on the weekends and after school.  And so does everyone else!  They’re just always outside, from babies in strollers to old people in wheelchairs!  They can’t stand to stay inside the house where there aren’t lots of people.  They always want to be around as many people as possible.

This occurs everyday, and even more on weekends, as you would expect.  All the time they have (literally ALL the time they have) that isn’t spent working, sleeping, or eating, is spent with friends and extended family.

And now I go to part 2 of my post.

You’ll hear Spanish people talking all the time about “my village, my village,” which, in Spanish, is “mi pueblo.”

So, what is a person’s “village?”

Maybe, just MAYBE they were born there.

Maybe, just MAYBE their parents were born there.

And maybe their grandparents were born there.

Maybe their grandparents still live there.

But as I found out in class today, my student Mario who has been talking about his “bee-yej” the whole year is actually talking about his GIRLFRIEND’S GRANDPARENT’S VILLAGE!  He’s not even related to anyone who was at one point or another from the village!

So that in itself is interesting, that every person has to claim a pueblo as their own, a pueblo that they have probably never lived in, a place in which hardly anyone is an active resident.

Ok, on top of this, people go to their villages regularly on the weekends.  To me, this is very odd because why would anyone go somewhere where there is nothing to do??!  They go there, eat lunch, ride around on bikes, go to OTHER villages that are bigger and have grocery stores and bars, and basically just spend the weekend doing nothing special.  But it’s very important that this nothingness happen in the village instead of in your own town.  They do this just to shake things up a little.

Maybe because Spain is so small and I happen to be in a pretty boring town, people not only go to pueblos on the weekends, they also go to neighboring cities.  Think about the cost of spending half of your weekends out of town….you pay for the gas or transportation to and from the other city, when you’re in the other city you probably drop between 40 and 100 euros (closer to 100 is my guess) on food and drinks, and maybe you stay in the city overnight and pay for lodging.  Let’s say you spend 100 euros total (trust me, this is on the conservative side, seeing how these people spend their money) each weekend you do this!  It adds up!

Yet another reason how Spaniards are so social–that a weekend with friends is worth regularly spending that much money–and don’t forget about how much money they spend on social events during the week!

And now I go to part 3.

This is the part that blows my mind the most.  Keep in mind that I’m not talking about rich people, here.  So they aren’t begging for money on the street, but they aren’t rolling in it either.  Ok, here it goes. AT LEAST 50% of the people I’ve talked to here have a second home somewhere.

When I think about the people I know from the U.S. who have a second home, it’s either their grandparents’ home or they’re really rich…and it’s definitely not 50% of the people I know…AND I’d say that the people I know are probably better off (money-wise) than the people I know here.

So how the HELL can so many Spanish people afford second homes???  When I really ask them about it, they say that it’s more like an investment–buy the house now and sell it at a profit–but I’m more inclined to think that that’s really not what it is at all, but rather that’s just an added bonus.  They treat the second house (or third or fourth in some cases!) as a second home and not as an investment.  They don’t rent it out or have any immediate plans to sell it—if it is anything close to an investment, it’s an investment that really only gets a payout when you die and it’s your kids who receive the benefits of that house you bought decades ago.

The second enigma about this whole thing is that people own second homes in their pueblos (I wouldn’t think the market value is exactly rising in a pueblo), in other random small pueblos near or not near their pueblo, and sometimes IN THE SAME CITY/TOWN WHERE THEY ALREADY LIVE IN THEIR FIRST HOME!  What the hell??

Ok, I do know of some families with houses on the coasts and that makes sense.  It’s a vacation beach house.  Bing bam boom.

It also makes sense to have a second home in your pueblo if you’re always going to the pueblo.  Plus, the house was probably inherited from the grandparents.

But why the hell would you buy a second house in the place where you already live?  Or in a boring-ass pueblo that’s probably no more than 1 hour from where you live?  I just absolutely do not understand it.

If my mother randomly decided to by a second house in Houston and not live in it or use it except to have summer barbecues there (as Mario’s family does) I would say to her, “Why don’t we just have a barbecue in the house WHERE WE LIVE?”

Or if my mom decided to buy a house in San Marcos where she would stay during the summer (as several families do) I would say to her, “Why don’t you just stay in your house in Houston during the summer?”

I just don’t get it!!!

And now for part 4.

It does sound nice to spend every weekend on some type of adventure, but I haven’t been spending my weekends that way.  There are a few reasons for this:

The biggest reason is that I save so much of my money for my massive trips that I stick to a very strict budget when I’m not traveling. Just going to Vitoria, it’s pretty hard not to spend 20 euros in one day.

Another reason is that since Yenni is not only my only friend but also my roommate, I don’t have to make any type of effort to see her and do stuff with her.

Reason 3, I use the weekend as a way to prepare for the week.  I also do the things I’ve been putting off during the week. So for me, taking a trip interferes with my conceptualization of the purpose of the weekend.

Another theory I’m beginning to postulate is that my inner contrarian has come out full force in the midst of so many sociable people and I have pulled into my homebody shell.

All this leads me to conclude that I need something in my life that pushes me to be social.  Whether it’s a friend who’s always calling me to do stuff, or myself having more expendable money, or Ariela the contrarian NOT living in a society of partiers.  Back when I’m in the U.S. and (hopefully/presumably) have friends again, I’m really going to try to do more activities.  Maybe a once a month trip–to a different city, to go rock climbing, kayaking (!)–something.



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4 responses to “these spanis

  1. Sean

    Part three is pretty explainable and, I think, quite interesting if you’re into economics at all.

    Basically Spain has a super high home-ownership rate partially or mostly because of Franco encouraging low-interest-rate long term loans. This was in order to create a nation of (supposedly inherently conservative) owner-occupiers as opposed to more transient renters. The side effect of cheap and easily afforded housing was that getting a second house was relatively easy too.

    So even though there’s been a huge boom and housing affordability is now a huge problem despite the easy credit and mortgage environment, home-ownership is largely still entrenched as the norm, something like 80 or 90% of Spaniards own a home, and obviously a lot own two.

    This ease of house aquisition also resulted in a shortage of housing stock, as everyone keeps buying the houses as investment or second properties or whatever (including foreigners now).

    People don’t sell or move much, but at the same time, because of the rising incomes, and because everyone already had houses to use as investment capital, it’s been (until the property bust) really really easy to make scads of money and a lot of people did so. Throw in the huge demand generated by tourism and you’ve got a full-on speculative bubble.

    Hosuing market had low supply and high demand, leading to the 20-year real estate boom. More and more got built and snapped up, and so forth, until the bubble burst 3 or 4 years ago – I betcha there’s a lot of half-finished stalled construction projects all over Spain right now.

    I don’t think the bubble bursting will impact that directly on owner-occupiers that much… but the wider impacts of the bust are obviously pretty severe.

    • throwinginthetowel

      hmmm ok well that certainly does explain why people here say that they have the desire to own and not rent and it does explain how so many people can afford to have multiple houses.

      Still baffled by owning a second house 10 minutes away from your own, but guess I’ll never get over that one.

      Thanks for the info!

  2. Ruben

    No hace falta que esperes a volver a EEUU, en España también puedes hacer escalada, kayak, dar paseos por el monte, pero tendra que ser “en mi pueblo”

    • throwinginthetowel

      No es lo que decia–

      Decia que veo aqui el monton de actividades que hace la gente los fines de semana y me anima hacer el mismo en mi pais. Hice un cumplido (aunque todavia no entiendo la cuestion de los pueblos).

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