|(Source: Javier Corbo)|
Even though intercoms might seem like a fancy feature for American residences, they’re standard on virtually all Spanish ones, from homes to apartments. To one side of the door there’s a little speaker with a button to the side of it that you can push to talk with whoever lives in 4º Dcha. or 1º B. On the other side of the intercom, when you pick up the little phone you can push a button to unlock the door and buzz your friend or mechanic in—all without having to go down the stairs and physically open the door for them. How convenient.
|(Source: Josu Mendicute)|
Windows in Spain, while easy to open, lack screens, so flies, gnats, and other unwanted flying critters can (and do) come in uninvited. In the summer, you’re basically stuck between a rock and a hard place: do you keep the windows closed and suffer in your hot, stuffy, A/C-less bedroom or do you open the windows to let the fresh air in…along with a colony of flies?
Because most floors are flat and cool, it’s taboo to go around barefoot, lest you “catch a cold.” Pop on some cheapo slippers you got for pennies on the, uh, euro at the local chino store and roam worry-free around the house!
HallwaysAnd by “hallways,” I mean “light switches.” In even the newest buildings in America you turn the lights on and off with these little knobs that toggle up and down; in Spain, though (and much of the rest of the world), you have these large angled plates about half the size of the palm of your hand that you press up or down.
Something I will never, ever understand about Spain is how light switches for bathrooms are put outside the room itself. I’ve had the lights turned off on me while doing my business too many times to remember, and I frequently forget to turn the lights off because after I close the door, I can’t see that I left them on!
|(Source: Francisco González)|
Unless your home has a direct gas line, if you’re going to have hot water or use your gas-powered cooking range, you’ll need to have on hand a small army of butane gas tanks called bombonas. These fat, bright-orange cylinders hook up to the system via a tube that hooks on to the valve on top, releasing gas for the hot water heater and/or the stovetop. What happens when they run out? You have to either go to or call the Repsol office and pay for some to be delivered, and then the next day set the empty bombonas outside. When the big rickety truck rolls by, the delivery guy will exchange the empty ones for fresh, full bombonas.
|Spotted: tendedero, spare bombona tank, and broken brasero baseboard|
And don’t forget, in Andalucía they use a brasero, an electric-coil heater (traditionally a bowl of coals) that goes underneath a table with a heavy blanket draped on top of it. In the winter, families or housemates gather around the warm table and put their legs under the blanket that keeps the heat from escaping.
ConstructionIn American neighborhoods, at least, most homes are built with a traditional wood frame around which the insulation, siding, and walls are put up. Because of this, house fires are often particularly destructive and tornadoes easily plow through towns. In Spain it seems pretty standard to construct houses and apartments with a reinforced concrete frame and then build up all the walls with bricks; the outside is covered in plaster and paint and the inside with drywall.
Fun fact: the Spanish word albañil literally means “bricklayer” but because the act of laying bricks is so central to construction here, by metonymy albañil effectively means “construction worker.”
Have you ever experienced culture shock in a Spanish home? Add your stories and observations in the thread below!