One of the things that drove me nuts about Spain when we first moved here is how … difficult… everything seems to be. Some examples that still seem baffling to me:
There is no garbage pickup. You take your trash and recycling to these bins strategically stationed every few kilometers in the countryside, and every few blocks in the cities.
The garbage people empty fewer bins, though they’re large. The problem with this is that your car gets stinky while transporting your garbage, and sometimes it leaks. Gross.
Also, you have to, you know, get out of your car, and walk amongst broken glass and cardboard that wouldn’t fit in the paper recycling bin, and dump your stuff manually. Also, there are dogs hanging around those bins. It just doesn’t seem very nice. But no one questions it. It’s how you do it. You drop your garbage off every time you leave the house. No biggie.
I should say that it’s nice not having stinky garbage in your house, on the deck, or in the garage for a week before trash day. That’s one positive. But overall, it seems like an extra step for people to remember, and it seems needlessly difficult.
Shopping. Shopping here is insane. To start with, most things close for siesta, between 2 and 5. So if it’s 3pm and you want to go buy a lipstick, you’re out of luck. Can’t do it. All of the shops are also incredibly segmented.
Like it must have been before the advent of shopping malls and Big Box Stores. You buy your fruit from the fruiteria. You buy your ibuprofen at the farmacia. Seriously, you can’t buy ibuprofen at the grocery store. You want ibuprofen? You go to the farmacia. Separate stop, separate parking, separate getting the kiddo out of the carseat, separate getting the kiddo back in the carseat. For some stupid ibuprofen.
Those are just two of the dozens of things I’ve noticed here in Spain that make daily life a little more difficult. Look, it’s not going to kill anyone that they have to make two separate stops to get some ibuprofen, or that they have to take their garbage themselves. It just seems needless. Why?
Yet the flip side is that the people here are much fitter, they cook their meals more (you can’t really get ready-to-heat-up meals at the grocery stores here), they walk around more, they are more active.
And in the 2 years I’ve spent living here, I’ve become more like that, too. I cook our meals from scratch. I don’t just pull off some film and stick something in the oven. I chop, I mix. I walk from shop to shop. When I’m back home, I stare in wonderment at the ease with which Americans live their lives. Drive-thru ATM’s! Drive-thru pharmacy pickups! CVS shops that are bigger than our grocery store! Being able to buy children’s cold medicine at the same place I buy spinach! Salad bars with washed veggies that you put into containers to take home!
My GOD, the ease with which Americans live their lives! Being able to go to one store and buy clothing, eye drops, an iPad, diapers, and cereal! My GOD. There are entirely separate stores here that just sell electrical appliances. You want a new toaster? You go there.
Life in America is geared towards being easy. Being convenient. Making things easy for the consumer. Removing any obstacles to purchasing. It makes me wonder about the sense of “entitlement” that people say Americans have. We expect things to be easy, and when they’re not, we often give up.
As a result, it’s easy to become lazy. To not want to take the stairs. To expect people to bag your groceries for you.
Neither way is better. But I am starting to come around to see the benefits of not having things so easy. Having to work a bit more. Having to take a few more steps.