Living abroad can make one realise just how much of daily life and experiences are taken for granted – little things or habits that pass unnoticed as they are too familar to be worthy of note. So for me here in Spain, each day brings new experinces and observations.
For a start, in Andalucia, sponteniety seems to be the name of the game. I have my compact palm diary but I rarely need to plug it into the PC for its once obligatory daily synchronisation. Here, diaries are possibly a professional necessity but certainly not an essential part of life. In England I would normally have most weekends planned well into advance. When chatting with friends we’d agree, "maybe Saturday evening, mid June, I think that’s free". Here, no one seems willing to make a commitment days ahead, let alone months! They rather wait to see how things work out. For an extranjero, this at first seems a little nerve-wracking – looking at an empty diary makes one think one is not going to have anything to do or people to see. Yet in reality I am always busy, doing things and going places, but based on plans made almost there and then – in the moment.
Another thing that I feel I must talk about is "la mesa camilla". This can be found in the living room of many Andalucian homes. So, what is it? The first time I saw this I could not understand what this was! I walked into the living room and saw everyone sitting around a dining table, with the large, heavy table cloth covering their legs. What? Very strange. Not wanting to be odd one out or to betray my ignorance, I lifted the cloth and draped it over my legs – wow the heat that suddenly engulfed me! The table is on fire! Yes, that’s right. The table was on fire! What at first looked like any Andaluz table, dressed
with a heavy, decorated cloth, was in fact a heater too!. Underneath these specially made tables is a fire – in the past,
this would have hot coals in it; now is an electric fire. So, under
the heavy table clothes it’s really warm! You pull up a chair and lift
the table cloth and lay it over your legs like a rug and then chat about life!