Mañana. Probably the most famous Spanish word in the world. For some it represents the relaxed joyful way of life in Spain and South America. For others the excruciatingly painful experience of insane waiting hours, laziness and incapability of keeping the time of agreed meetings. Mañana usually means “tomorrow” but be careful though, it’s also commonly used as “sometime in the future“. The literal translation though is actually the more specific “tomorrow morning” (suck on that irony for a while).
Avoiding mental breakdown
Mañana symbolizes extremely well some of the cultural challenges for an expat coming to Spain. This so even more if you happen to come from some of the extremely structured or orderly countries/cultures such as Germany or the Nordics. The cultural differences become ridicolus. You will consider going bat shit crazy on the bureaucrat behind the desk after waiting for four hours and being told that you first need to get a stamp on your paper, by some other agency across the city, before accepting it. Once you get to that office you need to wait another four hours before being refused help because they cannot (look up “don’t want to”) speak a few words of English. This is not a case of “might happen”. You will experience this if moving here, just as all other expats. Just try getting the mandatory NIE number. The Spanish bureaucracy is horrifying.
Hint: Please learn some basic Spanish before you move! People will actually help you just because you’re showing them that you are trying, and they might even suddenly start speaking English to help you out.
Why I am pushing this? Because it might actually help you when considering or mentally preparing that move abroad to Spain. I could post pictures of nice beaches, the blue sea, idyllic housing, mountains, and beautiful parks all day. Or tell you about how nice it is sitting on the plaza in the afternoon sun, watching people while sipping on some lovely cold local wine. But you probably already know those things, it’s even likely one of the reasons why you are reading this text to begin with.
Adhere to the wisdoms of the elders
A friend of mine, who has been living on Mallorca for a long time, told me “You will need to accept that this is how things work here (or not work; my comment.) and that you will under no circumstances be able to change those. If you fight against it you won’t like being here and move back.”
Basically, an “adapt or perish” speech. Point is – she was soo right. If you want to survive here, or even better thrive, you need to take a deep breath and accept the cultural challenges for what they are. Adapt! Remember that even our passed friend Albert Einstein once said – “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change”
Joining the community
Do you still want to throw yourself straight into the pits of Spanish culture after that long rant? There is a really nice shortcut into the Spanish community/culture and it might even bring you some new Spanish friends along the way. (please note “Spanish” and not “Mallorquin”, that’s an entirely different league) All you have to do is learn some really basic Spanish and locate the nearest sports bar. Head in full with confidence, throw your arms up, and yell something like “¡Es una mierda, nada como Zlatan!” (He´s shit, nothing like Zlatan). This will keep you in intense, lively and fun discussions with your new learned friends for the rest of the evening. Best Spanish lesson ever as well!
Men in knee-high socks
Yes, we are talking about football (yes, its called football. Not soccer). There is nothing that engages the Spanish men, and quite a few women, as much as football. Everyone has an opinion!
As a typical engineer, I do not only not fancy magic rocks and new age humming, but also looking at sports. But for the sake of it, I am trying. Do look interested, even nod a little, when someone tells you about last seasons stats of something you don’t even understand. If you already is a football fan, good for you, almost a half-Spaniard already! For the rest of us – learn the game, last season highlights, a few local player´s names and then you are good to go. Just make some things up, “Baba was a little slow in last game, right?” We might even learn to really appreciate the game! And if not, it’s hard to not appreciate the festival spirit around the game.
El equipo numero uno
On Mallorca, there are many teams but you only really need to know one. Real Mallorca. This year they actually made it back to the first division in Spain. (You see, I have been practicing!) To get a season card access to the games you probably have to murder some president in a third world country. It’s not impossible to get single tickets though and I can highly recommend it! When important games are coming up you start seeing the red team shirts all over town. Just silently tail them to the nearest bar and enjoy the wonderful pre-game festival feeling. (You might even see supporters of both teams having drinks together, no hooligan culture here!)
Want to go all-in? Buy your own game shirt on Jaume II in the official RCD Mallorca store or on the black market if your frugality is kicking your ass.
I went to see RCD mallorca vs Real Sociedad (from San Sebastian), it was a blast even though we lost. Yes, its mandatory to become one with the team! A 30€ investment, well worth it.
Got some nasty or wonderful expat experiences from Spain?
Post picture – The Nit de Foc festival. Fire spewing devils everywhere, hard to not love!