Spain is an assault on the senses. The colours, the views, the smells and above all the sounds once sensed never seem to go away. If you are no longer living in Spain then you can be transported back in time to a certain place and event just by seeing, smelling or hearing something that was common in your time in Spain. Living here we get a bit blasé about those little things that remind us that we are in Spain so I thought it was time to mention ten of the sounds that make us realise that we are in Spain, good, bad or indifferent, and also make us realise that we could not really be anywhere else.
A coffee machine in the bar. One of my favourites this because it means I am never far away from the soothing grip of a caffeine rush if needed or the simple pleasure of a decaf when not. Forget Starbucks people there is nothing quite like Spanish coffee and if you want to know more take a look at this guide on how to order your coffee in Spain.
The slot machines in every bar. Can you tell I spend a lot of time in bars? Fruit machines, bandits or whatever you want to call them, these things only have one volume setting and that is 11 on a scale of one to ten, (the special Spinal Tap setting). At least these days not every single one of them plays the bloody Birdie Song when paying out
Gypsies clapping and wailing flamenco. Not everywhere in Spain but in a hell of a lot of places there are wannabe Paco de Lucia’s and Camaron de la Isla’s with their mullet haircuts, overhanging bellies and questionable dress sense making sure you know which country you find yourself in, even at three o clock in the morning in otherwise tranquil neighborhoods, in fact especially at three o clock in the morning. Expect guitars, stamping and wailing that makes a cat fight seem tame and melodic.
Car horns. About half a second after the red light has changed to green and you haven’t moved a cacophony of car horns will greet you, oh actually wait… that’s not always the case now because the reason you generally haven’t moved is that you are checking your smartphone, well guess what? The person behind you is also at it these days so sometimes, just sometimes, they don’t do it either now.
Crickets (Grillos) at nighttime. The essential sound of the summer and nighttime are the crickets at nighttime blaring out their own particular version of Peggy Sue and lamenting the loss of their leader Buddy.
The tertulia. An essentially Spanish thing, the Tertulia involves a minimum of eight people sat around a table designed to comfortably take four, all shouting at and over each other at the same time while discussing the merits, or usually demerits, of some footballer, bullfighter, politician, person living nearby or minor celebrity who has just had a boob job. The Tertulia formula has been replicated onto Spanish TV now and there are certain stations that are basically 24 hour argufests about different subjects with moderators that are chosen for their looks, and usually their cleavage, rather than any control they may exert over the idiots shouting at each other
The sound of water whether it be from the fountain in almost every Spanish square or the waves lapping or crashing against the sand or the rocks on the shore. In a country where it never rains, ok hardly ever rains, the sound of water is appreciated greatly. If at night you can hear the pitter patter of tiny rain feet on your roof you are strangely content and even made to be happy rather than annoyed that is is raining…. again. Water in much of the country has become an art with fountains springing up in the parched hinterland to remind us of man’s control over nature and the fact that water actually sounds quite nice. And those waves from the Mediterranean gently lapping up to our feet on the beach in the evening… Argh bliss!
Crap music blaring out of the windows of cars. The rule of car stereo music is simple, if the windows are open then the music is crap. Usually we hark back to the wailing gypsies or the repetitive techno beat of a boy racer but you will never hear a decent song blaring out of a car as the mullet haired or shaven headed dude behind the wheel drives past with one tanned arm hanging out of the window. “Look at me I have a cool set of wheels and I crave attention“. No you don’t, you have really bad taste, an iffy haircut and your wheels are going to fail the next MOT/IVA test.
The whirr of fans and air conditioning units long into the night making the houses habitable and bringing the inside temperature down from an unbearable 30 degrees to a more manageable 29 so you can sleep. Houses were not generally built with any sort of insulation so they get hot when it’s hot, cold when it’s cold and, as in number ten, heated when there is noise.
The neighbour’s television. As in number 9 the building standards are relatively low and the walls are paper thin. As the majority of the Spanish population live in apartments you therefore have an assault on your hearing oftentimes from many sides. Also, luckily for you, all of your neighbours seem to love the aforementioned channels with the 24 hour argufests so you get to hear Z list celebs shouting at each other about V list celebs from the comfort of your own living room like it or not.
That’s our list, conveniently whittled down to a round ten. What would you add?