Weird things about Barcelona – thongs, tattoos and sexy firemen

August 3, 2018

So what’s up?

As we speak, a heat wave is decimating town after town here in Spain, but here in Barcelona it’s the same as always.

Hot. Humid. Sticky.

The weather reports are all about how it’s hot. Yes. Hot.

In summer. Who knew?

Anyway, I’ve been here long enough I’ve gotten over the tourist phase. More than 6 weeks now.

These days, I guess I’m trying to come to some conclusion about life in the north… Am I happy here?

Has my life improved? Is it really much different than it was back in Madrid?

What’s the meaning of existence, anyway?

While I avoid those questions, and more, I thought I’d write about…

Weird things about Barcelona

Keep in mind, I’m just some guy from a really shitty town across the ocean, who’s been living in Madrid his whole adult life.

weird things about barcelona
Just another picture representing loneliness and despair, here on the beach in Barcelona.

Maybe some of these things could have happened anywhere, but they happened to me, here, in Barcelona.

So in no particular order…

  • People have a lot of tattoos. Really awful tattoos, on highly visible parts of their bodies.
  • Some people have geo-coordinates tattooed on them. A friend says they’re the coordinates of the person’s town, somewhere out in Catalonia. Her ex got the same tattoo, so that no matter what, his ashes would end up back in the pueblo. He also had an anarchy sign tattooed close to his junk, but I guess that’s a different story.
  • Other common tattoos: certain dates in large Roman numerals. Also, names. (If a guy has José tattooed on his pecs, does that mean his name is José? Is José his best friend? His boyfriend? If only I knew. The other day I saw a girl with a bad tattoo of some dopey-looking guy who could only be her dad, about 12cm high, on the back of one of her calves.)
  • Being on the beach, I have virtually endless supplies of partial nudity just seconds from my house. If I walk a bit more, I have full nudity on a certain section of the beach. As much as I enjoy seeing people naked (or partially so) I can’t help but feel the whole thing is de-valuing butts for me. Are thongs in just this summer, or always in? Who knows… I’ve never spent so much time at a beach before.

Barcelona lifestyles: Shopping, dining out, and more

I’m just going to continue the same list of bullet points here. It looks better if I break it up, rather than just give you a whole block of text…

  • One of the supermarkets down the street charges a 10 cent surcharge for cold drinks. I’m not sure if the idea is brilliant or awful. “Late-stage capitalism”, or whatever it is the kids are calling it.
  • Nobody seems to actually be charging for plastic bags, but they’re all displaying the signs about the new law restricting single-use plastic.
  • Most of the butchers here suck. I’ve never paid so much for a mediocre steak. The halal butchers seem somewhat promising, but not for steak. Only for cheaper cuts of meat.
  • A lot of guys are always walking up and down the beach selling big beach blankets and mojitos. Turns out they hide their supply in holes in the sand, so occasionally you come across one on the beach, on all fours, digging out his rum and green syrup for the next batch of drinks – or his secret stash of blankets.
  • The other day a couple of waiters tried to refuse my attempt to tip them a euro. Usually, in Madrid, it’s my friends who think I’m demented for tipping anything over 20 cents.
  • I was leaving the house the other day when I noticed a smell of burning plastic and a loud persistent alarm coming from the neighbors’ house. After much internal debate, I called the fire department, and a dozen super hot Catalán-speaking firemen showed up. They climbed in through the neighbor’s window and dealt with whatever it was – a short circuit, I think. The neighbor still hasn’t sent me a thank you note for saving his (her) house from complete destruction.
  • No matter how much Spanish I speak to people, they insist on speaking English back. (Okay, okay, not everyone. But a large percentage of people.)

Anyway, as long as we’re here…

What’s weird about Barcelona for you?

Like I said, I’m new to this whole thing, and I’m having a bit of culture shock myself.

One thing I’ve noticed is that people generally seem to be nicer than in Madrid.

Then again, lots of people swear people in Madrid are nicer, and that Catalans are all assholes. Totally not my experience so far, but what do I know?

Everyone has their own experiences, and as far as I can tell, there’s no United Nations Niceness Index (UNNI) that’s established which world cities are the nicest. Conde Nast has tried, though.

So what do you think? Is Barcelona secretly better than Madrid? Will I end up speaking perfect Catalán and fighting for the independence of their (my) people by this time next year?

Only time will tell. Wish me luck.

Yours, meaninglessly,

Mr Chorizo.

P.S. The one thing that is clear: my twice daily walk has improved quite a bit. In Madrid, I’d walk down Calle Orense to Nuevos Ministerios, then back up La Castellana. Here, my daily walk is all along the beach to the W Hotel, then back. So there’s that. In any case, please tell me about your top 10 weird thing in Barcelona. I’m dying to hear about them.

P.P.S. Update, August 2021: I’m still up here in Barcelona, and I’m enjoying it a bit more. Here’s a list of the best international restaurants, for example. The food is good! Also, a bit expensive…

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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  1. Main difference between the two main Spanish cities for me, which is quite important on the “staying alive” front, is that it’s easy for vegetarians to find a meal in Barcelona. Madrid is obsessed with meat-eating, chicken and beef in particular. Many restaurants don’t even offer a veggie option. In Barcelona they’ve woken up to the economics of potentially having a party of 8 customers walk away because the menu doesn’t cater for the one veggie in the group.

    Madrid is nicer to walk around though. All those canyons between buildings in Barcelona’s Eixample trap the traffic fumes. I always end up stinking whenever I come back to Sitges.

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