It's not just language that separates cultures; approaches to drinking aren't the same in any two place
Welcome to Julie Sheridan, our new guest blogger. She has been writing her 'guirigirlinbarca' blog since last June having moved to Barcelona from her native Scotland in April. She'll be blogging for us for the next month or so and kicks off with a look at drinking habits here and back home.
I remember once trying to teach a Spanish language swap partner some of the different phrases she might hear in Edinburgh to describe being drunk. It turned out there were a lot more than I’d bargained for, once I got to thinking about it. To be reeking, trollied, blootered, rat-arsed, pished or plastered, to name just a few. In fact, many of them originated from the Scots, rather than the English language, which no doubt did nothing to help the already-ruing-the-day girl from Galicia.
I come from a country that, like it or not, has a reputation for being able to drink any other nationality under the table. Our most famous export is whisky, for crying out loud. And it’s a badge we wear with pride. “Go on then, ya lightweights!” (And that’s just the women.)
Cut to Catalunya, and the pride and prestige in knowing that I’m made of sterner girders begin to look somewhat ridiculous. To be honest, I feel like a lush. Steaming to their abstemious.
Which is strange, when you think about it. I had never associated Catalunya, land of cava and sunshine, with any particular reserve when it comes to drinking habits. Cheap drink is on tap here, after all, whether it’s cut-price bottles of spirits in supermarkets or lashings of rosé cava for three euros a pop in Poble Sec bars.
And yet, Catalans appear to approach the whole thing rather more soberly.
The homeless people I see on the streets here don’t seem drunk—merely homeless. The 20-somethings I’ve visited nightclubs with do the oddest thing once they’re admitted, and head for the dance floor rather than the bar. And when I joined them for an after-work drink on a Friday night, my ordering of a single vodka-and-coke instead of the ubiquitous bottled beer was the talk of the steamie by Monday morning. “Vamos fuerte, eh?” complete strangers winked at me over the photocopier.
I’m finding that this more grown-up way of thinking about drinking is actually quite refreshing. Not being surrounded by friends, peers and colleagues (from all walks of life) who insist that “eating’s cheating” before heading on a night out has created a welcome hiatus in my habits that I doubt I could have replicated in Scotland.
Having said that, I was delighted to discover that recovery rituals at least are the same the world over, watching bleary-eyed colleagues who had obviously gone a bit fuerte themselves the night before devouring a plate of bacon, sausage and eggs. Minus the Irn Bru, of course.
But it was in a pub in Eixample that I saw what for me sums up the entire Catalan approach to booze. “Si bebes para olvidar, paga antes de empezar” advised the sign above the bar. Now that’s what I call canny.