All over Spain I have noticed advertisements proclaiming “¡Vencemos a la crisis!” or “A la crisis, buena cara.” (Mono-linguals please reference freetranslation.com). The economic crisis has hit Spain just as hard, or maybe harder, than the United States– the rate of unemployment here is about twice as high. In an attempt to keep the Spaniards spending, restaurants are promoting specially priced menus, annual sales have been extended long past the post-Christmas season, and banks are advertising their new low rates. People here are cutting back, cutting back from a way of life that was simpler than the life of American abundance to begin with. For example:
I am constantly driven crazy by the light switches in Europe. In public bathrooms, in hallways, and in hotels, the lights are controlled by timers. You push a doorbell-like button, and have 30 seconds or so of illumination. I have to run down six flights of stairs in my building in this amount of time, or be forced to stumble around in the dark for the next step. The showers at my gym provide 30 seconds of water. No one can shower in 30 seconds (can they?) Despite my frustration, Europe is an example of conservation. Lights don’t need to be on in hallways and bathrooms while no one is around. And I suppose I don’t need to take luxurious showers that last longer than my workout. Think of the natural resources (and MONEY) that must be saved by these annoying timers!
Example number 2. Everything is smaller in Spain. From cars to kitchens to the people themselves, “less” is more abundant. The SUV that so epitomizes American life is a rare sight in this country. Mopeds, walking, and the Metro are the more preferred forms of transportation.
Most madrileños live in apartments, where space is valuable. Kitchens and kitchen appliances seem miniscule by American standards. And they also seem older. Those 70s style avocado or mustard-colored appliances that are so passé back home still lurk around Europe. Why? Because they still work. Refrigerators are smaller, and some of my classmates live in apartments without freezers. It is more common to go to the local store daily for fresh food rather than to go to a supermarket and load two weeks of groceries into the back of that SUV. And watch it spoil before it is used.
While I miss having a dryer as part of my laundry routine, the fresh air and clothesline method works perfectly fine. Everyone has free access to fresh air. Except maybe L.A.
Spain is not immune to consumerist culture. And I am not suggesting that everyone immediately dispose of their dishwashers. But I do believe that the economic downturn has provided us with an opportunity, a chance to find a simpler way of life, both to “conquer the crisis” (that is the first ad’s translation, if you haven’t already checked) and to find that bigger isn’t always better, and newer isn’t always necessary.
And now, if you’ll excuse me,
I’m going to watch my 13 inch television that only gets five stations.