Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spanish Paradox #12,072

Until I moved to Spain ten years ago, I did not know what a clean home was. I do not mean your run-of-the-mill, vacuumed-and-dishes-washed clean. I am talking your-underwear-are-even-ironed clean. The social institution of marriage for many decades here has meant that in traditional families, males have had a life outside of the home, whereas womens life has been inside the home and often times her only source of pride has been how skillfully her sheets are ironed and that her floor is more immaculate than the Virgin herself. Despite all of the relatively recent changes in the division of labor in Spain (this is the country, after all, whose defense minister is a pregnant woman), we still have a few generations of women who take pride in their impeccable homes and of men who take pride in the fact that their women take care of all that crap for them. I could go off on a HUGE tangent here, but I´ll focus….

My point is, Spanish women keep impeccably clean homes.

This fact stands in stark contrast to the situation one finds upon entering a Spanish public bathroom (to date I have only encountered ladies rooms for obvious reasons…I can only assume the worst of men´s rooms). You would think that when all of the immaculate women come together in a social setting where they must share sewage infrastructure, they would sort of team together to help keep the public bathroom at least tolerable. The main problem I find is summed up nicely here:

Now I admit, there are basic features that a public restroom needs in order to function normally which are usually absent here -- namely, toilet paper, soap, paper towels or working hand dryers, trash cans, and sometimes toilet seats.

But, good Lord. When I walk into a Spanish public restroom the first thing I think is:

“Come on ladies, it does not have to be this way”. For crying out loud, is it really going to come to THIS??

And then I fantasize about the days when I lived in a country where not only were you almost guaranteed to find toilet paper, soap, and a hand dryer, but you were not likely to find a toilet seat covered in piss, and you would likely also find toilet seat covers to keep things nice and sanitary. Are those things really a luxury?

Oh, the things I had taken for granted.


kate said...

I think the seats are unnecessary because no one actually sits down, they just sort of squat over the bowl. Hence, also, the peed-upon seats. Yep, it's gross. I suppose the proper thing to do is either lift the seat first or wipe up after yourself, but if there's no toilet paper, I ain't gonna be touching that nasty thing. And even if there is, ew.

I kind of like that pee thing you linked to, though. I wonder how well it works?

oreneta said...

This does remain a stunning mystery to me as well....perfect houses and utterly disgusting public toilets...*shudder*

I have a fried who lives on a boat who made one of those for herself out of a juice jug...she cut the bottom off at something of an angle...you'd have to experiment a bit here, and takes the cap off, holds the handle in place, and she's off. This is of course safer than squatting with your butt hanging over the rail as you sail along at night.

Is that too much information???

I always prefered a bucket.

Now, that was too much information. Sorry.

Theresa said...

Hey, thanks for coming by my blog. Yes, that certainly is a paradox. The throwing stuff on the floor in bars thing really had me amazed too when I first got here. Love that sign, it should be translated into Spanish and hung in all the public restrooms. :)

Rachel said...

This is a funny post. Carl and I enjoy reading what you have to say about life in Spain.

I started a blog about our family. Check it out. its only got a couple posts, but I uploaded pics of Charlie's party. Anyways its www.cunninghamshenanigans.blogspot.com

Kristy said...

American toilets are so lovely compared to spanish toilets I just wanted to sit down and have my dinner in one. Ha, no not really, but american toilets really are great. What about the ones that flush by themselves when you get up.. and the paper towel dispenser that has a sensor and automatically rolls some out for you. I LOVED that!

I just got back yesterday. Are you coming to cocktails tomorrow night? If yes I will probably see you before I have time to post pics and write a blog.... xxxx

Stacy and Bruno said...

Ugh, this is so true. I always find myself thinking that it would be more sanitary for everyone to just sit on the seat as intended rather than squat and pee all over it! Thank goodness for Kleenex and hand sanitizer.

kate said...

Okay, since you haven't posted in awhile, in case you are lookng for topics to blog about, might I suggest that you do go off on that huge tangent you mentioned? I have a slight obsession with the whole topic of housework (um, not actually doing it-- now that would be a useful obsession!) now that I've come to Spain and am in charge of my own house. I am always curious to hear from other American women (living with Spanish men, especially) on this topic. How does the nearly-impossibly high standards for cleanliness affect you here, if at all? How do you deal with issues such as how much to clean, who should do the cleaning, what happens when you are expecting company, etc etc etc? From what I've seen, it seems to be pretty much a full-time job, and if you aren't around to do it, it's pretty common to pay someone else to do it. Now that we have three kids and live in a house rather than a flat, it has become a much bigger issue, and frankly is pretty overwhelming. I am home during the day and I just do the equivalent of the "vacuumed and dishes washed" which leaves a huge backlog of accumulated stuff that I never would have thought much about before moving here.

Of course I realize that not everyone is as obsessed about this topic as I am, but I thought I'd mention it...

Anonymous said...

It really comes down to what kind of life you want. I think most North Americans were raised to believe that housework shouldn't be a all consuming priority, that there are other, more important things to get involved with.

This of course leads to dust bunnies the size of water buffalos under your furniture.

I now have two Roomba robotic vacuums which roam the house while I'm not home. They've killed all the dust bunnies. I still have to dust the tables and knicknacks though.