Let’s stick with eating and drinking, and look at another reason why Spain is great/the Spanish are great.
There is something wonderful about going out to a bar or restaurant with friends, and ordering a few different plates of ‘raciones‘. Like a larger version of tapas, raciones, as you probably know, are just a big plate of only one thing – jamon, calamares, cheese, gambas (pictured above)…. and the idea is to order a few of these and share them.
Everyone picks a bit from one plate, a bit from another, and keeps eating until there’s no need to order any more as everyone is full and contented.
I’ve known non-Spaniards, including myself at the beginning of my time in Spain, to be perplexed by this, even to feel exceedingly anxious in fact at this whole concept – some people just want to have their own plate of food without anyone else attacking it… that way you know just how much you are getting, and no-one is going to start stealing it from you!
How nice it is when you get over that attitude, and really really start to share, without a single worry about whether the person sitting opposite you is going to have one more croqueta than you, one more bit of finest jamon… I have to confess that even now, the selfish Brit in me still has his eye on that last croqueta, occasionally feeling pained to see it open to the table… It’s something I’m working hard on!
But the sharing doesn’t stop with the actual food, it carries on into that nightmare of nightmares in many cultures… the division of the bill.
Amongst the Spaniards I have met, one of two things will happen.
1) There is an almighty argument about who should have the pleasure of paying the entire amount, to invitar everyone else – this can go on for up to 5 or 10 minutes, getting fairly aggressive, until one party gives way, and either the bill is paid by just one of the party who is delighted to treat the rest, or…:
2) The bill is shared equally amongst those present, no matter what anyone had to eat or drink! There is none of the famous ‘who had the prawns’ careful analysis of every single thing that every single person ate, it’s just “it’s 40 Euros, there’s four of us, so 10 each” – end of story.
Occasionally someone will arrive very late and eat much less, in which case they’ll be either be paid for by everyone else, or will put in a token amount, but the rest will always be split, evenly, without a hint of fuss. It is a quite enormous relief and saves an untold amount of stress.
So here’s to complete, relaxed, contented sharing! Food, bills, wine, good times… just another reason why Spain is so extraordinarily great!