Cultural Observation – The bars in small town Spain

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We got to a small town called Elche de la Sierra at about 7:30pm, checked in to a hotel, and went to walk around town at about 8:15. I know that dinner is typically late in Spain, between 9:00 and 11:00, but I didn’t realize that bars are a before dinner stop.

Walking around, we saw a kind of sketchy looking bar with dim lights and a couple men inside. Jackie wasn’t very interested in going in, so we skipped it. Next another bar with low lighting, but livelier, with men only again but from age 15, or so, up to 80. We stopped in for a beer and a bottle if water and got the free tapa, which was some sort of bean dish.

Next another bar with a more open feel and a younger bartender. After a snack it was about 9:15 and time for dinner. We went into a restaurant and played a round of “What would you like? What do you have?” It went something like (but in broken and unbroken Spanish):

Us: Chicken?
Restaurant Owner: Sure. Chicken with potatoes?
Us: With vegetables?
Restaurant Owner: Let me check.
Restaurant Owner: No vegetables. With salad?
Us: Sure. With salad.

What followed was a very tasty, simple grilled chicken breast with a generous salad, and bread with some excellent olive. (The local supermarkets were selling 5 liter bottles of local olive oil for about $15US.) We watched TV out of the corner of our eyes while eating. It was Will Smith and his son promoting a movie on a Spanish talk show in broken Spanish worse than mine. it was a surprisingly entertaining and surprisingly long guest spot, lasting at least 40minutes. With a big bottle of water and a beer dinner was 14 Euros and change. Not bad.

Walking back to the hotel brings us back to my cultural observation. It seems like what men do at the end of the day is have a beer or glass of wine at the bar with the guys. By 9:00 you head home. When we finished dinner and were walking back to the hotel, both of the previously mentioned dimly lit bars had transformed into respectable looking restaurants patronized by families with children and older couples.

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