26 Things Spain Does Better Than The United States

26 Things Spain Does Better Than The United States

Besides, like, just being Spain.
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As you may have guessed from other articles, I went to Spain with a group of people from my school this summer and lived there for two and a half weeks, staying for a weekend each in Barcelona and Cadiz but living the rest of the time with a host abuela in Seville. While we were there, living like locals, we noticed many differences between Spain and the United States, and some of them just... made more sense there.

1. Recycling is serious business.

Europe in general recycles more than America, but it's more than just recycling old milk jugs. On each corner, more commonplace than trash cans, actually, are four or five large recycling containers, one for each type of recyclable. And yes, people really do "bother to sort them all"; multiple days, we saw older women with three bags, one with cardboard, one foam and one plastic, come down to the recycle bins and put their goods into it.

2. Municipal bike stands exist. And people bike EVERYWHERE.

All you need is your pass, which you buy for a time duration. Then you go get a bike from a nearby stand, and, as long as you continue to check your bikes into other easily-accessible municipal bike stands around the cities, you have a bike to ride. Maybe this is one hint as to why the Spanish are so much more active and rely so much less on their cars?

3. Tax is included in price tags.

This is such a big deal!!! Instead of doing the American thing where you go, "Well, yeah so it's $10, but I have to factor in $.70 for tax so with this $10 bill I can't get that shirt", which is confusing because like, the price says $10, tags in Spain have tax included. If you have a €10 bill, you can buy something costing €10. It's great to have so much LESS change in your pockets.

4. Tipping is not expected or essential.

Service industry employees actually make a livable wage in Spain, so tipping is not expected. Although it is a nice way to say thank you for a job well done, it is not expected to be 20% or anything like employees in the U.S. need in order to make a solid salary. In fact, rounding €1.75 to €2 is a fine tip. Again, money planning here is SO much easier.

5. Pharmacies only sell medication.

It really was shocking to go into a pharmacy and see, like... just medication. Some soap was there as well, but no aisles of makeup or food. And, unironically enough, pharmacies there don't sell tobacco like their American counterparts do. Our teachers were really surprised that this was an interesting concept to us.

6. Drinks are included in meal prices.

€4 gets you a sandwich, a small OJ and a small coffee. None of this ordering separately (especially since each paying for each separately would be a lot more than €4), just get a meal and pick your drink. Small downside - you can't get tap water, so you're gonna pay for water, but hey... it's still included.

7. Public services are a lot more efficient.

No mail trucks block traffic, fire trucks are reasonable and there are no private trash bins, so large garbage trucks go to pick up from cornerside recycle bins instead of trying to get down every street. These are all faster, easier and cheaper, even if it does require OH SO MUCH MORE EFFORT to walk to a recycle/trash can instead of just opening your door to your garage.

8. Pop-up convenience stores are on every corner.

They're like legit newstands, and they're everything your local QT would have - candy and snacks (including drinks), newspapers, postcards/souvenirs, and small useful trinkets like keychains and pocketknifes. These stands are great - and the people are usually good to ask for directions.

9. Misters are on every awning, and every restaurant has an awning.

Restaurant awnings have misters that go off every so often, both to aid their customers and the passerby. Also, almost all restaurants feature patio or sidewalk collection of tables so that their customers can enjoy the atmosphere and the beautiful weather. So, lots of misters.

10. Inner courtyards mean no lawn mowing.

Seriously. Our abuela was growing plants in the atrium of her apartment building, but a lot of places have full courtyards with trees and some grass. Space is limited, though, so no lawnwork needed.

11. Taxis are free for the elderly, especially in times of extreme weather.

Taxis are pretty reasonably priced on a good day, but, especially in the depths of summer and winter where extreme temperatures are probable (it was 112 one day in Seville.. eek), taxis are free for elderly citizens! I'm not sure the cut-off age, but this is such a good idea, especially since Europeans in general walk everywhere. Our host abuela could still go every day to the markets and buy fresh bread and fruits without having to walk two miles in 100+ degree weather.

12. Nap hour is a godsend.

Siesta hour is real - a lot of places shut down in mid afternoon (around 2pm) for an hour or two to take a post-nap lunch. Given how good Spanish food is, we loved this siesta hour. Food comas are also real.

13. Restaurants have at least one copy of their menu in other languages.

Not just English - all other European languages, regional dialects like Catalan and other widely-spoken languages like Chinese were usually represented with their own copy of a menu at almost all sit-down restaurants that we visited. I have no idea how ordering would go, though - maybe pointing..?

14. Architecture is just, so pleasing.

Every building was unique, both in outward design and color, and even the modern buildings were like this as well. No subdivisions or HOAs here to enforce conformity! Each street has character and each place has a personality - can we please adopt this everywhere, America??

15. Everything is much healthier...

Sugar = real cane sugar. Fast food? Nowhere to be seen. Even Spanish dessert is typically a piece of fruit (like a paraguayo, a flatter version of a peach that really doesn't taste like a peach) or a small, 6-8oz. latte.

16. ...and fresher.

The markets were almost scary, since the meat like... still included the eyeballs. And the snails were still crawling and alive. But hey, everything was fresh.

17. The street clean-up crews are wildly efficient.

The cities are gorgeous. And when something breaks or gets messed up, it'll probably be fixed within a week.

18. Graffiti is everywhere, but it looks amazing.

After stores close, these metal sheets roll down and cover the entrance, and almost every metal sheet is graffitied. Since it goes away during the business day, this vandalism isn't harmful, but it makes the streets beautiful in an artistic way even after everything is closed.

19. You can just, like... talk to everyone.

Directions? Need a lesson in history for your class? People do not ignore you like they do in America when you approach them.

20. It's really easy to tell what a store is selling.

Stores in Spain tend to sell one thing; as mentioned above, pharmacies sell medicine, tobacco stands sell tobacco, supermarkets sell food and household supplies, etc. Also, if you know Spanish, the ending of a store tends to be -eria, and if you understand what the stem before the ending was, you'll know exactly what they're selling. For example, a panaderia sells bread, which is "pan" in Spanish.

21. Fresh juice = an entire meal, for half the cost.

Juice, or zumos, come in a wide variety and definitely serve as an entire meal, although you don't pay the premium for freshness that we do in America ($7 at Whole Foods for a juice? $10 at I Love Juice Bar? miss me with that). I had a drink of avocado + coconut milk in La Boqueria in Barcelona for €2, and that was my lunch. It was the best thing I've ever had.

22. We can just walk there.

I think we walked ten miles a day. No joke, I just checked my pedometer.

23. Not everything closes at 7pm.

Spanish dinners are usually around 8-9pm, later than in America, so everything is open later. Shops close earlier, but restaurants stay open, as well as dessert places/cafes, stalls that are put into public squares, and parks. It was weird to be able to walk in and sit in the park near our house for an hour at 10:45, but... one can.

24. Lemon Fanta.

10/10 recommend.

25. Tapas.

Spanish dinner style tends to be mobile - tapas are small plates of food that one gets to share with their friends (since everyone gets a small plate). After you're done at one restaurant, you go to another. Tapas bars are amazing, and so is the food and the concept.

26. Like, being in Spain.

Obviously I'm biased, since Spain was just such a unique experience to me, but... maybe America should just go be in Spain.

Cover Image Credit: Spain.com

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An Open Letter To Democrats From A Millennial Republican

Why being a Republican doesn't mean I'm inhuman.
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Dear Democrats,

I have a few things to say to you — all of you.

You probably don't know me. But you think you do. Because I am a Republican.

Gasp. Shock. Horror. The usual. I know it all. I hear it every time I come out of the conservative closet here at my liberal arts university.

SEE ALSO: What I Mean When I Say I'm A Young Republican

“You're a Republican?" people ask, saying the word in the same tone that Draco Malfoy says “Mudblood."

I know that not all Democrats feel about Republicans this way. Honestly, I can't even say for certain that most of them do. But in my experience, saying you're a Republican on a liberal college campus has the same effect as telling someone you're a child molester.

You see, in this day and age, with leaders of the Republican Party standing up and spouting unfortunately ridiculous phrases like “build a wall," and standing next to Kim Davis in Kentucky after her release, we Republicans are given an extreme stereotype. If you're a Republican, you're a bigot. You don't believe in marriage equality. You don't believe in racial equality. You don't believe in a woman's right to choose. You're extremely religious and want to impose it on everyone else.

Unfortunately, stereotypes are rooted in truth. There are some people out there who really do think these things and feel this way. And it makes me mad. The far right is so far right that they make the rest of us look bad. They make sure we aren't heard. Plenty of us are fed up with their theatrics and extremism.

For those of us brave enough to wear the title “Republican" in this day and age, as millennials, it's different. Many of us don't agree with these brash ideas. I'd even go as far as to say that most of us don't feel this way.

For me personally, being a Republican doesn't even mean that I automatically vote red.

When people ask me to describe my political views, I usually put it pretty simply. “Conservative, but with liberal social views."

“Oh," they say, “so you're a libertarian."

“Sure," I say. But that's the thing. I'm not really a libertarian.

Here's what I believe:

I believe in marriage equality. I believe in feminism. I believe in racial equality. I don't want to defund Planned Parenthood. I believe in birth control. I believe in a woman's right to choose. I believe in welfare. I believe more funds should be allocated to the public school system.

Then what's the problem? Obviously, I'm a Democrat then, right?

Wrong. Because I have other beliefs too.

Yes, I believe in the right to choose — but I'd always hope that unless a pregnancy would result in the bodily harm of the woman, that she would choose life. I believe in welfare, but I also believe that our current system is broken — there are people who don't need it receiving it, and others who need it that cannot access it.

I believe in capitalism. I believe in the right to keep and bear arms, because I believe we have a people crisis on our hands, not a gun crisis. Contrary to popular opinion, I do believe in science. I don't believe in charter schools. I believe in privatizing as many things as possible. I don't believe in Obamacare.

Obviously, there are other topics on the table. But, generally speaking, these are the types of things we millennial Republicans get flack for. And while it is OK to disagree on political beliefs, and even healthy, it is NOT OK to make snap judgments about me as a person. Identifying as a Republican does not mean I am the same as Donald Trump.

Just because I am a Republican, does not mean you know everything about me. That does not give you the right to make assumptions about who I am as a person. It is not OK for you to group me with my stereotype or condemn me for what I feel and believe. And for a party that prides itself on being so open-minded, it shocks me that many of you would be so judgmental.

So I ask you to please, please, please reexamine how you view Republicans. Chances are, you're missing some extremely important details. If you only hang out with people who belong to your own party, chances are you're missing out on great people. Because, despite what everyone believes, we are not our stereotype.

Sincerely,

A millennial Republican

Cover Image Credit: NEWSWORK.ORG

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The Gap Between Knowledge And Action

Let's talk about action. There seems to be a mass phenomenon of disconnect between knowledge and action. Why is it that increased knowledge is not motivating people towards increased action.

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In the world today, there are all sorts of social and political movements. Though society has always been flawed with endless problems, people are more aware of these problems today than ever. The rise of the internet, smartphones, and social media has created a new social climate of awareness as a result of greater interconnectedness. But how is it that the public is growing more aware, yet nothing seems to be changing?

I began really thinking about this perplexity recently, as I listened to a TedTalk discussing global warming. According to public polling from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 70% of Americans agree that global warming is occurring. But according to the same polling, only 40% of Americans think climate change will affect them personally and are adjusting their lifestyles because of it. This is the gap between knowledge and action. Two-thirds of Americans acknowledge climate change, but only less than half are doing something about it. Something is being lost in translation, but what is it?

This phenomenon extends far beyond climate change though. Poverty. Hunger. Displacement. Lack of access to clean water. Sexual inequality. Like I said earlier, there are an endless array of problems the world faces, and we are more aware of them than ever, but how do we link knowledge and action?

We know that most issues that have risen due to globalization, affect the people who contribute to the problem the least, the most. Global warming is disproportionately affecting those in poverty who can't afford to recover from wildfires in California, stronger hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, or increasingly severe droughts in Syria. People in Flint, Michigan or Karachi, Pakistan lack clean water because of the actions of people far richer than themselves. Is a lack of personal victimization the reason? Is raised awareness and stagnant action a symptom of a bigger issue of lacking compassion or are people just lazy?

As a nineteen-year-old college student, maybe I'm naïve, but I refuse to believe that the U.S. and global, society as a whole is lacking in action because they are lacking in compassion or because third world problems "are not their problems." Philosopher, Christopher Heath Wellman, put it best when saying to "[n]otice how awkward it is to protest that those of us who are privileged cannot be obligated to change the system because we are impotent in the face of its enormity, while simultaneously suggesting that those who are starving to death are entitled to no assistance because they are responsible for the political and economic institutions which led to their ruin" in regards to world hunger.

You may be thinking, "OK but how can I make a difference, as just one person?" What Wellman meant in his quote was that you alone cannot make a difference for people starving in another country, but neither can they. It's only when we come together as a society and commit to action can we overcome these issues. Perhaps this is my Global Studies major speaking, but we are all citizens of the world, not just citizens of the U.S. and we must allow our compassion accordingly. No one has any choice in where, what circumstances, or what society they are born into so to refuse action which would help victims of circumstance would be an ignorant form of elitism.

This problem isn't exclusively on the national and global scale either; everyday people see problems in their personal lives and yet, only a small minority take action. Take, for example, people who stress about procrastination, but never change their time management habits. People who make the same New Year's Resolution every year because they never follow suit. Smokers who want to quit but don't try. Students who complain about poor grades but don't make time to study. Even in our own personal lives, knowledge rarely seems to prompt action.

I don't have an easy fix for this. And I don't hold the solutions to global warming, poverty, hunger, lack of access to clean water, or sexual inequality. But I do know that it doesn't need to be this way. It's often said that recognizing you have an issue is half the battle, the next half is action. Every day, our knowledge of the world and everything which inhabits it is increasing, the time for action is now. If we all, individually, take it upon ourselves to care for one another and work towards a better world, in small ways, I believe that together, we can make anything a reality.

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