One of the questions I’m often asked about Spain is what we have here in Canada that is lacking there, or what I missed the most from home. A few things instantly come to mind; others require a bit more reflection. Here, I’ve compiled a list of the 10 things apart from friends and family that I missed the most about Canada while I was in Spain.
1. Frozen fruit
I’m not sure whether it was just Granada or Spain in general, but I did not come across a single piece of frozen fruit in the entire five months I was abroad. I checked every grocery store – even the British one – but alas, I came home empty handed. Now that I think about it, the reason for this might be that they don’t really have berries in Spain other than strawberries. Still, making smoothies from fresh fruit just isn’t the same.
2. Good service in restaurants
You’re lucky if your server stops by the table other than to take your order, bring your food, and give you the bill. In a country where service staff don’t work for tips, don’t expect to be asked how your food tastes or if you need anything else.
3. Meat & dairy alternatives
The vegan/vegetarian thing hasn’t really caught on yet in much of Spain as eating meat, especially Spanish ham, is an important part of the culture. As a result, soy and vegetable alternatives to meat and dairy products are few and far between. They can be found most often in health food stores, but the prices for some items are exorbitant. You’re better off buying quinoa on Amazon. Also, almond/coconut/hemp milk tends to be loaded with sugar.
4. Smoothie bars
“Hi, my name is Ivana and I’m
an alcoholic addicted to smoothies.” Preparing a smoothie loaded with fruit, greens, chia seeds, coconut oil, and a splash of almond milk is hands-down my favourite way to start the day feeling refreshed and energized. When I’m on the go, I’ll often grab a smoothie from Booster Juice or Jugo Juice to sip on. Much to my disappointment, I only found one place in Granada that served smoothies like the ones we have here in North America (again, lack of frozen fruit is a problem). Think of how much more bearable the Spanish heat could be with a nice cold smoothie in hand! Actually, that might not be a bad business idea…
5. Breakfast places
Spain does a lot of things right when it comes to food, but their breakfast could certainly be improved. If they eat it at all, breakfast generally consists of a slice of toasted French bread with tomato or jam on top. Churros con chocolate is the other favourite after a night of partying. No eggs. No oatmeal. No fruit and yogurt. Going out for breakfast isn’t really a thing, either, considering breakfast is culturally the least important meal of the day. I made sure to grab some eggs Benny and a glass of orange juice on my visit to Dubai over the holidays.
6. Sundays and siestas
I was actually reminded of this one while reading a post on LisaLDN.com. I recall going out for groceries on one of my first days in Spain only to find that everything except the odd café was closed. Right. Siesta. The closure during siesta period was the more difficult of the two to adapt to because I couldn’t for the life of me figure out when siesta time actually took place! Was it 1-3? 2-4? 2-5:30? I still don’t know.
Sundays are just an ordinary day in Canada. Not so in Spain. Though inconvenienced by the closures a couple times, I actually grew fond of lazy Sundays in the sun, catching up with friends over a plate of churros.
I’m aware that this is going to sound like the most Canadian complaint ever, but I was genuinely disappointed by the lack of politeness that some Granada residents showed. Receptionists, servers, random people on the street: I often wondered whether these people were ignorant to the fact that they weren’t exactly pleasant, whether they just didn’t care, or whether my expectations were simply too high as a result of my Canadianness. Maybe a combination of the three, but probably the third. Someone would run into me on the street, and I would be the one to say “sorry.” Yeah…
8. Central heating
It’s southern Spain, they said. It will be warm, they said. Lies!
Seriously, though. If you ever go to the south of Spain in the winter, bring a sweater. (This is coming from a Canadian.)
9. Toilet paper
I can’t count the number of times I walked into a restroom and reached for the toilet paper only to find the holder empty. This happened everywhere: bus stations, restaurants, bars, my university. I learned quite quickly to carry a packet of tissues in my purse.
10. Free refills
Something we so often take for granted here in North America is the seemingly endless fountain of glorious soda. Now, I’m actually not a huge pop fan, but I do appreciate an iced tea every so often and I especially appreciate that I don’t have to ration my drink to make it last the entire meal. Europe is all about the individual 200mL beverage bottles. I’m sure this is just one of many reasons why obesity is a much smaller problem there than it is here. However, you’ll even be charged for water if you don’t specify that you’d like it from the tap. If anything, I suppose this speaks to how spoiled we are in North America.
I’m beginning to realize that much of what I missed is in some way related to food. What can I say? I love to eat and I love the dining experience in Canada! As much as I sometimes wish I had these things in Spain, they certainly don’t detract from the country’s appeal. Spain is very dear to me because of its unique culture and lifestyle, as is Canada. Neither will ever be perfect for me, and that’s just fine.
Tell me, what are some things you miss from home when you go abroad?