Oye, rubia: Pucker up in public in Spain
Blogger Kristen Bernardi wonders why love is in the air in Madrid more than in the US.
Americans can sometimes have a romantic idea of Spain when asked to picture it. We conjure up images of old-world plazas with accordian players and flower vendors; beautiful girls riding bicycles with baguettes sticking out of the basket on the front. And of course, there’s that world-renowned image of Latin passion. Think of Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona or Antonio Banderas in... well, anything but Shrek really.
It’s not just in celluloid; when you walk down the streets of Madrid, you notice it too: madrileños love public displays of affection. There’s a lot more kissing, a lot more ass grabbing – a lot more public lovin’ in general compared to in the States.
If you’re in a relationship – particularly with a Spaniard – you can walk around the city and smile in lovestruck cameraderie at the smooching couples that surround you on park benches and in restaurants. If you’re single, you may grow to loathe the sound of the teenagers loudly sucking face right next to you on the Metro.
When I first arrived in Madrid, I thought that we Americans must be a bunch of puritanical prudes. ‘Spaniards can’t keep their hands off each other. This is great!’ I thought, admiring their joie de vivre. But as more time has gone on, I’ve realised that intense fits passion are only part of it.
The other reason people take their make-out sessions to the streets? BECAUSE THEY HAVE NOWHERE ELSE TO GO TO GET IT ON.
First of all, the average age that Spaniards fly the family nest is much older than in the States, with 49 percent of Spaniards aged between 25-29 living at home, a figure that has risen with the current high unemployment rates.
That, combined with shockingly high housing prices that prevent people from buying a place of their own in the city, keeps folks living with mom and dad or flatsharing a lot longer. And if we Americans think back to high school, we know what that’s like – sneaking around for privacy occupies a LOT of frisky youngsters’ time.
When you’re 25 or 30, or hey – even 35, it’s not exactly ideal to bring a date back to the family home for some luuurve. Couples are forced to improvise and try to get some wherever they can, be it at a bar or on the bus. Without a place to call their own, everywhere from Retiro Park to the charcutería down the street become optimal places to sneek in some loving gazes and lip locking, crowds of nearby strangers be damned.
Plus, Europeans’ sense of personal space is a lot different than ours. Americans speak at a greater distance (CITE) and require more breathing room at home, in the office and on public transport. So seeing a couple gnawing at each others’ faces in such close proximity at a bar or restaurant can make it seem like people are not only all over each other – they’re all over YOU in the process.
Stealing kiss in Barcelona plaza
Even though a look at the housing situation in Madrid has diminished my beliefs about Spanish passion slightly, I still think madrileños have the right idea. If you’re crazy about someone, don’t be shy, even if you’ve got your own place to go home to. Hold ‘em tight, plant one on ‘em, and kindly apologise if you bump into the three people next to you in the process.
Kristen Bernardi is an American journalist who just moved back from Madrid to the States. This is the last of her fortnightly Fridays on Expatica.
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