Oye, rubia: Pucker up in public in Spain

Oye, rubia: Pucker up in public in Spain

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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.

Photo © admiretime
Amore in Andalusia

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.

Photo © degreezero2000

 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.

Photo credits: admiretime; degreezero2000

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3 Comments To This Article

  • Gus posted:

    on 28th May 2010, 13:34:00 - Reply

    Articles like this help dismountig myths. I lke them. Don't believe what cliches tell you. People have the same worries, fears and hopes eveywhere, and just a bunch of cultural peculiarities that makes them see each other as different. I expect a dramatic drop of housing prices in Spain for the next 2 years, and a dramatic decrease of public shobbering. Nevertheless it's true that we, as southerners, like personal contact and can't help showing affection in public, but I don't think its a med or PIIGS thing or anything. [Edited] do some further research and analyze public behavior of couples over 35. Let's see what she founds out. [Edited by moderator] Visiting other countries doesn't hurt, believe me.
  • Ismaele posted:

    on 15th April 2010, 14:19:56 - Reply

    Well as true Italian.... the situation in Spain is the same as Italy.
    We have same mentality and same way of the life as Spanish;
    Over here, when summer is come, the plaza, the street are fully of people!!!
    Is amazing the true atmosphere of friendship that you are surrounded, going around with 28°C is a pleasure!!!
    Enjoy a good Ice cream (homemade of course)..with the new particular flavour that is just come up since the begin of the summer … or enjoy a coffee o some light drinks .. and of course some many others food variety that you can normally find in our country!!
    Yes indeed, you meet nice girls … you meet many new friends, outside, you ear the new song of Laura Pausini … or some other new the singer just come from the beach.
    On the street people is sitting outside of the home.. chatting with neighbours and play card or watching television with them.
    Now may questions is;
    how you can do all this in America? A place where everybody has a gun? …how you can enjoy life if the only thing you can eat is popcorn and coca cola?
    How you can enjoy life if everybody has a different nationality and different story and culture?
    Please advice!
  • JC posted:

    on 14th April 2010, 13:23:00 - Reply

    While you do have a point with the higher age of leaving the family nest and the fact that city life here is more "crowded" then in the US, I wouldn't say these are the main reasons why there are a lot more of public passion displays... [Edited by moderator] Anyway, I'd say it's just a more relaxed attitude towards the carnal side of things. You're focused more on the beautiful woman (or man) that's right there in front of you, a sly smile spreading across her face and eyes shining. You're less focused on whatever the hell's around you [edited] Seems like a good trade off to me.