On Saturday morning I awoke to find that my new Nokia phone was not working. When something breaks in Spain, it is a huge hassle to get it fixed. Just to inquire about getting it fixed, I had to take part of the morning off in Madrid on Monday to go to the MoviStar (cell phone operator) store (it doesn’t open until 10:00am). When I finally spoke to the MoviStar agent, he told me that my warranty was only valid for 10 days at the store, but that I could go to the Nokia customer representative a few blocks away where my warranty would be valid for two years.
When the afternoon came around, I left work early at 7:00pm to be able to arrive by 8:00pm at the Nokia shop before it closed. When I arrived, there was another MoviStar agent who told me that the Nokia reps only work from 11:00am-2:00pm and then from 4:00pm-7:00pm. I was furious to say the least, and asked whether only people without jobs qualified for Nokia’s customer services.
Then I remember that this was all part of a much bigger problem: a vicious cycle of a Mama’s Boy society that makes getting anything done almost impossible. Strangely enough, what we call a Mama’s Boy in English, in Spain they call a Papa’s Boy (because he lives off daddy’s salary, even if his body is running on mama’s cooking). Allow me to explain:
In Spain, the standard working hours are 9:00am-2:00pm and then 4:00pm or 5:00pm to 7:00pm or 8:00pm. Stores generally open from 10:00am to 2:00pm, and then close for lunch and reopen at 5:00pm and close at 8:00pm. This makes it almost impossible to ever get anything done, incluidng grocery shopping, other shopping, going to the bank, or getting anything fixed.
What about the weekend? First of all, almost everything is closed on Sundays. On Saturdays, stores are open, but most smaller stores are only open until 2:00pm and close for the rest of the day. And banks do not open at all on Saturdays from June to September. Of course, I could get up early on Saturdays to get all of my shopping done, but once again the Mama’s Boy society also makes that difficult. Why?
The entire society is built around a structure that forces men to be dependent on their mothers, and I imagine, for their mothers to be depended on by their little boys.
You see, if you work and do not live at home with your parents, it is almost impossible to fill your refrigerator with any food. And when you get home at night from work, generally around 9:00pm or 10:00pm, you are also too tired to cook. There is also no time to clean,do laundry, let alone iron. Thus, mommie fills in the gap. She does all of these things for you.
In the US any male over, say, 20 who still lives at home is considered a loser with no future. A male who does not do his own laundry or who cannot live independently is considered useless. Ironically, in Spain it is the opposite. I know men in their 30s who have enough money to live on their own but do not. I even know some people who have purchased apartments but prefer to live at home. They always say the same thing, “you always live better at home.” That’s because they get a warm meal twice a day (people usually go home to mommie for lunch). Thus, while in the US living at home is considered a sign of weakness, in Spain it is considered clever.
The result is that almost no one “moves out” until they are married. Also, in Spain, the culture dictates that married people must own their own homes, as opposed to renting. This means that no one marries until they can afford a home. Then when men finally marry, they move from mama to a wife who is now expected to fill in her place. Unfortunately, times are changing and most families need two bread winners. This is the great challenge for Spain. Who is going to be your mama in the future when both husband and wife work?
And so the cycle continues with all of its manifestations. For example, Spanish people are incredibly unambitious professionally. They are most happy when they have civil servant jobs — jobs where, even if they don’t get paid very much, they can never be fired from. A society of people who are not interested in moving out of mama’s nest is also a society that is not interested in working more than absolutely necessary. I won’t even mention how many times a day at the office I hear a cell phone ring to hear someone answer, “Mamá”.
This does not mean that everyone sits together in one big family embrace. People are people, and because Spaniards generally live with their families in small apartments, no one ever wants to go home except for a free meal and to pick up their clean laundry. This combined with allegedly sunny weather also affects the working hours, permitting people to spend longer hours at the office, for when they leave work at 8:00pm it is still light out. To avoid spending too much time cramped up in a small apartment with nosey mothers, Spaniards also go out very late at night. Dinner is at 10:00pm at the earliest and people go out until 7:00am in the morning on the weekend, and generally go to bed between 12:30am and 1:30am on work nights.
This takes me back to an earlier point. Why can’t I go shopping on Saturday morning? Because I have been out on Friday night until 7:00am. For a good Spanish boy this would not be a problem. He loves his mama so much because she has already gone shopping to stock the frig and cook his lunch while he sleeps it off. And if he is a really good son, he buys his mama fresh bread on his way back home from the night club when the bakery first opens in the morning.
To conclude, as a foreigner with no in-house mama, I suffer from an empty refrigerator and the distant memory that dinner used to exist in a long forgotten world. I won’t even mention the impossibility of dating Spanish women who cannot understand why you do not want to go out until 7:00am on Friday night or why you are always tired and malnurished. A man may not live on bread alone, but a little bread in the refrigerator is not a bad thing either.
It’s all one big vicious cycle.