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Traveling without a seat belt: normal not so long ago.
Traveling without a seat belt: normal not so long ago.
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10 things Spaniards used to do in summer that now seem unthinkable

From giving your 12-year-old beer, to driving 400 kilometers without wearing a seat belt, much of what was once considered normal in Spain now raises eyebrows

  • It was the worst moment of the day for Spanish kids. Excited to jump back in the pool or the surf, children were lectured by their parents about the mysterious “digestion cramps” that could come from swimming too soon after eating. It didn’t matter what was eaten, kids had to wait between two and three hours before returning to the water. A bit of an exaggeration, admits doctor María del Carmen Vidal from the University of Barcelona. “If you eat a salad, digestion is very fast; if you have a heavy dish, it could take up to two hours. The fat slows down digestion.” Pictured: a scene from the TV series ‘Cuéntame cómo pasó’ (Tell me how it happened).
    1Waiting up to three hours to go for a swim after lunch It was the worst moment of the day for Spanish kids. Excited to jump back in the pool or the surf, children were lectured by their parents about the mysterious “digestion cramps” that could come from swimming too soon after eating. It didn’t matter what was eaten, kids had to wait between two and three hours before returning to the water. A bit of an exaggeration, admits doctor María del Carmen Vidal from the University of Barcelona. “If you eat a salad, digestion is very fast; if you have a heavy dish, it could take up to two hours. The fat slows down digestion.” Pictured: a scene from the TV series ‘Cuéntame cómo pasó’ (Tell me how it happened).
  • Many Spanish parents thought it was normal to order a beer for their pre-teens. Some honestly believed that introducing them to alcohol like this was a good way to prevent future excesses. But an Australian study from 2016 says “they could be wrong.” Today, the average Spaniard is introduced to alcohol at age 13, albeit via other means. Alcohol is the most decisive factor in the cause of death in teenagers (traffic accidents, murder, suicide) in Western countries, according to the Childhood Observatory. Pictured: a scene from the TV series ‘Verano Azul’ (Blue Summer).
    2Ordering a beer for your 12-year-old Many Spanish parents thought it was normal to order a beer for their pre-teens. Some honestly believed that introducing them to alcohol like this was a good way to prevent future excesses. But an Australian study from 2016 says “they could be wrong.” Today, the average Spaniard is introduced to alcohol at age 13, albeit via other means. Alcohol is the most decisive factor in the cause of death in teenagers (traffic accidents, murder, suicide) in Western countries, according to the Childhood Observatory. Pictured: a scene from the TV series ‘Verano Azul’ (Blue Summer).
  • Back in the day, it was common for Spanish parents to leave their kids at a summer camp and not hear from them for two weeks. The child usually turned into a version of Mowgli – while the parents were blissfully unaware. But this lack of communication is unthinkable in today’s era of WhatsApp and Instagram. Even the nature of summer camps has changed. Rather than 15 days in the wild, camps now focus on everything from languages and theater to the trombone and horseback riding. Pictured: a scene from the film ‘La Llamada’ (The Call).
    3Dropping off your children at summer camps Back in the day, it was common for Spanish parents to leave their kids at a summer camp and not hear from them for two weeks. The child usually turned into a version of Mowgli – while the parents were blissfully unaware. But this lack of communication is unthinkable in today’s era of WhatsApp and Instagram. Even the nature of summer camps has changed. Rather than 15 days in the wild, camps now focus on everything from languages and theater to the trombone and horseback riding. Pictured: a scene from the film ‘La Llamada’ (The Call).
  • Spanish children would never give up their daily nap unless it was to watch the Tour de France – or more specifically the triumph of Spanish cyclists Pedro Delgado and Miguel Induráin. Delgado took home the yellow jersey in 1988 while Induráin captivated the country by winning the title five years in a row, between 1991 and 1995. In the above image, Induráin wins the second stage of the Tour de France in 1995.
    4Skipping siestas to watch Miguel Induráin win the Tour de France Spanish children would never give up their daily nap unless it was to watch the Tour de France – or more specifically the triumph of Spanish cyclists Pedro Delgado and Miguel Induráin. Delgado took home the yellow jersey in 1988 while Induráin captivated the country by winning the title five years in a row, between 1991 and 1995. In the above image, Induráin wins the second stage of the Tour de France in 1995.
  • With sports competitions over for the summer, many Spaniards used to enjoy flipping through the pages of glossy magazines to learn about their favorite celebrities: personalities such as actress Ana Obregón and Rocíito, the daughter of celebrity couple Rocío Jurado and Pedro Carrasco. But digital media has changed all this. Many people now prefer to browse through photos of their friends on Instagram. Sociologist Juan Carlos Barajas explains that celebrity profiles have also changed. “A new personality has emerged, one that is native to social networks, who sets the trends for taste, behavior and consumption: the YouTuber,” he explains. Above, a scene from ‘Blancanieves’ (Snow White).
    5Spending the morning reading gossip magazines With sports competitions over for the summer, many Spaniards used to enjoy flipping through the pages of glossy magazines to learn about their favorite celebrities: personalities such as actress Ana Obregón and Rocíito, the daughter of celebrity couple Rocío Jurado and Pedro Carrasco. But digital media has changed all this. Many people now prefer to browse through photos of their friends on Instagram. Sociologist Juan Carlos Barajas explains that celebrity profiles have also changed. “A new personality has emerged, one that is native to social networks, who sets the trends for taste, behavior and consumption: the YouTuber,” he explains. Above, a scene from ‘Blancanieves’ (Snow White).
  • There was a time in Spain when seeing a man putting on sunscreen was as unusual as seeing a man with shaved legs. Thankfully now, there is greater awareness about the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays. As skin specialist Ángel Pizarro recommends: “Look for shade, protect yourself with a hat and clothes and avoid extended exposure to the sun and the sun at noon.” Above, a scene from the film ‘Krámpack.’
    6Spending time in the sun without sunscreen There was a time in Spain when seeing a man putting on sunscreen was as unusual as seeing a man with shaved legs. Thankfully now, there is greater awareness about the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays. As skin specialist Ángel Pizarro recommends: “Look for shade, protect yourself with a hat and clothes and avoid extended exposure to the sun and the sun at noon.” Above, a scene from the film ‘Krámpack.’
  • For decades the only way to reach a destination in Spain was to follow a road map. It was a challenge. The front seat passenger would try to decipher directions from an unwieldy map as hot air blew in from the rolled-down windows. But now almost every driver uses GPS. A 2016 study found that 46% of drivers always use GPS and another 27% almost always use it.
    7Using a road map to find a village in, say, Murcia For decades the only way to reach a destination in Spain was to follow a road map. It was a challenge. The front seat passenger would try to decipher directions from an unwieldy map as hot air blew in from the rolled-down windows. But now almost every driver uses GPS. A 2016 study found that 46% of drivers always use GPS and another 27% almost always use it.
  • Before there was Airbnb or even the internet, Spanish families had to call to book rooms at a hotel. What’s more, because the size of the average Spanish family jumped in the years before the financial crisis, it was common to have to book at least two hotel rooms. Above is actress Adriana Ugarte in the series ‘El tiempo entre costuras’ (Time between seams).
    8Calling a hotel to make a reservation. Before there was Airbnb or even the internet, Spanish families had to call to book rooms at a hotel. What’s more, because the size of the average Spanish family jumped in the years before the financial crisis, it was common to have to book at least two hotel rooms. Above is actress Adriana Ugarte in the series ‘El tiempo entre costuras’ (Time between seams).
  • Although it’s been compulsory to wear a seat belt in Spain since 1974, it was not regularly used on long vacation road trips, not even when crossing the windy Despeñaperros gorge. The sight of kids bouncing around the back seat was as common as the towel used to block out the sun flying out the window, or the cassette tape of jokes by comedian Eugenio. According to Spain’s national traffic authority DGT, seat belts reduce the risk of fatalities by 50% and up to 90% in head-on collisions. While Spain has come a long way since its carefree past, 20% of backseat passengers still travel without putting on a seat belt. Above is a scene from the film ‘Verano de 1993’ (Summer of 1993).
    9Traveling in a car without a seatbelt for 400 kilometers Although it’s been compulsory to wear a seat belt in Spain since 1974, it was not regularly used on long vacation road trips, not even when crossing the windy Despeñaperros gorge. The sight of kids bouncing around the back seat was as common as the towel used to block out the sun flying out the window, or the cassette tape of jokes by comedian Eugenio. According to Spain’s national traffic authority DGT, seat belts reduce the risk of fatalities by 50% and up to 90% in head-on collisions. While Spain has come a long way since its carefree past, 20% of backseat passengers still travel without putting on a seat belt. Above is a scene from the film ‘Verano de 1993’ (Summer of 1993).
  • It would be an exaggeration to say that traveling in a plane was as outlandish as flying into space. But that was almost the case for many Spanish families. It is only now thanks to low-cost air carriers that flying is “within the reach of almost anybody,” says sociologist José Antonio Barajas.
    10Thinking that flying was just for the rich It would be an exaggeration to say that traveling in a plane was as outlandish as flying into space. But that was almost the case for many Spanish families. It is only now thanks to low-cost air carriers that flying is “within the reach of almost anybody,” says sociologist José Antonio Barajas.