Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Customer service, Nephew's birthday and Internet Shopping

I have often complained/talked about the lack of customer service in Spain, (here, and here) how it bothers me to be treated with sour faces and rude comments and I probably never thought I would say this, but you know what? It’s really annoying with too much customer attention as well.

I guess you get used to things. Whereas I probably didn’t see it as anything strange before (I don’t remember) I find it quite bothersome now, that shop attendants in Norway always ask if you need help. In my logic, if I need help I will approach the sales staff and ask for help, but if I am browsing through the shop on my own, looking for something or nothing in particular, I don’t want help. How could someone who don’t know me, help me find the perfect dress, shoes, bag etc. that fits my personality and taste anyway? I am afraid I need to do that on my own.

Avoiding eye contact as soon as I enter the shops doesn’t help either, they will either come up to me and ask, or actually yell from afar to get my attention. I have thus far only smiled and politely turned down their offers of help, and I hope that I can keep it up that way! After all it seems this is part of the culture of customer service in Norway, and who am I to say anything about it?

I had one experience where they weren’t all that wrong in asking though. I was looking for a birthday present for my nephew. Young boy, favorite hobby being skateboards and everything related. So out of my comfort zone. I have no idea what is cool and what is not, but I had a list of brand names that I know he adores. So off I went searching for the perfect gift. Me in my more classic style clothes, I might have looked a little out of place in those skater shops, I will admit that. I certainly felt it. Asking me if I needed help right there and then wouldn't have been such an off thought I guess. I ended up giving up quite fast and went home empty handed.

The answer was of course online shopping, I don’t know why I even tried the shops. I prefer online shopping to regular shopping any day. When I moved to Spain, (especially Barcelona), I went from rather enjoying shopping to close to hating it. To have to stand in line a good 15 minutes to try on things or pay for them is just something I don’t have the patience for. [I found that the best day for shops in Barcelona was Monday mornings though. Afternoon, nights and Saturdays being the worst times if you are like me, if anyone's interested.]

The biggest chain shops in Spain like Zara, Stradivarius, Blanco, Mango etc. all have excellent webshops, and I thought there had to be one for freestyle and skating clothes as well- and I found FreestyleXtreme, the answer to my prayers. They had all of the brands that were on my list, they deliver to a lot of countries, Norway included (which is not always the case, as Norway is outside of the European Union and all that) and best of all, comparing to prices in the shops, I got more for my money through this website. (When buying from Norway, or whatever other country, choose the country by clicking on the corresponding flag up in the top corner before purchasing.) Judging from the smile on his face when he opened the present, I would say I did well too! Him happy, me happy, and I got an extra star in my ‘cool aunt’-book!

Do you like to 'get help' whenever you are in a shop?

P.S. Me disliking this might just be me being strange again, seeing as it's so common here to get help with everything in the shops. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Fiestas de Gracia are on ...

I am very much aware what time of the month it is...and what month it is...and what's going on in Barcelona right now...and that I am not there to enjoy it. 

I kind of don't like Barcelona too much in August, it's simply too hot and humid for me. But my absolute favorite Barcelona fiesta is in August, as we speak, and I wish wish wish I was there! I am talking about Fiestas de Gracia / Festa Major de Gracia.

What is this fiesta you may ask? Well, big parts of the barrio of Gracia (a lovely neighborhood in Barcelona) are decorated in the most imaginative ways (from used, recycled stuff, paper, plastic bottles, plastic bags etc.) Streets and plazas are filled up with things/figures/'sculptures' according to a theme, and there is lots of stuff going on every day, food, drinks, concerts, entertainment. 

I have been looking through my pictures, thinking back, remembering how great that week was last year, everything I did, and who I did it with, so today is a little trip down memory lane for me. I have chosen some of my favorite streets, isn't it just crazy fabulous?

~ Music & Dancing ~


~ The Catwalk ~


It's the neighbors in each street who do this together. I wish I could be part of this, how fun it must be!

~ The Circus! ~


~ The Wild West! ~


~... and the North Pole! ~


~ At night, the streets get new life. It's just as fabulous, but maybe a liiittle bit more magical? ~


If you're in Barcelona and have been to Gracia these days, please share! 
What am I missing? Is it fabulous? (Of course it is, but please tell me all about it!)

If you want to see my posts from last year's Fiestas de Gracia, 
more info about the fiestas and the creations in each street, 
click here! 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I am one strange person

Yes, so it seems. This is the impression I get from people in Norway when I answer 
their questions about my life in Spain anyway.

Maybe? Probably? I'll go with a yes! via 
I touched upon this in my post, My Life In Norway vs. Spain From An Economic Viewpoint, but I need to talk about this a little more.

I don't have a TV. And you know what, I don't miss it one bit. I used to say the TV was a time stealer, that was when I used to watch it a lot. Now I wouldn't know when and how to find the time to spend in front of a TV day after day. But you know what? I think it's a GOOD thing (despite all the incredulous looks on people's faces when this becomes clear.) My life is filled with other activities, that probably give me a lot more than the TV did before. (I used to watch a lot of TV...) 

I have just gotten myself my very first smartphone! Can you imagine? How strange. How old fashioned! I didn't want one, but my old 'stone age' phone didn't want to work anymore, and lets face it, there aren't a lot of non-smart phones out there in the shops anymore. Why didn't I want one? Cause I was afraid I would turn into one of those people who would check their email, facebook etc. every five minute, be unsociable and totally dependent of the phone. 

I was one of those people who would more often than not, leave the phone at home when I went out. And I might even put the phone on silent or turn it off, if I didn't feel like being reachable. Just because I own a phone, does it mean I don't have the right to decide when I am available? (It seems not, cause some people get really annoyed when I don't pick up the minute they want to talk, although I might be in the middle of something that I prefer not leave.)

Anyway, the point is. It seems I am quite strange for not having already had at least one or two other smartphones and a million apps and smart programs. So I was weird before I got the phone, but then I am still weird, cause I basically don't use my new phone much more now than the old one. (Just that now people expect me to be even more available, as in having seen emails and facebook-notification the second they arrive. Sorry!)

I don't care much about materialistic things. That is strange for many people here to fathom. I can't be bothered to have- or rather, I don't want and need all sorts of "genius gadgets" and things that make a home more comfortable. Neither do I care to spend loads and loads every month on clothes, shoes, make-up etc. 

Another totally strange thing, is that I accept a much lower salary and think living in Spain makes up for it a 100%. People just don't see it. How can I possibly want to live with a lot less money? 

I have changed. And as long as I am perfectly happy and comfortable with my change, I think I will just keep on smiling and enjoy the little things in life. After all, they are free!

Examples of free fabulous things:

Beach. Walks, reading, yoga, swimming, sunbathing...


Sunsets... 


Parks...can be used for much of the same as the beaches. So lovely!


Open your eyes. Look up and discover beautiful architecture...


...or look down and discover & try to interpret streetart...


Enter a beautiful, really old Cathedral...


Read books! There are such great 'personalities' to get to know and stories to get involved in, 
inside of book covers. I love losing myself in a great book. 
(OK, books might not be free, but in libraries they are!) 

Imagination is the only limitation... but our world really is full of small, free gifts to life!
What 'free things' do you enjoy?