The first in my new mini series of HOW TO’s…a guide of what I’ve had to learn while studying abroad.
HOW TO: OPERATE AN ELEVATOR
Elevators…a seemingly simple task, as they appear to perfectly normal. Then you sit there and wonder what button to push. Because it’s not up or down. It’s planta, primero, segundo, tricero, cuarto, quinto or atico. [Reference article HOW TO: COUNT FLOORS for an explanation of these words]. So after the doorman so kindly teaches you that you just need to press the bottom one (usually planta) you hear the elevator start to move. These elevators are ancient. You can see all of the mechanisms and wonder what you will do if it broke…Moving on…the elevator arrives and you open the door…only to find two double doors inside. You then have to carefully shut each of the three doors…or the elevator won’t move. Then you press the floor you are going to (quinto for home and atico for work). Finally you reach your floor and get out…shutting all of the doors behind you so it doesn’t get stuck on your floor. Or plan it that way if you’re going right back down… But now you know how to operate an older Spanish elevator!
The three elevator doors (third one is in the mirror).
HOW TO: COUNT FLOORS
If primero means “first” then you must be on the first floor right? Or if you live on the fifth (quinto) floor like me…you are five levels above right? Wrong. Depending on the building, most Spanish buildings have multiple first levels. There is planta for basement, but often the entry level. This may also be called principal or the principal floor. Then it begins to count up with primero, Segundo, trecero, cuarto, quinto. But each of these actually is one more floor than it is counting. Finally most buildings will also have atico or an attic story. At my office for my internship with an architecture firm, we have…
So yes, when I finally get up to my internship on atico I am actually on the eighth floor when I would have thought I was only on the sixth since it is just a floor above quinto which means fifth. But now you know, so you won’t make the same mistake!
So if I push fifth floor that means...seventh? huh?
HOW TO: OPEN A DOOR
Another deceivingly simple mistake…doors. To open most doors to the outside here you must not only turn the knob like those in the states, but you also have to pull a lever sideways simultaneously. For the new door at work (we recently moved buildings and I had to relearn everything) I have to pull a little lever to the right and then pull to get out of the office. [Reference HOW TO: OPERATE AN ELEVATOR for more information on getting out of a building]. At my house it is even trickier. To get into my front door is easy, insert key and turn, then push. *Always just try pushing the door first to see if it is unlocked…never underestimate the power of this!!* When I get up to my house door, I have to insert my funky key and then turn to the left. Finally I have to pull the door toward me and then kind of push it open. If it’s this hard to explain, just imagine doing it…it took a lot of practice. But you’ll be a pro!
Door knobs are NOT standard here!
HOW TO: COUNT MONEY
I know when I was first coming to Barcelona I was worried about how I was going to manage my money here. Little did I know that a more immediate worry was going to be just using the stuff! Much like HOW TO: OPEN A DOOR this was something I had done regularly in my daily life and didn’t even know I did. There is a reason they focus so much on money in school—good thing they did because otherwise I would have been lost in my daily life in the U.S. Luckily the Euro system is fairly similar. There are two big differences: 1. There are 1 Euro and 2 Euro coins. 2. There are more coins that in the U.S.. The bills/coins that I use on a daily basis are as follows:
50 Euro bill……………… the biggest bill is orange with an aqueduct on one side and
classic windows on the other
20 Euro bill……………… slightly smaller than the 50 and with church windows on one
side and an aqueduct with Europe on the other
10 Euro bill……………… a orange/reddish color and slightly smaller than the 20…the
only difference being that one side is an arch instead of an aqueduct
5 Euro bill……………….. again slightly smaller also with an aqueduct and map of Europe and the other side has an arc de triumph on it
2 Euro coin……………… the biggest coin is much like Canada’s with a silver ring around a smaller gold center
1 Euro coin……………… a smaller version of the two, but smaller than the 50 eurocent
50 Eurocent coin………. the largest gold coin, with indentations around the edge
20 Eurocent coin………. a smaller version of the 50, but with fewer indentations
10 Eurocent coin………. a very small version of the 50
5 Eurocent coin………… a bronze/copper colored coin with smooth edges, slightly larger than the—wait, you’re still reading this? Wow!—10 Eurocent piece
2 Eurocent coin………… a smaller version of the 5 Eurocent and useless
1 Eurocent coin………… a smaller version of the 1 Eurocent and utterly useless
I have had to learn how to quickly utilize all of these and can now say that I am almost pro! (Pro being defined as able to count it out without reading the numbers on the coins!)