I think it’s pretty safe to say that most of us still haven’t wrapped our heads around the fact that it’s 2021. And it’s somehow October now?? I feel like mentally I’m just now coming out of the haze I’ve been in since the start of the horror show that was 2020. Anyone else have no concept of time anymore?
I only just got reminded of how much time has flown by when a Facebook Memory popped up in my feed the other week. The update said, “7 years ago today” followed by two pictures of me with a packed backpack on, standing next to my parents in our town’s airport. It was my post from the day I moved to Galicia…which means I’ve been living in Galicia for SEVEN years!
Seeing that post sent me on a trip down memory lane as I began reminiscing about all the amazing moments I’ve had here in Galicia. It made me realize how much I’ve learned since that first day I stepped foot in Galicia. I also realized that it means that 5 years have gone by since I wrote my last post about the funny culturally Galician things that will happen to you when you’re living in this amazing region! It’s time for an update!
Since you all told me how much you loved the last post, I thought I’d give you 30 more fun, regional quirks from Galicia that never fail to put a smile on my face. When I reread my old article, I couldn’t believe how many things I didn’t mention! I love when I see something on TV or something happens while I’m in town that is so undeniably Galician. I just turn and give my gallego a look. It always makes him laugh too because he knows—it’s SO Galician.
Galicia is a special place. All of its little idiosyncrasies are so endearing that they’ll make you fall more in love with Galicia and the Galicians the longer you’re here. Trust me, I married one! So let’s dive into the most Galician things you’re bound to experience while living in Galicia!
- If you ever refer to galego as a “dialect of Spanish” when you first start living in Galicia, expect to be swiftly corrected! Most likely that will be followed by a history lesson. Not realizing Galician is a separate, official, and older language than Spanish is one of the cardinal sins of Galicia.
- If you flip on a TV to the local Galician channel, you’ll realize there are lots of shows to watch in Galician and even cartoons dubbed in Galician. These include Doraemon, Shin-chan (my favorite), and even Dragon Ball Z. If you’re studying Galician, this channel is a great way to practice.
- One of my favorite Galician moments you will definitely experience if you live here are the news segments of unintelligible interviews with older people that live in the Galician countryside. They remind me of news stories I’ve seen from Ireland or from the south of the USA, where even as a native English speaker, I can’t make out a word. They’re always hilarious and an advanced course in galego to try to understand what they’re saying. I’ll just link a video so you can see what I mean.
- Although Galicians are pretty opinionated people, it’s very Galician to answer almost any question with, “It depends.” Don’t be surprised if you can’t get a straight answer out of a Galician and instead ignite a long discussion about what you thought would be a simple yes-or-no answer.
- You’ll see a lot of white and light blue on different things, like shirts and souvenirs, as those are the colors of the Galician flag.
- Galicians also have traditional folk gaiteiro clothing that is often worn during festivals or special events, like I mentioned in my last article. You’ll find groups of people wearing these outfits and probably playing the bagpipes, a drum, or tambourine.
- You’ve probably heard Spaniards say that Galicians sound like they “sing” when they speak. This comes from their accent and the Galician language, which has more rhythmical rising and falling in pitch. However, one of the most Galician things that can happen to you while living here is witnessing a group of Galicians actually break out in song. My galego used to deny that Galicians sing all the time until I pointed it out to him. Now we just smile at each other every time someone begins a traditional song and everyone joins in.
- Galicia is more than famous for its rainy weather. Thanks to all the rain, no matter where you are living in Galicia, you’ll have views of green, green, and more green gorgeous landscape. Forests, mountains, and moss covered stones as far as the eye can see!
- Thanks to the Galician humidity, you will definitely put up with lots of mold. Would it even be life in Galicia if you didn’t have to clean a little mold from your walls…and ceilings, and closets, and bathrooms?
- You’ll be offered a shot of at least one of the 3 most popular licores of Galicia, most likely after a meal as a digestivo. These are licor café, licor de hierbas, and crema de orujo. Try them all!
- Speaking of alcohol, you will get to taste and experience a Galician queimada if you’re at a special holiday, event, wedding, etc. This is a “punch” made of the distilled spirit aguardente, or caña blanca, orange peels, sugar, and coffee beans mixed in a clay pot and then set on fire. Traditionally a conxuro spell is recited during the preparation to ward off bad spirits. It’s witchy and a really cool, unique experience.
- When you order wine here you’ll have delicious local choices, like Mencía, Ribeiro, Godello, or Albariño. You can’t go wrong since Galician wines are award-winning quality. In 2020 Galicia won the most awards in the country for its wine, with 45 different medals for its quality.
- Even if you’re just visiting Galicia, you’ll definitely come across pementos de padrón on more than one menu. These little green peppers are famous here for being a sort of “spicy roulette” game. As they say, “Some are spicy, others aren’t.” You never really know when you’ll get hit with a really hot one.
- Since we’re on the topic of food, if you eat with a group of Galicians you’re bound to witness “a vergoña” or “la verguenza”—”the shame”. This is the cultural habit that Galicians have of leaving the last piece of food on any shared plate uneaten. It’s said to have started ages ago as a sign of courtesy to leave some food for someone who may be hungrier than you. But in the end you just see a lot of plates with one tapa left on it.
- I can’t talk about Galician food without mentioning churrasco! Galicians love a good cookout, and if you’re living in Galicia during the summer, you’ll spend almost every weekend of the summer by a barbecue grilling out. I thought we ate a lot of red meat in the USA, but prepare to be amazed by how carnivorous Galicians are.
- “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” The second fall hits in Galicia, you’ll see little carts parked on the corners throughout town, selling roasted chestnuts right off the coals. Chestnuts are such a big thing here that there are even festivals dedicated to them.
- Magosto is one of these festivals and you will celebrate it in autumn if you live in Galicia. It has Celtic roots and the day celebrates the end of summer and the beginning of the rainy season, with lots of roasted chestnuts and other fall activities.
- Galicia also has a lot of other local gastronomic festivals you’ll want to go to, like an Albariño wine festival, an onion festival, an octopus festival, or gigantic tortilla festival.
- SEAFOOD! No matter where you go, you’ll have delicious, fresh fish and shellfish available. Order it a la plancha with a bit of lemon juice sprinkled on top, baked in an empanada, or served any other traditional way it’s offered on the menu. You can’t go wrong with Galician seafood!
- Speaking of empanada, you’ll come across so many different varieties of this Galician pie you won’t believe it! It’s made with a wheat or cornmeal crust, and can be filled with fish, pork, chicken, squid, tuna, egg, chorizo, turnip greens, cheese—the list just goes on. The first one I ever tried had octopus in it!
- If you live in Galicia for a long time and make some close friends here, you may get invited to a Galician wedding. Going to a Galician wedding is a unique and incredible experience in and of itself, but even more so if you like to eat. There are usually at least 6 courses, half of which are typically all shellfish!
- All that seafood doesn’t catch itself, so when you’re on the coast you’re bound to see people fishing or collecting shellfish. You’ll definitely see groups of people wearing waders and carrying plastic tubs out into the knee-high water along the shore.
- In nearly every Galician family, if there isn’t at least one fisherman, there’s a sailor. Another incredibly Galician thing that can happen to you while living in this great region is meeting an old sailor and being surprised by his level of English. Since many Galicians traveled the world via boat for most of their lives, lots of these old men speak English surprisingly well.
- Of course then you can expect to hear Galicians “curse like sailors”. Spanish has some pretty colorful language, but it doesn’t compare to Galician! There’s nothing like the first time you understand a few of these phrases and can’t believe what you just translated, which is inevitable while living in Galicia. Always a great laugh!
- Since the sea is such an integral part of Galicia’s culture, you’ll also see Catholic processions and holidays on the coast dedicated to the sailors and fishermen. In Noia where I live the day is the Diá do Carme on July 16, which is celebrated to honor the patron virgin and ask her to help and protect them.
- While you’re on the coast you’ll also see some groups of circular stone ruins, usually surrounded by what’s left of a primeriter wall. These are castros, Celtic fortified settlements that date back to the Bronze and Iron Age. They used to be stone huts with roofs made of branches and mud that Celtic tribes lived in.
- Another interesting type of structure that you’ll see all over Galicia are the hórreos. These are the stone, rectangular-shaped granaries that sit raised up off the ground, which are or were used to store grain used for animal feed. The oldest recorded image containing an hórreo dates back to the 13th century.
- Throughout the whole region you can visit, stay the night in, or even get married in old, gorgeous pazos. These are traditional manor houses that the former nobility used to live in, many of which have been renovated into hotels, wineries, museums, etc.
- You’ll find yellow arrows and vieira scallop shell symbols all over the place. These are symbols of the Camino de Santiago, the network of ancient Catholic pilgrimage routes that lead to the Cathedral of Santiago in the capital of Galicia.
- And best of all, you’ll be amazed by how kind and hospitable Galicians are. I’ve felt welcomed since I first got here and I truly feel at home living in this amazing region. I hope you get the opportunity to have the amazing experience of living in Galicia, too!