I couldn’t wait to get home and feel carpet under my feet ...
Even after living in Spain for over a year, I love the fact that I am still discovering strange cultural differences between this country and the UK. The latest one may seem rather unexpected, but it just goes to show that the environment and the people you grow up with really do influence your likes and dislikes. In this case, I’m not talking about Britain’s obsession with curry, or Spain’s obsession with football, but I am talking about carpets.
How can such a common household object provoke such disgust in our Spanish neighbours? Well, the thing is that it is only a common household object for us in the UK. Although most kitchens, hallways and bathrooms may be tiled or have laminate flooring, you can’t deny that it would be strange curling up in front of the fire in your living room on a hard floor.
I only appreciated how comfortable carpets were when I moved to Spain, and realised that there was something missing in all the places that I visited on my flat hunt. By the time it came to fly home for Christmas, I couldn’t wait to walk barefoot around my house, without the fear of my soles becoming black, or catching frostbite.
However, when I told this to a couple of Spanish friends, they couldn’t believe that the majority of my house was carpeted. In fact, they were really shocked. They told me that for them, carpets mean dirtiness, and tiles mean cleanliness. I have even been asked, ‘but how do you clean a carpet?’. I suppose that while we have Hoovers (vacuum cleaners), they have mops. I must admit that spilling red wine on tiles is much easier to hide from your parents than if you spill it on carpet.
This odd cultural difference became most obvious when we started talking about hotels. These same friends told me that on their travels to London, they were actually disgusted to find that every single hotel they stayed in had carpeted bedrooms. Even the sight of a carpet gave them a feeling of ‘disorder’. For me, tiles remind me of supermarkets, so surely carpet in a hotel would symbolise comfort, homeliness, and warmth. On the contrary, my Spanish friends wouldn’t even dare take their shoes off.
And finally, when I asked a Spanish friend the main reason she didn’t like carpets, she simply replied: ‘well, they’re ugly’. Looks like it’s time to buy myself some slippers...