Here in Andalusia – also probably in the rest of Spain – in small towns, such as Alcalá some things work a little differently, including customs and social norms. Indeed, Spanish villages have their own code of unwritten laws that are usually strictly adhered to. There are no fines or punishments for breaking these rules; they are honored because they have always been in place. They are like part of the scenery. Over the years we have come across quite some interesting situation, some of them I forgot to mention below, as they have become ‘normal’ to us. So for people considering moving to Spain, below is an Alcalá for Dummies Guide that could help save you from the glares of the señores of the village in case, for example, you accidentally occupy the space they regularly hang out to play cards in the fresh air.
Parking is allowed everywhere but prohibited in places where people hang out outdoors. There is an imaginary yellow line in places where neighbors set up chairs at nightfall to enjoy the fresh air. There are no fines for parking in this spot, but be prepared for the consequences if you provoke a mass migration of villagers with foldable chairs.
You have to say hello. Not to everyone. But to almost everyone. And a simple ¿Que tal? (‘What’s up?’) is not enough. You have to say how you’re doing, and (for the advanced ones amongst you) in addition to talking about your entire family.
More for permanent inhabitant such as us: You must be able to locate all neighbors in an extended kinship system. If someone is about to tell you a story about ‘Juan, the son of El Gordito,’ before they can continue, you must immediately interject: ‘Yes, he married Isabela, from the fruit shop.’ If you don’t do this, the conversation will not flow properly. Only with this added comment can the other person continue with what they were originally going to tell you about Juan, the son of El Gordito. Or they can choose to add something else about Isabela from the fruit shop, maybe that ‘her sister is Virginia, from the Neighbors Association.’ Perhaps you won’t even get to the original story about Juan. It doesn’t really matter.
True villagers are born in the village. Everyone else is a foreigner. Just as people born there can leave the town and always be considered a part of it, the reverse is also true. Even if you spend 30 years in a village, but were born somewhere else, you will still be considered ‘the outsider.’ Of course, after the third month, they will still treat you like one of their own.Thank God that you’re not a local: For them: If you live outside your village, you must take days off to return for all of the fiestas. Even if you miss just one, you will be disowned. You can spend 50 years living in another city and stay a part of the community, as long as you come back for the fiestas. But should you disregard them, woe is you. There is no legitimate excuse for not going to the fiestas every year.
You have to find the areas with a decent phone signal. Most towns have a limited number of places from which cell phones can be used. If you leave these zones, you can forget about receiving your WhatsApp messages. This makes it easier to go directly to the house of the person you want to talk to rather than calling.
Diversify your purchases among the town’s stores. No picking favorites. If there are two fruit markets, divide your purchases between them. If you don’t, people are going to think there’s beef between you and the owners.
Rivalries with the surrounding villages must be maintained. It doesn’t matter if you go to their fiestas and have a great time. The hostilities have to be upheld. If you begin to date someone from a rival town, be prepared to be the butt of an endless stream of jokes.
I guess enough to start off with and trust me there are many more.