Everything Takes Longer (Posted 8-11-2010)

Things are slower here. Much slower. A few days after we arrived, one of our team members told us, “Be prepared for things to take about twice as long as they usually do for you in the States.” Part of my (Chad) competitive personality bucked against this statement; I wanted to take it as a challenge and beat the norm. I thought, “Maybe it will only take me 33 percent longer than normal.” Let’s just say that’s probably not the brightest thought I’ve had since flying over.

Our friend was right. It takes us at least twice as long to do things here. Let’s take one example: shopping. In the US, grocery shopping took us about 30-45 minutes. But here, you set out for the car with a grocery list in hand with unconscious expectations to wrap things up in an hour. On your way, at least in the first week or two, you probably get lost (25 minutes – 1 hour). When you arrive, you are stopped at the door because a security guard needs to check your wife’s bag and stamp it with a sticker (5 minutes). Then you need to figure out how to unlock a locker to lock up your cart. (10 minutes; or 20 minutes if you forgot change and need to make change with a cashier.). When you are actually ready to shop, none of the isles make logical sense, at least to an American. You pass through every isle at least three times to find things on your list (45 minutes). When you check out, the lines are long (15 minutes). Also, in Spain there are special venders for weighing and pricing produce in the produce sections. So when you are in the check out, and you have forgotten to get your produce stamped, you can’t buy it, unless of course you want to go get your produce stamped, and come back to wait in line again (20 minutes). After checking out, you unlock your cart to load up your food and be on your way (5-10 minutes). You drive home and get lost again (30 minutes). Total time to grocery stop = 3 hours. Total amount of items purchased from your list = 60 percent.

So much for being only 33 percent longer than normal.

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