At the supermarket the other day I had bought just two items and found myself at the end of a long queue. Looking around I saw that all the tills had long queues. The lady behind me in the queue started moaning about the cashiers. How they never work fast enough! How they chat too much with customers! To some extent that is true but that is because, certainly in our bit of Vigo, almost all the supermarkets, even the big Carrefour, are rather like our local Co-op store back in Delph. The cashiers know most of the customers because they are regulars and regular customers are almost like friends. It also reflects a slightly slower pace of life.
And then, out of the blue, my queue companion made a comment about Carrefour where a cashier had told her that in many other countries of Europe they have these magical tills where you just swipe the code yourself. So I told her that just about all our supermarkets in the UK, apart from places like our local Co-op store, have self-checkouts. On discovering that I am English she went on to tell me, "Inglaterra es un país moderno". She followed that with a comment on how sensible we were not to get into be in the euro zone. As if that made a difference to self-checkout tills and the speed of service!
I would not be at all surprised to find that supermarkets in Barcelona have self-checkouts. I must ask friends who go there regularly. Of course, one problem with self-checkouts here would be customers paying by card and having to show their ID to do so! Not very "self" checkout.
One of the differences, as well, is that in the UK there has long been a move towards big supermarkets in shopping complexes on the edge of towns. And although recent years have seen small versions - Tesco Express, Sainsbury's Local and so on - opening in city centres, they remain as impersonal as the big put of town places. Here in Spain, on the other hand, even in large cities like Vigo, each district retains something of the atmosphere of the separate small community it used to be. And so districts like Teis at one end of the city and Calvario at the other still have their own market hall. For that matter they have their own local festivities, their own mini carnaval and Easter processions.
Small places in the UK are trying to revive that sort of thing. Our village has a "Wake Up Delph" committee that organises switching on Christmas lights and a sort of music festival that they call "Party in the Park".
All good stuff. Spain should try not to rush into being too much of a "país moderno".