There have been a few surprises since we took over the house in Spain. In general, I should explain, apart from the climate, Germany and Spain are surprisingly similar – they both have well developed bureaucracies, supported by high levels of taxation; there is generally little corruption (don’t lump Spain in with Italy, when talking about corruption to a Spaniard – he will be most insulted). The exception being some provincial Spanish governments, which in the past have been accused of taking bribes from property developers to grant planning permission. And in my admittedly limited experience, the quality of service in shops and from tradesmen in Spain is much better than their reputation (and better than in Germany).
Of course, we knew the Spanish don’t have the same variety of bread and rolls that you can get in Germany, but several other things we take for granted in Germany don’t work the same way in Spain:
- The postal service doesn’t deliver everywhere.
When the house was nearing completion, we wanted to be sure that if any of the service companies (electricity, water, insurance) that we had signed up with sent us a letter (a bill, for example), that it wouldn’t be returned to sender. I had to nag Enrique and Pepe repeatedly to organise a letter box on the outside of our garden wall, next to the entrance gate. Finally, after several weeks and a lot of nagging, it was installed and we sent ourselves some test letters to see how long post would take from Germany. None of it arrived.
Some time later, when I was at the house, I spoke to Annette, the woman who sold us the land. “Oh, I don’t think the post delivers here” she said. “I get all my post delivered to the office in town”. Annette lives about 3-4 km from us in the next village. A few weeks later, when we were both in Spain, we went to the post office in Xàtiva, who confirmed that they really don’t deliver to Bixquert, which is where the house is. So we have rented a post office box in Xàtiva, It’s neat business idea of the Correos (Post Office) – don’t deliver the post, and charge over 100 Euro a year to rent a PO Box from them! So we have to remember to collect the post occasionally when we are in Xàtiva! When I told Pepe that we’d had to rent a post box, he didn’t look in the least surprised, and just said “I thought that would be the case” – which was why he hadn’t rushed to mount our letter box!
It’s a bit strange, as the neighbours opposite us on the other side of the road also have a letter box at the entrance… and they are locals! We don’t live more than 5 km from Xàtiva post office, so it’s not as if we were in the middle of nowhere.
- The courier services don’t always deliver to your door. It depends which company you use.
In Germany, we got rid of our coffee machine – we never drink coffee at home, and whenever we offered it to guests, the coffee we had was stale because we never use it ourselves. But when we bought the house we thought we really should be in a position to offer visitors a decent cup of espresso and I ordered a Nespresso machine from amazon.de (which was a lot cheaper than ordering the same machine from amazon.es, even though we had to pay the delivery charge from Germany.)
A couple of days later, I had a phone call from MRW, who is amazon’s delivery agent in Spain (like DHL is in Germany), in high-speed Spanish, to say that I could collect my coffee machine. Fortunately I was in the car with Pepe at the time, so I passed him the phone, and he got directions to their office! It seems they only deliver to the door in large towns, not in the country. On the other hand, when I ordered some coffee capsules for the machine, Nespresso used a different courier, and they delivered right to the door.