Spaniards are famously not the quietest of people. Walk past any bar and the chances are you’ll hear a reassuring din of loud chatting against a background of blaring television noise.
But now one charity is encouraging restaurants to lower their noise levels in order to create a more pleasant atmosphere for diners, and also help improve conditions for the hard of hearing.
“Without a doubt we have a problem with noise here in Spain,” Svante Borjesson, director of the foundation Oír es Clave, a charity dedicated to improving the lives of people with hearing impairments, told The Local.
“Spain is the second noisiest country in the world after Japan,” Borjesson added.
And the noise is not just a problem in bars and restaurants, “It's noisy in the streets, in schools, offices hospitals, everywhere,” Borjesson said.
“We are working to improve the quality of life for people with auditory problems and our “dine quietly” initiative benefits not only our particular interest group but the whole of society.”
Oír es Clave has launched a campaign – Comer sin ruido or Dine Quietly in English – that is calling on Spanish restaurants to implement a series of simple changes to improve their sound quality.
“It is difficult to make people aware of the dangers of noise pollution, but people are becoming more and more conscious of it,” Borjesson said.
Restaurants can find tips on the campaign's website comersinruido.org.
“It’s not just a project for expensive restaurants, but for any restaurant that is worried about noise levels,” Borjesson said.
The Dine Quietly website offers practical advice for restaurants and also includes a list of 20 restaurants where patrons will be guaranteed a headache-free meal in a nice, quiet atmosphere.
“We would like famous food guides like the Michelin Guide to also take this criteria into consideration, and that one day acoustic comfort will be just as important in the evaluation of a restaurant and will appear in reviews,” Borjesson said.
The campaign has attracted big names, including chef Ramón Freixa, of Hotel Único in Madrid.
“Gastronomy is an experience of the senses and noise can harm that pleasure,” he told Spanish magazine enfemenino.
For restaurants interested in lowering their noise levels, Comer sin ruido offers some handy tips on its website such as try not to let outside noise enter into the restaurant, turn off the television and radio and use special protectors on chair and table legs to avoid an annoying scraping noise.
The site also suggests separating tables and telling noisy patrons to lower their voices if they are disturbing the atmosphere of the restaurant.