SHARE
COPY LINK

WEATHER

A survivor’s guide to keeping cool during summer in the city in Spain

As the mercury starts to rise, The Local offers you our tips on keeping cool in the city.

A survivor's guide to keeping cool during summer in the city in Spain
Photo: AFP

READ: The best Spanish treats to keep you cool in a heatwave

While those within reach of the Spanish coast can turn to some of Europe's finest beaches to cool down, city dwellers often struggle to combat the heat.

So how do you keep cool away from the coast?  

Flutter a fan

No, it's not just an outdated stereotype, Spaniards really do use fans to stave off the summer heat. So do as the abuelas do and make sure to carry a fan, or abanico, with you whenever you're in the city.

Go to a terrace with a spritzer

Photo: AFP

Otherwise known as the best invention ever, these water vapour sprays attached to industrial size fans ensure the air is kept moist and cool even during the hottest hours of the day.

Take public transport

Photo: a_marga/Flickr

Buses and metros are among the coolest places to be when the mercury rises, so much so you might find yourself staying on long past your stop to enjoy the cool temperatures.

Find a fountain
Photo: AFP
 
While we do not necessarily condone jumping into fountains, you can find some cooling spray from one of these monuments that are often dotted all over towns and cities. Especially great are the ones that spray cool water straight up from the pavement.
 
Raise the roof
Atop the Bellas Artes, one of the best views in Madrid. Photo: Azoteca
 
Catch some of that elusive breeze by enjoying a few drinks on a rooftop bar, where, when the sun goes down, you might just find a little bit of cool.
 
 
Slather on the suncream
 
 It might seem obvious but it's amazing how many people forget to protect their skin from the sun when they are in a city rather than on the beach. Walking around sporting a red hot burn will just make you even hotter, so make sure you slap on the suncream and save yourself a lot of aftersun and discomfort.
 

Always apply sun cream Photo: AFP
 
Go swimming
 
Photo: Tinnyaw/Flickr
 
If you are not lucky enough to have a private pool don't worry as outdoor municipal pools can be found in towns and cities across Spain during the summer months. Even better for cooling off are natural pools like this one in Cercedilla, just north of Madrid.
 
 
Mooch around a museum 
 
Photo: Julie Kertesz/Flickr
 
Keep your cool and get your culture fix at the same time by heading to a museum, where you can wander aimlessly for hours enjoying the air-conditioning!
 
 
Go to the cinema
 

Photo: Raban Haaijk/Flickr

Catch a summer blockbuster at your local multiplex, where you can avoid the baking heat to take refuge within a dark, cool, air-conditioned theatre.

Head to a leafy park

Photo: Maureen Barlin/Flickr

Get away from the hot hustle and bustle of the city and take refuge in the leafy shade of a park, such as Madrid's Retiro, pictured here.

READ MORE: Ten things that only happen in Spain when summer arrives

MONEY

Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.

READ MORE:

Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 

 

Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.

Santander

Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.

BBVA

The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.

SHOW COMMENTS