Furcoats v short sleeves: The challenge of dressing like a local during Spain’s winter months

Furcoats v short sleeves: The challenge of dressing like a local during Spain's winter months
Photo: AFP
Colin Davies, a Brit who lives in Galicia, ponders the peculiarly Spanish habits when it comes to winter wardrobes.

In this part of Spain, it can rain rather a lot from November until early February.  

The locals all carry umbrellas strapped to their sides like US sheriffs have guns. But even when the sun does come out, it seems to make little difference to the dress code.

Being English, I regard a temperature of 18C (say, 67F) as a signal to move out of winter gear and into something lighter.

If not necessarily shorts and a T-shirt, then at least a shirt with its sleeves rolled up. But that isn’t a view shared by the locals, especially on a Sunday. Pullovers, jackets and even overcoats apparently remain compulsory – by law or convention – until some time in June, when the temperatures reach a level which would close Wimbledon.

Should you shed one or more of these layers before this date, you expose yourself not just to the rays of the sun but also to the shaft of a sarcastic comment along the lines that you are dressed ‘awfully summery’ for the time of year.

This helps to explain why, when I once sat baking in the town square on a sunny January day, the kid next to me was wearing a duffel coat buttoned up to the neck. But at least he’d taken his scarf off.

What particularly struck me when I first arrived is the number of women of a certain age (at the very least) who parade through town in fur coats in the blazing sunshine.

On one occasion my neighbour’s wife walked all of 30m to my house for dinner in a fabulous mink coat for which she’d be stoned to death in London, I suspect.  As it happens, she does seem to feel the cold but, as far as I was aware, there was no cold to feel that evening.

I found all this very hard to credit and it began to exercise my mind somewhat. Then the explanation finally dawned on me.

There is a window of opportunity, when the rain stops and there’s a long stretch of sunshine but before it gets too warm and spring-like.

This is when hideously expensive fur coats can be both justified because of the ‘low’ temperatures and risked without too much fear of a damaging downpour.

In brief, February is the Fur Coat Season. And what constitutes a little bit of sun – or even a bloody heat wave – isn’t going to be allowed to get in the way of the annual strutting competition. Hell would have to boil over first.

Colin Davies is a Merseysider who retired – quite young – to Galicia in late 2000 and has been writing about it ever since. He lives in an eyrie above the delightful coastal city of Pontevedra.

He has been writing a daily blog – Thoughts from Galicia – since 2002 and has written a Pilgrim's Guide to Pontevedra City, which is available, free, to all those claiming to be a pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago.

Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.