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CATALONIA

Seven things you should never say to a Catalan person

Catalans are usually friendly people but also very proud of their culture and language, so saying the wrong thing can make things awkward. Journalist Julia Webster Ayuso, who is a Catalan herself, lists seven faux pas to avoid.

Seven things you should never say to a Catalan person
Photo: Yogendra Singh on Unsplash

1. Call the capital of Catalonia “Barça”

Our capital is often associated with football, and while for some that’s a real point of pride, not all Catalans are football fans. “Barça” is the nickname given to FC Barcelona, and you will hear people chanting it during a football match. The team is not, however, the same as the city, so don’t say “I love spending time in Barça”, it won’t make any sense to us. We have our own affectionate nickname for Barcelona: Barna.

2. Ask ‘isn’t Catalan a dialect?’

Catalan is one of Spain’s five official languages, along with Castilian Spanish, Galician, Basque and Aranese. Catalan is considerably different to Spanish as it’s from the Gallo and Occitano-Romance branch of languages whereas Castilian is an Iberian Romance language. So, even though there is vocabulary that’s similar in Spanish and Catalan, in some ways Catalan is closer to French or Italian because it wasn’t heavily influenced by Arabic like Spanish was. Catalan is not merely spoken at home: it’s the main language used in government, institutions and taught in schools.

3. Call Catalans “Catalonians”

The citizens of Catalonia speak a language called Catalan and are known as Catalans (Catalanes in Spanish, Catalans in French, Catalani in Italian, etc). English speakers have often used the term “Catalonians” instead, but this won’t go down well – it’s just wrong.

3. Mix up the senyera and the estelada

The Catalan national flag is made up of four red stripes on a yellow background and is known as la senyera. Though it looks similar to the estelada, there’s one very visible difference: the star on a blue triangle, which makes it a symbol of the pro-independence movement. The senyera is a patriotic symbol, while the estelada expresses someone’s support for the movement that would make Catalonia independent from Spain.

The estelada flag, not the senyera. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

4. Ask if you want to go trick or treating in Catalonia on the 31st of October

Halloween is a relatively new thing in Spain and while some people like to dress up and go knocking on doors on October 31st, many Catalans feels like it overshadows our own traditions. This autumn holiday is historically celebrated as la castanyada, a day dedicated to eating chestnuts and making panellets (little marzipan pastries).

5. Celebrate Valentine’s Day instead of Sant Jordi

Another imported holiday! We’re not fans of Valentine’s Day and you won’t see many Catalans carrying heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and fluffy toys or wishing each other a Feliç dia de Sant Valentí! on February 14th. For us, the most romantic day of the year is the April 23rd (also St George’s day, the patron saint of Catalonia), when it’s traditional for lovers to exchange roses and books as gifts.

6. Say cava is a lesser version of champagne

Yes, you may know of cava as “Catalan champagne”. And while cava is generally much cheaper than champagne, the production process is almost the same. We have some great producers like Codorniu and Freixenet, so maybe you should stop wasting your money on the more expensive French stuff!

7. Say what you think about Catalan independence

Passions run high over Catalonia’s independence and Catalans themselves remain divided, with the latest poll in 2022 showing 41 percent in favour of separation while 52 percent wanted to remain in Spain. Politics can be a touchy subject anywhere, but in Catalonia it’s best avoided all together, unless the Catalan person you’re speaking to wants to talk about it.

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FOOD & DRINK

‘We’re going to hell’: Supermarket’s readymade fried eggs offend Spaniards

Spain's most popular supermarket Mercadona has shocked shoppers by selling pre-cooked fried eggs in plastic packaging, sparking a huge uproar among environmentalists and food lovers.

'We're going to hell': Supermarket's readymade fried eggs offend Spaniards

In a country where food is sacrosanct, gastronomic scandals that blow up on social media are not rare (we’re looking at you Jaime Oliver, and your chorizo paella).

Spanish supermarket chain Mercadona has written the latest chapter in Spain’s long list of food faux pas by selling two vacuum sealed fried eggs for €1.80.

That’s around the same price as buying a dozen uncooked eggs in Spain, but it’s not the price which has upset most Spaniards, rather the fact that something as simple and quick as cooking a couple of huevos in the frying pan is deemed too laborious and time consuming for some shoppers, according to Mercadona at least. 

The label on the packaging states “put in the microwave for 45 seconds”.

One tweet that has gone viral typifies the response of many Spaniards to this bizarre supermarket offering. “We are going to hell”, wrote Dr Elena Casado Pineda along with a photo of the packaged eggs.

Another user who posted a video of himself petrified under his bed covers, said “Mercadona selling fried eggs is the beginning of the end”’.

Several others have taken to TikTok to review Mercadona’s divisive eggs. “It tastes like an egg, even though one made at home is much better, obviously,” concluded one young influencer.

Eggs are after all a staple food product in the Spanish diet and essential for classic dishes such as the tortilla de patatas (Spanish potato omelette) and revueltos (scrambled eggs with other food mixed in).

Numerous Spanish media outlets have also covered ‘egg-gate’. La Sexta TV interviewed a nutritionist to get an expert opinion on Mercadona’s fried eggs and evaluate their pros and cons.

Others have highlighted the repulsion of a large part of the Spanish population, some stressing that Mercadona aren’t the first to engage in such lazy and wasteful food offerings as Carrefour sells pre-peeled and dissected tangerines.

In the case of public broadcaster RTVE, the focus was primarily on what it represented in terms of plastic waste and the country’s new laws to reduce it.

“An average person in Spain throws away 34 kilos of single-use plastic packaging a year,” Blanca Rubial of environmentalist group Amigos de la Tierra told RTVE.

Spain’s new plastic waste law will ban plastic packaging of fresh fruit and vegetables if they weigh under 1.5kg, something that won’t affect pre-cooked food such as the controversial eggs.

Others have also pointed out that for people with reduced mobility (of their hands in particular) as well as blind people, having access to pre-cooked eggs can be useful, although previous attempts to market these products to such groups haven’t proven very successful.

Mercadona has responded by saying that their packaged fried eggs are only being sold in some of its supermarkets during a trial period.

Food delivery services have increased by 80 percent in Spain over the last three years, and takeaways by 68 percent between 2019 and 2021, with the pandemic no doubt largely influencing this.

It’s a booming business and whether Spaniards would like to admit it or not, their increasingly frenetic rhythm of life means that having time to cook isn’t always their top priority, even though they are by and large food lovers and proud of their gastronomy.

That said, who can’t spare the three minutes it takes to fry an egg?

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