5 Things Every Visitor to Basque Country Should Know
Being in a different country, you'll come across surprises in the way things are done. Sometimes the changes are dramatic, like driving on the other side of the road, and sometimes they are small, like the colour of the street signs. Basque Country has a culture that is steeped in history and customs. It is one of the reasons why it is so great being here. Let's talk about some of these cultural differences.
To avoid the culture shock that can happen to anyone leaving the comforts of their home country, we have some recommendations. First, expect differences as part of your travel experience. Second, keep an open mind. Third, cultural differences need not seem better or worse; they are simply different.
Generally, when it comes to different cultures and the differences between them it's not the best to talk about language. Language is a complicated issue and 99% of the time words vary between different languages. That being said, sometimes words are so close that the logical jump can be made from one to the other. When it comes to the word gasoleo, don't make the jump!
When you pull up to the fuel pump to fill your car with gasoline there are usually two or more hoses that provide different fueling options like regular, premium and diesel. In Basque Country one of the main options is gasoleo, and contrary to its similarity in spelling to gasoline, gasoleo is in fact diesel.
Gasoleo means diesel? Correct, gasoleo means diesel!
If you want gasoline, you need to choose the option that says "Sin Plomo" with a gradient number like 95 or 98. Not a big deal once you know what to do, but a costly one if you make this mistake.
Parking Zone Colours
The parking situation in Basque Country can be a little tricky if you don't know what's going on. There are four different colours of parking spots that mean different things. It may sound a bit confusing at first, but once you get familiar with the system it is actually easier. You don't have to look for any signs that say if it is paid parking or not. You just look at the colour of the lines of the parking stall and you'll know if you have to pay.
Blue: Visitor pay parking. Two hour limit. Find the closest parking meter and leave the ticket it prints out on your dash.
Green: Resident parking and pay parking. You are allowed to park in green spots for an hour but the cost is more expensive than blue spots. This is done to discourage parking for non residents.
White: Free parking and no time limit.
Yellow: No parking or handicap parking. These areas are patrolled regularly and getting fined or towed is likely.
If you find yourself needing to go to the bathroom when you are out and about you will be wise to look for the lettering "WC." You can still look for the logos of the man and woman logos that indicate a bathroom as those are used here too.
The interesting thing about the WC logo is that at the root of it is English. Any guesses what WC stands for?
It stands for water closet. Yep, that is English and helpful in a way. The strange thing is that in North America you won't ever come across the term water closet or "WC" symbols. Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, never seen it. However, knowing that it is English and done in order to make it easier and more convenient for English speakers, it is appreciated.
An interesting thing about Bassque Country is that they have their own font. It's a font that as far as I know isn't used anywhere else in the world. It has its own personality with the lettering being different sizes. Some letters are more oblong than you would usually see and the right leg of the letters "R" and "K" are extended and dramaticized.
To be clear, it's not that every word in Basque Country uses this font, it's mostly just Basque Businesses and flyers that use this particular font. However, it is a quirk to the region and one that is appreciated.
This is morning?
What do you consider to be morning? Does it really matter? Isn't the definition of morning kind of arbitrary? For example, why does a mile have 5,280 feet?
In North America it was generally considered that after 12:00, noon, morning was over. That doesn't appear to be the case in Basque Country. It seems that anything before lunch, around 2:00pm to 3:00pm is considered morning. So if you're waiting for someone at 1:30pm after they told you they'd be there tomorrow morning, don't be surprised.
Cultural and societal differences are expected when you go anywhere. If you've noticed any Basque cultural differences that you find interesting, please let us know about your experience. We love hearing from you!
There are many more cultural and societal differences between Basque Country and North America. We will continue to tackle them in further posts.