The art of parking – aka driving in Spain Part 2


The vehicle fleet of a particular country is a good indicator of the lifestyle of its citizens.  For example in New Zealand we are predominantly a land of double cab utilities, 4 x 4s and Japanese sedans. We are a practical and workaday country.   And we care about our paintwork.  I have more than once been glared at or reprimanded (mainly by elderly gentlemen) because the door of my car ventured too close to their immaculate pride and joy.

Here in Southern Spain there appear to be roughly two groups of vehicle.  Firstly and the majority are small hatchbacks and tiny French vans.  The vans put me in mind of a Richard Scarry cartoon – I almost expect to see a set of rabbit ears sticking out of the passenger window.  These vehicles are uniformly battered.  There will be an array of scuffs, dents and scratches down both sides.  Shiny perfect paintwork is not a high priority.

The second group of vehicles are comprised of expensive and or exotic marques and are for the most part large  and shiny.  Porsches, Bentleys, Maseratis and LandRovers to name a few.  BMWs and Mercedes are ten a penny.  These are very unlikely to be scratched (apart from one notable older Rolls Royce spotted outside the local supermarket with the most humongous sideswipe down one side) and the paintwork is immaculate.

Given that off the motorways Spanish roads can be narrow, twisty and convoluted you can probably see where I’m going with this post.  Yes the latter group of shiny power statements generally belong to the expat population here in Southern Spain and the locals drive the dinged and battered variety.  Which says a lot about how much exploring and integration the expat community here appears to do.

Individual carparks are uniformly narrow as are the access roads.  Underground carparks often involve sharp corners to get into them and stopping on what feels like a ski run to obtain the entry ticket.   All of which makes parking your vehicle nerve wracking if you’re not from round these parts.  The answer for many people – especially those of the shiny paintwork brigade is to park diagonally across two spaces – that way no one can scratch your car whilst opening their door.  It mystified me for ages as to why people did that (how inconsiderate!) and it wasn’t until a friend who used to have an expensive vehicle explained that the penny droppped.  Our friend has since seen the light and bought what he describes as a “banger”.  Very wise.

Getting into the local supermarket carpark can be a game of dodgems.  The locals, being not too concerned about paintwork and dents park anywhere : the outside lane of roundabouts, double parked in narrow entrance roads, in one lane of a two lane access road, even double parked in the roundabout.

So if it’s the end of the day and I’m tired I practise “Spanish” parking – generally across two parks so I don’t have to worry about anyone else  scratching my friend’s car  and I don’t have to squeeze into those narrow parks.

To all the elderly gentlemen in New Zealand – don’t come to southern Spain.

To anyone else – come here, drive, explore, you’ll love it.  Do it!  Just make sure your insurance is up to date.


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