Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Haciendo la compra [doing the shopping]

Shopping in Madrid is quite different from shopping in the UK or shopping in Dubai. What I mean by 'shopping' is going out to buy edible and non-edible consumable stuff. Durable stuff also counts as shopping, of course, but I don't do it several times a week so I'm not talking about that now.

Spain seems quite attached to the idea of small general stores and specialised shops sprinkled throughout the town. I have not yet found an actual shopping mall in Madrid Centro. I'm sure there are some in the burbs, but I haven't been there yet. Same goes for hypermarkets. There are a few supermercados in/near the centre. There's a Carrefour Express in Lavapiés, a dreadful Dia (remember Kwik Save in the UK? This is worse) near Chueca, and half a million El Corte Inglés's all over the place.

El Corte Inglés is a weird institution. Modelled closely on the old-fashioned English department store idea, they develop in clusters of adjacent buildings and frequently occupy numerous floors. They seem to sell pretty much everything, usually at prices that are quite a bit higher than what you wanted to pay. They probably have half a dozen clusters in Madrid, and they are present in all major Spanish towns. Oddly, they do not seem to have any competitors.

But here's the thing. Because they are department stores, they feel obliged to position the cosmetics department inside the main entrance. This means that whenever you visit them you are assailed by this miasma of a thousand different aromas that permeates the air. Don't get me wrong, many of these aromas on their own can be quite pleasant. But put them all together and I literally want to puke. If you are ever in Madrid and you visit El Corte Inglés at Puerta del Sol, you might be able to catch a glimpse of El Git Inglés rushing around with a hankie clutched over his nose and mouth trying to get to or from the supermercado without suffering too much olfactory damage.

In the same way that UK corner shops were taken over by Asians (because they are prepared to work extremely long hours for virtually no money), many of the local alimentaciónes in Spain are run by Chinese.

1 comment:

Keil said...

Hi there Keefi B.!

I've been reading your Adventures blog for a while now but since you've moved to Spain (and now we're neighbors), I felt it was time I commented and stopped with the lurking.

Careful with El Corte Inglés. Once you get used to it, you can't get rid of it! You'll find those green triangles popping up everywhere you look.

Love the theme of Proboably Madrid. Good job!