Monthly Archives: June 2015

Great article about Spanish expressions that are better left untranslated

As I’m sure happens with any language that’s foreign to you, there are always some expressions that make you think, “What?!” if you actually take the time to translate them. However, after living in the country for a few years you’ll probably find yourself using them as well, without thinking twice.

The other day my husband showed me this article in El País and told me he thought it would make me laugh. Most definitely! This is certainly worth a read for any foreigner who’s been to or lived here in Spain:

Why do the Spanish “Shit in the Sea”?

What do you think? Makes sense?

My first “faux” flash mob in Madrid

The Flash Mob is an American-originated concept that’s made its way over to Spain, similar to other things I’ve written about (like Black Friday, Running Strollers, Babies R Us, etc.). Here they even have customized versions such as the “Flamenco flash mobs” ( The general gist, as you’re probably familiar with, is a large group of people coming together suddenly in a public place to perform a coordinated act or dance for a brief time and then quickly dispersing. Keep this in mind as you keep reading.

Yesterday I participated in my first flash mob here in Madrid – or what I thought was going to be my first flash mob… Let me back up for a minute: a few days ago I was in the Corte Ingles picking up my dorsal for my last 10k race of the season. As I was waiting in line, a cheerful cheerleader-like girl approached a group of us to announce that a dance group called SLS Dance was organizing the first flash mob in a large sporting event in Spain. Intrigued, I logged onto the web site back at home and found the choreographed dance that I would have to learn to participate, to Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailando” no less. I figured, “Well, I’ve never been in a flash mob before, so why not?”

By the time Sunday morning rolled around, I was pretty pumped for the upcoming mob, actually moreso than for the 10k race that would follow. To my surprise, as my friend and I were at the starting line, the same girl who I had seen the other day at the Corte Ingles announced to the crowd over the loudspeaker that in one minute we would all be performing the first sporting event flash mob in Spain. Fifty seconds later she proceeded to start a 10-second countdown.

Wait a minute – since when do you announce a flash mob over a loudspeaker and have a countdown? I also don’t recall flash mobs having people on stages showing the dance to the crowd….So, A for effort for the dance group wanting to organize a flash mob, but downgraded in the actual execution part. I think we need to recognize it for what it was: an organized dance.

In any case, there were two positive outcomes from this faux flash mob experience for me:

  1. I started off the race in a good mood after dancing with the crowd and set a personal record.
  2. I’m determined to take part one day in a real flash mob so that I can really check it off my list.

Overall it was an amusing experience. Hey, I guess any import takes a little bit of time and tweaking to get it right 😉

Trendsetting? Baby running strollers make their appearance in The Corte Inglés

Just the other day I was commenting on how I felt running outside pushing my baby stroller (see: Last post about gyms). To refresh your memory, I was questioning whether I had forgotten my pants at home because of the crazy looks I was getting.

Well, it seems like I’m not so crazy after all. Look what I was greeted with at the Corte Ingles, the largest department store here in Spain, when I got off the elevator in the children’s department:

Bugaboo running strollerBugaboo Running strollerBugaboo running stroller

It seems that Bugaboo, one of the posh, popular stroller brands here, has just launched its “Athletic Extension” stroller. In theory this is great, and I’m looking forward to seeing more people out in my neighborhood exercising with their strollers. I guess it is true what a lot of people tell me, that sooner or later most things from the US make it over here to Spain.

Good luck with the marketing Bugaboo! And make it clear that this kind of stroller, despite the brand, doesn’t mesh with heels…

A few thoughts about working out and gyms in Spain

A while back I shared my experience with different gyms here in Spain (See: Finding a great gym…deserves a piece of cake.), but I talked more about the actual gym than peculiarities vs. gyms and working out back in the US. I’m a pretty avid exerciser (both in gyms and out), so I like to think I’ve seen some interesting things. Granted I’ve been away from the US for almost a decade and sometimes I don’t notice differences anymore, but… I’d venture to guess that some of this is unique to Spain.

  • Saying hello and goodbye in the locker room. As with elevator etiquette, it’s quite normal here to say hello and goodbye when entering and leaving the locker room, despite people being in the middle of various stages of hygiene and/or undressing. Since in the US, silence is the golden rule, I was a bit confused the first time someone said hello to me as I was getting ready to get in the shower after a workout. Was she talking to me? However, nowadays I expect a stranger to greet me in the locker room. And I do the same.
  • Inappropriate English lyrics. I’m all for music during group exercise classes that’s energetic and motivates you to work out. And if you can sing along even better. A few times in spinning classes though my mouth was wide open – not because I was singing at the top of my lungs because I was the only one who really knew the words – but because I couldn’t believe the lyrics I was listening to. Just wrong and totally inappropriate. All I was thinking was that no one else in the class seemed to be bothered by it (or understanding maybe), so I just kept on working out and waited for it to pass. In hindsight it was pretty funny, once I got over my initial – am I really hearing what I think I’m hearing- shock.

parental advisory

  • Running with a baby stroller. The first time I went out for a run, pushing my baby along in his stroller, I was convinced that I had forgotten my shirt or pants. Why? Everyone looked at my like I had three heads. Something had to be off. As it turns out, it just isn’t that common to see a mother getting a good workout at the same time she’s with her baby. For me it was great; I got to spend time with the little guy and get an even-more challenging workout. I know back home this is definitely more common and the sales of specialized exercise baby strollers (like the BOB) are through the roof. But…apparently that’s not the case here. Being the only one definitely didn’t stop me, and in a few occasions I even got some local cheering on from passersby. Maybe I’ll start a trend in my residential baby-friendly neighborhood…

Running baby stroller

  • Gym clothes be gone. After a good workout at the gym I like to stay as far away from my workout clothes as possible until I put them in the washing machine. Much to my surprise, one day I forgot my clothes in the locker room, only to go back later and find out that my spinning shorts and sports bra (not the top) had been stolen. I really don’t know who would want to steal my dirty gym clothes, but best of luck to them.

These are just a few thoughts from my experiences. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience if you’re reading this from over here in Spain, or maybe there are other peculiarities about the workout world back home that I’ve forgotten.

Just like maybe I could start a trend with stroller running, maybe if you’re in another country you could start a trend by starting to say hello and goodbye to people in locker rooms. Or you could just get that startled expression that I’ve seen in Boston after being away so long away and saying hi to people in the elevator…

Babies R Us logo

Babies R Us – What happens when a global brand goes wrong

Time for a new customer experience reflection, this time with the experience of a global brand with a presence in 13 countries:

If you’re living in the US and pregnant (or post-baby) Babies R Us is the mecca for every and any baby product that you can imagine. When I visited the Babies R Us in Massachusetts while in the US and waiting for my little bundle of joy, I was quite impressed, and at the same time quite overwhelmed, by the amount of “things” that you could need for a baby.

Then I met Phil. In a matter of a half hour Phil became my new best friend and trusted advisor. Who is Phil? Phil is a millennial. He’s a college sophomore who plays on the basketball team, hangs out with his friends after classes, and spends his free time playing on his ipad and texting. The only difference is that Phil also works part time at Babies R us and is totally knowledgeable about baby products and pregnant woman needs. And no, Phil is not a father. According to him, he has a lot of nieces and nephews so he knows a lot about this stuff, and he’s also interested in being a teacher in the future. Thanks to Phil’s help I purchased a lot of great baby knick knacks and whatnots, signed up to be on the mailing list and in the baby club and helped enhance Babies R Us’ annual profit. I also learned a thing or two about nursing needs that I’m not really sure how Phil knew, but I was too impressed to ask questions. When I left the store with my mother that day I wanted to take Phil home with us. Of course, I had a hard time later explaining to my husband that Phil was just a Babies R Us employee who happened to be awesome.

Flash forward a bit over a year to Madrid post-bundle of joy arrival: now that little Nicolas had arrived I realized we were in desperate need of some baby items like an electric swing. Then I remembered that I had seen a Babies R Us not too far away from where we lived, although I had never set foot in the store before. This time entering the store I didn’t have the same illusion as back in the US (probably from the lack of sleep), but I was ready to be greeted by my Spanish Phil (Felipe??) and start to great experience. To my disappointment, there was no Phil. In fact, there was hardly anyone at all. We had to walk around the store trying to find an employee to try to help us. When we finally did find one, she pointed to her watch and said sorry, she couldn’t help since it was her lunch break, but another employee would probably be around. We were finally able to find an employee to ask a question about the swings, only to have her reply that she really didn’t know the difference between the different models available. And that was about it. In general the employees were more on the rude side and definitely not at all like my beloved Phil.

Just last week I was back at Babies R Us in Madrid, this time with more sleep behind me and a better idea of what I wanted, but I was still “greeted” with the same lack of greeting and lack of help. After trying to find someone to ask a question for about 5 minutes, I finally just decided it just wasn’t worth it and left.

Why am I am I writing about this and why should you care if you don’t frequent Babies R Us or don’t have kids? Really this post could be about any brand that transcends international boundaries with its logo and image. As a person with quite a bit of background working in Customer Experience research and most recently in consumer goods marketing, I’m a a real proponent of the importance of delivering a consistent and better-than-good brand experience. Customer engagement is key; if you don’t deliver a full-cycle experience and/or consistent experiences (more the case here), in the long run you lose customers and profits. To me, it seems hard to believe that a global brand like Babies R Us (Toys R Us) can be willing to put its brand name, logo and all that these images stand for on a store that delivers a sub sub-prime experience. In my opinion, with an experience like this, it’s better to skip the big brand and find a local option to fit your needs.

Phil, if you’re reading this, we could use you over here in Spain!