The summer is over, vacations are coming to an end, and travellers are returning home to rejoin their work-mates once again. With this time of the year comes the distribution of the last minute souvenirs to friends and family, also known as the gifts that no one really wants but everybody expects. Little do most travellers to Barcelona know, is that they've probably committed various grave crimes against souvenirs in this process...
Choosing a souvenir is an art in itself of course, taking years of practice and refined by only the best travellers. In Barcelona, these kinds of travellers won't be fooled by the various swindlers that confuse tourists into spending money on sinfully silly souvenirs that have nothing to do with Barcelona, Catalonia, or sometimes even Spain.
Here are some tips on avoiding the worst souvenirs to become a top class selector of souvenirs, so that you can master the art of last minute gift buying in Barcelona without committing any crimes. For ideas on the best though, take a look at this article about the best souvenirs of Barcelona.
Made in a Far Off Land...
With globalization and mass consumerism, a lot of products are manufactured in far off countries like China. Spain of course is no exception to this. So the first tip for you is don't be skimpy; for example, with clothes you can buy something made in the local region, or, if you prefer, choose a t-shirt from a designer that is at least widely recognized amongst locals, for example, the Basque brand KUKUXUMUSU (pronounced Koo-Koo-Choo-Moo-Soo).
Domestic products may be more expensive, but you'll be hard struck to find something similar somewhere else like in London or Munich. If you're spending money on something on a whim, then you might as well make it unique, right?
Of course, that's only a light offense, comparable to a little public disorderliness, and will only land you a warning. If you've committed this crime, don't worry, we all do it, just try to avoid it if you can. Let's dive a little deeper and discover a much more grave crime against souvenirs...
Yes folks, I'm speaking about the tiny creatures that can be found across Las Ramblas in the form of sevillanas, castanets, Spanish fans, and various other stereotypical articles from the deep south of Spain. Catalans don't really relate to much to these things. Don't be deceived, search for gifts elsewhere instead of Las Ramblas, which is the headquarters of various gifts that might have been acceptable during the tackiness of the 80s rather than in modern Barcelona.
Of course, these objects have probably been here in Catalonia since modern tourism was invented. No matter how beautiful the object though, don't do it! If you were to take a holiday in Madrid, you wouldn't buy an object representing the works of Gaudí, something that the locals in the Spanish capital don't relate to in the slightest.
In terms of seriousness of crime, it's probably the equivalent of committing assault, therefore it's quite serious. If you've done this, the only way to really repent is the hang your head in shame and have it rubbed in for the next 5 years, depending on what the jury made up of those who are on the receiving end of your gifts agree on.
How to Avoid Commiting Souvenir Assault!
As it's quite a big offense, let's take a look at how you can avoid it. While the existence of these souvenirs are due to the history of Spain and maybe even minutely a part Catalan culture, it's not a reflection on the spirit of the city. The dance of Catalonia isn't the Flamenco, it's the Sardana, and though I've never seen someone playing the castanets, I have certainly seen someone playing the Flabiol.
A Gaudí figurine, as cheesy as it may be, is a perfectly acceptable souvenir, and even a Porrón de Vino (a type of wine jug) is a good gift as it's something that is still used locally, at least in some restaurants. The easiest rule to follow is that if it forms a small part of local culture, it's a decent souvenir, like a Catalan donkey instead of a Spanish bull. The article photo of the Spanish Bull in Gaudí style, (credit to Carlos Lorenzo) is clearly some form of satire, with a deeply rooted hidden meaning of the Spanification of Catalan society... so you get bonus points for that one.
Now let's discover the ultimate crime against souvenirs.
The Ultimate Crime and how to Avoid it.
In the world of Spanish souvenirs, the following is the equivalent of committing murder. Much like the Spanish Inquisition, nobody expected it. One of life's greatest mysteries is how or why it can be found in Barcelona, yet here it is... The Mexican hat. It's something that not even Mexicans wear (except the Mariachis of course...).
Yet despite this, it seems like a popular piece of fabric amongst tourists. Their are various motives for buying a mexican hat in Barcelona and they're all suspiciously motives for murder as well:
- You may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- You might have a severe hatred for something (like the local culture for instance).
- Jealousy (wow, cool hat...).
- You were paid/contracted to do it.
- You got caught up in the heat of the moment.
- You crazy.
If you've committed this crime, for whatever motive, you need to be reminded about it for the rest of your days. In some extreme cases of mexican hat buying, you should be forced to wear the hat for life. The jury may decide this sentence be carried out with glue.
If you're really looking for a ridiculous hat, and it's something you can't live without, then buy a Barratina instead, it's a local catalan hat, and while it's not really worn anymore, it's a recognized icon of Catalonia. As an added bonus, you get to see your friends and family as they strut their stuff in this very stylish piece of fashion goodness. Everybody wins and no crimes are committed in the process!
A Summary of Souvenir-related Offenses
|Crime against Souvenirs||Equivalent Crime||Solution|
|Made in China: Buying non-domestic products. Spain is in crisis!||A minor offense that will just land you a warning.||Buy local products, think about local brands you've seen.|
|Spanish culture isn't local culture, buying sevillanas, fans, and various southern Spain knick-knacks||Assault; a 5 year sentence of pure shame!||Find something original that represents your experience of the city. People will value it more!|
|¡Ándele ándele, arriba, arriba!: Mexican hats... Why?!||Murder; a life of hanging your head (complete with said hat) in shame||Just... don't?|
I hope you liked this insightful guide into crimes against souvenirs, and that you'll think twice before choosing your souvenirs in Barcelona. Don't forget to drop a comment, or send me some photos of horrible Spanish souvenirs that you've received so I can give the gifter a proper sentencing!