19 Nov, 2013 @ 22:02
2 mins read

Spain 101: Nowty (not noisy) neighbours

grumpy old woman

THE walls in Spain are a lot thinner than they are anywhere else.

Just ask my newest neighbour downstairs; the other day she heard me fart loudly and banged her broom on her ceiling to let me know. You might argue that she was merely indicating her commendation, but then if we were to take other recent exchanges into account, this probably wasn’t the case.

I’ve lived in my new apartment in Granada’s Albaícin bario for just over a month now, and generally speaking it’s been terrific – it’s just these tetchy neighbours that are a nuisance. We’ve had complaints about ‘high heels in the night’ (after a thorough inspection of each other’s wardrobes, both I and my other male housemate can confirm that neither of us are secret cross-dressers), untimely showers, loud talking (between two people), doors being closed imprudently and – most recently – the TV being too loud. The latter instance even came via the mouths of three policemen who warned us that we would face a hefty fine if they were called again.

Now, my housemate and I are reasonable people and, despite resenting such tedious grievances and being subjected to some frankly shocking – albeit admittedly hilarious – name-calling (‘barbaric’ and ‘monstrous’ we are), we have made a conscious attempt to quieten down our allegedly deafening conduct, especially after midnight when people have the right to complain about noise. We do, after all, want to keep the peace with the neighbours, but a visit from the police for having the TV on too loud? Come on. Firstly, we didn’t realise it was causing such misery, and secondly, whatever happened to asking politely before resorting to such drastic measures? It’s not like we were having some sort of mega, raucous, booze-fuelled house party. If anything I think it may have worsened the situation, as I now hate my neighbours and actually want to piss them off.

I’ve invariably had to put up with these sort of bellyachers – usually older and utterly uncompromising – wherever I’ve lived in Spain, and on the life of baby jesús I’ll stick to my guns on this: I’m not a noisy neighbour! The walls are bloody thin! And yes, I will respect the fact that noise travels in shared residential buildings providing they do the same.

Evidently, others across Spain also suffer from this same galling issue, as one piqued pianist from Puigcerdà near Girona could doubtless testify. Her overly irritable vecino alleged that eight-hour long practice sessions had not only caused excessive noise pollution but also led to psychological damage.

Laugh now.

Really? REALLY? I mean fine, had the perpetrator only been able to play ‘chopsticks’ then I might see eye to eye, but God only knows how this is standing up in court.

In the meantime I’ll do my best to only wear my heels during sociable hours and refrain from being generally barbaric. Until next weekend that is, when we have a mega, raucous booze-fuelled house party.

Josh Taylor

Not unlike most other OP bloggers, I imagine, I am an earnest British expat who threw in the towel on grey skies, overcrowded cities and insufferable cuisine, plumping instead for a life in the south of sunny old Spain. I spend most of my time teaching English, learning Spanish, getting Spanish wrong, exploring my adopted homeland and writing about it all on my blog, and now this one too!


  1. As a resident of Albayzin myself for 10 years now I can confirm that the neighbours ARE tetchy. But you will also find that the more time you spend here the more you will become accepted, and in no time you’ll be one of the family.

    This isn’t about noise (for heaven’s sake – the Spanish being genuinely bothered by noise is like the Libyans being scared of gunfire) but is more about you being a new boy in town, a new face – and in an environment where the inhabitants have spent centuries being persecuted and maltreated, they have their own way of being discreet – even if silence isn’t one of tose ways!!

    Best advice?

    Make MORE noise. You’ll eventually be respected for having the balls to stand up to them.

    And tha includes the police – who have been sent to my own house on several occasions for the same reason. They stopped bothering after a while as they knew it was pointless, and we usually invited them to join the party too!!

    And bienvenidos to paradise!!!

  2. Josh,
    Don’t blame the neighbours, blame the lack of any modern building standards in Spain.

    But really you should have known about the 7cm walls which is the norm in Spain. Though it does’nt get really cold on the Med side of the Sierra Nevada mountains right about now you should be feeling cold due to zero insulation and rubbish double glazing.

    If you have central heating you will find the boiler will keep firing up as you are actually heating the whole of the concrete floor and if you have a balcony the steel re-inforcing used will transfer the cold directly into your apartment, same as in summer it will transfer the heat.

  3. Indeed. “There’s a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one and they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same”… As Pete Seeger had it.

  4. I have rarely experienced a quiet night when we visit Spain. Most of the time, I walk around Sleep-deprived. I find Spain to be a very noisy country. Maybe it’s because I live in rural New Mexico, where there is elbow room and no one is walking on a floor above me.

    Last year in Madrid, the next door neighbors were redecorating the apartment …. at 3:00 am.

    in Seville in August, they were jack-hammering in the apartment above ours from early in the morning until evening.

    We bolted from an apartment in Barcelona, as it felt like a third-world country; I could literally reach out the kitchen window and touch a neighbor.

    In contrast to where I live, almost every place we’ve stayed in Spain has hardwood or marble floors. In such tight quarters, this has never made sense to me.

    Anyhow, this is an ok trade-off. I love Spain and can put up with a few noisy nights. I could never live with this for the long-run, but for two weeks a year, it’s manageable. But it is pervasive; whether we’ve been in the city or the smaller towns; a hotel or an apartment; upstairs or downstairs.

  5. “but a visit from the police for having the TV on too loud? Come on”
    Sounds entirely reasonable to me. If people in other apartments can hear your TV (or your computer sound, or your other sounds) then, de facto: it’s too loud. Why should they suffer, just because you like to crank it up?

    You refer to “tetchy” neighbours – I’ve been one of those and believe me, it’s no fun living next door to an inconsiderate *^*^&*%&* who thinks they have a “An Englishman’s home is his castle” right to whatever he/she likes at whatever time of the day or night.

    You might not think you’re doing anything bad. But if the people around you (and you refer to _plural_ complaints and _plural_ neighbours) then you appear to be in the minority.

  6. Peter,
    you don’t have to play music loud for neighbours to hear. Our lounge was the other side of the next apartmen’s bathroom/toilet – it was immediately obvious to tell whether it was a man or a woman using it.

    Because of this I bought a head amp and cans so as not to annoy the neighbours at night. During the day when the women were cleaning their floors they left their apartment doors open and we each played a piece of music to our own tastes. I have over 1000 LPs and was constantly harassed to play Stones/Beatles/Reggie and surprisingly King Crimson.

  7. i live in Spain, i’m spanish… if you think it’s useless to call police, you are right… a time. After it, it’s really helpful.

    You don’t know what means not sleeping for days because ppl play music loud, use the washing machine, etc. in high hours at night. Walls aren’t a problem. Inner walls are thick, but outer aren’t, there are standards that if you don’t know them it doesn’t mean they aren’t applied. Problem is people.
    Foreigners usually see it and they imitate the worst behaviour, instead the best.

    I know the case about the piano,but you omitted much information. If you have to listen to a piano many hours everyday for a long time, you’ll have serious psycologic problems due to stress, sleep-deprivation, etc.

    And if you think “Make MORE noise. You’ll eventually be respected for having the balls to stand up to them.”, is good… wrong, you only will increase the problem. What do u think i’ll do if you don’t stop? nothing good for you. Don’t understimate the stress and what ppl can do under pressure.

    10 min ago, we called to police by a problem with a restaurant (noise problem with a group of english people from a close academy, other days are local ppl). If police don’t come, no problem. There are other ways to warning the restaurant…

    It’s close to 1AM. Some of my family have to woke up for working, about 4AM… they were wakened up by the noise. Don’t expect my understanding.

    Problem is respect, consideration, good manners… not the size of walls. We are talking about people resting, RESTING, peace… If you dont want to understand it by the nice way, words, then you’ll have to know by the old way, gotcha?

  8. I think it was around 1990 that English people with no intellect or personality decided that the best way to seem interesting was to ape Oliver Reed. Tossers.

    Your neighbours have normal lives to lead and if you weren’t such a wannabe lotus-eater you’d understand the importance of considerate behaviour to those around you.

    Just learn to behave like a civilised adult.

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