We already talked about where to shop in Spain for food here and clothes here, but today we want to share with you where we go when we need to buy other, everyday (or once in awhile) items while living abroad in Spain. Although the two of us each have our own preferences when it comes to where we shop, we both see the use in buying things in different places. There are lots of options—many that you might not think of as foreigner—so we invite you to come along with us on a virtual shopping trip! Hopefully, it gives you some ideas of the different places you can pick up all that random stuff you need here in Spain.
Shopping with Dani:
Check the Chino*
Depending on your region, people will also refer to the almentaciones (convenience stores) as ‘chinos’ but what I’m referring to are the bazars. These places are usually huge and will remind you of a dollar store. Although most things are priced above a euro, the idea is the same—a random assortment of products (think shoes, tools, costumes, school supplies, kitchenware, and more) all available at low prices. You never can be sure what you’ll find here so my advice is to always check your chino before buying elsewhere. Typically, the quality is just fine, yet you will spend much less.
Note: “Just fine” is, of course, a subjective and situational evaluation. For example, when I only needed them for a few months, I bought bath towels at the chino. Now that I want towels that last longer and actually absorb water, I invest the money to buy them elsewhere.
Don’t underestimate the Drug Store
Keep in mind that, in many ways, Spain is still of the traditional mindset of having particular stores for particular items (carnicerías for meats, perfumerías for cosmetics, fruterías for fruits and vegetables, you get the idea). This is slowly but surely changing as supermarkets and department stores stock so many of the products you can find at each of these in the same place. One detail that remains intact, however, is that supermarkets are not allowed to sell “over the counter” drugs that we were used to being able to purchase during our grocery store runs back in the U.S. This means that when you need ibuprofen, cough syrup, or allergy meds you will need to run to the farmacía. Not to fear! Farmacistas (pharmacists), at least in my experience, tend to be really patient and helpful. Additionally, while you still need a prescription for the more serious drugs (ie. antibiotics), many times you can avoid a trip to the doctor by consulting your pharmacist first. I really like this costumbre, or custom, here in Spain and frequent my farmacía much more often than I go to the doctor.
Shopping with Claudia:
Speaking of little stores for specific things: the Ferretería
Just like there are specific stores when you want to buy meat, fruit, or cosmetics, there are also small stores that will be located all around town that are called ferreterías. These hardware stores will have useful bits-and-bobs from light bulbs to hairdryers at reasonable prices and in easy-to-access locations (as opposed to bigger hardware stores that are only found outside the city center). If you are in need of nails or screws or anything of the like, head into a local store and you will most likely be able to find what you need without having to take a bus to the nearest Bricodepot. An additional perk of the ferretería is that the people who work at these shops tend to be very knowledgable and willing to give advice.
Understand your local Print Shops
Whether you are studying abroad and want to print out your notes or need to get a boarding pass printed for your upcoming travels, you will find that local print stores can make life easier than going out to buy a printer. However, these stores often carry many everyday things that are useful, too. I have a local printer who I go to constantly to buy colored paper for projects (yes, I am kind of crafty), pens, envelopes. Even if you are looking for things like shredders or the ability to bind a book―your final project perhaps―ask around your neighbourhood until you find someone who has what you need (at a more reasonable price than your Corte Ingles). In fact, Dani and her husband got their wedding place cards and gift tags printed at a local print shop for a fraction of the cost it would have cost elsewhere. You never know what you can get done locally if you ask!
Appreciate what the Corte Inglés has to offer
Dani and I really enjoy paying less for more if it doesn’t influence the quality of our purchases, but sometimes it is necessary to splurge. Maybe you’re in need of a specialty food item or maybe you only want that makeup brand you love, but when you have something you just cannot find elsewhere check the local department stores (which in Spain and Portugal will frequently be the Corte Inglés). These stores carry many different options of everything you can imagine, both imported and locally produced. They tend to be slightly more expensive than other stores, but if you check out the rebajas, or sales, you will probably be able to get an excellent deal and sometimes having something that gives you joy is worth the extra cost.
Where do you shop for stuff? Let us know so we can check it out too!
*Calling these types of stores ‘chinos’ is common in the south of Spain but in other provinces they can also be called ‘Arabic’ Stores. Basically, the colloquial name derives from the types of workers who are in the region and who willing to work the long hours that these stores usually keep.