I first got a cell phone in high school. And yes, dearest husband, it’s a cell phone. No mobile phone for me. (I’m not British.) It was an awesome, Nokia-style one, although I can no longer recall the brand. Check it out:


I had a boyfriend, you see. And my parents needed to be able to check up on me when I stayed out to the dangerously-late hour of 11 p.m. We were crazy kids, really—watching movies, eating Skittles, and generally causing mayhem.

My freshman year of college I got a “camera phone.” It’s humorous to think about that terminology now, isn’t it? Nowadays all smart phones (“esmarfons” in Spanish) come equipped with GPS, and a camera goes without saying. How else are we to Instagram?

In Spain, the trend is a bit behind the US, but it’s catching up. There are, however, a few differences between how people use cell phones here vs. in the US.

  • Voicemails. Spaniards do not like voicemails. It costs more money to make calls here, so people prefer not to have to waste €0.07 for when the voicemail message starts to play. I had a voicemail on my phone a few years ago without realizing it until someone told me to “take it off.” Practically no one leaves voicemails. So there’s no use having a voicemail inbox.
  • Dropped calls a.k.a. “toques.” A dropped call (llamada perdida or toque in Spanish) are a way of life here in Spain. You call someone, let it ring, but hang up before they answer. The other person then, perhaps somewhat mysteriously, knows what message you are communicating. For instance, Mario’s parents often give him a dropped call when they arrive somewhere safely. A dropped call can also mean “call me” if the other person has free calls. In the US, I never even think about doing this.
  • Whatsapp. Whatsapp, pronounced as “wasap” here in Spain, is a way of life. It’s text messaging, but it doesn’t use the standard SMS platform. You can send texts, photos, videos, and audio. Mario’s friend even sent me his location when I asked where they were one day. Since most Spaniards do not have unlimited texting, like we often do in the States, it’s a way to save money while still being constantly connected to your friends. I like it because it allows me to text friends in the States.
  • iPhone. The iPhone is popular here, but not nearly as popular as in the US, based solely on anecdotal evidence. It’s becoming more and more popular, but a lot of Mario’s friends have BlackBerries, which are smartphones, but not on the same level as an iPhone or an Android phone. I remember when BlackBerries were the thing on my college campus, but that was back in 2007. I doubt the Blackberry is anywhere near cool nowadays. I read an article saying they were “the cell phone equivalent to Myspace.” Ouch. Remember: the BlackBerry is feminine—la Blackberry.
  • Abbreviations. We all use shortcuts sometimes. Although I’m not one to text things like “How r u?” to my friends, I’m not going to pretend to be above abbreviations altogether. Spaniards also abbreviate, but—duh!—in Spanish.
    • xqporque/por qué—because/why
    • n—no—no
    • k—used instead of q, like kieres instead of quieres
    • +—más—more
    • Absence of vowels—writing vr instead of ver or hblr instead of hablar
  • Landlines. I don’t know about you, but many people in the States no longer have landlines. At my parents’ house, there’s no longer a home phone, much to my mother’s dismay. In Spain, however, having a landline is still a thing. When you sign up to get DSL with many Internet companies, you get a landline as well. They’re nice because you often get free calls from your line to anyone else in the country. And if you have to call some customer-service line … fewer euros out of your pocket! Always a good thing.

In 2008, I survived a whole semester without a (Spanish) cell phone. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it. Most of the other students got them; I just didn’t see the point. Four years ago, but my attitude seemed to be of another decade. Nowadays I’ve always got my phone. What about you?