12 Hacks to Survive Spanish Winter Without Heating

I’ll never forget my first winter in Extremadura. Like every other house in the village, my apartment didn’t have heating. So, I went to my landlord Tino and pleaded,

“Tino, I’m turning into a snowman. Por favorrrr, get us some heat!”

Tino laughed in my face. Then, he said…

“Buy more sweaters!”

Reallllly Tino?! Thanks for nada! Somehow, I managed to survive that one fateful winter without my internal organs turning into rock solid ice cubes. However, I’ll never, EVER forget stepping out of those showers into the icy-cold tundra, waking up in the middle of the night to a bright red nose, or rolling out of bed in the morning with fear of leaving my 8 layers of blankets.

I mean c’mon Spain, you’re a first world country!!

It’s a common thing not to have heat here in Andalucia and other areas of southern Spain. Now, you might think: it doesn’t get that cold in southern Spain, right? WRONG! Winter days can get around 45° F (7°C) and nights can get down to 20° F (-6 °C). Now, those temps without heat? Your apartment feels like a refrigerator, keeping all the cold inside. In fact, I used to leave my house and stand in the street to warm up.

So, it’s the 21st century. WHY IN GODS NAME don’t they have heat?

There’s a few reasons. As we’ve learned by now, Spain is a country of tradition. And, believe it or not, traditionally, heating didn’t exist! Many Spanish people who grew up in households without heat are just plain used to it and the cold doesn’t bother them. Others say, “It’s winter. It’s natural to be cold!” And then of course, there’s the whole “electricity bill” controversy. Electricity is expensive in Spain, so they’d rather save a few bucks and freeze their little tortillas off.

Now, most houses do have “braseros“, aka these weird tables with blankets on top and a heater underneath. Spanish people live under these things in the winter…

my-life

You throw a house party? Everyone gathers under the table. Having dinner? Everyone eats under the table. Gotta pee? Everyone pees…

JUST KIDDING.

Anyway, I don’t like to live my life under a table. And I’m sure you don’t either! So you here have it:

12 hacks to surviving Spanish winter without heating.

1. Let that Spanish sun in!

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Just ’cause the temperatures are low, doesn’t mean that the Spanish sun isn’t as strong as ever. Remember when I said I used to escape to the streets to heat up? That’s cause the Spanish sun was out! I then realized: why don’t I just let it in! Find the time of day that the sun is beaming directly into your window, and open it up. Only keep your windows open for about 10 minutes, as you don’t want it to get too drafty. Close it up, and trap that heat inside!

2. Boil up some soup

The math is quite simple. Hot liquid makes steam, steam makes heat! So kill two birds with one stone: Make yourself some toasty soup, all the while heating up your kitchen and warming yourself up from the inside out! Here 15 easy and delicious soup recipes to keep things toasty and tasty.

3. Layer, layer, layer

Pre-edited original image via Flickr @One Day Closer
Pre-edited original image via Flickr @One Day Closer

Think of yourself like an onion.

4. Long underwear has never looked hotter

What to layer with? That’s right! Get your lingerie collection lookin’ “hotter” than ever. Long-legging underpants, sleeved thermal undershirts…you might be waddling like you just had three Thanksgiving  dinners, but you’ll be waddling in warmth.

 5. Light candles. Yes, we’re going caveman style.

Desperate time calls for desperate measures, people. Buy some yummy smelling candles so you don’t feel like a complete neanderthal.

6. Get a really cozy “bata”

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Spanish people love their “batas,” aka robes. And for a damn good reason! If you get a fluffy one, it’s like a socially acceptable snuggy (…remember snuggies?). I literally lived in my cheetah robe that one fateful winter. In fact, my parents began to think via Skype that I was turning into a cheetah.

7. Sweater socks are your best friends

original photo via @Jody Richards
original photo via @Jody Richards

Cold feet make a cold life. Keep your footsies warm by starting a collecting of sweater socks! Buy some cool ones on Etsy.

8. Have an oven but no heat? Open the door!

After baking yourself something hot n’ tasty, open the oven door. You’re not wasting unnecessary electricity, but using the “already used” to your heatvantage!

9. Have a space heater?

Lucky you! “Radiadores”, or space heaters definitely aren’t half as efficient as central heating. However, it’s sure better than nothing! To avoid those freezing mornings, set two alarms: set the first one an hour before you actually need to get up. Make sure your door is shut and turn on that radiador. This way, getting out of bed isn’t nearly as traumatizing.

10. Get rugs for the floors

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This is such an easy fix and SO incredibly underrated! Spanish floors are usually made of stone. As you probably know, stone gets flippin’ COLD. In fact, stone floors retain the cold and make the whole space colder! So, for a super cheap fix, go to your local “chino” store and buy some big fuzzy rugs. Or, take a trip to the beautiful Alpujarra and buy a super cheap, gorgeous handmade Alpujarreño rug. Your body will thank you, from the bottom up.

11. Blow dry yourself.

Put your dignity aside and turn on that blow dryer. Not only will your hair be lookin’ hot, but you’ll be feelin’ hot! Disclaimer: It’s ok to feel ridiculous as you do this. I did…

12. Have a fiesta!

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Body heat, body heat!! Invite all your amigos. Not only will it give you an excuse to bond, have a laugh or two, and maybe even practice your Spanish…but the more “gente”, the more heat!

So, do you think you could survive a winter without heating? What’re some tricks of the trade you’ve used?! Sharing is caring!

15 thoughts on “12 Hacks to Survive Spanish Winter Without Heating

  1. Good!!! I remember many years ago traveling Europe in the Summer – and no A/C!!! And we survived = learn how – as you are doing to seek out the options – and I love the ones you included!!! You’re a winner!!! xoxoxox

      1. I think you are describing how people live in the hard core country and pueblos. I remember winters with my SUPER RICH grandma in Sevilla all gather around el brasero. Electricity is still super expensive in Spain. So even in the cities people are very mindful of that but what you are describing is life in Spain 30 years ago as a general rule. Today unless you are in a village in the mountains where people own their homes but don’t have a lot of money for anything else really, people do have central heating and all the conforts you can find in the US.

        1. Hey Sandra! That might definitely be so. I’m writing about my experience in the south of Spain. I know in the Northern end of the country, heating is almost always present! However, what has surprised me, is even public schools in Madrid didn’t use heat! They had a heating system, but chose not to use it (I worked in a colegio in Madrid last year). Bottom line? I guess I must move North!

  2. I face the same conundrum. My friends from the North of Spain complain about how cold it is indoors in the South, where houses are meant to protect you from the heat not from the cold, because “It’s going to be two cold days after all” That sucks. It is not that builders lack the technology, it is the attitude. I got my Málaga house totally isolated and people still ask me “What for, dude, it never gets cold here anyway” ….except when it does. My grandma used to say “Today it is cold even outdoors” (Hoy hace frío hasta en la calle)

    1. You’re totally right Alberto! The technology is certainly available for those who want it. It’s the attitude! If you ask me, you’ve got the right idea… Málaga might not be Alaska, but it’s not Mexico either!

      Cheers and stay warm!
      AWC

      1. I have the theory that the “mesa camilla” has been detrimental to the development of the South. In the north, people get stuck at home and they have to get something done, write a novel, finish a lego gothic cathedral, build ships inside a bottle. In the South you are confined to the mesa camilla don’t go around the house getting stuff done.

  3. You don’t need to put a double alarm for the space heater, you need this: “Temporizador mecánico 24 h con enchufe”, you put the hours you like to be ON and OFF on a day, so you have at least 1 room of the house warm. 😀 Or buy a “estufa de butano” 😉

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