What foreigners from Northern Europe, the USA and Canada tend to consider as high noise levels are generally a normal part of life in Spain.
Spanish cities are known for their noise levels. In fact, Spain is recognised as one of the “noisiest countries in Europe”. This, however, is set to change as concepts such as noise pollution (“contaminación acústica”) are making their way into society.
Of special note are recent court rulings that have imposed fines on discoteques, for example, that, until lately, were allowed to make life at night impossible for residents in the buildings that towered over them. Many disco and bar owners are beginning to take note, but the problem has not been erradicated.
What foreigners from Northern Europe, the USA and Canada tend to consider as high noise levels are generally a normal part of life in Spain. This, however, does not mean that everyone in this country enjoys the noise, simply that people tend to expect it and “aguantar” – or, put up with it. In Spain, the ability to “put up with it” (whatever it may be), rather than confront the situation, is considered to be a sign of good breeding.
This cultural knowledge, however, is of little help to the foreigner who can not ignore the dog barking all night on the balcony over the bedroom window or the late night rumble that comes from the street below as young people enjoy their nightly “botellón” in towns and cities.
In principle, muncipal police are in charge of handling noise-related complaints. Whether or not they are actually able to do much more than register your complaint is another question. Often, solving the toughest noise problems involves an ongoing process of registering official complaints, gathering documentation – including the result of noise meter testing carried out by local police – and time spent in court. Those who have obtained victory over noisy discoteques have had to work their way up through the highest levels of the court system in order to finally obtain a satisfactory landmark ruling.
Under the circumstances, potentially the most effective route to avoiding noise problems is to establish the best and closest relationships with neighbours right from the start – and to handle any resulting differences with tender loving care in order to avoid conflicts.