Norms

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One thing I have found very difficult to adjust to is how different the norms are in Spain compared to the United States. In so many ways, Spanish people are much nicer yet also much more rude at the same time. I assumed I would love every aspect of living in Spain, but the American in me finds a lot of the norms here just a little odd.

The first thing that comes to mind is the use of “sorry.” When people here bump into you or are late to a meet up, they usually don’t apologize. The way it has been explained to me is, “lo siento” or “I’m sorry” is only used when you’ve done something terribly wrong. While in the US, we say sorry to everything. You bumped into me? I’ll apologize, you are a minute late? You say sorry. I ate your last piece of pie because you didn’t label it? I’m sorry. It feels innately wrong to not respond, but that just isn’t how the culture here works.

What comes to mind next is the culture around drinks. If you are given a bottle of water or a soda in a can, you are expected to pour it into the glass they give you. If you don’t it is seen as rude. In the US, my thought is always that I shouldn’t make more work if I don’t have to. Hence, I drink out of cans and bottles when they’re given to me. This also doesn’t just apply to restaurants. In most homes, the same rule is applied. To segway into another drink-related topic, there is almost never any ice here. You shouldn’t expect it in houses, and you have to ask for it most times when you go to a restaurant. Ice cold drinks are a very American thing, and oftentimes, they don’t drink a ton of water here. My host family drinks a glass with lunch and dinner, and that’s it. It is completely normal to see people having a glass of wine or beer with lunch. I drink water all day, and I can’t stand warm water, so it’s been a major adjustment.

Lastly, the night culture is very different here as well. Students often begin going out on Thursday evening to the bars and clubs. In the US, the clubs are usually only open until 2-3am. Here they’re open until around 8 am. If I go out with my Spanish friends, it is often hard to convince them to go home at 4am because they are so used to being out all night. However, the clubs can very easily keep you entertained as well, with great music and cheap drinks. Of course, this varies by autonomous community and even city, but in Valencia, the whole club experience is generally very cheap and very lively. It’s a nice change from the American clubs.

Overall, while the culture can feel a little cold at times, Spain is a very nice country. Though their manners differ, they also have very many practices that make you feel all warm inside, like the European double kiss and eating paella out of a pan with your friends. If your a stranger, I could easily see how Spain would feel unwelcoming, but after being here for a while, I have learned quite the opposite.