Two weeks in Spain and a fourth of a way through my program has seemed to fly by and take forever at the same time! I can’t believe how much I’ve already learned and advanced in my Spanish skills and in my knowledge of this culture. However, I am still getting used to the pace of this country and the norms surrounding day to day life here. I think one of the hardest things to get used to in a foreign country, other than the language difference, is how a different society has different cultural norms and “regulations”.
For example, siestas (or naps in English) are very important here in Spain and play a huge part in the day to day life of Spaniards. Everyday here many stores, shops and businesses close during midday and everyone goes home or to meet with friends to have lunch and then rest for a bit before going back out. Even schools let the students out to go home to have lunch with their families before coming back for the second half of classes. I couldn’t imagine the same thing happening back home in the U.S. on a daily basis!
It definitely threw me for a loop the first few days when I got here and wasn’t accustomed to that part of the culture yet. I would go into the city and want to go shopping after my classes ended, and then have to turn around and go home or find a store that was open because everyone had gone home for lunch. It took a little while to get used to, but now I don’t know what I’m gonna do when I go back home and don’t have nap time built into my regular schedule! Being able to come home and eat lunch with your family(or my host mom in my case) is one of the best parts of the day. It gives you a little break from the stress and rush of life and gives you a chance to talk about things going on in your day, or things you still have to get done. Siesta time plays in to the importance and emphasis on family time here in Spain and if I could, I would bring it back to America with me.
Along with the different day to day norms in a foreign country, there are also different norms when it comes to vacationing as well. This past weekend, our program took us on an excursion to a town called Nerja, which is along the Spanish coast. It is an incredibly beautiful town with so much history and character, and it even looks like a miniature Santorini with all the white buildings and houses. We walked through the town and along the boardwalk and down to the beach, where to our surprise, there were many women without the tops of their bathing suits. To all of us, it was a little shocking to see because that is not what you normally expect to see at beaches in the United States.
However, we were all told by another person in our program that it was a very normal thing in Europe and there are not any rules against it. After the initial shock we all experienced, no one really paid any mind to it. It was just another thing that people do here and is typical in this society. It was actually pretty cool to experience because back home in the U.S. going topless at a beach is illegal in most places, but here its normal. It was interesting to see the differences between Europe and the U.S. in terms of how nudity is viewed and accepted in a public setting and the different attitudes that people have regarding the subject of it here.
Spain has definitely opened my mind up a little about the different ways of life that all countries have and I am very excited to find out more about just how different they can be.
Until next time!