From Portland to Granada

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After long hours of flying, I had finally made it to the other side of the world: Granada, Spain! Immediately, I observed various cultural differences that I had no clue about. The first one being the kisses on the cheeks my host mother gave me when greeting me; I felt very hesitant and in retrospect, I laugh about the mini cultural shock that I experienced then. In addition, 30 minutes upon arriving at my host family’s home, lunch, the largest and most important meal for Spaniards, was served. What was my first home-cooked meal in Spain you may ask? It was a delicious soup with potatoes, carrots, and other ingredients that compliment each other perfectly, with bread on the side, of course. My host mother shared that soups and bread are a huge part of Spanish food, which was something I did not know and contrasts to my life in United States where I rarely eat soup and eat bread only for sandwiches and burgers.

Furthermore, I felt very excited to see what Granada had to offer, but my tremendous jet lag overshadowed that excitement, resulting in a long nap upon arrival. I was not going to allow the jet lag interfere too much, however, so a group of friends and I decided to walk around the heart of the city. I am never going to forget how I felt walking around for the first time: I felt euphoric and please by all the new things I encountered, including the cafeterîa we stopped at for some pastries and coffee. At that café, I learned about another cultural difference, that is, it is typically expected for a group of people to pay under one check and not each under an individual one. This norm was also emphasized by a professor during class as we briefed over some day-to-day Spanish customs, something that is useful as I aim to fully adapt to the Spanish culture.

Moreover, the biggest change I had to get accustomed to was the eating schedule that Spaniards follow. That is, breakfast, although during the same time as in the United States, is small pastry or toast with coffee or hot chocolate. Lunch, the most important and biggest meal of the day, occurs around 3 pm, the time that majority of the local businesses close, in contrast to the US where lunch usually consists of a sandwich, salad, or something similar. Dinner in Spain, I would say, is similar to lunch in the US (portion-wise) and happens late in the day around 8:30 pm. Even though it took time to become accustomed, I enjoy it because the middle of the day is usually when I have the most hunger.

Overall, these evident and immediate cultural differences convinces me that this study abroad opportunity will definitely provide a unique opportunity to reflect upon my own culture, a reflection that many do not execute as they remain in their bubble and that is important to learn how to empathize with others.