“Said I’m livin’ my best life…Dreams pullin’ up” – Chance the Rapper
iHola a todos!
Is it too early to tell my mom I am never coming back to the States? I am currently on cloud nine with my life and routine in Spain, even though I have only been in the city for merely two weeks, I feel somewhat immerse within the Spanish culture. Concepts such as eating habits, work ethic, gestures, the importance of time, and personal space are things that I have taken into consideration since arriving here.
The lifestyle I led in Las Vegas cannot be applied to that of Madrid or any city in Spain. For example, staring has no negative connotation here. At first, I felt extremely uncomfortable by their direct stare because staring is considered rude in America. This is most prevalent on the subway and it is especially worst when I am with my fellow American friends. I soon learn that staring is just a cultural convention as I was told by my USAC advisors and teachers that the people here tend to stare because they are simply curious and observant of their surroundings. In Spain, staring does not mean sexual or violent intentions.
Smiling, however, is another story. Growing up in America, I was taught that smiling at a stranger is a positive gesture. In contrast, we are told that you should not smile at just anyone here because you are indirectly inviting or leading them on. This is something that I have taken into consideration and have also noticed. Another cultural convention I have witnessed is the number of public displays of affection (PDA) here in Spain. Back in the States, intense PDA is frowned upon and often kept at a minimum level (e.g. hugging or hand-holding). In Spain, there is no societal norm against public intimacy. The constant PDA (e.g. from hugging to full-on making out in public places) is rather normal. What was most shocking to me at first was the fact that no one seems to be bothered or shocked by even the most intense PDA. However, I have come to accept that the Spanish are simply affectionate people even if I have witnessed many uncomfortable PDA situations here in Madrid.
The importance of time is something that everyone abides by. In Spain, the days are longer, stretching from 9 A.M. to 8 P.M. A typical Spanish working day starts around 9 A.M. to 2 P.M. then resume from 5 P.M. to 8 P.M. The three hours break in-between is called a siesta which means “nap” in Spanish. Siesta is a major part of the working day in Spain and it is observed every day. During siesta, nothing tends to be open except for some tapas or restaurant in the city center. I personally have taken advantage of siesta hours to sneak in naps and lunch breaks during the weekdays! This is something I know I will dearly miss when I come back to the States.
Speaking of activities during the weekdays, I officially started school this past Monday. Eighteen credits sound likes a heavy workload and seemingly a stressful semester, but so far, I am having such a great time. From Monday to Friday, I have my Spanish class from 9 A.M. to 11:55 A.M. with a 20 minutes break in between. The materials that are currently covered in class are a review to me due to my three years of language classes during high school. However, I do not see my past experiences as a way to slack off because Track I is very intense and moves super fast. My other two classes have also been amazing, but less intense because we only meet twice a week. The university that I currently attend is beautiful! Even though it is quite far from where I live as it takes me 45 minutes to an hour to get to school (depending on the traffic). Since class ends early and the days here are longer compared to the States, I have found myself going on mini adventures with my friends.
Here are the places I have visited in my free time:
Puerta de Toledo, one of the nineteen city gates that had the Walls of Philip IV. I also happen to live two minutes from here!
- So far, I have visited two of the three most famous museums here in Madrid (The Prado and Reina Sofia). The Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza together make up Madrid’s “Golden Triangle of Art.” The three museums house 500 years’ worth of Spanish art!
- Last Sunday I got the chance to go to El Rastro, the most popular and largest open-air flea market in Spain. There is a main street dedicated to different stalls that sell predominately clothing and other home products.
- Mercado San Antón, a bigger and less crowded marketplace compared to San Miguel. This three-story market offers a great variety of tapas and restaurants.
- Chocolatería San Ginés is Madrid’s most famous chocolate shop. It is where one of the most popular breakfast combinations is served: chocolate con churros.
- Templo de Debod at sunset is perhaps one of the most amazing sights to see. The temple was originally an ancient Egyptian that was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid.
- On Saturday, a group of us took a day trip to Segovia, Spain. The city, in the autonomous region of Castile and León, is famous for its three main landmarks: The Roman aqueduct, Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral, and a medieval Alcázar or fortress.
- Lastly, since coming here I have found my favorite restaurant in Spain! It is called Takos al Pastor! Not only does it have amazing and cheap tacos! The drinks especially tinto de verano are impeccable! Due to its popularity, the wait time can take up to 30 minutes to an hour, but trusts me it is worth the wait! I have been back at least four times since coming here!
Song of the week: “Best Life” – Cardi B feat. Chance the Rapper