Yesterday marked two entire weeks that I’ve been in Spain, and yet it simultaneously feels like I’ve been here for both longer and shorter than that. Go figure. In just two weeks’ time, I’ve taken two exams, written two papers, and have somehow managed to visit the beautiful city of Sevilla as well. It’s weird to think that I only have about 3 weeks to absorb all that I can from this country, but lord knows I’m going to try.
Besides the obvious transition of going somewhere that speaks another language, the cultural transition of being in Spain has been more striking than I thought it would be. Being Hispanic, I was under the impression that I’d fit in really nicely and that things would be more or less the same. Needless to say, that hasn’t exactly been the case, and I’m pretty happy about that. The Spanish definitely live different lives than us Americans, which has left me saying “Pues, cuando en España…” quite a lot.
Although there are some things that I took for granted about American culture such as currency that fits in my wallet (I’m looking at you 1 and 2 euro coins), for the most part I find the differences in culture compelling and wish we’d integrate some of these things into our way of life. Without further ado, here are some of my favorite cultural differences about Spain:
Spaniards are very interesting in the way that they seem to have the same activities and things to do as us Americans, they just push the schedule back by a few hours. Don’t mistake this for being lazy, as the people in this country are anything but. What I mean by this, is that they wake up at the same time (~8 am), but the rest of their day seems to be pushed back by a few hours.
My professor made an effort to inform me that “almuerzo no existe en España,” as in lunch doesn’t exist here, and he’s right, at least not in the way we’re used to. In the mornings, people usually have their usual café con leche (coffee) with a tostada (toast) and then don’t have their “lunch” until after 2pm. To subside the lack of food, they MIGHT have a tapa at around noon or so but usually people just wait.
Dinner then isn’t until around 9pm, and my host mother informed me that some people like her don’t even eat dinner, they just have large lunches at 2pm. Many people in Spain work later hours and thus the night life in Spain doesn’t really start until after 12AM, when most Americans call it quits.
Menu del Día:
I’ve been making an effort to try as many types of Spanish cuisine as I can and have crossed off many of the stereotypical foods such as paella, gazpacho, and tortillas (Not the ones you’re thinking of like in America. Look up Spanish tortilla, you can’t simply wrap a burrito with one of these bad boys, trust me).
I wouldn’t have been able to do this if it wasn’t for the amazing Menu del Día, a sort of combo that most restaurants in Spain offer. Basically, restaurants will have set options for not one, but two plates of food, as well as a drink, bread, and dessert. Every day for lunch my friends and I have utilized this deal and I’ve yet to be disappointed.
Walking/ Public Transit:
There are noticeably less cars, and smaller roads in many areas of Spain. For example, the roads of Sevilla were stone and only big enough to fit one car at a time (and not comfortably). For this reason, there are a myriad of people walking and utilizing the amazing public transit system in Spain and let me say that NYC and Philly really should take notes.
As somebody who can never nap, this one came as a shock to me. Although the stereotype that the Spanish simply shut down for hours at a time to nap collectively is false, I would be lying if I didn’t say that my host mom encourages often that we nap after class to be well rested for homework. This makes sense considering Spain’s night life goes well past midnight and many still get up at a reasonable hour the next day. Even my professors have encouraged us to take part in “la siesta española.”
It seems like every day I find another thing to love about this country and another reason not to leave! Next week I’m off to San Sebastían in the Basque Country, so stay tuned! ¡Hasta luego!