I have been in Spain for several weeks now. I am residing in a town called San Jose DE La Rinconada. My study abroad peers all reside in either home stays or apartments in Seville, and their commute from their residence is no more than a twenty minute walk from our schools location. Seville is full of tourist from around the world. However, once you step outside of the tourist areas, a whole new picture is being painted right in front of you. In California, most of us understand the meaning of personal space. When I first arrived here in my host country, I thought that the Spanish people were just excited to have a person in their community that displayed a high content of melanin in their skin. Oh! was I wrong. If you are engaged in a conversation, the Spaniards stand extremely close to your face, and some of them engage in some of the most unpleasant acts as if you were invisible.
The picture above is at a Women’s Liberation after party that my daughter and I was invited to by the owners of the AirBnb we currently reside in. The moment we entered the gates, I saw individuals smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol contained beverages, dancing provocatively and partying right along with infants, toddlers, and school aged children. I was very uncomfortable in the beginning, and I thought that the police would show up any moment to arrest us all for indecent exposure, neglect of minors, and drinking in public among other things. After a few hours, and maybe a Sangria; okay, a couple of Sangrias, my American customs began to dissipate.
In addition to the social scenery, one of the most obvious cultural clashes I have experienced is how differently parents attempt to raise their children. In America, we have become so used to the traditions we ourselves were brought up in that other people’s parenting techniques can appear exotic, baffling and sometimes full of lunacy. After being invited to parties well past my daughter’s bedtime, and noticing that very young children were attending these events during school nights, I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a bedtime for the children in Spain. While American parents may be preoccupied with establishing a repetitive and structured bedtime routine so that we can enjoy some adult time, such habits are not prevalent in Spanish society. Children stay awake late into the night, joining their parents in restaurants way past 10 or even 11 pm, while their parents enjoy a drink or dinner with their friends. It is also not unusual to find young children curled up in a chair fast asleep in a noisy bar or restaurant. Spain would have seemed like a place of paradise too me as a child. With that said, I have decided to tuck away my American customs for now and adapt to and enjoy this less restrictive manner of living.