5 Culture Shocks I Clashed with in Spain


I’ve been asked many times why I chose to study abroad in Spain. The truth is initially for the language, and secondly for the fact that it’s a first world country not so different from mine. I wanted to experience another culture abroad for the first time without the stress of being in a place void of the resources and luxuries I’m so accustomed to. I was half right. Spain is certainly a developed country with many resources I’m used to at home. Until I moved here, though, I didn’t realize just how different the way of life is.

The Language

The first few minutes after arriving in Madrid, I asked for directions to the exit. The staff looked at me like I had just landed from a spaceship. They had no idea what I was trying to say, and I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. After 10 years of vigorously studying Spanish in school, I was clueless!

Discouraged but determined, I tried to work through the fear of speaking a second language. Telling a server I had a lot of men (Tengo mucho hambre not hombre) and telling a server I want to feel the table (puedo sentar aqui not puedo sentir aqui) were all laughable mistakes and learning experiences.

A year after being here, I still make grammatical errors but have realized that it’s natural. It’s similar hearing a foreigner talk in my language. The way they construct sentences and words used are totally different than I would, but it’s a precious glimpse into how they think and talk in their language. 

The Schedule

Yes, yes, the famous siesta is still big in Spain. Amazing right!? Not if you’re not used to it. Everything literally shuts down in the afternoon opening again later in the evening. Most people are home eating and relaxing.

Coming from New York, rest and relaxation are luxuries not usually afforded to the working woman during the week. I was used to running around for 14 hours day, but taking a short nap during the day really rejuvenates the body. I feel so fresh and alert for the second half of my day. 

The Streets

The first time I went out with my Spanish room mates, they thought I was running a race. “Estamos paseando....” they told me “we’re strolling.” As relaxing is valued much more, people don’t rush through the streets. If they’re out, they’re walking slowly enjoying the experience of being out. At first I was a bit frustrated that I couldn’t get anywhere at my own pace, but I’ve definitely learned to slow down and smell the roses. 

The Restaurants

As a former waitress, I involuntarily judge service at a restaurant. I’m used to satisfying requests before they’re needed, with my tables in and out within an hour and a half and I usually expect the same. Just like in the streets, there’s not usually a rush in a typical cafetería. It’s normal to sit and enjoy the experience for hours. You might not encounter the waiter for long periods of time, and get served a while after others in your party. Weird at first, I adore this aspect. 

Dining out is savored and enjoyed, not rushed and quick, and it’s typically before 3pm and after 8pm. Trying to find food in the city between these hours is near impossible. Most kitchens close and only serve drinks, so eating twice in the morning is a necessity before eating again at 9.

Coffee Breaks

As a teacher by day and waitress by night in New York, I usually had a hot to go beverage on me at all times. The first time I walked into class carrying a coffee, my students couldn’t stop laughing. My co-teacher told me to finish it outside! Snacks and drinks aren’t allowed in the class, strictly to be consumed in the ‘canteen’. Though I felt like a child that did something wrong, they’re just not used to bringing beverages in the classroom. 

With each embarrassing encounter, I learn unforgettable lessons about this new culture and see my own in another light. Though I’ve felt incredibly alone and lost at times in a new land with another language, it’s something that continues to allow me to grow as a traveler and individual and I’m sure there’s only more to come as I wander as an extranjero. 

You may also like

1 comment:

  1. Me gusta mucho, Victoria, la percepción que tienes de España o los españoles; excepto el tópico de la siesta, que ya se está volviendo difícil (yo nunca me eché la siesta) y algunos pequeños detalles normales cuando se generaliza, es una excelente visión y amable de la gente de mi país. País que tú embelleces con tu presencia (y esto no es piropo vulgar sino antigua lisonja).


Powered by Blogger.