By Christina Madsen
With just a few weeks left of my semester abroad, I thought it might be interesting to share some of the major differences I have noticed between Spaniards (or Catalans) and Americans. Of course I expected there to be lots of cultural differences, but here are some examples of the daily things that still surprise about the culture:
- Extreme PDA. One of the first things I noticed when I arrived here is that there are couples kissing everywhere! Unlike in the U.S., it is not uncommon for a couple to be making out right next to you as you are on your way to school in the morning on the metro. I’m starting to wonder if it’s the “latino passion” or if Americans are really just very anti-PDA.
- “Sobremesa.” In Spain I have noticed that it can be considered disrespectful to get up from the table right after finishing dinner. It is almost expected to stay at the table and share stories and talk even after everyone is finished eating the meal, this is called “sobremesa.” I suspect that this tradition is attributed to how much family is valued here in Spain.
- The way of greeting people. Back in the states, it is pretty common to greet someone by hugging them or even shaking their hand, but it Spain it is custom to give two kisses, one on each cheek. I was surprised that this is even the norm for when you meet someone for the first time!
- Unrefrigerated dairy products. I noticed that my host mom does not refrigerate eggs and milk does not seem to be refrigerated until after opening, which took some time to get used to.
- What is salad dressing? This might sound weird, but I also noticed that salad dressing is not a thing here. Salads are almost always just dressed with some olive oil.
- Hello carbs. Pretty much every single meal here is served with baguette. Don’t get me wrong, I love my bread, but something tells me that my luggage won’t be the only thing coming back to the US heavier.
- Limited store hours. Stores are not open as late in Spain and most stores are closed on Sundays. This has been an adjustment for me since I have always been used to running errands on Sundays back at home. Also, some places are closed for a few hours in the middle of each day for “siesta time.” As far as I can tell though, it is not as common for people to actually take a siesta anymore.
- Everything happens later. Although I had heard that Spaniards eat dinner much later, around 10 p.m., I was not expecting the nightlife to also start so much later. In Spain, it is pretty typical to go to a club around 2 a.m., whereas in the US this is often around the time that I get home from a night out.
- Overall slower pace of life. This is definitely one of my favorite things about Spain (besides café con leche of course). Back at home everyone always seems to be in a rush and pressed for time. Here people value just sitting down at a cafe and enjoying their morning coffee instead of the American on-the-go mentality.
- Sweatpants are not a thing here. I was never one to wear sweatpants, but I soon realized that pretty much the only students wearing sweatpants around campus are other Americans.