Cataluña: On Spanish Time

Beth Johnson is a student at Iowa State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Beth is currently studying abroad in Barcelona on an ISA Fall 3 program.

Hello all you beautiful people! I am so pleased to tell you that I am having an amazing time here in the land of Cataluña – the Spanish state where Barcelona is located. I have seen and done things here that I could never even imagine!

First off, I want to talk about the fact that school is so much more strict for us folk in the USA. Back home, if I show up to class late twice, I get my grade dropped a whole letter! Here at the University of Barcelona, however, being about 15 minutes late is not a problem. I now am thoroughly enjoying working on Spanish time. Thursday I was worried about making it to class on time, but when I got there the doors were chained shut and the street was filled with people. The students had organized a strike (huelga) against the school. From what I’ve heard, they increased tuition by almost double and the students cannot afford the increase.

Besides the fact that time management is not an issue here, we have less homework. I have been doing my homework simply because I am here to learn. I know that if I didn’t want to do it, though, it would never be known by the professora. She hasn’t checked a single assignment yet.

To be quite honest, I don’t miss much about home yet. I really like it here and I feel like I have adjusted pretty well. I, of course, miss my boyfriend and family, but if I could just move them all here I would be golden. I think if there were one major thing I could change, it would be the food. I’m not sold on the Spanish cooking. They use so much oil, salt, and white bread. None of those things are normally consumed by me. I want to have some Asian food! They do have some places here but they are rather towards the pricey side.

Since we are on the subject of food, I want to tell everyone about Udon: an Asian fusion noodle cafe. This place is glorious! I was seriously about to have a melt down because I hadn’t had any noodles while I’ve been here, so I went with a girlfriend and we made a three course meal out of it. I needed it more than you know. They serve sushi as well as rice dishes. I recommend this place to anyone who isn’t in love with the Spanish cuisine. I have almost offended some people by saying that, but oddly enough none of the locals have seemed to mind. It seems like the out-of-towners are bothered by it five times more.

I have been very surprised by the amount of people in Barcelona who aren’t from Barcelona. It seems like a very international city. I continue to encounter people from other countries everyday. I thought that once school started there would be less tourists, but everyday the streets are packed with visitors from sun up to sun down.

However, the tourists are not what bother me the most: There is a strike of some sort here everyday! It seems like the people of Cataluña are unsatisfied with many aspect of life here! I was told that the metro workers have not been paid in months! I literally can’t understand how that can happen. Since I have been in Barcelona I have witnessed about 7 strikes. Strikes for the metro, the buses, for school, for independence and I’m sure there have been others. I have never witnessed something like this back home. I sincerely hope that everything gets sorted out because a large number of people here seem very upset. If I was voted Miss America I would wish for world peace.

On a lighter note, I have seen so many wonderful and beautiful areas of the city. I have not had a dull moment since I arrived here. I love that about this place. I can literally walk down the street and discover something new everyday. You don’t even need to have company because it’s very possible that someone on the train, in the cafe, or on a park bench will strike up a conversation with you. If your Spanish isn’t great, this could be a very confusing conversation, but it will keep you on your toes.

There are so many cultural differences, so it was difficult to adjust at first but now that I have had well over a month to get used to it, I am rather enjoying it. The number one difference  I’ve noticed about the way people are here is that people are so much more inclined to touch and kiss and hug in public, and it’s not even slightly weird. I actually love it because it seems so much more warm and friendly. I know for most Americans they are really taken aback by it, but I think America could learn from the Spanish and be a tad bit more friendly. I watch the people interact and the men seem so much more secure and comfortable in their skin. Guys in the USA just about have a heart attack if another guy touches them. Here guys hug and even hold hands sometimes and it is not because they are romantic partners. I like it, I think all people need to be affectionate. It is an essential human need.

On that note I want to wrap up with one more thought. Well, a fact actually. You can go a head and fact check me if you want. Here it goes: Every person needs an average of 8 hugs a day to get the proper amount of endorphins to be released in their bodies. Interesting right? You better get started now so you can meet your quota!


One thought

  1. Great blog! Enjoy your time in Barcelona — it’s one of the best cities in the world. I’m with you on loving the Spanish way of life … no hurries, no worries :)

    If you have time and interest, head down to Tarragona … it’s still in Cataluña,but it’s less international than Barcelona.

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