The “V’s” of the Language:
- ¿Vale?: This expression is typical throughout most of Spain, unlike in most Latin American countries. It basically means “okay.” Whether it’s said in realization (“Ah, vale, vale”) or in affirmation (¿Entendéis, vale?), you will hear it on a regular basis. You may also find that you pick it up yourself rather quickly.
- Vosotros: If you’ve ever studied Spanish, you may know this as the nearly obsolete tense that roughly translates to “y’all.” In Salamanca, it is far from obsolete; in fact, it is used regularly. Our ISA guide told us a story about a student who couldn’t quite follow the rapid Spanish being spoken by an instructor, but repeatedly heard “¿Entendéis? ¿Entendéis?” which translates to “do you all understand?” but sounds like “in-ten-days.” So after the instructor finished speaking, the student asked, “So what’s happening in ten days?” If you haven’t really been exposed to it, hearing the vosotros tense all the time can seem strange. But learning to use it has actually helped me express myself in Spanish more flexibly. Just remember that there is nothing happening in ten days.
The “B’s” of the Food:
- Bocadillos: You may have learned “sándwich”or “torta“, but in Spain, it’s “bocadillo.“ Bocadillos are everywhere, usually at a reasonable price, and are perfect for a picnic when you have plans to be away from your home or residencia during lunchtime. Most popularly, you can order them “con queso” (with cheese) or “con jamón” (with ham) and the French bread it’s served on is always fresh and delicious.
- Breakfast Food: Now to avoid confusion, I must note that breakfast is not a very heavy meal here. It’s usually just some cereal or a piece of toast and maybe some fruit. What I mean to say is, many conventional lunches and dinners here in Salamanca are reminiscent of American breakfast foods. A common dish is the Tortilla Española, which is a bit like an omelet. It includes eggs and potatoes and sometimes ham. You’ll also see “huevos fritos” (fried eggs) or “patatas fritas” (fried potatoes) on the menu quite often. “Arroz con Pollo” (chicken and rice) and “Gazpacho” (chilled tomato-cucumber soup) are also frequent finds here that are less like breakfast foods but are still very tasty.
The “C’s” of the City:
- Courtyards: Something you don’t often see in American cities that you always see here are courtyards. Spanish cities, Salamanca in particular, are like works of art. You can see statues, murals, and elaborate architecture everywhere you go. A courtyard is almost never out of walking distance in Salamanca, and they are great places to meet up with friends, enjoy a “helado” (ice cream), or study for a while. The statues that courtyards usually center around can also be great tools for helping you find your way, because landmarks are easier to keep track of than street names.
- Cathedrals: Spain has a very strong Catholic tradition, so you’ll see churches and cathedrals in many parts of many cities. In Salamanca, there are two main Cathedrals: El Catedral Veija (The Old Cathedral) and El Catedral Nueva (The New Cathedral). They are right next to each other and can serve as good landmarks if you ever get lost. There are also smaller churches scattered through the city. It’s spectacular to see birds fluttering around the tall bell towers and perching on the shoulders of stone saints carved into the buildings. It makes you feel like you’re in a movie or a fairy tale. Indeed, if there’s one thing you should expect in Salamanca, it’s a sense of surrealism and wonder. The city is truly picturesque and full of history, and the more you experience of it the more you want to experience, like a Hershey’s bar or a bowl of cool gazpacho.