Exploring Cultural Differences Between Spain and the U.S.

Cole Rickard is a student at Colorado State and is an ISA Photo Blogger. He is currently studying abroad with ISA in Valencia, Spain.

Food Culture and Tradition 

The thing that surprised me and bugs me the most about Spain is the fact that breakfast isn’t really a thing here. I’m used to making and devouring huge breakfasts in the United States. I’ve always been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The typical breakfast at my homestay consists of a teacup sized bowl of cereal and sometimes a piece of fruit or small croissant. That being said, I’ve learned to keep some breakfast goodies under my bed. Lunch and dinner here definitely make up for the weak breakfast. It makes me sad when I have to ask my host mom to pack me a bocadillo (typical Spanish sandwich, usually made with a baguette, ham, and cheese) for lunch. Don’t get me wrong, bocadillos are pretty good, but my host mom’s cooking is to die for. My host mom makes the best lunches and dinners, and the dinners are always enormous. Restaurants here serve amazing food as well. The meal times here are way later than what I’m used to. Lunch is usually eaten around 2, and dinner is usually eaten around 9-10, sometimes later. This is why bars and restaurants stay open so late. Spaniards eat a lot of ham, eggs, bread, fruit, salad, and seafood. One more thing, restaurants and bars NEVER split the check… So don’t ask them to.

This is the amazing paella that I was honored to munch down on during our ISA excursion to La barraca de Toni Montoliu.

Water Isn’t Cheap

Water is somewhat scarce here. Short showers are expected and 99% of all bars and restaurants will charge you for water. You can try asking for “agua del grifo” (free tapwater), but most places won’t have it or will bring you out bottled water and charge you anyway.


The amount of overweight people here seems to be substantially less. Considering the fact that people walk and bike everywhere, this makes sense. The Mediterranean diet also plays a major role. There is an abundance of fresh food and olive oil. I bike or board a little over 4 miles each day getting to and from school. Valencia’s bike sharing program, Valenbisi, is a great option as far as public transport goes. Also,  a huge chunk of Spain’s population ages 14 to 101 smoke cigarettes 24/7. I’m not too fond of this or the whole lack of breakfast deal. Other than that, Spain is off the chain.

Skate spot, Valencia, Spain - Rickard - Photo 3
Staying active with some locals I met on the street.

Follow my adventures on Instagram @nar.cole.epsy

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