As I blissfully explored Spain this past week, some cultural differences became glaringly obvious. Some left me wishing for the familiarity of home, while others have been a refreshing change.
- Barefoot taboo. As someone who grew up running around without shoes, it’s very strange to have bare feet outlawed. In the homestay, shoes or slippers are always worn. Even just wearing socks is frowned upon!
- Gelato shops are everywhere, which is convenient because it’s so delicious that I want it every day.
- Eating out is a long affair. At restaurants, we are expected to mingle for a long time. Hence, waiters rarely check in on tables. In order to get the bill, it’s necessary to flag down a waiter.
- Water is not free at restaurants. Sometimes, it’s even more expensive than other options.
- Walking, walking, and more walking. The norm for locals is to walk everywhere and to walk fast. Even though my feet are sore, walking has its perks in that it’ll work off all that extra gelato I’ve been eating.
- No greeting strangers. At home, it’s completely normal to make eye contact and smile at passing strangers on the street. In Spain, making eye contact could do one of two things: it could leave Spaniards in a confused state, wondering if they know you, or it could give men the idea that you’re interested.
- Street signs are rare and difficult to find. They are not found at every intersection, and, if they are at a particular intersection, they are not in clear view. They come in the form of printed tiles on the side of buildings, which are often times obstructed by trees.
- Different meal schedule. Breakfast is usually toast and coffee upon waking up. Lunch is the heaviest meal of the day and occurs between 2:30-3:30 pm. Dinner is served around 8:30 and is a much lighter meal than lunch. In between meals, it’s not unusual to snack at tapa bars.
- Everyone stays up late. At a 7:00 pm ISA meeting, one of the ISA directors revealed, “Right now is not evening. This is afternoon. Evening does not begin until midnight.” The night is alive here. When walking home at 11:00 pm, it’s not unusual to see packed restaurants, hordes of evening walkers, and even children with parents at playgrounds. My homestay parents, who are in their 70’s, will commonly stay awake past 1:00 am watching TV.
- Cathedrals are massive and beautiful. Seville has the 3rd largest cathedral in the world, and its jaw-dropping grandeur is a sight to see. If I ever visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City again, in my mind, it will be a mere imitation of Seville’s Cathedral.
At this point, I’ve only been in Spain for one week. As the semester progresses, I know I’ll come to appreciate and understand these cultural differences.
The world awaits…discover it.