When in Spain, Do as the Spaniards Do

Molly Phannenstiel is a student at the University of Colorado Boulder and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Barcelona, Spain.

When you study abroad, you will undergo an immersion into a completely new culture. I experienced this when I came to Barcelona. There are a handful of things that Spaniards do differently than Americans and this was somewhat surprising to discover.

Here is a photo of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona​ taken right when I arrived in Spain.

For example, in Spain, there is a time of the day that they call a siesta and all the shops close and the locals go home to spend time with their families or nap. This usually happens between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. This was a weird discovery and it was somewhat inconvenient for me at first when I would try to go to a store in the afternoon and it would be closed. Now, I am more used to it and appreciate the relaxing time every day​.

Another thing that the Spaniards do differently is eating. They do not eat a large breakfast, usually just a coffee and pastry. Then, they eat a huge lunch that usually takes hours. It is its own event in the day and they use lunch as a social time. They also order multiple tapas, or small sharing plates of food, and try all the different plates. This is a very cool concept because you can eat so many different kinds of food as opposed to one larger order.

Here is an example if a tapas plate of hummus that everyone got to try.


Here is a meat platter tapas order.

Something else that the Spaniards do differently is eating dinner late. The average time for dinner in Barcelona is between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. This concept was so foreign to me when I arrived, but now I have adjusted and grown to like it. Lunch is also eaten at a later time, usually between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. It feels like everything is just done later here than I was used to.

Something else that is normal here is traveling to other countries for two or three days. This is something that all of the abroad students do, but it is a normal thing to do in Spanish culture. In America, you cannot leave the country for a few days every weekend, but here in Spain it is accepted and normal.

Lastly, my personal experience with the education system in Spain has been very different than anything I have been through before. They value experience-based education, so we will learn about a place or a concept in the classroom and then we will take a class field trip to visit the actual location. This is a really great way to learn about a place or a design or concept and it allows you to really form your own option about things.

Here is a ​place called the Bunkers that we learned about then took a class field trip to.

Overall, I have learned that culture shock is a real thing and it is inevitable to avoid it when you move to another country. The cultural differences here are very cool and easy to adapt to, so when in Spain, do as the Spaniards do!

Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.

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