Dear United States of America: Can We Be Real For a Minute?

Sarah Becker is a student at Messiah College, and is an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Granada, Spain.

Dear United States of America:

Hey there. Just in case you were wondering, Spain’s been absolutely amazing. If it was a perfect world I wouldn’t be here as the resident “criticón,” but lets face it; honestly America, we both know that learning a little from your European cousins wouldn’t hurt. Take it from a student who’s currently living the lifestyle- from siestas to work ethic, the land of Torres y Tapas has an awful lot to teach, so here are three nuances of Spanish culture that I believe the USA would do well to implement ASAP.

1) Drinking culture.

I am a dedicated fan of free food, so to me Spanish tapas are absolutely amazing. However, the free appetizer that comes with your drink is more than just a gimmick to attract customers; tapas are also a physical representation of the difference in the way the Spanish approach, view, and enjoy alcohol. How so? Having a snack with your alcoholic beverage means your less likely to become ’emborrachado’, creating an implicit cultural understanding that when you’re out, alcohol is not the main event. Rather, getting drinks is a wonderful excuse to while away the night hours with delicious food, good company, and interesting conversation. The Spanish attitude toward alcohol is, in my opinion, much healthier than that of the US, and we could definitely stand to learn a little in this respect.

2) Learn to take a break.

There’s a pithy saying here in Spain that I’ve come to really appreciate; work to live, don’t live to work. As horrifying as this may sound to the American mindset, it’s not an invitation to be lazy. It’s primarily a challenge to shift the paradigm of how we as Americans view work, and to keep in mind what we’re really working for. Spaniards are far more community and family driven than is normal in the USA and that I feel that is infinitely more worthwhile than compiling wealth. So, heads up America, let’s learn how to relax and appreciate the important things in life.

3) Implicit respect.

As a language student, one of the most interesting things I’ve noticed is that native Spanish speakers do not sprinkle ‘courtesy phrases’ into their everyday speech nearly as much as English speakers do. In order to communicate social respect, I know I personally use ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘sorry,’ etc. in nearly every generic social situation, so it’s weird to realize that in Spain basic courtesy and respect are often expressed implicitly, with tone, body language, and general pleasantness. However, I’m slowly becoming accustomed to incorporating implicit respect instead of relying on overused phrases to do the job, and it’s honestly a really nice way to go about navigating social situations.

Well America, that’s all I’ve got for you today. Please try not to get overly offended, I’m only offering a little constructive criticism here. I hope all is well across the pond, and for better or worse I’ll be back before ya know it ;) Peace!


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