It’s been about three weeks since I’ve arrived in Spain and in that short while, I have been exposed to various cultural differences. Here are some differences that have stood out to me so far:
- Staring is normal- This one makes me laugh because in America, it’s not polite to stare at someone for too long unless you’re interested in them. It would be seen as creepy or invasive to openly look at someone for more than two seconds. But here, staring is a hobby, especially on the metro or bus. Most of the time, they’re just admiring something about you, but if you’re wearing an American football t-shirt or athleisure, it’s probably because your get-up screams “American”.
- People dress very well- On the streets in Madrid, you rarely see someone wearing workout clothes. From head to toe, people look like they just stepped out of Vogue and I love looking at how people express themselves through fashion.
- Personal space is not a thing- In America, we value our personal space bubble but Spanish people don’t play by those rules. When people engage with you, they’re up close and personal.
- People air dry everything- It’s not typical for people in Spain to own dryers, so they hang everything outside to dry instead.
- PDA is normal
At first I wasn’t sure how I felt when seeing smitten couples making out on the sidewalk or anywhere in public because back home PDA is not the norm. But now that I’m here I have grown to appreciate PDA. If you think about it, love is one of the most beautiful expressions we have in life, so why would we want to hide that or feel embarrassed by it? It doesn’t make sense to me why we’ve come to accept viewing violence and other fear-inducing things on a regular basis, but expressing our love in public is seen as inappropriate?
I like how being in Spain has forced me to re-think my values from back home. In America, I was so used to planning things all the time, being in a hurry, and trying to be “productive” all the time. While I still do plan for things in Spain, I allow myself more wiggle room for spontaneity, mystery, and change. When I graduated college, I felt this intense pressure to have my five-year plan mapped out, but I don’t think you can ever really know how things are going to turn out. Life throws us curve balls all the time and we have to be resilient and open to the unknown of things. So if you’re reading this and feeling uncertain about anything in life, I encourage you to open yourself up to all the possibilities of life and follow your passions. Each of us are on our own unique journey, so it’s important that we find out what makes us happy instead of trying to please other people. There is so much beauty and joy out there for us to experience; miracles are everywhere around us if we’re willing to open up to all that life has to offer.
P.S. I have wrapped up my Spanish classes and have the next three weeks off before I start teaching on October 1st. If you’re interested in listening to Spanish music, I recommend checking out the song “Hablar de ti” by Gepe. One of my Spanish teachers played it for us and it’s amazing!