Student Blogs

10 Cultural Differences!

March 27th, 2011 nmmari12

10 exciting, weird, interesting and thought provoking cultural differences…

So since I have been living in España for a year, I thought I would take the time to note 10 cultural differences that I have experienced in Spain that reminded me that I am no longer in the United States. And to prove to you (parents) that despite traveling a lot, I am also soaking up Spanish culture! I will try and only use new facts and not repeat the ones in my weekly ¨Dato Divertido.¨

Here we go!

1.)    The Spaniards like their coffee. I am not saying that Spaniards are always seen carrying their ¨non-fat mocha-frappe-caramel macchiato with 2 extra shots of espresso¨ around town, but quite the opposite. I only know about 2 cafés (out of about 100) that have ¨to go coffee¨ and even at these places when I ask to get a coffee to go I receive a very strange look and ¨ohh you must be American¨ laugh. Traditionally, Spaniards sit down at the café and drink their coffee (about half the size as the coffee in the US with 2X the amount of caffeine!) and have a chat with a friend. So civilized, eh?

2.)     Flip-flops are illegal. Well not technically, but if you wear them around the city, you get some pretty weird stares. I of course, had to learn this the hard way. When my friend Avery came to visit, we had quite nice weather, so I decided to pretend it was summer and pull out my hot green flip flops. Wrong idea. On average, people in Spain tend to be very fashionable, and wear cute and fancy sandals.

3.)    The nightlife here is quite different.  Going out in Spain starts at about midnight or later, the bars then close around 3 or 4 AM, only to allow the clubs to open at 5 AM and then close at about 8 AM. At HC, a ¨late night¨ for me was around 2 AM, so you can imagine the culture adjustment I had to face when coming abroad and I haven´t quite adjusted yet!

4.)      While Spaniards aren’t always late as stereotypes say, it is still somewhat true. It is not a rare occurrence for a professor to come 15-20 minutes late to class, or to not even bat an eyelash if students walk in 30 minutes late. Coming from a high school that would send you to the ¨tardy center¨ if you were 1 second late, this was quiet a culture shock. Although now if I miss the bus, I don´t have the panic attack I would have had in high school.

5.)    The majority of Spanish students tend to stay near home when they go to college, and many of them live with their family opposed to a dorm. As you know, this is different from the US where it is not rare for kids to go to college thousands of miles away from home.  There are pros and cons to both the Spanish system and the US system and reflect some of the core values of each country.

6.)    In the Spanish university system, students pick 1 ¨major¨ and most of their classes are pre-chosen for them every year. They also stay in the same classroom with all the same people all day long for the entire year. Coming from a liberal arts school, where I am required to take classes in basically every department, this is quite different. Pros about this system? They get tons of knowledge and skills in their field and they become very close with the other students in their major. Cons? It is very difficult to switch majors and still graduate on time and they don´t get to take many classes outside their major. As you can tell, the Spanish students get very confused when I tell them I am taking: language, sociology, education and art classes!

7.)    It is not an uncommon occurrence for a professor to fail students. Many, if not the majority of the students fail at least 1 class a semester, and are then required to pass an exam in July or repeat the class. It is not necessarily looked down upon, but simply a part of the education process.

8.)    On average, people in Spain don´t bake sweets such as cakes, cookies, muffins, ect. Instead, they cook nearly every meal (especially lunch) from scratch. While my love for baking has been lacking this year…my pants are a wee bit tight from all the amazing meals!

9.)    Nothing is open on Sundays, yet the streets are packed with people (especially couples) taking a mid-afternoon Sunday stroll, along the shopping streets, oceanfront or wherever else their hearts desire!

10.) I have never seen so many banks, travel agencies, bakeries, candy stores or pharmacies in my life until I came to Spain. I am still not quite sure why there is such an abundance of them, but stay tuned and I will find out why!

While there are possibly a hundred more cultural differences that are not listed here, I have never felt uncomfortable in the Spainish culture or experienced a really bad culture shock. Rather, I find it interesting to discover the cultural differences and simply laugh at myself when I break the ¨unwritten rules.¨

Since this whole post is dedicated to cultural differences, you must return later this week for a new Dato Divertido!

Finally, if you are still with me after this obnoxiously long post…I thank you very much!


3 Responses to “10 Cultural Differences!”

  1. Kelsey says:

    I like number ten – I cannot wait to know why!!

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