“But it´s not like that in my home country…”
Expect the unexpected. Be prepared for life to be different. That is, after all, one of the central elements of study abroad. While it can be frustrating and enormously tiring not to be able to do things the way you are used to, it can also be infinitely rewarding to encounter new ways of viewing the world and discover your own ability to adapt. The more you learn about why the Spaniards do things the way they do, the less frustration you will experience as you try to adjust and the more you will enjoy the experience. Before you throw up your hands in frustration, observe, ask questions and try to understand.
Below are just a few things that you might find different while in Spain:
- Friends and acquaintances generally greet one another with a kiss on each cheek.
- The idea of personal space is closer in Spain, meaning that people might stand closer when they are talking to you, or in line behind you (normally pressed up against you!).
- Foods are different and the hour at which people eat is very different.
- The incidence of cigarette smoking is quite high in Spain (and in Europe in general). This is a cultural difference that you many not like (or accept), but you should be aware of this before your trip.
- It is not common to find air conditioning in homes. People use fans in some cases, whereas in others they simply deal with the heat.
- Apartment sizes are typically much smaller than what most students are accustomed to, and have entire families living happily together.
- Events in general start much later and end when they end. People start their nights in Spain at the time when many others are already in bed.
- Spaniards love animals, especially dogs. People tend to be more lax when it comes to cleaning up after their dogs, meaning that you most likely will see the dog’s “business” on the streets. Spaniards will tell you that it means good luck if you happen to step on some of this “business”.
- The incidence of graffiti on buildings is high (and NO this has nothing to do with gangs).
- People are on the streets very late into the night socializing. Spaniards are very serious about nightlife and having a good time in general. It is very common to see young children out playing soccer in the plazas until the wee hours of the morning while their parents chat away drinking with friends at the nearby café.
- The noise factor in Spain can be high at times. People are very vocal on the streets. Also, some people travel around on motor scooters that can be gratingly loud.
- The people have a very laid back attitude when it comes to many things. Things that stress you out (events not starting on time, waiter taking a long time to come take your order in a café, etc.) may be of little concern to a Spaniard.
- Spain is still a “macho” society at heart. This means that if you are a girl, you should expect to hear Spanish boys, construction workers, etc., yelling compliments to you as you pass by. Sometimes they will even follow you on the street in an attempt to get your attention. They are completely harmless. The best thing to do is keep walking and pay no attention.