This Maymester, I participated in the Spain: Food Production, Culture, and the Environment study. It was incredible, and I would highly recommend it! While we were there, a few major differences in culture that I had not expected stuck out to me. The first and perhaps most shocking thing to me was how carefree the people are with personal space and manners. Not that they were rude, but I found it interesting how nonchalant they were about bumping into people or maneuvering around others in crowded marketplaces and other areas. Being from the south, we are all used to people waving when you pass them on the road and saying excuse me, even when walking three feet from you. We all laughed at this difference throughout the entire trip and found it so interesting.
Another fascinating thing about Spain was that the locals start their days so late! For example, Starbucks doesn’t open until 7:30, and some of the Dunkin Donuts don’t open until 11! There were several mornings we were out at 8:30 in the morning, and we were the only people in sight! Many restaurants stay open until midnight or 1 AM, and some clubs stay open until 6 AM. We ate lunch most days around 2, and dinner around 9. It was so different, and definitely took some adjusting.
The bull fighting phenomenon of Spain was also very different from the culture of the U.S.! I was absolutely floored watching the event, and knew the event would never happen in our country. Aside from the actual bull fight, the format of the event was so unique, with no screens or announcers, just thousands of people crammed into an arena who all are expected to know what is going on.
Finally, the fashion in Spain was so different and truly ran the gamut! We didn’t see the typical southern T-shirt and athletic shorts combo. Most people wore neutral clothing in a street-wear style. I thought this was very odd, because any store we went into featured vibrant clothes, much more similar to the nicer outfits we would see in the United States. As we spent more time in Spain, I realized that the brighter outfits were more reserved for the night time and going out situations, not day to day wear. Our red attire with bulldogs on the front sorely stuck out! At first, we were all so concerned about fitting in and not looking too much like tourists, but by the end of the trip we all embraced that we were, in fact, tourists and, regardless, we would look like the “silly Americans” we were often labeled as.
All in all, it was SO wonderful and I loved soaking up the culture. Below are two pictures, the first of a market in Madrid, and the second from the bull fight!