Experiencing and Analyzing Cultural Differences

A post from Sept. 2 on my personal blog…

Today was my first day of Spanish Intensive Classes, and I loved them! My professors, Africa and Fermin, are both wonderful and hilarious. Fermin explained today the phenomenon that is that Andalucians “eat ” their words. It is so true- this form of Spanish is beautiful and far different from what I heard in Northern Spain or in Argentina. I know that my classes will not be too hard, however I am already learning at a much higher rate than in the United States because I am constantly using the language. As I am writing this I am beginning to confuse words because my brain is set to Spanish almost all day, so when I speak to friends and family, I am almost confused with English. I can imagine this will only become more interesting haha.

Last night I went out to enjoy some delicious churros con chocolate and un vino blanco at Cafe Futbol (famous for the churros.) We spent time chatting about our host families, life back home, and the things we want to do this semester. We all have so much in mind, which is exciting and should make for a memorable semester.

Something that has been very interesting for conversation at home is that my host mother is a Positive Psychologist, Sports Psychologist and Coach. She has such a firm belief that happiness is a decision that we can make, and that we can so easily make changes in our lives in order to be more satisfied every day. She has traveled, she works doing something she believes in and loves, days are spent doing things she wants to do, while also ensuring that the necessities are taken care of. Worry, and excessive work are not present in her life. In reality, for much of Spain and other European cultures, this is the truth. (Of course I understand that depression, anxiety, disasters, bad days, death, money troubles etc. exist in all cultures.)

As Americans, we often criticize the way of life of Spaniards particularly, calling them lazy for taking siesta, or saying they party too much. The thing is, this is a much more desirable way of life (at least in my opinion.) Here in Granada, for example, you go to work, or to University when you wake up. You spend the morning doing what needs to be done- you provide for yourself or your family, and depending on your job you most likely help other people.

At lunch time begins what is called tarde- the afternoon. You eat a large lunch with your family, which means that you leave work. The vast majority of shops and services are closed during this time that will last from 2-5 during the summer months. Lunch is a very important time for family bonding, it is not just about eating… conversation and laughs are always shared. After lunch is an vital part to the day- siesta. Taking a nap during the day can improve your health, your happiness and your ability to function overall for the rest of the night. Many people return to work at 2 or 3, so this relaxation period helps productivity later in the day.

The work day for most ends at 5 or 6 in the afternoon. Thus begins another period of the day in which people here truly enjoy themselves. You go to a cafe and read a book, have a drink and sit in the shade to avoid the hot Granada sun, go for a walk with your dog, visit a museum, go shopping, visit with friends… you do what ever makes you happy. Dinner normally does not happen until 9-10 during the summer because it is so hot and we all know that eating is much less enjoyable when you are profusely sweating… (gross.)

Night time is my personal favorite. The streets stay alive with people of all ages until around 12 and until 4 or 5 a.m. (the weekends usually) adults from college to mid- age walk the streets, visit the bars, cafes and discos. Drinking is not like it is in the U.S. Spanish people take their time, drink smaller amounts, and always eat tapas in between each drink. It is important to chat, stay standing up, walk to a new bar, eat some tapas, and drink at a slow, controlled, pace- being a drunk mess who can’t stand (college frat party anyone?), is not really acceptable here. Drinking is more about being social and having a good time with friends, not losing your mind.

None of this is to say that life in one country is better than another- it is only realizing and being educated about the differences that is important. I do however believe that criticism is passed without fully understanding the deep rooted, thousands of years old culture. Spain, like many countries, suffers greatly from economic problems- I am not studying economics, nor do I think I know very much about why it is that there are problems- BUT, I believe that if it were to be proved that the economic problems stemmed from the way of life here in Spain, the people would not change. What is important is living in a way which is enjoyable and worthwhile. At the end of the day, doing what makes you satisfied is the thing that matters. Whether that is working for 5 hours, or 12 hours, if it makes you- personally- happy, then do that thing. I have always thought that it is sad to see people working jobs they don’t like, to make money in order to buy things that they don’t need. Your career consumes much of your days and hours, so why not do something you truly love; will it even matter then if you aren’t able to buy things that society tells you that you need?

These are just some of the thoughts that I have been thinking while here in Spain; I do a lot of people watching and observing, and this is what I have gathered. Like I said, no one way of life or culture is better than another; subjectivity allows for different people to find different things more appealing.

Right now, I am in absolute heaven here in Spain. This city is so beautiful, my new friends are lovely, and I am safe and healthy.. what more could I ask for!?!?

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