Culture Shock Round 2: Reflecting on the first month in Spain


Hola amig@s!

Since I’ve been absent from the blogging world for a while, I thought I’d get things fired up again with a little update on Spain. Now, I am not a fan of recap posts (snooze), so I won’t be telling you every detail about the past three weeks…if you really care about that, then plan a visit and come see for yourself (or just WhatsApp me).

Here I present you some things I forgot about Spain and am now re-learning the second time around – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Aka a short summary of some of the ways this guiri has been handling culture shock.

No matter where I am you know I’ll be posing awkwardly

1. The pace of life: Wondering why I haven’t been posting much on the blog? Well, I waited three weeks to get wifi so I haven’t been using my computer. While the ever-present “no pasa nada” attitude can make every day tasks a bit frustrating for an uptight American like myself, other than the wifi issue it’s nice living somewhere that people know how to slow down and enjoy the beauty of doing nothing.

2. Siesta time: When I first touched down in Spain, I was in Barcelona. As you’ve probably seen in the news, they don’t really want to be a part of Spain, but that’s another topic for another day, however that’s part of the reason why siesta time there is not as noticeable. In Jaén, I’ve learned it’s a 3 hour affair. Nothing is open, mainly because it’s just too hot to function, so after work is my time to eat, read, and catch up on sleep. It’s also the best time to go to the supermarket if you want to have it all to yourself (thanks for being the only place open, Mercadona #bae).

I don’t want the American Dream, my dream is the Spanish siesta…roughly translated

3. Spanish TV: If you think American reality tv is trash, then you ain’t seen nothing yet. Spanish reality tv is just as mind numbing and even more painfully dramatic, but seeing as it’s in Spanish, watching it provides some educational value. At least that’s what I tell myself.

2.4/10 on IMDB but at least it’s in Spanish

4. Perceptions of US geography: When I tell people I’m from the US, 90% of the time they ask me if I’m from New York, especially the kids at the colegio where I work. Some of them have spent more time there than I have, having participated in a summer exchange program. Some people do know about Boston (the tea party), and then proceed to ask how I live there if it’s so cold. I tell them that’s why I moved here.

5. Para llevar/to go: Getting things “to go” is a more of recent concept here. You can indeed get a coffee to go, but be ready for people to look at you like you’re bonkers especially if you’re a tall American with blonde hair who is sweating profusely because she can’t take the heat. On that note, a lot of the teachers and students are fascinated by the coffee mug that I bring to school with me. I’m not sure why, since I bought it in a shop here in Jaén, but it’s made for a good teaching tool for 2 year olds (yes, very good Esperanza, the mug is blue!!!!).

No Dunkin’ Donuts or iced coffee, but check out that price on that wine!!

6. Spanish customer service: I might be alone in this, but I have no complaints with Spanish waitstaff. I always feel so awkward at home when I’m trying to have a nice, quiet breakfast and the waiter is literally breathing down my neck trying to be my best friend. It has to do with the fact that waiters in Spain actually earn a decent wage so they don’t need tips to live, but it really is nice being able to claim your table for however long you please. I’d trade rushed dining for flagging down an aloof waiter any day.

7. Old man hang out spots: I looooove abuelo/as. Honestly, the cute little older couples are one of the main reasons I have returned to Spain. When passing through the old quarter during the day, you’ll see plenty of adorable grandmother and grandfatherly types posted up on benches or the patios of bars shooting the breeze and people watching.

8. Spanish supermarkets: In Spain, you have to put on plastic gloves before touching any produce at the supermarket, then weigh it. I’m no rookie, and having already been yelled at to “no tocar!!!” by a feisty abuela back during the study abroad days. I know the drill. It just seems odd to me in a country where most bathroom stalls have no soap, toilet paper, or paper towels? But then again, maybe that’s the reason for it. I just try not to think about and put the gloves on. When in Rome.

jam supemarket
A common sight in a Spanish supermarket

9. Spanish names: I have such a hard time remembering my students’ names; I cannot begin to count the number of Marías I’ve met and I’m pretty sure every class I’m working in has at least two. Since Katie is María’s American equivalent, there’s no harm done if nobody remembers my name either. I’ve been called anything from Kelly to Kaley, to Haleigh, to Kathy…or “señoraaaa” by my students, which just makes me feel old.

10. Spanish baby chic: Spain is littered with stores selling over the top baby clothing. I’m talking lots of ruffles, and leiderhosen type get-ups (see below). While watching after them all day has given me a more realistic impression – they poop, pee, and snot all over you just like any other baby anywhere else in the world – I still think they take the cake for cuteness since they’re always dressed to the nines.

Exhibit A. Not saying I’d dress my kids like this though, just think it’s hilarious

 There you have it. While Spain is a western country, it is different from the U.S. in a lot of ways. Does anything here surprise you? Have you also spent time in Spain and had any of the same, or different shocks? Dígame in the comments! 


2 thoughts on “Culture Shock Round 2: Reflecting on the first month in Spain

    1. Thank you!! Right back atcha. We should plan a Skype date soon, after the homecoming craziness is over… send UMass my love 🙂


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