First Impressions of the Spanish Culture
I’ve been here a little over a week for my teach in a homestay program in Spain, but it feels like much longer since I’ve experienced so much! Everything has been an adjustment, but the time has already offered both personal learning experiences and powerful insights to how a different culture lives. America is not superior to Spain, but each country is unique and can be appreciated for its differences.
When I first arrived, I saw empty restaurants at 7-8PM, and I didn’t think much of it. Around 9PM, the Avenue de Europa Street was just coming alive. People were filing out of their apartments as the sun was setting over the hills. It was time for drinks, tapas, or a light dinner with your family or friends. The concept of eating a meal around 10PM or later was bewildering, but after staying with a local family I began to understand.
The teenage kids sleep in (wake up anytime between 10:30AM-1PM) and they eat a light breakfast. The main lunch meal is around 3PM and is followed by a light dinner around 10PM. The children are often up past midnight and head to bed when it has finally cooled down enough to fall asleep. You really can see how the heat influences the Spanish people’s reputation as notorious night owls. While this lifestyle is ideal for growing teens, it also seems that the adults follow it to some degree. Their workday starts around 9/10AM. The parents sometimes come home for lunch or they are back home at 5 to take a brief siesta or spend time at the pool with their family before dinner.
There has been a heat wave in Spain, thus every day has been between 97-105 degrees with the hot sun out from 6:30 AM to almost 10PM. While the family is by any standards wealthy, upper middle class looks different in Spain, than in America. For example, we’re in a suburb, but you don’t see mansions and multiple car garages. The family lives in a two floor flat, nobody in the community has air conditioning, but they make do by keeping the light out with efficient shutters and visits to the shared pool in the courtyard.
Not only were the Spanish meal times a shift for me, but the food has been as well. Immediately I noticed that there weren’t as many fruits, grains or salads as I was accustomed to in America and much of the protein was fried. That being said, I’ve also had some wonderful meals- the seafood paella has been my favorite thus far.