The Difficulties of Assimilating

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Over the course of the past 4 weeks I have noticed several differences between culture here in Madrid and the culture that I am accustomed to.  One of the things that jumps to mind is what the people wear here.  In the United States, it is perfectly normal to walk around in sweatpants and a hoodie.  However, if I were to wear that here, people would give me weird looks or assume that I am going to gym.  This was something that threw me off a little because I tend to wear sweatpants to pretty much all of my classes and I only get dressed up when I go out to dinner.  Here in Madrid, people tend to dress nicely every day and only wear sweatpants when they are home.  The typical outfit here is nice shoes,long pants or jeans and a nice shirt.

Another aspect of the culture that has been slightly difficult to adjust to is how direct people are when they speak.  Throughout my life, I have been taught to always use manners and follow an indirect method when I speak.  It is very different here.  People would rather you get to the point and tell them want you want rather that sugarcoat your question.  This has made speaking to waiters at restaurants very strange to me.  It feels a bit rude when I say give me a coffee but it is simply customary here in Madrid.

People here in Madrid also tend to speak with a lot of enthusiasm.  The other day I attended a meeting with my boss and a few other employees.  It started out relatively calm but as the meeting continued, the volume of everyones voices rose until it appeared they were yelling at each other or about to get into a fight.  Everyone constantly interjected and interrupted while the other was talking and then suddenly the meeting finished and everything went back to normal like nothing happened.  I was certainly taken back by this because I was almost certain that I was going to witness a boxing match in the office.  But that is just how people talk here; Spaniards speak with a lot of passion.

One other thing that is has been a struggle to adjust to is both the size of the food portions as well as the times that people eat.  In Spain, people tend to eat breakfast around 9 or 10 am, lunch at about 3pm and dinner at 9pm.  I’ve really struggled with the break between lunch and dinner. In the US, I usually eat breakfast when I wake up, lunch around 1, dinner around 6 or 7 and then eat something else right before bed so that I am not hungry throughout the night.  I’ve really struggled with the combination of the long hours in between meals and the size of the portions.  Most Spaniards only eat a croissant or something small for breakfast and lunch–then they eat a small dinner as well.  I don’t know how they do it because I am constantly hungry throughout the day.  I find myself needing 3-4 muffins throughout the morning just to hold myself over until lunch.  In order to survive the long break until dinner, I find myself snacking continuously just to make it through the day.  I’m hoping that I will eventually get used to this but I’m not quite sure that it will be possible.

Although there are many things that I have struggled to get used to, there are many some things that have been very easy to get used to.  For example, the metro system here is extremely well-done and is very easy to use.  I was worried that I might not like having to use the metro in order to travel throughout Madrid.  All of the signs are clearly labeled in both Spanish and English which make it tourist friendly.  Also, you can reach any part of the city just by scanning your metro card.  I have become so accustomed to using the metro, that I don’t even need to use directions to figure out where I am going.

It has been a great 4 weeks here in Madrid and I am really excited for the second half of my stay here and all that it has to offer.  Next weekend I will be traveling to Dublin and I am really excited to visit!

Hasta luego!