Cultural Differences

Before coming to Spain, I had only a general idea of what Spanish culture would be like, especially since I would be living more as a local than a tourist. Tapas, late nights, beautiful architecture and a long-complicated history were the few things I was told. However, after talking with Spanish citizens and learning a lot from my Spanish history class I have come to realize how different I would have been had I grown up here instead of in Illinois. Here are a few of my favorite differences that I have noticed over the last few months.
One of my favorite pastimes is politics and I am sure everyone can agree that the situation in the United States is complicated to say the least, so I was ready for some kind of change. I was aware that Spain was a monarchy and of the complications currently going on in Catalonia but that was only the tip of the iceberg. Spanish politics is separated into many different political factions where in the U.S. we only have two major parties. Here there are socialists, communists, anarchists, republicans and nationalists just to name a few. In the U.S. the politics seems to be way more of an “us vs. them” mentality since there are only two sides and the ideologies that each side holds are the opposites of each other. I believe that due to the availability of more parties that Spanish politics seems to be less hostile than American politics. It is a popular topic of discussion when out with friends or even complete strangers whereas it can be a sore subject for many Americans. One moment that comes to mind was when I had met a friend’s roommate and she happened to be a communist. Communism has long been seen as the enemy in the U.S. due to our history with countries like the Soviet Union and China so getting an actual communist’s opinion was very thought-provoking. Personally, I am a fan of this system of many parties since it gives people more options to choose a candidate that they like instead of just aligning with a party.
Another major difference that I have noticed is the lack of materialism from Spanish citizens. While I still see large department stores and Black Friday deals it seems as if the people here are comfortable living with less and assigning more money to experiences. I first noticed it when I heard that my apartment was extremely lucky to come with a dryer. Now, dryers are readily available here, but it seems that everyone is just as comfortable air-drying their clothes. Since the night life is so abundant and the drinking age is 18, I see many more students my age going out to bars at night instead of playing video games for instance (I have not heard one student mention anything about video games which was shocking). However, the one thing that the Spaniards do seem to splurge on just as much if not more than the U.S. is clothing. Casual outfits here are much nicer than the United States, especially people my age since most students I see in the U.S. prefer wearing sweatpants and a hoodie to their classes rather than pants and a button down.
Overall, I would say that we can learn a few lessons from Spanish culture that could make life a little less stressful in the states. I hope that I can put those lessons to use once I return home but until then the learning continues.
Hail to Pitt!
-Casey