To think that in two days I am officially halfway done with this experience and halfway closer to going home is very surprising and very sad. In one aspect, I feel like I just got here, but in other aspects, I feel like I have been here forever.
Living in Spain as an American has been a little difficult – there are obviously noticeable cultural differences that play into everyday life that need adjusting to, but I truly feel that, in my time here already, I have. For example, one of the first things that really shocked me about Madrid was how much they stare. To them, staring is not seen as rude, or odd, and is typically just truly out of curiosity. At first, I thought that people may be judging me, eyeing me up to pickpocket me, or maybe just being creepy. But as time goes on, I notice myself doing it too! I really enjoy the way people dress here – and this being a cultural norm for the Spanish, really allows me to look at their outfits in detail without seeming creepy or out of place. They typically dress nicer here, and much more conservative than in the United States – another difference. In the summer, I am used to dressing in beachier clothing, wearing smaller tops, and shorts (emphasis on the shorts). Yet, in Spain, and Europe in general, although the clothes may become flowier, or with lighter material, their tops typically stay conservative, and they continue to wear pants. This still shocks me because it gets much hotter here than it does in American summers (the high 80s and 90s with NO wind), and somehow they are still wearing pants! Honestly, I do not mind sticking out in the crowd by wearing shorts, because, at times, the heat can be unbearable. Do not get me wrong, I still prefer this heat to what we have in Pittsburgh, but would just rather enjoy it in shorts.
Living in Spain as a Mexican has been much easier – my Mexican background has prepared me for many of the smaller cultural differences I find here. Being that Latino culture is stemmed from Spanish culture, there are many similarities. For example, the eating schedule. Here in Madrid, the mealtimes are very late in comparison to America, but align with those of Mexico, and are something I am already used to. Eating breakfast just before work, lunch around 2-3 PM, and dinner around 9-10 PM can be hard to adjust to if you’ve never done it before, but since I am used to fluctuating between the two, I was luckily able to adapt quickly. Yet, when it comes to the food itself, there are differences. Although the food groups are the same, a lot of meat and carbs, the foods themselves are very different. In Mexico, for carbs, we eat a great amount of rice, tortillas, totopos, and more. Here in Spain, it is typically potatoes with every meal (in every form imaginable). Whereas for meat, we eat ground/cooked beef, and here, the meats are cured (hams, prosciuttos, salamis, and more). Another similarity has been the touchy-feely mannerisms that are used both in personal life and in the workplace. The greeting here is two kisses on the cheek, which for some may feel very intimate and almost inappropriate, but for me, I only had to add one more kiss into the mix (in Mexico, the greeting consists of one kiss, then a hug). Although, this greeting may or may not be used in the workplace, depending on the level of professionalism in the office. But in my workplace, it is, which makes me feel much more comfortable with the people I am around – and almost more connected too.
In general, living in any foreign country obviously requires adaptability skills and observation of the new culture around you. And I am very glad to say I have done this with ease. I do feel my Mexican upbringing has played a huge role in this process and is much of the reason why I feel so comfortable here, but I still have so much to learn. The differences between Western and European cultures trump the similarities between Spanish and Latino mannerisms because they hold much larger weight, both in personal life and professional life. Madrid is such a beautiful city, but very different from anything I have experienced before – and I cannot wait to continue exploring it.
Hasta la siguente semana,