The Little Differences

Hola a todos:

Week three in Madrid was nothing short of incredible. Each week I am trying new things and meeting so many new people. There is so much to explore in this city and I look forward to seeing more over the next month. Work has kept me very busy over the last multiple weeks. I am juggling various projects since I am technically working for two different companies. The guidance from the people watching over me has been very helpful. I can say that I like the activities of both companies and enjoy working with each person in an office setting. 

I love the culture of Spain and feel like I fit in here. There really haven’t been any major aspects that I have had trouble adapting to, besides the language. However, there are obviously still many little aspects that make it different from the United States. The first one that is difficult to adjust to is the eating schedule. Back home in the U.S, I typically eat a big breakfast with lunch in the middle and dinner at around 6-7 PM. With my host family, however, breakfast is typically very small and dinner usually happens around 10 PM, which is still difficult to adjust to. Also, I always snack throughout the day, and in these past three weeks, I have never seen my family eat at non-meal times. 

Another thing I’ve noticed is how nice people dress, regardless of the occasion. Even in 90 degree weather, many people here still wear pants, something that I would never have wanted to do before coming here. However, I have been trying to fit in and still haven’t really worn shorts yet, we’ll see how long that lasts. Any occasion here seems to have a very nice dress code. You will see people dressed in their best outfits going to restaurants or clubs or anything else. Luckily, my work is casual, so still a little more dressy than what is considered casual in the US, but nothing too intense. 

Another difference is the price of food and drinks. I have found that food here has been cheaper than in the U.S, and I read that it is due to more competition within retail food sales. Another thing is that tipping in restaurants is not common in Spain, which is obviously the opposite of the U.S. where tipping a significant 20% is the norm. People may still tip a little, but it is a much lower percentage. Workers here are simply paid a better base salary and thus don’t rely as much on tips. 

Another rather insignificant difference I have noticed is how much people stare at others. In the U.S, I feel like this doesn’t happen nearly as much on just a normal commute to work, for example. Passing people on the street, rising the metro, whatever the situation, I feel like I am being watched a lot; perhaps I am very obviously a foreigner. I have literally watched people on the metro just stare at others for minutes, while in the U.S. people just look at their phones the whole time. So, it can definitely be a little strange seeing this, coming from the U.S. 

In the workplace, many of the differences are what I alluded to in last week’s blog: the unimportance of time and lack of a structured schedule. As I mentioned earlier, the best way to prepare for this is to have great time management and zero expectations. Something I have noticed is that my office, which is sort of connected to the others by a large common room, is very loud at all times. I am not someone who can work well with loud background noise, but it seems like all of my coworkers are unbothered. In the U.S, I picture work offices as more focused and quiet. This is not the case here, perhaps it is because of the increased levels of group/team work that Spanish business values. 

Overall, I am lucky to say that I have not faced any major differences that shocked me, only minor, insignificant ones. I am enjoying the process of learning this new culture, and I know that it has been and will continue to be an incredible learning experience. 

See you all next week.