Even though I have been in Spain for quite some time now, I keep getting pleasantly surprised with everything there is to do here. Every day I can see how I am continually getting better at adjusting to culture and Spanish life. This weekend, we went to Toledo, and although we had no idea what we were doing, we managed to figure something out using a walking tour app and randomly finding a package deal to visit multiple buildings in Toledo. At my internship, I am continually improving in understanding how everything works, in which I have been given more responsibilities, such as accompanying refugees to important appointments and writing reports. On Friday, we celebrated Day of the Refugee by organizing a feast with all the center’s workers and refugees. The women who missed cooking were able to cook their national dishes that were placed in our dining hall while people were connecting. I love being able to learn more about multiple cultures and hear the life stories of so many unique people, including that of my coworkers.
As I am approaching the halfway mark in this program, I have come to realize just how much I have gotten used to the culture in Spain. At first, it was pretty difficult to adjust to certain schedules, such as the eating schedule. Here, people will eat a rather small breakfast, have a second breakfast at around eleven, large lunch at three and then dinner between nine to ten. It took me a long time to get used to this schedule, especially since I would get hungry between meals but because the portions are so large here, I have definitely been able to adjust to this. There have also been many other cultural aspects that at first caught me off guard but now have continuously gotten used to. For example, it is not uncommon here for people to make eye contact with you or to prioritize interpersonal relationships, which is evident in both family and work life.
I am honestly having a rather difficult time answering this prompt because although adjusting to the culture was difficult at first, I think I have been able to get the general gist of it. If I had to say anything of which I have had a hard time adjusting to it would probably be the laid back work culture and work-life balance. Firstly, work life culture is very relaxed, as is evident with the two breaks we get during the day. Although I am working hard and constantly working, I think there is less of an emphasis to prioritize work, in which people will mostly prioritize their health, happiness and relationships. I think this isn’t so much an adjustment but something that is new and something I am not used to. However, I honestly like this model of living a lot more. I think it brings a sort of balance to all the challenges that life can bring in which you can have a life outside of work. Work life also doesn’t seem to be too competitive as it is in the United States, in which instead of competition, people will support each other and help each other out.
Another challenge I have had in terms of assimilation has been the work-life balance. Work often takes up a majority of ones’ day, in which afterwards, it is pretty customary to take an afternoon siesta, which I have come to adopt because of how exhausted I am. Afterwards, you can do pretty much anything. However, because the work days can go pretty late and dinner is so late, you end up sleeping a bit later. In this sense, I have found that I am pretty tired a lot of the time, even when I don’t do anything after work. The cultural schedule is generally pushed back to later compared to the US, which I have adjusted to but my sleep schedule has not. I had to start drinking coffee again to be more alert in the mornings. Although this has been difficult to adapt to, I have found that there are plenty of solutions to fixing this, and they seem to be working as of now.
I am extremely appreciative of this culture that I now am almost completely immersed into. I think this culture is very unique and one that is very open. Although I have gone through some difficulties in adapting to certain parts of the culture, it hasn’t been too challenging, in the sense that the longer I stay here the more I get used to these aspects I once had trouble understanding.