I have been in Spain for over a month and feel pretty good about my understanding of the culture. There have been a few differences from the United States, but nothing that I haven’t been able to adapt to. I feel as though I am figuring out the city, as I rarely need to use my phone to find things. This also helps because my international data is quite slow, so I just check what metro station is near the place I am going and figure out the connections based on the metros. It is quite easy now, especially with my two regular lines, the 3 and 6. I am very familiar with these two lines, as they are the ones that lead to my home station of Legazpi.
In terms of the metro, there are a few things that I had to get used to. First, the escalators have a right side for those who are not in a rush, and the left side is used for people who are walking up or down the escalator. If you are standing still on the left side, you will get yelled at, and it is clear you are a foreigner. Luckily, this only happened to me as soon as I got off the plane at the airport, and now I follow the expectations. Next comes the staring. Many Spaniards will give you a full up-and-down look while they walk by or while standing on the metro. At first, it was quite weird to watch someone stare intensely at you but it is so common and I enjoy looking at all the new types of people as well. They have no mal intention by doing this it is just something we are not accustomed to in the united states. I have noticed in the US we are a little more reserved and in our own worlds than in Spain. Finally, something else I have noticed is the PDA in Spain. Couples of all ages are always all over each other. It was quite strange at first because if you were to do some of these things in the US it would be abnormal and frowned upon. But in Spain, it is so normal that no one pays attention.
At the office, the norms are quite similar. Everyone greets each other and says “Buenos dias” when we arrive or “Hasta luego” as we head home. In my position, it is very common for me to meet a technician or repairman at an apartment a few times a week. I have noticed they have been very nice, for example asking me where I am from and joking around. It has been fun to talk to other professionals in Spain.
Another cultural difference is business operations and meal times. It has been a little weird to have no stores open on Sunday. In the US many stores are open 24/7, especially something like a grocery store. Also as expected they eat much later, luckily for me I am staying with just my host and he also likes to eat early. His fiance likes to eat at 10 or 11 but she only visits every few weekends so luckily we typically eat around 7-8.
Overall I feel myself becoming more comfortable with the difference in cultural norms here in Spain. It is a great opportunity to see and be immersed in a different culture and experience a different way of life. I feel as though my global cultural awareness, understanding, and compassion are all maturing. I feel very lucky as I am also meeting people from all over the world. Many people in Spain are from Latin America and I always love learning about their culture as well and why they are in Spain. Beyond Latin America, many people from France, Germany, or other European countries are staying or working in Madrid. I enjoy learning about other countries and I always ask them how they like Spain. I am confident that you grow and their the most when you are put out of your comfort zone, and moving to an entirely different city with different culture norms would put anyone out of their comfort zone. I feel myself becoming more comfortable and I actively try to pursue things that make me uncomfortable. For example, I attended my first language exchange ever last week. I went alone and met a bunch of new people from all over the work and we talked about all sorts of topics. I will admit I was nervous to go before because this was my first time and I was all by myself, but I had a great time and practiced my Spanish. I plan to attend the next one tomorrow and as many as I can in the upcoming weeks.