I am in disbelief with the fact that this is already my second to last Monday in Spain. I have am definitely in denial about the fact that we are leaving since this program definitely went by much faster than I expected. This past weekend was pretty relaxing, I went to a museum, the Sunday market, the pool and went to a park with several large hills where you can watch the sunset as it sets over a view of the city. This week at work I have started to work largely alone and although I am nervous about making mistakes, I know that this is the way to learn and I am pretty excited to be able to work on my own and incorporate my supervisor’s work methods into my own.
During the orientation before the program, we were told that Spain is a high context country, which essentially means that much of the communication depends on implicit and indirect cues that are understood by the rest of the Spaniards. I would say that this is definitely true in certain contexts. For example, “no pasa nada” means it doesn’t matter, however, here in Spain, people may say this but sometimes there is something wrong and they say this so that you don’t feel bad about it. With my host family, for example, I double check to make sure that everything is ok, such as how I can help out around the house. Now that I have been here for about a month and a half, I can say that this is true to a certain degree. I think socially, this is definitely applicable, however, in work settings people will definitely be more direct with what is expected of you or what you should be doing.
I haven’t had any situations in which there was a miscommunication per se, but at the beginning of this experience and in my first few days at my internship, I definitely noticed I had no idea how to relate to my coworkers because of the communication. I speak fluent Spanish, yet when I first got here I had no idea what anyone was talking about, especially because a lot of communication depends on the context in which one is in. This also goes for the specific slang that the Spaniards use. I had experienced a lot of Spanish slang specific to Latin American countries but never slang specific to Spain so I was definitely lost for a bit.
Although I have definitely gotten used to it and learned many of the words, there are new words that I learn every day. I honestly started to keep track of these by writing them down and referring back to them if I need them. The same thing has happened the other way around. I use a lot of Mexican and Costa Rican slang since these are the cultures I grew up with and Spaniards will sometimes ask me what certain words mean and I will have no clue how to say it in the Spanish that the Spaniards use.
Another issue I have had was that I think I was expected to be more accustomed to the communication style when starting my job. This also includes being accustomed to the context in which I was working and the logic surrounding Spanish culture and immigration laws, which I didn’t know a lot about when I first started. Although questions are welcome and always answered, I think I sometimes asked too many questions compared to what was expected of me. There have been no miscommunications in this area but definitely something I had to get used to.
In addition, there are circumstances, especially in the workplace, in which people will be more blunt than what I am used to. I think that in the US, people are more likely to be easier on you, whereas here, people will be more blunt with you and expect more of you. Honestly I think I prefer how blunt they are so I know when I did something wrong directly and learn how to do it better or avoid it in the future.
However, I think my main issue with the communication definitely had to do with slang specific to Spain and getting used to it since it is used quite literally all the time. I have especially appreciated being able to learn how to write in Spanish in a formal setting since I have never really had this experience. In the work I do, I have to write a lot of reports on the residents of the center, in which I have to be really concise and formal since this information is often shared with social workers from other centers. Looking back, I am definitely proud of how far I have come in terms of getting used to the communication.