I just had my last day of classes for my first month here in Spain. They gave us two prompts to choose from and we had to write a short timed essay on one of them. I chose: “What was your first impression about Malaga. Tell us a little bit about the people, the cultural differences between us and your home country, and the things that you like and dislike.”
Not only did I ace the paper, but also I thought that this specific topic would make a good blog post. I feel like when people ask about my trip here, their first couple of questions are, “What’s the food like?” “How are the classes?” “Do you go to the beach everyday?” And while these are all important questions to which I answer, great, good, and not everyday, I think that the more interesting answers lie after the question, what sort of weird stuff do the Spanish people do?
The first one is obvious. Spanish people are definitely night owls. When you go out to a party in America, you stay out until 2 or 3 in the morning and then crash for the night. When you party in Spain, they go well into the morning and then head straight to school or work afterward. I honestly don’t know how they do it.
Some clubs don’t even open until 2 a.m.! I was riding the bus home last night ready to go to sleep at around 1a.m. and there were elderly people going into the city.
Spain lives life after dark. They don’t eat dinner until around 9 p.m. and it’s always as a family. When I tell my family, it freaks them out completely. They hear that I’m riding the bus home alone at 4 a.m. and they think that would be a good time to pull out my pepper spray and start showing people who’s boss. (That would be kind of hard because pepper spray is actually illegal here.)
Little do they know, the streets are still full of people that late. I’d rather walk a street full of people in the wee hours of the morning than all alone.
Another major difference between Spain and America is service. Here, the service is horrible. When I walk into a supermarket or a restaurant in America I expect to be greeted and asked how I’m doing, and what I want. I expect to have fast service and then you give them a good tip to say thank you.
The problem in Spain is they already include the tip on the bill. They get tipped whether they are nice to you or not. You might get a nice waiter who is interactive, but that’s if you’re lucky. What you usually get is one menu for the entire group of people you are with, and no time to look at that menu because 30 seconds after you sit down someone is asking you what you want.
If you take too long to answer, they just walk away and won’t come back unless you call them over. When you finally get your food, you never see the waiter again. You could be sitting there for hours before someone brings you a check.
Chances are you’ll have to call over the waiter yet again to get the check, and call him over again to take the check from you. It’s great for people who don’t like to be bothered at restaurants and stores by the staff. Note to all of you though: restaurants hate it when a massive group of Americans come rolling in, not knowing what they want.
I am the kind of person who needs all my questions answered before I feel comfortable doing something. On this trip, my anxieties are off the walls crazy. The study abroad company wants you to relax and have fun and just go with the flow, and the school teachers are used to teaching Spanish students who, for the majority, don’t care about what’s going on and just want to leave and go have fun. That doesn’t work for me. The other day when I asked my professor what day and time our final exam was, she didn’t know. So I asked the other ones and they didn’t know either. So I thought, okay, maybe it just hasn’t been scheduled yet. But then I thought, we have less than a week left of school, why has this not been scheduled yet! Then when it came to studying for the exam, I asked the professors what sort of things will be on the test so I knew what to study.
They response I got blew my mind.
“I don’t know, I don’t make the exam,” they said.
What do you mean they don’t make the exam! Keep in mind, these monthly exams determine whether or not you pass, which determines whether or not your credits transfer back home.
I just thought it was insane that the teachers, who were supposed to be preparing us for this big exam, didn’t even know what was on it. Maybe I’m just too uptight, and my inner workaholic American traits are showing through. Everyone here is just so go-with-the-flow. It feels like no one here has any worries or cares in the world. It sometimes feels like they are settling for “ok” when there are a ton of things that I see on a daily basis that could be upgraded to “fantastic” with a little extra hard work.
But that’s the American way, right? Work hard to constantly be upgrading your life in every way to make it more comfortable to live in. Here it’s the opposite, the Spanish people hate working. They work just enough to get by so they can go out and have fun.