CULTURE SHOCKS: Study Abroad in Spain ⚡

Posted in: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Placements

The Cambridge Dictionary defines Culture Shock as "a feeling of confusion felt by someone visiting a country or place that they do not know". When visiting new places, culture shock is rather common, and can be a positive or negative experience, but is something to get used to as you become more accustomed to new surroundings. Spain most certainly is not an exception with its many peculiarities... Here are some which have stood out to me during my first two months on placement in Spain!

Food and drink. People in Spain don’t eat lunch until around 2pm! At first I couldn’t figure out how they did it, until I discovered that lunch here is like its own Christmas dinner, which can easily last up to two hours. Lunch time is not just about eating, but also catching up with your friends and savouring the meal together. Also, don’t expect restaurants to be open for dinner until at least 8pm. Here's one difference which my boyfriend is very much enjoying - coffee culture here in Spain is very different to home, with espressos by far the most popular choice! (In his words, "no triple-skimmed, vegan coconut milk flat whites here!”)

Clothing. Spain - why are you so stylish?! In my opinion, people here dress for the season, not for the temperature. At university it seems that my normal leggings and hoodie combo don’t cut it. I have to say, the fashion standards here are much higher. Even in the most casual of settings, Spanish men and women’s outfits always appear well thought-out. After all, this is where Zara comes from. 

Doing laundry. This may sound strange but believe it or not it took me at least a week to get over my fear of doing laundry. Not because I didn’t know how to work the washing machine, but because standing on the balcony of my shared apartment I would look down at the interior patio a few floors down, the place that would undoubtedly soon be the graveyard to my fallen socks. And sure enough, a few weeks later my towel did fall, forcing me to reluctantly ask a neighbour on the ground floor to retrieve it for me. Safe to say I’ll be using the dryer from here on out.

Interesting queueing habits. Some may argue that the Spanish don't queue properly and instead form disorganised clusters. However, in Spain, queues don't always need to form a straight line to work as it's customary to announce yourself as you arrive in the line. Because everyone knows who is ahead of them and behind them, it doesn't matter where you actually are... maybe it's us who have got it wrong all along?

Cycling. Here's a positive difference! Drivers are far more considerate of cyclists, and cyclists actually tend to obey traffic lights too! Across Spain, and certainly in Zaragoza, bikes are certainly a favourite mode of transport. Road users seems accommodating of bikes and leave plenty of passing room, and if you head into the mountains some cars even roll down their windows and shout encouragement at you to get the top - you’d never get that back home!

The slow pace of life. The whole concept of punctuality is also a little loose, or nonexistent. At university, let's say a lecture is due to start at 9am, it won't be until around 9.15am that the teacher casually strolls in to greet the class. If you're impatient and prefer finishing work early instead of at 8pm, you'll find it hard to adjust to the slow pace of life in Spain. My lectures finish at 8pm every day... scary right?!

Overall, despite all of Spain’s little peculiarities, I’m embracing them all ❤️

¡Hasta pronto!

Posted in: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Placements


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