While many seniors chose a spring break destination located on a tropical island or country blessed with unseasonably warm weather, my family has always been big on traveling together and experiencing new cultures. Spain has always been a popular spot to study abroad while in college because of it’s beautiful cities and breathtaking coasts. However, I realized this past break that there are more benefits to this country than I may have thought.
The Food Portions
The first thing that I learned while in Spain is that we are super greedy with our food in America. While many of us are used to going to a restaurant and ordering food that is way too much for us to finish, or is not necessary, Spain does food differently. When you go to a restaurant, you may be shocked at first that the food is not nearly as large as you would’ve expected. But, when you look around while walking on the streets, it’s easy to notice that most people in Spain aren’t overweight. In fact, I didn’t see any people that I would consider heavy while I was in this country for ten days. So, although the food portions may be smaller, it definitely benefits the health of the people.
Adding on to the fact that the portions of food are smaller in size, people in this country usually share their food as well. It wouldn’t be common for a family to order all of their own entrees, which is something that we are used to seeing in the United States. Most often, families will order a few things and share with each other. Thus, along with being in this beautiful country, it’s nice to know that it’s easy to find somewhere to eat that won’t be too unhealthy.
Dressing By Season
I chose to wear what I would consider more lightweight clothes on a day in Spain that was in the high 60’s. I stepped out onto the streets and automatically noticed that I couldn’t look more like a tourist if I tried. All of the locals were dressed in winter coats and scarves and I felt like everyone was staring at me. Some of the people even had their arms wrapped around them if they weren’t in a coat.
Although we are used to dressing for the weather and choosing outfits that would make us the most comfortable, it is pretty different in Spain. According to them, it was the end of the winter season and just transitioning into spring. Since this would technically be a colder season, they had to dress according to that. Even though the weather was particularly warm, everywhere I looked, people were dressed in layers.
The pricing in Spain could possibly be one of the best things about the country. I assumed that things would be more expensive because the currency is the Euro, but I was wrong. Clothing prices were about the same, depending on the store, but the pricing on the food and drinks were the most apparent.
Since lots of ingredients are local, the cost of a lot of food is much cheaper. Of course, a fancy restaurant would still be on the pricier side, but smaller restaurants and markets were definitely a good deal. Many little shops would have specials that you couldn’t pass. Wine is also much less expensive in Spain than it is in the United States because there are so many vineyards nearby. As a matter of fact, wine is actually a better deal than water. The markets would also be a good place to buy your bottle of wine because the same bottle could cost a lot more if you were to buy it in a restaurant. These food and wine prices surely make Spain a study abroad destination that sounds amazing to college students.
Another aspect of Spain’s culture that is a lot different than our own is the timing of their meals. The citizens of Spain usually eat their dinners a lot later than we do. While Americans tend to eat around the time of 6 or 7, people in Spain will eat their dinner at 9 or later. Any meal that could happen before that time would be considered a snack.
Even hours of “going out” are pretty different. To go out at night, people in Spain usually don’t leave until 11. If you do go out before then, the discos (clubs) would be basically empty. Chances are, if you are completing a night out like in true Spanish form, you won’t return home until about 4 in the morning or later.
In Spain, there are these breaks called siesta, which I think would be an excellent addition to American culture. During a work day, a citizen of Spain will take a break in the middle of the day. Most likely, they will go home and take a nap. Who wouldn’t want to take a nap during a work day? Lots of shops and stores will actually close during the afternoon because many people working go home for their daily siesta. A siesta would be a great way to recharge for the rest of the work day and some time for much needed relaxation.
Although family is important to many Americans, there was a pretty big difference in how important that was made clear to me while I was in Spain. Families are super close and rely deeply on each other. In America, it’s common for someone to want to complete “The American Dream.” This would be where a person has a child, their child grows up and becomes successful with a job, the child then gets married and has a family of their own, and the cycle repeats. However, this dream relies on the independence of the child who chooses to go off on their own and never truly return to their parents because they will be starting their own.
In Spain, their dream is quite different. Families want to be together for as long as possible. It is very common for a child to go to college and then return home to live with their parents. Then, after receiving their own job and making enough money, they decide to buy a house that is close or next door to their parents. It is the children’s responsibility to take care of their parents.