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Walking in the Shoes of a Spaniard

by Mae, 2014 Summer Immersion in Spain 

I knew before my trip to Spain that looking at the similarities and differences between the American and Spanish culture without bias would be a difficult task. Nevertheless, I tried my absolute best to observe the variances without judging them. Every culture had their own lifestyle so instead of looking at certain aspects as wrong or weird, it is important to view them as interesting or just as a matter of fact. And that is exactly what I did.

Teen Life

The very first day I arrived in Spain my host sister and I went to a barbecue with her friends. I tried my best to beat the jet lag and really get the feel of a Spanish teen's life. To my surprise, English music was playing, hamburgers were cooking on the grill, and the clothing style was almost exactly the same as where I live in Wisconsin. It felt very similar to home. But as my Spanish adventure continued, I began to see and embrace the differences in the Spanish culture.

The Spanish people live for the night. On a normal night my host sister and I would leave with her friends around 10 p.m. to the park, the movie theater, a party, or where ever we were headed. My host sister and her friends then would normally wake up around 11 or 12 in the morning. Their mornings were slow and relaxing, which felt very different from the fast paced lifestyle here in the United States. My friends and I at home are used to dragging ourselves out of bed at 7 in the morning for either sports or work. However in Spain, very few teenagers have jobs and school sports aren't taken as seriously. Instead of always keeping busy and running through the motions, the Spanish teenagers know to slow down and enjoy the little time they have as a teen. I believe this is something that my fellow Americans and I could learn from the Spanish.

Food and Meals

The Spanish culture is very unique when it comes to their meal times and food. I knew about the different meal times before I left, but truthfully, it was still a bit difficult adjusting to eating breakfast at noon, lunch around 3 p.m. and supper at 9 or 10 at night. The meal times corresponded well with their active night life, so overtime I began to accustom myself.

For my first breakfast in Spain my host sister and I had toast, but we didn't smother it with jam, peanut butter, or even butter. Instead, we covered it in olive oil. During my time in Spain I realized the people use olive oil for all cooking and even on salads and vegetables. Spain has many more unique foods that I had the opportunity to try, such as gazpacho (a soup like dish made with tomatoes and other vegetables), croquetas (fried rolls containing mashed potatoes, meat and/or vegetables), and jamon iberico (ham that is cured for months in a coating of lard and often served with melon). Traditional dishes like these are hard to find in the United States. Conversely, a lot of American food is served worldwide. Spain's unique palate helped me to immerse myself in their culture.


I remember my first day in Spain, gazing out of the window at Los Arroyos, the town where I was going to be staying. I observed that there were very few individual houses, but instead large apartment buildings with flats. Over the course of my time in Spain my observation of the housed did not differ from the first. My host sister and I discussed the difference and she told me there wasn't enough space inside the city and the individual houses were much more expensive. Where I live in small town Wisconsin, almost everybody has their own house with their own yard. On the contrary, the apartment complex where my host family lives has a pool where we would hang out almost daily. This was a great place for the community to get together to swim, play cards, and really get to know their neighbors.

During my time in Spain my family took me to many beautiful places such as King Phillip's monastery in El Escorial and the Cathedral in Madrid. We also went to Segovia: a town surrounding by castle walls with a cathedral and a castle. Spain's history is written across their country in the form of ancient architecture. However, the monuments in the United States, like our history, are recent on a historical timeline.

It was not easy overcoming bias while being immersed in a different culture and at times it was very frustrating. But my experience helped me understand my own prejudices and to keep an open mind in all circumstances. My adventure in Spain was the most eye-opening and humbling experience I have ever had.

Interested in learning more about our programs in Spain? Check out our page here.


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