Wednesday, February 25, 2015

16 cultural differences between the US and Spain

by Sofia Squittieri, Writing Intern

1.    Bread for breakfast.
            We usually have toast in the morning with a cup of coffee and a piece of fruit.            Breakfast for us does not need to be sweet; but if you're going to eat                                sweets, this is the time. When we go out for breakfast we might eat a                          French croissant or another kind of pastry like magdalenas (plain muffins) or             napolitanas (similar to a croissant but stuffed with ham and cheese or                         chocolate or custard). We don’t know what a bagel is. Scrambled eggs are                reserved for the exercise obsessives.

2.    We like to take a seat, eat, and talk.
One of the least exciting things about eating in the States is that people rush. People eat, and then leave, or they order their food to go. We like to enjoy our meals. Our meals last forever. We like talking at the table, and we can go on and on for hours. It’s called sobremesa and we use that time to communicate. The TV is not a guest in our dinners.
3.    Bedtime and naps. A decent time to go to bed is midnight; however, many people are up until 1 or 2am. We can do this because if we're tired, we can nap after lunch. Naps are accepted and encouraged.

4.    Partying. We start the party at around 11pm or midnight--after dinner--and we will be up until 8am. We also need to enjoy the sunrise. We will go back home even later if we decide to have breakfast together and even later if we decide to drink some caƱas (small beers).

5.      Beer. We drink a beer/wine almost every day, and with our meals. We enjoy the   flavor.

6.      Walking. We walk everywhere. We are used to walking. We like walking. Our public   transportation works really well, but if we have the time, we will walk anyways and  enjoy the walk. Cars, for the most part, are only used if extremely necessary. In fact,   doing things in the car and from the car is completely new to us. We know what a  drive through is, but they are not common. Drive thru bank? What is that?

7.      Saying hello. We are used to kissing. We say hi by giving two kisses on both      cheeks, even when we meet someone new.

8.      Tips. Unfortunately, we are not used to tipping. Our waiters get paid as much as any   other worker, which means they only get tips if the service is extremely good.

9.      Punctuality. We never respect times--unless it is for work. When we meet, we set    an approximate time, and then we work around it depending on circumstances.    (editor’s note: I would hate this and go on something like a rampage)

10.  Play it by ear. We usually do not have a start and end time for doing things. We  meet for coffee, and we end up partying. It does not matter if it is a weekday or a  weekend.

11.  Smoking habits. Spaniards--maybe I should say Europeans--smoke a lot. It is  another way of socializing, making friends and taking a break. In Spain, non-  smokers are weird and even seen as antisocial.

12.  Questions. We question everything. We are used to being able to ask questions.  We are curious about life and we will keep asking until we get answers. Asking is not  rude, it is a right for us. (editor’s note: as I edit this—a lot—I realize that it may be a  good conversation. The author’s insight tells me so much about how she views the  States)

13.  History. When people in the US talk about a really old building built in 1921, I can't  contain my laughter. I have older cooking pans back home.

14.  Everything is illegal. In the States, everything seems to be illegal. You cannot go  topless on the beach. You cannot drink alcohol in a car, even if you're not driving.  Jay-walking . . . exists.

15.  Fashion. People go grocery shopping in their pajamas or sweatpants. We enjoy  getting dressed nicely, even to go to the supermarket. You never know where you'll  end up.

16.  We work to live. Americans live to work. The normal American life consists of working most of the day, getting home, having dinner and going to bed to wake up again early in the morning to repeat the pattern. On the weekends, they're too tired--from working--to party and if they do it, they'll be in bed by 3am. Wouldn’t want to screw up their sleeping schedule for work the next week! They make money, but have no time to spend it. They have amazing cars, computers, and televisions. In Spain, we earn less money, but we go out more, we talk to our friends in person, we enjoy the sun, take naps, and travel. 

Our cars are old and small, but we hardly spend time in them. Our TVs are smaller and we only have one at home, but we only use it to watch the news and maybe a TV show. It is usually off, because we have a person next to us that wants to share a moment, a dinner to cook and to enjoy, a nap to take or a trip to plan. Or we are not at home because we bumped into a friend in the supermarket and we are just hanging out at a bar, having a beer and asking questions, reflecting about life and its meaning, trying to save the world and then laughing about it.

Editor's note: I always say that my writers can have whatever opinion they like.  But I want to comment here, and not because of patriotism or ego. The author sent the title Spain vs. U.S., but this is really more Spain vs. New York or big city America, which is a small portion of America. The Spain she describes is identical to the lives and loves of my friends in Tucson, Colorado, small towns, the hippies . . . .  (after speaking with her, she says it may be a comparison of cities in Spain vs. cities in America)


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