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Living Life As A Spaniard
My adopted country has really been instilling in me all the best parts of its culture. This is really what constitutes my immersion: doing what the locals do without questioning it. Something I quite struggled with when I first arrived was the vast difference I observed between the general American cultural scheme I was used to versus the Spanish (and European) cultural scheme. One of the inevitable facets of the culture shock curve is the questioning of and criticizing of everything foreign in the arrival and adjustment phase.
I guess much of this has to do with the most popular and globally-known customs of Spain. These are what add to the stereotyping culture as well; something I’ve reaffirmed to myself interestingly through this journey is that much of the stereotypes that are spread do come from locally observed traditions and practices (although most are exaggerated heavily).
Some of my favorite Spanish customs include the siesta, la merienda (afternoon snack), and the bar/café culture. Oh, and yes: I do heavily follow fútbol now. Now, the name “soccer” sounds weird to me. This past weekend, I went to my first fútbol game with Roberto; we usually watch matches together as a family every weekend on TV and whenever we can. My classmates have taught me that I need to choose my side (Madrid v. Barca) and stick to it (and I have chosen my side actually!). I usually joke that I am really just a superfan of Club Deportivo Badajoz (the fútbol team of Badajoz), and this certainly is true to some extent. This past weekend, CD Badajoz played against Celta de Vigo (a fútbol team from Galicia) in the live match that I watched.
The siesta really ties well with the Spanish custom of eating late and hanging out at bars well past midnight with your friends. After eating lunch at home around 2:30pm or 3pm, people usually take a siesta (nap) for anywhere between 30 minutes to 3 hours. This tradition actually makes a lot of sense in the summer months; with such intense heat and solar radiation, it is quite literally impossible to go out anytime between 2:30pm to 6:30pm. La merienda is the snack people eat after waking from the siesta. This snack can be anything from a piece of fruit to a slice of bizcocho (Spanish sponge cake).
I also really like Spanish snacks and junk food now. Lacasitos is the Spanish version of M&ms (and it’s honestly better!). A common snack food in Extremadura is sunflower seeds; these seeds come in their shells and natives here are extremely fast in cracking the shell open with their teeth and eating only the seed. Buscalios are like Fritos back home (although better!). Huesitos are the Spanish Kit-Kats. Cola-Cao is like the Spanish version of Nesquik; often served to little kids, it’s used as a chocolate flavoring in desserts, milk, and other sweet treats. There are many candies that have “equivalents” in American culture although the taste is a little different.
Clothes in Europe are much more fashionable and I really have caught on to that trend now. My favorite stores here are Stradivarius (owned by the owner of Zara) and Sfera (owned by El Corte Inglés - the Spanish equivalent of Nordstrom/Macy’s). The other day, I went out into town with Roberto and Laura, and Roberto even commented that I started dressing much more European. What used to be a pair of sweats is now a prim blouse with a blazer and some fashionable jeans.
It really has been the best to embrace these Spanish customs. I don’t find them weird or strange anymore. In fact, this reminds me of when I first came here. I used to spend hours reading articles on culture shock hoping to arrive at the “adjustment and liking” phase as fast as I could. Although the beginning was tough, I do feel like I’ve finally reached that point. Things don’t surprise me as much and I have gotten quite accustomed to life here. This makes for quite an interesting thought because most studies show that reverse culture shock is also very much a phenomenon to be experienced when one returns to his or her home country after a time abroad. I’m sure there’ll be a story to tell as I navigate that journey as well :)
Featured (top to bottom, left to right): the fútbol match, Cola-Cao bottles, my fútbol game tickets, Extremeñas [sunflower seeds brand from Extremadura], Lacasitos, and Buscalitos