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Living abroad - cultural changes

Miércoles, 1 de Marzo de 2017

Read our fun article from an English person about their experience of living in Spain!

Living in a foreign country has its share of cultural challenges and ‘shock’ moments. However it has also taught me to love some of the weird and wonderful differences that I would struggle to give up if I ever moved back to the U.K.

Summed up in three words, Spain is sunny, lively and easy going. There are so many reasons to be happy here, and do the Spanish know how to enjoy themselves. If it's not celebrating the arrival of autumn, it's carnival or the local town festival and Spaniards are dancing in the street until the sun comes up. No need to neck your pint before the pub closes at midnight - in Spain you can easily be walking home at 7 or 8am - just in time for a ‘cafe con leche’ as the coffee bars open and the locals pour in to get their morning dose of caffeine and chit chat.

The Spanish are very open and friendly people. The giving of ‘dos besos’ - a kiss on either cheek is expected - even to strangers you're introduced to in the street. Considering this is completely against the concept of personal space (and then some!) that we Brits cling so dearly to, it came as a pretty big shock! But when even the smallest children are taught to greet adults this way, it gives even British manners  a run for their money.

The Spanish aren't your shy and retiring types. Shouting is common and they're not concerned to express their true feelings and tell you just how it is. This is refreshing when asking how someone is and been given a real answer not just ‘ fine thanks and you!’

Punctuality is a different concept here however! What me and my expat friends call ‘Spanish time’, no one arrives on time for social events, let alone 10 British minutes early! But it's lovely, not having to rush to make a 7pm dinner on Saturday or an 11am brunch on a Sunday morning. Dinner can easily take you past midnight, leaving plenty of time for drinks before hitting the dance floor - if you still have some Spanish stamina left in you that is!

The lack or orderly queues just about everywhere was quite hard to get used to initially - it's a free for all at the bus stop and at the market stall people gather round and simply ask who ‘la ultima persona’ is. Only after my confusion trying to find the back of a non-existent queue did I learn how simply genius this was! Once you get used to not feeling secure in a nice, neat line it makes perfect sense.

The weekly market which takes place in most towns and cities is full of fresh, seasonal produce which makes the fruit and vegetables down your local Tesco look pretty sad. I've become a more confident cook here, using fresh produce most of the time - using a prepackaged bag of salad here makes me feel like the laziest person alive. The Spanish pride themselves on their cooking and it's not unusual to spend hours having lunch with a Spanish family. Recipes get passed down generations and everyone's granny does ‘the best’ macaroni, paella or sweet treats! You won't find anyone rushing back to the office with their ‘meal deal’ to eat over their keyboard. The extended lunch break and allocated siesta time is something sacred and not something I'll be giving up in a hurry.

This year marks three years since I made the decision to come and live in Spain and I wouldn't change anything about the experience. I've become a more laid-back and confident person, who is happier to express my feelings more openly. I don't apologise half as much (sorry!) and have removed (or let's say considerably reduced the size of) the ‘box’ of personal space! Living abroad is a culturally enriching experience that I would recommended to everyone, if you're happy to risk never wanting to return home!