Before coming to Spain I took a pre-departure class that prepared us as global scholars for the journey we were about to embark on. As a part of this class I had to research Spain in detail to understand the culture and structure of the country as well as I could. The goal of this research was to sort of cushion my initial culture shock with some prior knowledge. On top of the information I researched I also received a lot of info from relatives and friends who had spent time in Spain and other European countries. Sevilla has been different from America there is no doubt about that, but it has not necessarily conformed to all the things I heard before coming, here is how:
- Everyone will ask you about politics and no one likes Americans → Before leaving for Spain all the research I did, and everyone that I talked to told me to be careful about flaunting my Americanism, and to maybe even result to saying I’m Canadian to avoid the conversation all together. I have interacted with locals in many different facets; restaurants, bars, taxis and intercambios. But I have yet to run into this issue that was stressed so hard before I left. Sevillanos are proud of their small, beautiful city and haven’t expressed much interest in America as a country. Most of the interest comes from the fact that they get to practice their English with someone who is fluent. It’s only been three weeks but I have had plenty of interactions where the opportunity to discuss politics has come up, and no one has asked. Considering my major and the American political climate right now, I was actually looking forward to discussing it with locals. I want to meet more Spanish students, if I can, I would like to talk to those who are majoring in politics to get their take of the US.
- PDA is everywhere
→ This is a stereotype that has definitely proven itself. Even though I was warned about it, I was shocked when I first saw PDA out in Sevilla. Couples have no shaming cuddling, hugging, and even kissing out in the streets. The most absurd example of PDA that I have seen so far, was a couple kissing in the middle of a group of people while waiting for the light to change so we could cross the street. In America, I would’ve judged this kind of display very hard, because well, as we say, ‘it’s a little much’. But, I was really surprised because in that moment I did not feel disgust or any judgement. They were simply two people who were enjoying each others love, it was actually kind of beautiful.
- Constantly be aware because pick-pockets are everywhere
→ This was my biggest concern coming abroad. If you know me, you know I am one of the most oblivious and forgetful people. So I made sure that when I came here, I focused hard on my things every time I left the house. I have had friends get their phones stolen in night clubs when leaving them unattended. But I have yet to have anyone try to steal from my purse or pockets while out, even in large crowds. I learned in my class that Sevilla is one of the safest cities in Spain. The crime here reminds me of any city in the US (NYC, DC, etc.) maybe even less. I have felt really safe so far, it makes me feel more at home.
- They work to live, not live to work
→ Lastly, I researched the working environment in Spain, and everything that I found, turned out to be completely true. In the US our entire lives are based around what our careers are going to be, and hope to find happiness within what we do. But here, young people look for job security before job serenity. Life here is about your experiences outside work, your family and friends. Work is a means of survival but not fulfillment. This is reflected in the way Sevillanos lead their lives. People never rush anywhere, restaurant staff and retail workers wait for you to get their attention if you need something. Life here is all about living in the moment, not rushing from one place to the next.