Our newest Guiri Guide writer, Sarah Carroll, is California girl gone Spanish who teaches English here in Madrid. She’s an AIL Spanish student, lover of thrifty fun, and top notch picnicker with a lot to share from her two year’s experience living here, so take it away Sarah! Welcome to Guiri Guide!
Bienvenido a España!” It was a hot September afternoon when I stepped off the plane and into my new life in Madrid, where I would start my TTMadrid TEFL training. I had two suitcases, a backpack, and a cheat sheet of all the Spanish phrases I might need to navigate myself to my new flat. Using my rusty Spanish, I got in a taxi and confidently made my way to Barrio Goya: the taxi driver unloaded my bags onto the sidewalk and I thought, “I’ve done it!” I had tackled the language barrier; what I thought was going to be the biggest difference between my home country and my new home. I lugged my bags up the narrow staircase and into my apartment (which I found using Madrid Rent Flat). There I was greeted with a bottle of wine, a plate of jamón (see this fun video on how to cut it), and two big kisses from my landlord. I immediately realized the language barrier was just the tip of the iceberg: at that moment I knew I was in for a cultural awakening. In the two years since then, I have discovered some key cultural differences between Spain and the USA that might be helpful for new guiri’s:
In Spain, it is customary to give two kisses when you meet someone, see friends, return to work after a holiday, on birthdays, and pretty much all the time. Handshakes are reserved for male-to-male contact and even then, dos besos may be in order depending on the relationship (i.e. father to son).
What are you doing in my space bubble?
As you can tell from their greeting, Spaniards have little to no personal space requirements. It is completely normal to stand inches away from someone while speaking, sit right next to someone in a completely empty metro car, or act as someone’s shadow in line at the supermarket. At first this can seem invasive, but after a few interactions you will adjust.
Everything is Spain is slower; the walking pace, two hour lunch breaks, and you can almost always expect a Spaniard to arrive a few minutes late. Don’t worry, after some time if Spain you will actually learn to enjoy the relaxed mentality.
Cookies for breakfast
Spanish meals typically consist of biscuits for breakfast, fruit or a bocadillo for a snack, a fairly large lunch, another snack, and something light for dinner (usually between 21:00-22:00). You can still find cereal in every supermarket but you might want to branch out, Spanish style!
Leaving home at 18? You’re crazy!
It is not uncommon for Spaniards to live at home into their early thirties. In Spain, the “best way,” perhaps, to raise your children is to provide them with as much as you can. Instill them with strong family ties- so much that they are happy to depend on the family for financial and professional support.
These are just some of the many cultural differences I have come across during my two years in Madrid. While I am still a strong supporter of a heart healthy breakfast, I am learning to adapt to the cultural customs in the city that I have come to know and love and hope you do too!