I have been living in Madrid for the past year, and it has now become my second home. If you choose to you move to another country be prepared to have an open mind and adapt to the culture, you may learn a thing or two about yourself along the way. Here are some things I learned about life after living in Spain:
The food and wine is meant to be enjoyed, not rushed.
Rewind back one year, and you would find me scarfing down my lunch at my desk, in between conference calls and meetings. Then, I would fit in a quick happy hour after work, down my drinks in order to catch the train, to be in bed by a decent hour because I knew I had another 12-hour work day the next day. If you have ever worked in NYC, you understand my dilemma. In Spain, there is no rush. They take 2 hour lunchbreaks to socialize and eat. They drink for the taste, not to get drunk. You go home after work, to refresh then eat dinner. Don’t expect anyone in a restaurant before 9 or 10pm on a weekend night. Expect hours of conversation during dinner.
History is knowledge.
The Spaniards are very in tune with their history. Take a day to stroll around the capital of Madrid and look around, you will see why. I learned more from talking to locals in Madrid about Spanish history, that I ever would in a textbook or classroom. Whenever I have a conversation where I learn something new, I am inspired. They are very proud of their history and the fact that they were conquerors. And trust me, I have been reminded on numerous occasions that part of the U.S. (Florida) was founded by the Spaniards.
Time can be flexible
Typical conversation with my Spanish friends:
Friends: “Let’s go get drinks tonight!”
Me: “Ok, let’s meet at “a place in Madrid.”
Friends: “Ok, see you later!”
Several hours pass…
Me: “Uh, guys? I need a time. It’s the American in me.”
In America, time is money. We place a high value on time, because in a capitalist country if you are wasting time, you are losing money. In Spain, time is about living in the moment. They aren’t constrained to timelines and deadlines. Last minute plans and lack of details are common. I have to admit; this took a little while to get use to but it is not something that should be taken personally.
Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Be Direct.
Ok- so for me being from NY where people are very direct, I appreciate the honesty. In the United States, New Yorkers have the reputation of being rude because of this. But in Spain, being direct is normal. I think in American culture; we are used to sugar coating things. We will say things are “awesome!” and “you look great!” with an intense level of enthusiasm even though we may think otherwise. I don’t know why this is, but in Spain if a Spaniard doesn’t like something they will tell you. A client of mine in Spain once told me that in America when you are about to fire someone you will first tell them how great they are and beat around the bush. In Spain, they will just say “you’re fired.”
Every country has its own set of political problems…
And they will tell you all about it. I personally enjoy having political discussions, because once you go outside America you will see that you can have an educational political conversation without it turning into an argument which tends to happen more often than not in the United States. With that being said, nowadays the United States is facing many internal political problems and everyone is complaining about it. In reality; every country is and upon speaking with people in Spain, they will inform you about the problems that currently exist in their country. Problems are universal and widespread, and every country has them.
Bonus: I spoke a lot about our cultural differences, but we do have some similarities. Americans and Spaniards are both very loud.
One of my first nights living in Madrid, doing my favorite thing in Spain- eating Tapas.