When I found out my family would be traveling to Spain this summer, I scrolled through Pinterest for months planning every detail of our trip. But no article or blog post I read could have prepared me for what Spanish culture is really like… and it can be a little quirky. So here is a list (in no specific order) of what I consider to be some of Spain’s most interesting idiosyncrasies:
1. I can now relate to this quote on an almost spiritual level. In Spain, dinner does start much later than it does in the United States, which can be a struggle if you are a toddler, senior citizen, or me. There were several nights during our trip when I was literally falling asleep at the dinner table because we were starting dessert at 11:30 p.m. But, at least the food was worth fighting off sleep for.
2. Spaniards are quiet, soft-spoken people. It’s not exactly like they whisper, but they manage to keep the volume of their voices relatively low. In Miami, we have a stereotype of being loud people, but I never bought into that until this trip. In Spain, I was keenly aware that even walking down busy, crowded streets, my family was always the loudest group.
3. Cobblestone streets. Like actual stones and mud made up the streets in several of the cities we visited. In Miami, we have cement and asphalt. That’s it. But in places like Cordoba and Granada, the streets were made up of cobblestones arranged in neat rows or ornate patterns like the one pictured above.
4. How fun it is to say store names in Spanish. La-van-der-ia. Pa-pel-er-ia. Chu-rre-ria. I would repeat these words to myself as I walked down the street just for fun. (Hopefully, no one noticed.)
5. How much easier it is to understand Spain Spanish compared to other types of Spanish. The clear pronunciation, slower pace, and lack of slang in Spain Spanish was a godsend for the girl that claims she is “conversational in Spanish” on her resume.
6. Vale. (As in “Necesito cambio, vale?” “Vale.”) It’s Spaniards go-to response to anything. It’s used as an affirmative, like “okay” in English. Now imagine my confusion when I misunderstood “vale” for “dale,” a very Miami phrase. Although “dale” is also an affirmative, it is used in a much more informal way and the ending is often dragged out for emphasis and a little Miami flair (Think “daleeee”).
7. Narrow streets- the thing is that some of the cities we visited like Toledo and Cordoba were settled literally hundreds of years ago before cars were ever invented. Therefore, it’s really not even accurate to call the twizzler-like paths that curl through these cities “streets.” (More on this when I write about our stay in Toledo).
8. The shear antiquity of Spain was something I had never encountered growing up in a country that is just over two hundred years old. It was fascinating, if not a little confusing at times, to see a monument or cathedral standing in the same spot it has stood for hundreds of years, and then notice a Zara just a few yards away.
9. How Spaniards pronounce z’s as th’s. This essentially makes it sound like everyone is speaking with a lisp, which is both amusing and endearing- but mostly amusing.
10. The Spanish landscape. Spain has SO many mountains. We drove to six different cities and the mountains never left us. They are everywhere! To some people this might not be a big deal, but considering Miami is as flat as cardboard, I felt spoiled by the diversity of Spain’s landscape.
11. Drinking and smoking are culturally different in Spain. As much as I loved exploring this beautiful country, I honestly try not think about the amount of secondhand smoke I must have inhaled during this trip. It was unavoidable! Surprisingly, I also wasn’t asked for my ID once during our time in Spain… this is coming from a 21 year old who looks 14.
So there it is. All the things that surprised and confused me, but also made me fall in love with this special place.
In next week’s post, I will be recapping the amazing city of Madrid, where I had some of my most spontaneous adventures and most authentic Spanish meals!