New Habits

Melinda D. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.


They say it takes twenty-eight days to develop a habit. Given that we’re entering our third full month in Zaragoza, there are a few of the new habits that I’ve picked up during my time in Spain so far:

Bread on the table

The earliest unexpected habit that I remember encountering was putting bread on the table during a meal. It’s small, but I was first off put by my host mother cutting everyone a slice off of the baguette during dinner and putting the bread next to our plates, on the table. I watched as my host family would use the bread more like a utensil, laying it back next to their plates once they had taken what they wanted. Funny enough, now I’m the one that cuts the bread for everyone at the table (and I oddly enjoy purposely keeping my bread off of my plate). 

De Pie

Back in the suburbs of Virginia, riding in a car was the main form of transportation (to and from school, going to a hair appointment, and even to the grocery store not even a mile away). Now, for simple trips around the city, I just go around on foot. It’s a simple part of each day, and I sure didn’t enjoy always having to ride in a car to get anywhere back home. I also enjoy running into SYA students, teachers, and Spanish friends while walking about. Even through rain and wind, I’ve learned to appreciate seeing the city more, taking in the fresh air, and getting those steps in. 

Aren’t you cold? 

You may receive this question if you’re caught lounging around a Spaniard’s house with bare feet. I never cared to wear socks or house shoes until my host mother began expressing genuine concern over the fact that I was often barefoot at home. She went as far as to give me one of her own pairs of slippers. Although too small for size, I understood the love in that gesture. Right now, you’ll find a worn out pair of comfortable slippers by my bed that I use all around the flat. 


This is a big one. Now, imagine this- it’s a beautiful day somewhere in western Europe. You’re comfortably laid back at an outdoor table after a filling meal, surrounded by friends or family. Then everyone suddenly gets up and dashes off to complete their tasks for the day: that essay that was due two days ago, those unfolded clothes on the bed, the goldfish waiting for a walk- wait, that doesn’t sound right. Does it? No, not the goldfish thing, that bit with everyone just leaving without resting at the table and talking for up to hours on end. Sobremesa is one of my favorite habits. Slowly eating and just enjoying the moment with the people around me, even once the food is gone, is a far-cry from the fast meals I used to wolf down to get to working on something besides just relaxing. 

Let the hands do the talking

Finally, my absolute favorite. Even before I began my year abroad, I was told I was an animated speaker once I got to chattering. I love the physical expressiveness of talking with people in Spain. When words can’t exactly get a sentiment across, Spanish people will use hand gestures that make you understand it. I’ve picked up a few gestures that are basically some form of natural vocabulary now. 

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