Josie B. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Lakeside School in Washington.
I have been in Spain for over seven months, and there are a few major lifestyle differences between Seattle and Zaragoza that I want to bring back with me. These points are not meant to be generalizations about the Spanish culture- they are just the three main things from my experience in Zaragoza that I want to adopt.
The first thing I have loved about my experience here is the slower lifestyle. I find myself taking time to carefully smooth out the wrinkles on my bed in the morning, to make paper airplanes with my little brother, or to just sit with a café con leche and people watch on the Plaza de Pilar. I take note of my surroundings and do everything (walking, eating, talking) more slowly. There is a Spanish word with no English translation called sobremesa, meaning the time after a meal in which you spend seated at the table chatting. I have had sobremesa’s lasting over three hours, solely spent gossiping, laughing, and enjoying each other's company. This could rarely happen in the U.S. because we schedule things back-to-back-to-back, planning every hour of our days in order to be the most productive as possible. In Zaragoza, I take time in the present to appreciate my environment, meals, and company, and I don’t worry so much about schedules or errands. I have learned that it is better to get one meaningful thing done thoroughly than ten trivial things done frantically, just going through the motions.
The next aspect of my Zaragoza lifestyle that I want to implement when I get home is spending all day Sunday with family. Almost every grocery store, shop, bar or spa in Zaragoza is closed, and most of the day is spent inside surrounded by family. I have soccer games on Sundays, but the minute I get home from my games around 2, I set up camp in the living room to spend the entire afternoon watching movies, napping, playing monopoly or making dances with my host family until dinner time. Nobody is working or hanging out with friends. We are all together, doing everything and nothing.
Lastly, I love being here in a Spanish city because of how physically affectionate people are. Even the customary greeting is intimate; I give two cheek kisses to everyone I know and meet (except my host mom and sisters who get one big cheek kiss). This goes for strangers, friends, men, women, whoever... dos besos is always the way. In the U.S., if I know someone well, they get a hug, and everybody else gets a handshake. Here, the only time I ever see a handshake is between two business people. Physical touch is normal and not so suggestive like it can be in the United States. Men touch each other’s waists and shoulders in casual conversation; women walk arm-in-arm as they make their way down the street; and my host mom holds my face and kisses it every time I pass her at home. I even get random hugs from teachers, something that could seem odd or inappropriate at a U.S. school. My read on this after seven months is that physical affection here is a basic way to show someone else- a daughter, a friend, a colleague, or even an unknown grocery store worker- that you recognize them and that you care. Thus far, this custom has worked for me; I feel seen and nurtured, and I would love to bring that feeling, amongst complete strangers and within families, back to Seattle.
- Campus Reporters
- SYA Spain