Spanish Conversions (Laura Gordon)

When I first arrived to Spain I was oblivious to things that I would usually pay attention to back home. This was because I was observing parts of a culture that I had never been immersed into before.

I would say a few weeks into my stay here in Toledo I started to realize that the temperature readings appeared A LOT colder than what it felt like outside. It would feel about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but the readings would be quite a bit lower. I also realized that speed limit signs were different. Highways were marked with different speed limits than what I was used to. After a while I remembered that obviously Europe has a different temperature scale and speed scales. Those days that felt like 90 degrees were actually 90 degrees, but they were also 32 degrees Celsius. My host dad wasn’t driving super fast; he was actually just driving 65 mph in relation to kilometers.

Along these same lines it took me a while to get used to military time. In the United States we aren’t as accustomed to military time, as everyone one in Spain is. At first I was royally confused because I had no device to even tell time. Once I bought a cell phone, though, I learned how to tell military time. The morning hours are the same as in the United States, but once you hit 1:00 p.m. it becomes 13:00; 2:00 p.m. is 14:00, and so on.  I had a run in with this the other day when I was planning on meeting with my intercambio. She wanted to meet at 17hr and so I had to do the normal 17-12 to arrive to the conclusion that she wanted to meet at 5:00 p.m. Additionally, even though military time is written as so, in Spain they don’t seem to say, for example, “diecisiete horas.” They still express 5:00 p.m. as “a las cinco por la tarde.”

I think that I am becoming a pro with doing some of these conversions in my head. Before I know it I will be heading back to the U.S. and have to relearn how to understand the temperature in relation to Fahrenheit, understand speed limit signs, and tell time.

Laura Gordon is studying abroad in Toledo, Spain, at the Fundación de Ortega y Gasset with the University of Minnesota.

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