I will say without a doubt that this experience has been quite the change for me. I think like all students who study abroad in a different country, you begin to acknowledge the immense differences between the host country culture and your own. Spain for me is just that.
I chose Madrid, Spain to study abroad because I wanted to see how well I could make it without the help of numerous students from St. Norbert College and also the United States. Many people told me that because I was going to a big city, that there would be many English speakers. This I have to say was my first shock. I don’t know how people could be able to come to Spain without knowing the Spanish language. Besides the students and in the most popular tourist area of Puerta del Sol and the city of Barcelona, English is nowhere to be found.
As I think back on my first few days of being here and the different cultural “shocks” that I had I would have to say it was right here at my home stay. I live with a sixty eight year old woman. Now, I am the youngest of six, work three jobs at home and two at school so I have always done things for myself. However, here my Senora does not allow me to do anything. The first night at dinner I went over to wash my dish, I thought I was going to get my hands cut off. This woman scolded me the entire first week every time I tried to help her with something. I learned later that this was the manner in which woman lived during the Franco Era in Spain. They were constantly of service to their family. She also talks extremely fast. After my flight over and not getting any sleep, this was quite the frustration and shock when I got here.
Another cultural shock I would have to say is personalities of the Spanish people. Obviously I don’t exactly fit in with the looks of Spanish with light blonde hair and blue eyes so I can understand that they may be wary to talk with me. However, on the metro, in the streets, people hardly ever strike up a conversation with one another. Some days on the metro I want to just yell out “Alright everyone don’t be timido”. Sometimes I wish I could help a woman cross the street or help them carry a bag, but I have seen it done and people think they are getting robbed. In the south of Spain, which I think is the TRUE Spain, things couldn’t be more different. People are friendly, they say “perdon” when they bump into you, the food is cheap, and the atmosphere is amazing.
There is much more to say however I think I am over my limit. More to come very soon.
Paul Krechel is studying abroad at Universidad Antonia de Nebrija in Madrid, Spain.