Inspired by Georgette’s post, I decided to write a similar post about things I didn’t do before I came to Spain. You never really realize how much you’re changing while in the process, but looking back I realized I’d changed quite a bit over my years in Spain.
Say hello to people in the gym locker room
Can someone please clarify why this is a thing? I still can’t get over the fact that, while I’m partially undressed (awkward!), I’m supposed to say bye to you as you leave the room. I don’t even know you!
Eat lunch at 3 and dinner at 10
I remember when I first came to Spain, back in 2008. Oh, how I hated waiting until 1:30 (when our residence’s cafeteria would open)to eat. I was always starving. No, not really, but you know how I love to exaggerate. Nowadays I shift easily between the Spanish timetable and the American one. It doesn’t feel weird to eat lunch at 12:30 at home and 3:00 here. It’s just how it is. I secretly love eating dinner late at night, and I vow never to become the person who eats at 5:30.
Think about how to say everything in Spanish
Whatever we’re doing, I’m always wondering how to say such-and-such word in a sentence. We might be watching our new favorite television show, The Wire, and I’ll wonder how to say something in Spanish, especially if it’s a word Mario doesn’t know in English. I think about this a lot: when reading a book, when talking to friends, when at the supermarket. It’s just invaded my head and thus my life.
Worry about what I wear to the grocery store
In Madrid, since I feel anonymous, I will wear my workout clothes to the store. But in Zamora? No, there I have to be properly outfitted, and sweatpants are off the list! Someone might see me!
Ask for drinks without ice
Why do we drink super-cold icy drinks in winter in the U.S.? Especially when the restaurant has decided to keep the heat at 66F! I start shivering immediately when I drink one of these beverages in mid-December. Now, drinking ice water in summer is different—put more ice in my drink, Spain!
I used to never wear slippers, and going barefoot was okay—even in the dead of winter! But now, after many years coaching by Spaniards, I’ve started to wear slippers. I even put them by the side of my bed in anticipation of waking up and walking to the bathroom. What has happened to me?
Think about wasting water
Why do toilets in the U.S. have so much water in them? It seems like such a waste to me now, after years of seeing tiny European toilets with their 50 mL of water. A friend said the newer toilets in the U.S. are going to be more similar to Europe’s, which I count as a step in the right direction.
Use public transportation
Sure, every once in a while I took the bus in college, but before that? Never. It’s shocking to Spaniards how little public transportation we have. As much as I love the freedom a car provides, it would be nice to have better public transportation options in mid-size cities. In Madrid, there are so many options: buses (inter- and intra-city), trains (short, medium, and long distance), and the metro. The price is super cheap too! I am struggling to imagine how different our lives might be in a smaller-sized U.S. city.
Buy bread daily
I don’t eat that much bread, but I do live with a Spaniard, and he’s used to his daily ration of bread. In Spain, you don’t “put meat on the table,” you “llevar el pan a casa.” Bread is the lifeblood for many Spaniards! Just check out the numerous idioms regarding bread.
Hang things on the line to dry
Unfortunately, at our house in Madrid, we don’t have an outside clothesline. We don’t have a dryer either. So what do we do? We hang ours on a tendedero (see picture). But many Spaniards do have a clothesline outside to hang their things to dry. Before living in Spain, I barely seen this—we always dried our things in the dryer.
Worry so much about having my stuff stolen
I don’t mean to be negative about Spain, but I grew up in a small town where people did (and still do!) leave their doors open when they stop at the store or diner. Here in Madrid, I’m very protective of my stuff. I was going to leave my clothing in a bag in the gym locker room, but an older lady advised me not to, telling me that she’d had her old, practically worthless flip-flops stolen there along with a hairbrush. A hairbrush! Who steals that sort of thing? Lesson learned: I had to be protective of not just things like my wallet or iPhone, but also my hairbrush. Hmm.
Use earplugs to sleep at night
Even when I lived in an apartment in college, I never slept with earplugs. I was lucky to have good neighbors who didn’t blast their music, but I suppose our walls weren’t that thin either. Here? Here, I have the trash truck that comes at midnight. I have neighbors with really great surround sound and who always seem to be watching epic, Lord-of-the-Rings-type movies, a downstairs neighbor with a yappy mutt, and upstairs neighbors with high heels. Noise pollution! It’s real. So I sleep with earplugs. That way I won’t be kept up by the yap-yap-yapping of Chaval the dog.
So what about you? What are some things you do differently because you’ve lived in a new country?