Exchange student adjusts to cultural polychronic differences in Spain

There were a couple of things that threw me off about Spanish culture when I first arrived to Murcia, Spain.

I arrived on Three Kings’ Day, which is a major holiday in Spain. Nothing is open and the cost of a taxi ride to an apartment in Murcia is very expensive.

Stores usually open around 9 or 10 a.m., which is comparable to the U.S., but at about 2 in the afternoon, everything except the supermarkets and a few cafés close for siesta, reopening at 5 p.m.

During the summer, the hours between 2 and 5 p.m. are the hottest hours of the day.  In the winter…not so much.

Everything is closed on Sundays as well, which is really nice to give employees time at home with their families. However, it’s not so nice when all you have in your apartment to eat are a couple of croissants and yogurt.

As a part of my exchange program, I had to take a two week long Spanish intensive course. The professor that taught my class would tell us random bits of information about Spanish culture.

•Spaniards marry when they’re 30 to 35 years old, and up until that point, they still live at home.

•In the city, it’s normal to live with your fiancé before you get married, but in the country, it’s frowned upon.

•When a parent dies, or both parents are older and need assistance, they move in with one of their children.

•Spanish families are small; a couple usually has one or two children.

•Immigrants in Spain consist of people from Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Cuba (they mostly live in Madrid), northern Africa and Romania.

•Spain is culturally Catholic, 10 percent go to church while 80 percent say they are Catholic. Twenty percent of people practice other religion, or are non-believers.

Some people say they are a “non-practicing Catholic,” which means they don’t attend Mass, but still consider themselves Catholic.

•The biggest desire of a Spaniard is to win the lottery. There are so many stands around Murcia that sell lottery tickets. I pass about five in the 10 minute walk from my apartment to campus.

•Spanish students don’t work like U.S. students do. Spanish students use their university years to travel around the world (usually on their own), or to study as an exchange student.

•The nightlife here is definitely an experience on its own.  Parties usually get started around 11 p.m., but since Spaniards are always at least a half hour late, people usually don’t start coming until midnight.

I don’t know what the bars and clubs are like in the U.S., but here they’re packed with people until they close at 4 a.m.  People go from one club to another all night long.

Some people stay out until 7 a.m., while others start partying around 10 p.m. and go until 9 am, then go to class. I can’t see how they can do that.  I’d fall asleep as soon as I sat down in class.

The clubs are usually fun to go to.  The music is all the same (reggae because it has a heavy beat; every song sounds the same, though), but everyone dances and has a good time.

Check back in on next week’s online edition to hear more about my adventures abroad.

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