Spain has a very touchy, personable culture that is very different from the U.S. Spaniards tend to be touchy people. For example, when you meet someone, either just walking on the street, meeting a friend for coffee or for the first time outside of a business setting, besos are exchanged.
Besos are kisses on the cheeks, starting with your right cheek and ending with your left. You don’t really kiss the other person, you just touch cheeks (girls make a kissing noise, guys usually don’t), but I’ve had a couple French guys turn their heads and actually kiss my cheeks.
A little uncomfortable at first (especially as an American), now I’m disappointed if besos aren’t exchanged when I meet someone. Spaniards are also always touching each other. They link arms while walking down the sidewalk, girls sometimes play with each other’s hair while talking, couples walk with their arms around each other or they hold the other person’s arm while talking to them.
It has definitely taken some getting used to, but now I kind of wish American culture was a little more personable.
The Spanish way of life can be summed up in one word: relaxed. Everything about the Spanish culture is in such a way that no one feels rushed and you can take time to enjoy life. When I didn’t have classes at the university, siesta was definitely my favorite part of the day. I think I took a nap every day from 2 to about 4 p.m. I could get used to this.
Supermarkets here are pretty similar to the ones in the U.S. There obviously isn’t a Wal-Mart here, but there is a store called Mercadona that is, in some ways, similar to Aldis. Mercadona has just about everything food-related: milk, bread, yogurt, pasta, rice, frozen foods, meat, produce, fruit (although, like I mentioned before, the best place to get these is in the Chinese shops), breakfast items, ice cream and much more.
They also have a beauty section with make-up, shampoo, soap, etc. and a home section with mops, brooms, toilet paper, paper towels, sandwich bags, aluminum foil, etc. Mercadona is usually where I go to grocery shop. Their prices are the cheapest around Murcia.
There’s one thing that kind of threw me off about the supermarkets here, though. As I mentioned before, jamón (ham) is very popular here, and in the supermarkets here, you can get it fresh sliced from the pig.
This means that there are pig legs just hanging on display for people to get pieces sliced or to buy the whole pig leg to take home. It still freaks me out a little every time I have to walk by a display.
Also in the frozen section, whole fish sit on ice. This also is a little startling. The fish all still look very alive; they’re just chilling there watching you walk by. I still expect them to flop as I pass.
Other than that, the supermarkets here are pretty normal. One other interesting fact, milk here isn’t sold from the cooler. It’s sold from the shelves. You have to put it in the fridge after you open it, but until then it can stay out on the counter or in a cupboard. I haven’t bought any yet because buying milk that isn’t cold just doesn’t seem right to me.
The restaurants here work a little differently than the restaurants in the U.S. In most of the restaurants here, you seat yourselves and then the waiter comes to your table and takes your order.
Unlike in the U.S., the waiters aren’t expecting you to thank them when they bring you your food. They’re just doing their job and don’t expect getting thanked for it. I have a hard time with this because I feel that I’m being rude if I don’t thank them for bringing what I ordered.
I usually get a small smile that says “She’s obviously not from here.” I’m not the only person who thanks the waiters, though, so I keep doing it. Since the weather in Murcia is so nice, almost all of the restaurants have tables under canopies outside so that customers can enjoy the weather.
This is really nice because the restaurants are usually busy and don’t have very many tables inside. One downside to eating outside, is that vendors or homeless people almost always come up to your table trying to sell their goods or asking for money.
It’s really annoying having your time with friends interrupted, but I can understand why they do it. Sometimes it works] and they have to make a living somehow.
Check back in next week to hear about some more about my adventures in Murcia, Spain!