Have you ever been to a new country on vacation (or moved there) and had a difficult time adjusting to their way of life?
This difficulty (often known as culture shock) is a very common feeling when you first arrive to a new country that’s totally different from your own, especially if you’re going to be living there. This can even cause an overall negative experience, due to those difficulties. Avoiding culture shock is sometimes inevitable, but there are definitely things you can do to help yourself have an easier time adjusting.
We’ve put together a list of advice, specific to life in Spain, to help with adapting to their way of life! Take a look and see if it helps!
- Regardless of the country or culture, the most important way to avoid culture shock is by keeping an open mind! Sounds simple right? Often the differences between people or countries cause people to feel uncomfortable or frustrated because things don’t work the same way they do in their own countries. If you step outside of your situation and try to think about things from another perspective, you might realize differences are simply differences. Knowing this can help you to appreciate those differences and learn from other cultures, rather than being against them.
- Be prepared to eat at different times of the day than you’re used to — in Spain they eat much later in general, so whether you’re having lunch with your host family or dinner with friends, you’ll most likely have to adapt to their schedule (especially considering restaurants aren’t even open until later than you’re used to eating!) Have snacks on hand if you can’t wait until meal time, and adjust your other meals to the times you know you’ll be eating later in the day! Or you can just adopt the Spanish style of eating 5 meals a day! Read more about the Spanish eating schedule here!
- Be prepared for stores to be closed on Sundays, public holidays, and during “siesta” time, usually around 2:00pm to 5:00pm. This might not sound like such an inconvenience, but on those days when you’re not prepared (maybe you don’t have milk at home, or you’re missing an ingredient for dinner), it can be incredibly frustrating that nothing is open. On Saturday, or before, think about what you might need on Sunday or for Monday morning so you’re not missing anything. Another option is finding a store that’s open every day, there are a few called Supercor and Hypercor which are normally open every day from early until 2:00am.
- For anyone from a country where tipping is normal and used to a certain level of customer service, it would be best to adjust expectations when in Spain! This is not necessarily a matter of good or bad customer service, but more of a reflection of the way of life here. Everything is more relaxed and people are less in a rush than in other countries. When you arrive to a restaurant, you might need to wait 10 minutes before being asked what you’d like to drink (normally not but sometimes). Make sure you’re not in such a hurry, and just change your mindset and remember to relax!
- If you don’t already have a base of Spanish, try to learn and memorize at least some basics in Spanish, or useful phrases that can help you get around. For example, phrases like asking for directions, how much something costs, or how to order in a restaurant can make life much easier! The language barrier is one part that can make or break culture shock. Feeling like you can communicate with the locals can help you to feel more independent and comfortable. It also helps to have a translator (like an app on your phone) available for whenever you need to explain something and you don’t know the words!
If you’d like some help with adapting to the culture when you arrive, perhaps try out our Survival Spanish Class or join some cultural activities!