We asked our long term intern, Daniela from Bulgaria, to reflect on her experience with us over the past 6 months and to mention the different cultural challenges and delights she has found in Valencia. Here’s what she had to say…
When choosing the destination for my Erasmus internship, I decided to go to Spain to be able to improve my Spanish and to get to know the country where flamenco and paella came from! As I am originally from Bulgaria, still a southern country and still in Europe, I did not expect Spain to surprise me a lot. I thought I had read enough to know what to expect. Still, I found the Spanish lifestyle and culture very special and different from that of the rest of Europe. Here are the 5 main cultural differences I encountered…
This will probably be the first thing you notice. Spanish people usually give two kisses (besos) when they meet and also when they part. Women and men give each other kisses, women give women kisses too, but men generally do not give other men kisses (except for family or good friends). They normally shake hands and/or give a hug. The kiss greeting was a bit confusing for me at first, but I actually liked it, it kind of breaks the ice and creates a positive atmosphere among people. Even if it feels awkward at first, it is good to get used to it and start doing it, as it helps you to connect with the locals and make you feel like you belong here.
2) Work and eating schedule
Practically every mealtime in Spain is quite different than the usual European schedule. Breakfast is shortly after waking up but only consists of a coffee and toast or pastry. Breakfast time all depends on when you wake up, generally, it is between 8am and 10 am. Lunch is a big surprise here. Spaniards don’t eat lunch before 2 pm. This might be the hardest meal to get used to as Spanish people have a light breakfast, waiting until around 3 pm to have lunch. When it comes to dinner, it is also quite late, around 9.30pm – 10 pm or later. The ’’eating late’’ culture is actually reflected in the working hours as Spanish people start work at 9am – 9.30 am and then finish around 7pm – 8 pm. Not only the meals schedule is different, but the food is also very different too, with lots of fish and seafood, paella, which is the famous Valencian rice dish in all its varieties, and surprisingly for me, the Spanish version of ham, the famous ’’jamon’’, is present in lots of cooked dishes too.
3) Siesta time
Siesta is one of the images everyone associates with the Spanish lifestyle. Siesta time is normally taken after lunch (between 3.30 and to 5.30 pm). It is supposed that everyone takes a nap but many people just relax and rest in order to get ready for the second part of a long working day. Another surprise here, most companies in Valencia no longer have a siesta as a part of the working day. It is mostly local shops that take the siesta as they are open until quite late (9 or 9.30 pm).
4) A very relaxed attitude towards time
Everyone says that Spanish people are always late. Well, it depends on what is your tolerance interval of being late. In Bulgaria, where I come from, it is acceptable that people are 15 minutes late. In Spain, I experienced the same. What I found interesting is not that Spanish are super late, but that they enjoy taking their time and have a very relaxed attitude towards deadlines. No matter if you are meeting with someone for coffee, for dinner or for a drink in the evening, they like talking a lot and are never in a rush. If going out in the evening, you can easily stay for an hour or two after midnight.
5) Proud traditions
I have seen very authentic fiestas, the common name to describe how public holidays are celebrated. Besides the Fallas, the world-famous pyrotechnic festival, there are other occasions in Spain too. The Battle of Flowers in July, for example, where a whole avenue is reserved for the passing of colorful and artistically decorated carriages, transporting ladies in traditional costumes and the audience throwing lots and lots of flowers at them, indeed very picturesque. Another occasion is the holiday of San Juan, celebrated at the end of June, when people go to the beach at night to have a party there, putting on fires and bringing food and drinks to share with family and friends.
If you wish to follow my steps to study Spanish in Spain or take an Internship program here, then click here to find out more about this experience. I highly recommend it!