February 3, 2014, by Guest blog

You can’t expect to become totally Spanish I suppose!

Despite just having finished my first five months in Spain and having loved every minute of it, there have undeniably been a few cultural challenges that I’ve had to overcome and get used to.

The first of these is the concept of mañana. The Spanish are probably the most relaxed nation of people I’ve ever met. Whether it was regarding a house viewing, repair, form that needed completing, job interview or anything else, there was a general sense that nothing needed to be done in a hurry, the toilet drain being broken wasn’t a massive deal and mould covering your bedroom wall probably could wait for a week or 2 before being treated. Being very English and very organised, I’ve found this a real struggle. It is, without doubt, one of the main cultural differences between the UK and Spain and one that you have to grow to understand, accept and just tolerate. Perhaps it will make us all much more relaxed and laid back for our final year of University….

Timings of things and of people ties into this same point. When someone in Spain says 5:00, they mean 5.30. Having arrived for a few drinks/tapas meet ups 10 minutes early, because I’m English and that’s what we do, I have learnt that the time you say to meet, is actually the time you should leave your flat. Again, maybe in the long run it will make me more relaxed!

Language barriers have, at various times, caused real problems for me in the last five months. Living with two Brazilians, the style/accent of their Spanish were, at times, very difficult to understand. Cultural differences such as the directness of people’s speech, concept of respect, importance of various household rules and ideas of politeness definitely differed between us and caused a few difficult situations. On top of this, it’s obviously been difficult at times to follow a conversation 100% and to completely be able to commit to and become a main part of the conversation. Especially when I first arrived, my Spanish skills were really rusty and so I often felt like I couldn’t become really great friends with people as I couldn’t say exactly what I wanted, the speed at which they spoke left me little time to think of a good contributing statement, which was hard for the first while…now it isn’t a problem!

The hours of Spanish living have also been a challenge. Dinner at 10pm or later and a siesta at 2pm have not worked for me at all! Perhaps as it gets warmer this will change, however in this respect, I have often kept very English and not napped, eaten at 7.30 and gone to bed a lot earlier than my Spanish friends! You can’t expect to become totally Spanish I suppose!

Posted in Cultural challenges