Living and teaching in Madrid: 7 differences between Spanish and American culture

Living and teaching in Madrid: 7 differences between Spanish and American culture

1.) Cuisine

The cuisine of Spain reflects fresh ingredients that are simple and delicious. This concept for food contrasts with North American cuisine which is, for the most part, a hearty diet. The Spaniards are renowned for only eating what is in season. Every meal that is cooked uses seasonal ingredients and nothing more. Contrary to Spain, the United States, in most parts, does not have access to fresh produce. With that said, much of the produce that is consumed by Americans is imported.

 One of the biggest differences between American cuisine and Spanish cuisine is the use of certain ingredients. For example, eggs, a huge staple in American breakfast, is rarely consumed by Spaniards for breakfast. In Spain, eggs are only for lunch and dinner. The necessity of eggs in American cuisine is much like the necessity of freshly baked bread in Spanish cuisine. Most of the meals offered in Spain are accompanied by bread. A Spanish restaurant without bread is not at all authentic.

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 2.) Drinking

One of the widely known facts to compare between the two nations is the drinking age. In Spain the drinking age is 18, though most Spaniards have their first sip of alcohol at a much younger age. The word botellon is an important word to understand which translates to pre-gaming which has become a problem among Spanish towns and cities. As a way to prevent this issue, most towns have designated drinking areas.

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3.) Summer Business Hours

Spain, in the summer contrasts greatly to the United States. One of the biggest differences during the summer between the two countries is the office hours. Unlike Spain, American business hours remain the same despite the fact that summer is culturally the time for vacation. This custom is not practiced in Spain. Most Spanish businesses only hold office hours from 8am to 2/3pm. A summer in Spain is a sacred thing that must be enjoyed. This mentality does not blend well with the American mentality that “time is money”.

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4.) The Conversation of Money

For a country in deep economic crisis, it makes sense that financial matters would be a hot topic of conversation in Spain. It is not an uncommon question to ask someone how much they make or spend. This however, would not be a casual conversation in the United States. Financial topics are normally only discussed among friends and family.

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5.) Learning Languages

Learning a language is very important in Spain. With the lack of available jobs in Spain, it is almost a requirement to know a second or third language. In the United States, citizens have the luxury of having available jobs that do not require the knowledge of another language.

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6.) Fashion

Fashion in Spain is very different than fashion in the United States. In the United States, it is not uncommon to see people running errands in workout clothes or any clothing that exhibit comfort. This practice is unheard of in Spain. One does not leave the house without looking their very best. Even during the cold winters, the men and women in Spain put effort into looking 100 percent before leaving the house. For the most part in the United States, comfort is regarded as being more important than fashion and elegance.

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7.) The Party Scene

The idea of pre-gaming or participating in a botellon is very different between the two countries. In the United States a pre-drinking activity can start anywhere between 8 and 9pm. In Spain, pre-gaming can start as late as 1 in the morning. If you are planning on visiting a club in Spain, plan to be there to around 6am.

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