Culture Shock: The Insights of a Spaniard in America
Up on the blog today we are taking a break from our usual posts and welcoming a guest writer—Lucia. Lucia is one of my English students in Granada and, surprisingly, did a year abroad in Wisconsin, my home state. When writing my articles about an introduction to culture shock and to cultural competence, I thought it would be interesting to see what Lucia had to say about the subject.
Lucia is able to share two important insights into these subjects. Firstly, she shares with us the things that surprised her most when living in the U.S.—the things that shocked her most. Secondly, and perhaps more interesting, she is able to call out things that seem ‘normal’ for all of us back home that just aren’t for someone coming from abroad. This is interesting to the discussion about cultural competence as it allows us insight into the idea that our daily lives and habits are not the same routines that other people have around the world.
Without further ado, I present Lucia*:
Hello! My name is Lucia, and I live in Granada, Spain. I’m 17 years old and I was invited by Claudia to talk about my experience living in Wisconsin last year. Living abroad can be very exciting, but it can also be difficult sometimes, especially in regards to cultural shock. I’ve been thinking about the TOP 5 things that shocked me the most about the American culture. They are:
1.) People of my age work. American teenagers work apart from school, so they can either save money for college or just to be financially independent from their parents.
Note: In Spain it is unusual for young people to have work experience until they finish studying. And if they do have some sort of experience, it is usually related to their future [desired] career.
2.) Cars are essential to live in America. It is necessary to use a car to get almost anywhere, which really surprised me because I thought you could move around just walking.
Note: In Spain public transportation is much more popular in rural situations and walking/public transport are the main forms of transport in cities.
3.) Peanut butter was a big discovery for me. In Spain, we use olive oil a lot as it is cheap in Spain and therefore very popular. However, I found out that olive oil is very expensive in America, so they have other staples instead. Peanut butter has been one of the staples I discovered in America, one of my favorite forms to eat it being Reese’s.
Note: Good quality olive oil (cold-pressed extra virgin) is not a luxury good in Spain, making it much easier to use it as a staple in any home. Most families will stock multiple bottles with different strengths for everything from dressing salads to cooking.
4.) For Americans being polite is very important. In general, I found that one of their priorities is to be kind and respectful. It surprised me how formal American communication is.
Note: Many of the daily ‘niceties’ that we have in the States are ignored in Spain. For example, ordering a beer requires no more than “put me a beer” (ponme una cerveza). No 'please' or 'thank you's necessary.
5.) Americans are generally homebodies. I found that people who live there like to spend a lot much time at home, which was incredibly surprising to me because I am not used to it.
Note: In general Spanish people are very social and love going out for coffees, food, or evening beers. The idea of spending lots of time at home isn’t necessarily one that is as prominent here as back home.
So there you have it—Lucia’s top five shockers while living in Wisconsin. What do you think? If you are not American and have lived there, what were your most surprising realisations?
*My notes accompany her comments in order to clarify why this fact is such a shocker for her.