For the past 12 weeks, I have lived among Spaniards and immersed myself in their culture. While I am by no means an expert on what it means to be Spanish, I do believe I have acquired enough insight to comment on what makes the Spanish people special and why I will miss them so much upon returning to the States in December.
To start, I think it’s important to note that no single identity can fit every Spaniard. Like in the United States, Spain is composed of diverse groups of people whose customs, characteristics, and even language vary depending on the region. I have traveled enough to know that Spaniards from Valladolid are different from those in Cataluña or Andalucía or País Vasco. Anyone paying attention to the news out of Spain knows that these differences can sometimes lead to significant conflict, as is currently the case in Cataluña. However, despite the contrasts and the resulting tension they may create, there are plenty of values that unite Spaniards from every autonomy.
What I have come to appreciate most about Spain is the emphasis on relationships. While we also pride ourselves on commitment to family and community in the United States, I see the commitment in action here in Valladolid, as well as other places of the country. Spaniards have a very simple way of expressing their dedication to relationships: they spend quality time with one another. Part of the reason for this could be credited to the setup of the communities here: most cities have a common area, typically known as the Plaza Mayor, where people gather together to eat and chat. Residents also live in smaller apartments that are in much closer proximity to one another, which makes it easier to spend time together. There is a difference, however, between spending time with someone and making that time count, and I have noticed that Spaniards are very good at the latter. Whether sharing a meal, taking a walk, playing in the park with kids, or dancing at the club, I have sensed that the Spanish are better at being present and enjoying each moment to the fullest. Furthermore, while it may only be my perception, every friend I have met here is much less obsessed with their phone and social media than in the United States. When I am with someone here, I feel like the distractions are far fewer, which allows me to enjoy my time even more.
As part of their dedication to enjoying life, the Spaniards are also much more relaxed when it comes to time. Although I like to think I am pretty laid back, I have had Spanish friends tell me, “tranquila” (calm) on more than one occasion when I was worried about running late. In the U.S., we are so schedule and work-oriented that we often allow time constraints to become a major source of stress. While work and punctuality are important here, they do not take precedence over peace and joy. Unfortunately, in the U.S. we tend to equate rest or tardiness with laziness, which has given the Spanish a bad rep when it comes to their siesta time. In reality, very little of that time, if any, is spent sleeping. Instead, the siesta is meant to provide families an opportunity to eat together or take care of other needs before resuming work.
Overall, I greatly admire the Spaniards for their commitment to enjoying life and enjoying one another. Although my journey’s not over yet, I already know I will miss socializing with friends over tapas, dancing to flamenco music, and taking advantage of siesta time. I could also mention how I will miss their obsession with Nutella and Master Chef Celebrity, but I will save that for another blog. Suffice it to say that Spain is a unique country with a people and culture that make it very hard to leave. I have no doubt that I will come back soon!
My name is Emily Morris and I’m a senior at Bridgewater College in Virginia. I am majoring in Spanish and Liberal Studies and plan to teach at the elementary level upon graduation. I chose to study abroad in Valladolid in order to immerse myself in the Spanish language prior to teaching in a bilingual program. I love that BCA’s program offers classes that interest me, as well as the opportunity to live with a host family!