Author Archives: Maeghan Crociata

Reflection of My Abroad Experience

I have been home for approximately 72 hours and I am so excited to be home in the USA! The first thing I had to eat was NY pizza and it was everything I dreamed about for 5 months. The jet lag is killing me still but other than that, being home is nice. I missed home, ya know? Spain was where I lived and had an adventure but there is nothing like home.

But since I’ve been home, I’ve been reflecting on all of the places I’ve been and what I’ve experienced as a study abroad student. What an opportunity I had! I was so fortunate to have a supportive family behind me to encourage my travels and listen to my stories as well as the monetary funds to go abroad. [Working at all hours of the night at the desk paid off for sure!] I could not have been luckier to experience this and I will treasure my semester abroad for the rest of my life. I have this blog to remember all of the places I went and the cultural activities I participated in, so I sincerely want to thank all of my readers for adventuring with me by following, liking, commenting and reblogging my posts. You are all wonderful!

This has been a crazy ride but I wouldn’t have traded it for the world! Signing off with “Paz y Amor”!

-Maeghan

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Málaga

Welcome to Sunny Florida Málaga! When we stepped off the plane, that’s what it felt like. Mlike”: 1) 1 in every 4 people actually IMG_20140507_110948_563lives there 2) most tourists and inhabitants are over the age of 60  3) palm trees and gorgeous weather. OK, folks, we have a winner. We got off the plane and magically ended up in Florida! As we looked for the exit signs, we saw that they were in Spanish, English and German. German?!Yes, German. The most tropical tourist destinations in Spain [Málaga, Canary Islands & Balearic Islands] are actually most frequented by Germans, Brits and Americans. Once again, not a lot of people we met actually live there.

So let’s see. What did we do in Málaga?! We lived the LIFE! There isn’t a whole lot to do in the city center, except see the Alcazaba. Which, of course, we did. At night. And it was beautiful. Without Paco though, there was no tour inside. But it was still pretty. We also went to a mall and shopped. Well, Miso shopped and I ate candy. This mall could have been its own town though because it had everything inside – a movie theater, a supermarket/Wal-Mart-esque facility and so many stores. We went to the grocery store and loaded up on snacks and water. Miso will never let me live it down but I bought a 5 Liter jug of water for the 3 days. But it was only 75 eurocents, how could I not have!? [Water is super cheap here! See my post about Cultural Differences]

For the next 2 days, we paid €3 to lie on the beach with beach chairs and a tiki umbrella for 10 hours per day. That is literally all we did. We laid out and tanned, reading, talking, playing games on our phones, sleeping etc. I mean we really needed a vacation from our vacation. Chips for lunch, sandwiches for dinner. What a life.

I know, it’s not an exciting post but that’s all we did. We laid on the beach and got our tan on. And thank God because I am not cute when I’m pale.  IMG_20140507_111041_433

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Hamburg – I’M BAAAAAAACCCCKKKK

From May 2-5, I went back to Hamburg, Germany. “Back?”, you may be asking. Yes. Back. When I was a senior in High School, I did an exchange program where I lived with a German family for 3 weeks and then my host sister came and lived with my family for 3 weeks. That was in October 2010. I haven’t seen my German family in 3 1/2 years. I was so excited to see them! My German dad, brother and his girlfriend came to get me at the airport. My brother’s girlfriend had flowers and everything for me!

When they drove me home, I told my dad in my God-awful German that we passed our apartment building. And my dad just smiled and kept driving. We pulled into a neighborhood and saw a cluster of row houses. My German family got their own house! I was so excited for them because my host mom always talked about having a house of her own. When I got there, I felt like the Prodigal Son returning. My entire family was excited to see me and it was like I never left! My host mom almost cried — she’s so cute. Crazy but Facebook-20140510-101838so cute. Mom told me to put my stuff in my sister’s room, but Niki wasn’t there. She was working at ReWe, the local supermarket. So we devised a plan to surprise her. My parents drove me to the store with my hair hidden under a baseball hat and gave me money and shopper rewards cards to buy chocolate. I hid my face in books until it was my turn to pay. She rang me up and after I paid, I took the hat off and showed my face and she was so surprised and excited to see me. But we couldn’t make a scene until after she got off her shift.

When she got home, she told me to get ready because we were going to a party. Niki, Eleni [my brother’s girlfriend] and I crammed into the bathroom and all got ready together. Eleni and I got along instantly, even though I had only met her for a few hours and tried communicating in broken English and broken German. Niki translated for us most of the time. Kosta [my brother] and our parents got ready and we all left for the party. Yes, my parents came with us. This is probably where I should mention that my German family has dual citizenship — they’re not actually German. They are 100% Greek. So when Greeks party, EVERYONE comes. And its not weird. We show up to a full blown club that was bought out for the night by the Greek community and stayed out until 530 am! I cannot dance to traditional Greek dances; it’s so difficult. But my mom joked that I had to learn for when Kosta and Eleni get married in a few years and I have to go to Greece for the wedding. Oh boy. We had a great time but I was so exhausted after dancing and wearing Eleni’s 4 1/2 inch heels that all I wanted to do was sleep.

The next day we went shopping! We had decided that we were going to go to another club with American music! Mom gave me 50 to treat myself for a new dress and heels for tonight’s party. So I did. The heels I bought are beautiful and are 4 inches high. Niki wasn’t kidding around when she said they don’t sell anything smaller because they really don’t! My sister’s shoe collection is ridiculous; Ke$ha is the girl’s mentor or something, I swear. After shopping, we had a huge dinner and all of us were so tired so we ended up not going clubbing. But of course, we did something that no one will ever be able to let go. I am famous for playing Monopoly. The first time around, I played Monopoly with my family every night for a week straight to learn German and no one lets me forget. So we played Monopoly instead and it was so fun. Kosta loses every time 😛

On Sunday, it was studying day which sucked. I had a final the next week and Niki had the Arbitur on Tuesday. The Arbitur is the German version of SAT II subject tests at SAT length. In 13th grade, each student must take 5 Arbitur tests, and these tests basically set up the rest of your life. So we studied side by side, hating everything and interrupting the peace and quiet every half an hour to talk and laugh. Like Italians and Spaniards, Greeks have huge meals on Sunday with the whole family. We were all there plus my aunt and her new beau. I was so excited to see Tante too because she is the absolute sweetest and she gave me white chocolate, which me and Niki ate immediately after lunch when we had to study more.

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Familie

I left on Monday and I was so sad but I couldn’t have asked for a better time with my second family. I miss them so much but I hope that Niki, Kosta and Eleni will be able to save enough money up to come visit me in the USA. And in 2 or 3 years, when I hopefully have a steady income and my life together, I will be able to visit them in Greece for a few weeks in the summer!

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Thur 1 May

IMG_20140326_123601_489I know it’s not May 1 anymore but I’m trying to catch you all up on my adventures so bear with me. May 1 was a very cultural day for us because we got to see a live bull fight! Bull fighting is a long-lived tradition among the Spanish people. Spaniards watch toreo like Americans watch football; I didn’t realize how big of a crowd would draw, but the place was pretty crowded. The most famous bull fighting ring in all of Spain is Las Ventas, located in Madrid, and is only 2 stops away from my house! I don’t know what I was expecting it to be like but I was definitely excited. Bull fighting is broken up into 6 fights, with 3 professional matadors and his teams. Fights 1 and 4 are fought by the amateur, 2 and 5 by the intermediary and 3 and 6 by the expert. If you have never seen a bull fight, get there 45 minutes late because never seeing a bull fight and then having to watch the bull suffer because the amateur sucks is heart wrenching.

First, when the bull comes out, the matador’s team taunts it to get it riled up. Then a guy on a horse comes out with a lance. The horse is blinded, deafened and armored so that it doesn’t get spooked and see a 2,000 pound pissed off bull charging it. And, oh yes, it does charge the horse. [During the 2nd fight we saw, the bull charged the horse so hard, it buckled. I was more concerned for the horse than the bull at that point]. Then the guy on the horse lances the bull in the back of the neck to “stabilize” it, in a way. Then the matador’s team gets these spikes and have to insert the spikes into the bull’s neck while another one taunts it. If the spikes fallIMG_20140501_185900_751 out of the bull at any point during the fight, the matador loses points. So now the bull is pissed off, with spikes in its neck and bleeding. Then the real matador comes out and taunts the bull and that was actually awesome. It’s exactly like the movies! But underneath the red cloak, he has a sword that he is supposed to stab into the back of the bull’s head and get it in deep, so on the next round he can remove it with another sword. This is supposed to signify the start of the end of the match because the bull is dying soon. What is supposed to happen is that this hit with the sword is supposed to put it out of its misery and die in the next few minutes. Then a member of the matador’s team gives it the “brain dagger”, in which they stab the bull in the brain and it dies. The end. Unless you’re the amateur. The initial stab didn’t go in right the first time, so he had to do it again. And the bull cried out and all of us had tears in our eyes. Then they had to give the brain dagger 5 times before it died. That was so rough. But the other 2 fights were great! Good thing we had to leave before the start of the 4th fight because I don’t think I would be able to stomach watching the amateur massacre another bull.

IMG_20140501_222619_948After the bull fighting, we went to the first restaurant we ever ate at for the Welcome Dinner. But this dinner had a different title and was the end of an era for the kids on the Iberian program: Farewell Dinner. We ate like kings but it was bittersweet because nearly 20 students were heading back to the USA in the upcoming days. But we had a lot of fun and gave gifts to our professors and program director. And got a gift in return: a drawstring bag with all of our favorite places in Madrid. Then, we did superlatives. We had created some of them during our Northern Spain trip and voted on them later. Every single one of them was accurate, especially mine. I won “Most Likely to Snap in Agreement”. For those of you who know me, you can only imagine how I instinctively snapped when I received my award. It was a great night but everyone in the room felt it: our days were numbered.

While the 20 were frantically dashing for souvenirs and packing their suitcases the next day, I continued my streak of travelling and headed to…Germany!

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Northern Spain – Salamanca

Day 6! Woohoo! Final leg on this trip! We once again crossed the border and drove into Salamanca, one of the 9 provinces of Castilla-Leon, to the northwest of Madrid. And I loved it. It was one of my favorite places I’ve visited in Spain because of a few things but mostly because there were young people everywhere! Salamanca is a “college town” because the oldest Spanish university is la Universidad de Salamanca. [Everyone on the trip bought the T-Shirt; mine is bubble gum pink. Obviously]. But in general, I just loved the feel of Salamanca and its sand colored buildings. Literally, every single building is uniform in color, giving that old Spanish look that I love so much.

If you can guess the first thing we did, I’ll give you a euro. Did you think hard?  Because if you guessed that we saw the cathedral, you’d be correct. However, because some of the more irritating kids on our program complained about having to always see cathedrals so our professor let us off the hook. I was honestly looking forward to the cathedral because its absolutely beautiful [as most of the cathedrals are. I just really found an interest in architecture this semester ok? Don’t hate.]

After we saw the façade of the cathedral, we went to the university. Legend has it that if you find the frog on the building, you will have good luck in your studies at the university. News Flash: no one must have luck at that university because it is IMPOSSIBLE to Picture1find that stupid frog. First of all, this building is so intricate with all sorts of carvings, from the Spanish Kings, to patterns, to skulls, and of course, a frog. After 10 minutes of us standing in the hot sun, staring at the building, my professor made fun of us and showed us where the frog is. Well, I would have absolutely failed out of Salamanca because without Paco’s help, I would still be standing there. The frog is situated ON TOP of one of the skulls heads. I was not a happy camper because the frog is about the size of a miniature stapler….talk about finding a needle in the haystack, amirite?

After frog hunting, we got free time to roam around, eat and explore and what we found was the writing on the wall. No really, writing on the wall. All around Salamanca is a very specific font with the names and dates of people who have completed their PhD at the university back in the day when that was not a common goal to achieve. The random hodgepodge of letters to the left of the declaration actually spells out “Victor” to further proclaim the awesomeness of achieving the rarest and most difficult degree in higher education. Then we got back on the bus and drove back to Madrid. The End!

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“The Writing on the Wall”

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Northern Spain – Porto

I know that the title makes no sense, but I am trying to group all of the places we went to in one trip together with the same heading. Sorry for the confusion. Note: Porto is in PORTUGAL.

We left Galicia and crossed the border into Portugal during the second half of Day 4. On Day 5, we started off by going on a paseo, or walk, through the city center. We passed the statue of Prince Pedro IV, who led the rebellion against his father for Brazilian independence. The first half of the day was just a lot of free time to roam around and explore the port. The second half of the day was spent at the IMG_20140429_170821_048port….on a river boat cruise. Me and boats aren’t exactly friends but the scenic view of the waterside town allowed me to forget about that. The boat took us under bridges and gave us a short history of the historical significance of the Port. Of course, Paco, our professor, one-upped the automated voice and reminded us about things we had learned about in class such as Napoleon’s invasion to get to Porto and instead gaining power in Spain. Paco will always be smarter than river boat cruises 🙂

Porto was vey pretty but there wasn’t too much to do so I apologize for the brevity of this post, but there wasn’t a lot to write about.
But on this trip, there’s only 1 more day left! Where in the Iberian Peninsula did Maeghan go next?! Find out in the next post, very very soon! [Probably within the hour tbh]

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Northern Spain – Galicia

The second half of Day 3 we spent travelling to Galicia. If you haven’t figured it out yet, folks, we spent a lot of time in the bus, which isn’t good for our restless young heroine.

Day 4! We spent all day in Santiago del Compostela, which contains one of the most famous and significant monuments in all of Spain: the Cathedral of Santiago del Compostela. It’s so famous, in fact, that it is the engraving on the back of the Spanish 1, 2 and 5 eurocent coins. One of the most unique things about this Cathedral is that it is the final destination of a religious pilgrimage where people from all around the world start out at least 100 km (approximately 62 miles) from Santiago del Compostela and walk or bike the trail until they reach the Cathedral, collecting stamps from hostels and other checkpoints as proof of their journey. This adventure has now gone on my bucket list to one day do with my parents and my brothers when we are all a little bit older but not yet married [gulp…that could be in a few years for me…yikes] And we saw some pilgrims complete their journey as they proudly strolled in to the cathedral to endure the last ritual — the swinging incense and the burning of the clothes. Fun Fact: the original IMG_20140428_100004_306reason the gigantic incense was swung throughout the cathedral was to mask the disgusting smell of all the travelers, but is now part of the tradition [and maybe to still mask the smell]. We got to see this famous ceremony from the roof which was SO COOL. We climbed to the top and got to walk along the roof all the way around and look out onto the city. We learned about the architecture and then peered through the window to see the huge swinging incense. We also saw from the window the tomb of St. James. History Lesson: The name “James” translates into a few different names in Spanish: Diego, Jaime [like my cousin] and of course, Santiago. In the legend of St. James, the Virgin Mary appeared to him and said that he would have great success in spreading the word of Christ throughout the Iberian Peninsula. When he was executed, his executors put his bones in a little boat and pushed it into the ocean. The boat found its way to Galicia and when those who found his bones crossed a field, stars began to fall from the sky, signaling they should bury him there. Santiago del Compostela, translated from Gallego [the language spoken in Galicia], literally means “James of the Field of Stars”. When we got into cathedral, we of course explored, and got to visit the tomb of St. James from the inside. We also got to participate in a tradition in the cathedral called “El Abrazo”. In Spanish, “Abrazo” means hug. There is a g9lden bust statue of St. James that each person hugs and makes a wish and St. James will help make your wish come true. It was a cute tradition and I loved the Cathedral. If you’ve been counting on my adventures, we have seen about 10 cathedrals. This one is, by far, my favorite.

After our visit to the Cathedral, we got back on the bus and went to the Bodega Mar de Frades for wine tasting and a winery tour. This is good wine, like expensive stuff, as opposed to the stuff my friends and I have drank in Spain. The wine we tasted was from the Albariño grape and was harvested in the vineyard that stretched for miles. Unlike the Sidra farm, this bodega had very high tech equipment and huge vats to contain and ferment the grape juice. We tasted two types of wine and one champagne; the first wine Facebook-20140510-020217was sweet and almost fruity. It was very light and my favorite. The second wine was an older wine and had a smoky taste to it. Our professor, Elena, loved it but it was too sophisticated a taste for me.

After our wine tasting, we went to the shore in the tiniest little town and had a feast! Fresh tuna empanadas, salads, and homemade paella con arroz with vegetables and shrimp. I conquered a fear that day when I picked up the shrimp THAT STILL HAD EYES AND LEGS ON IT and peeled it to get to the edible meat. I was proud of myself. After that lunch, we all went  stuffed and sleepy back to the bus to cross the border and head to Portugal!

Galicia is easily one of my favorite places in all of Spain and one day, I hope to go back! 🙂
Shout out to my Aunt Jackie who is Galician and was 100% right about how much I would love Galicia!

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Northern Spain – Asturias

Did you miss me? I am so sorry for all of my loyal readers but I have been travelling and experiencing for 12 days straight and only now am I getting a chance to write about my adventures!

Directly after spring break, we had final exams [boo hiss] but were rewarded with a 6 day trip to the North of Spain [and Portugal!] to celebrate the program coming to an end. So on Day 1 [April 25] we geared up and headed from Madrid to Cantabria. It took everything I had not to jump out of the bus while it was moving — the drive was 9 hours. Yeah, I don’t do well sitting still for that amount of time. We got to Cantabria and pulled into a little village and had lunch by a marina. It was chilly but still pretty and Picture1there was a beautiful mountain view, but we only spent a few hours there. Then we got back on the bus and drove an hour more into Asturias where our big red bus drove into a very, very narrow dirt road and pulled up to an isolated hotel with its own private beach that we stayed in for two nights. The beach had a grotto and walking in the sand and among the rocks gave me the first taste of summer 🙂

Asturias is farmland and on this particular day, rainy farmland. There is nothing around for miles, which is what makes it pretty and quaint. But me personally, I could never live there. To start off Day 2, we left the hotel that morning and drove into the mountains to Covadonga. History Lesson: In 711, Don Pelayo was the first king to fight against the Muslims and his victory in the Batalla de Covadonga was the first step in the Spanish Reconquest. In Covadonga, we climbed into a rock tunnel and up to a small church built into the side of the cliff, where there was mass going on. Could you imagine if your home parish was in the side of a cliff?! It was beautiful. Then we went down to the Lagos, or IMG_20140426_111034_281Lakes, of Covadonga. The Lagos is one of the prettiest natural sites I’ve seen during my time in Spain and there was a fountain with Holy Water, as the lakes are flowing with blessed water. After that, we saw a big statue of Don  Pelayo and a small church. This church was unlike ones we have seen on previous trips — this one was austere and dimly lit but still beautiful and reverent in its own way.

After that, we got back on the bus and drove out to the countryside to a Sidra factory. Sidra is a special type of fermented apple juice that is famous in Asturias for the way they pour it. Click here to see a video of how Sidra is poured! We saw the apple orchard where our guide, and the owner of the farm, picks his apples to make sidra. He took us to the troughs where the apples are juiced and barrels where they are fermented and then are bottled. We got to eat a traditional Asturian lunch in their backyard and each got a chance to pour Sidra and drink it, too! Being in that backyard was like being at  a family reunion. I loved the atmosphere and all of us laughing and eating showed me how much of a family our program had become, despite how dysfunctional we are.

Day 3! We packed up our stuff and got on the bus to travel to another province, but not without seeing ancient cave art! We bussed it to a small town called Ribadesella and ventured into the Cueva de Tito Bustillo. IT WAS AWESOME! No pictures allowed because flash could distort the original colors on the rocks. I had never been in a cave before and we walked 15 minutes into the depth of this cave, probably to the center of the earth, with massive stalagmites just like in the movies. Then we got to the drawings and they were very realistic! These caves had been discovered by a bunch of teenaged cave hunters, one of which was Bustillo, who tragically died while cave hunting and had the cave named after him. The cave paintings were determined to be at least 15,000 years old. There was a purple horse, a mammoth and even a reindeer drawn in what looked like charcoal on the side of rocks inside the cave. I wish I could have taken pictures but I did buy a magnet of the horse and postcard of the cave, which is the closest I could get to a picture.

Then we were off on our horses and travelled to the next province…Galicia!
[Did you see what I did there about the horses? I know you smirked, I know you all did]

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Good Friday

Mary and Jesus

Mary and Jesus

Today is Good Friday, and in the Catholic faith, today is one the most important days of the liturgical calendar. In Spain, Semana Santa is celebrated from Palm Sunday to Easter with processions. And they are amazing! In the south of Spain, in the provinces of Andalucia, such as Malaga and Sevilla, the processions are huge and extravagant. They are not as flashy in Madrid but there is a procession every day and today was the day to see it. These processions are intense and could frighten small children, but are altogether moving and a great religious experience.

The procession is carried out by people dressed in white robes and black shoes and masks over their faces that come to a point at the top. As they were explained in class, they look like the KKK. Not a great reference, but an accurate one. They carry the banners and candles and the first person in the procession is the cross-bearer. The crucifix he holds is massive and silver and so beautiful. Then came the military band and they were great. Then came the sinners. Yeah, hold on I’m getting to why I said that. The people who came after the band walked the procession barefoot with chains around their ankles, as an act of penance in order to be forgiven for their sins. The Spanish onlookers have 2 different opinions about these people: some people are generally moved that they have taken on this challenge and are paying for their sins. The other half looks down on them and sneers at how they are obviously sinners and deserve to walk with chains. Behind them are three people, 2 men and 1 woman, who bear wooden crosses as their act of penance in the same style that Jesus bore his cross.

After that, there was an explosion of “AYYYY GUAPO!”, tears and clapping. A gigantic float of Jesus came parading down the street being pushed along by more people in the masks. The float was absolutely breathtaking and many people, including myself, said the Our Father. As Jesus passed, a wave of women in all black with old school high veils followed behind, and another wave of tears and clapping started. I figured out why about 2 minutes afterwards. These women signify the women who mourn Jesus and behind the crowd of veiled women was another gigantic  statue, this one of the Virgin Mary. Spanish people love the Blessed Mother more than anything in the world and as she passed, the crowd broke out into the Ave Maria [Hail Mary] prayer out loud.

It was a beautiful ceremony and I was so excited to watch a religious and cultural experience amongst Spaniards!

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Cultural Differences

This blog is usually dedicated to my adventures and how I’m spending these four months traipsing around Spain and Europe. But I’m going to take a page out of my friend Lorainne’s book and do one on culture. You can check out her study abroad blog here.

So what is different between Spain and the USA? So much.

New Cultural Differences: May 13
Water
In America, water is pretty expensive; even store brand isn’t that much cheaper. But in Spain, water is so cheap! In Málaga, I bought a 5 Liter [1.32 gallon] jug of water for €0.75. That’s $1, folks. A gallon for a dollar. When was the last time that happened?! Exactly.

New Cultural Differences: April 18
Dogs
In America, dogs are always on leashes. Always. Not even a question because if not, the dog got hit by a car – God forbid. In Spain, it is COMPLETELY NORMAL for your dog to roam the streets with no leash. They just trot alongside their owner like this isn’t the most absurd thing I have ever witnessed. But they behave, unlike American pups. They wait outside of the restaurant or store for the owner without being tied to a tree and don’t jump in the street after a squirrel. Cool trick for Spanish dogs; never gonna happen for American ones.

PDA
This one is a big one. During the time of Franco’s dictatorship, a lot of things were prohibited. So when he died, the Spanish population gained a lot of their privileges back but took them to an extreme because they could. And one of them was sex. It is adorable to see couples, young or old, holding hands or arm in arm walking around. And literally everyone is  a couple. If you’re single in Spain, it’s horrible for your self-esteem and you’re doing the culture wrong. However, there is a line between adorable and disgusting. It is a common occurrence to see couples kissing aggressively as if they are in their own house or having sex in parks [majorly awkward for the unknowing group of Americans] For Americans, this is too much for us and are really uncomfortable as PDA is generally frowned upon in public situations. I do love the couple-ness about Spain and we should bring that back to the USA but not the making out on trains. Like please wait until you get home.

Crosswalks
How this could possibly be a cultural difference is beyond me, but it is. At the corner of each street, there is a crosswalk. Simple enough, right? Not for Spaniards. Crosswalks are often in the middle of sidewalks and not on every corner. So sometimes to get somewhere, you have to walk a block, cross the street and walk a block back to get to where you want to go. #annoying.

Original Cultural Differences: April 5
Sports
America’s favorite pastime is baseball. If you don’t love baseball, people will say you’re Un-American. [And let me be clear, you are]. And obviously, people are also loyal to basketball, hockey and American football teams and rally around their teams in a strong fandom, living for rivalries and wishing ill on all that makes the enemy happy. But not all Americans are sports fans. In Spain, EVERYONE is a sports fan. [Finally, a country that understands my needs]. And they aren’t just a sports fan – they are a die hard fan. Spanish companies have taken breaks from the work day to watch the game at the office and when you go to a game live, the energy is electric. At American sporting events, people are hyped up, don’t get me wrong, but when was the last time you saw “The Wave” go around the stadium 5 times in a row without stopping? Right. The designated fan sections at games are filled with people waving flags, screaming all of the chants perfectly and even jumping in unison. I have mentioned the fandom at Atleti games in previous posts but it is still amazing to see every time.

Siesta
Why pre-schoolers have the right idea and the rest of the American population doesn’t is absolutely beyond me. But the Spanish have it down to a science: siesta. Taking a nap in the middle of the day is the greatest tradition ever known to man. Who disagrees with this idea? Oh, no one. I thought so.

Holidays and Vacations
America is a religiously tolerant country as we were founded on the principles of religious freedom by the Pilgrims in the 15th century. We are also a country without a national religion. Therefore, in American schools, we get days off for holidays like Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, both of which are Jewish holidays, as well as getting off for Christmas and Easter week. But the Spanish are very Catholic and school holidays are dramatically different. For example, December 8, the day of the Immaculate Conception, is a national holiday and nobody has school or work. There are no holidays for the Jewish faith and Spring Break week is always during Semana Santa [Holy Week] to enjoy the processions as they prepare for Easter.

Ashes on Ash Wednesday
This one was really weird for me. Ash Wednesday in the USA means the priest makes the sign of the cross on your forehead in ashes and you wear it as a sign of your faith all day. In Spain, the priest sprinkles ashes into you hair and makes the sign of the cross over your head to bless the ashes.

Music
Spain is stuck 20 years behind the USA with music. Restaurants play the best music because it’s all throwback from anywhere between 1998 and present day, with the majority of music being played between 2000 and 2006. And it’s great. I ordered food the other day listening to old Maroon 5. But because of this, the following for boy bands, like the Backstreet Boys, which I first-hand witnessed, is like they think they’re Americans themselves. I love it.

Hostels , Hotels and WiFi
Do we have hostels in the USA? I had never even heard of the concept of a hostel before deciding I wanted to study abroad. I really don’t know if we have them because I’ve been so lucky to have stayed in hotels my whole life. Hostels for the most part are pretty solid, except the one in Switzerland, but nothing beats a hotel. But something different about Spanish hotels is that they are equipped with twin beds, side by side. If you’re a couple, you have to specifically ask for a “cama de matrimonio” [marriage bed]  And of course, WiFi. Because of roaming charges, most of us depend on WiFi while in Europe. There are usually 3 places I can get WiFi: my house/hostel where I’m staying, school and restaurants. All you have to do is order something and then you can ask for the WiFi password. This does not happen in the United States. I have never even thought to ask for WiFi because we have data plans. Does the USA have WiFi for paying customers?

McDonald’s
McDonald’s has an awful reputation in the USA about being disgusting, fatty and cheap. In Europe, it isn’t. McDonald’s is regarded as a restaurant and most are two stories tall with easy check out machines that you can customize your order without talking to the cashier. The food is made well and is more expensive and Spaniards love it! [But they don’t have Wendy’s here, which is only mildly soul-crushing]

Concept of Time
I live in New York and go to school in Washington, DC. People we have to go, go, go, take names and kick ass, accomplish more than 7 things in one day or else you’ve wasted time etc. These people have ZERO concept of time. Lunch could take 1 hour or 4. But the best example of this is with clubbing. When Spaniards party, they stay out from when the metro closes at 1 am until 630 am when it reopens. It is completely normal to do that on a Monday night, go home, take a shower and head to work or class, with a quick nap in there if there’s time. Every American who first hears about this is in a state of shock: “What are these people thinking?! A Monday? I don’t think so. Friday or Saturday only. Thursday if I really need it, but not until 630 in the morning, just because”. It’s a great time. Still overwhelming, but awesome. However, on the other hand, because of their complete lack of time, these people meander. This is not something that I can handle. When I get behind a slow person in America, I get impatient, but here it’s maddening. Some people walk like they’re stuck in molasses. Sorry, but I am American and I have to things to do.

I’ll be continuing to add to this post, as I remember more things. Be sure to check back in every now and then!

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