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10 Culture Shocks Americans Experience in Spain

Spain Food + Drink Couples
by Gloria Atanmo May 19, 2015

1. Men live with their parents until their late 20s.

You’re talking to a guy and things are going well, and perhaps you want to have one of those “netflix and pizza” nights (substitute pizza with spanish omelettes), but you learn he still lives with the parentals. And he’s pushing 30. Eek. In America, the idea of moving out the ‘rents house is not only a dream, but it happens ASAP.

2. The mom does everyone’s laundry. Yes, even for her nearly 30-year old son.

Piggy-backing off of #1. Laundry isn’t a solo chore that you learned to do on your own at the ripe age of 13. When your love interest still has his mother folding his undies, you can’t help but cringe. My highly-acclaimed 12-year laundry career is no match for this.

3. The amount of acceptable PDA.

We get it. You have unprotected sexual feelings for another person and you want the world to know how much effort you’re putting into setting the next world record for ounces of saliva swapped per second. Whether it’s 14-year olds on the late night metro or a couple who’s finally escaped their crying toddler for a few hours, they hold nothing back, and the moans are at least in tune with the rhythm of the ass-slapping from the couple behind you. Now who said romance is dead?

4. Fast-food chains look like club lounges.

So you’re in front of La Sagrada Família, admiring its 130+ year existence. The sangría is flowing, the PDA’ers are PDA’ing, and, oh look, yet another McDonald’s to your right, finishing off the perfect mood of la vida. Except when you walk inside you feel like you’ve just stepped into a 4-star restaurant. If you’re lucky, there’s a security guard at the door, but he knows deep inside he’s really a bouncer. There are cushioned seats, comfy enough to sleep on and the lights are dimmed low so as to hide your dollar/euro menu purchases. Point, Mickie D’s.

5. Bars in Spain stay open late enough for you to walk straight to breakfast.

While bars in America close at 2am, most people in Spain don’t even start their night until then. I never knew true regret until I had my first proper night out in Madrid, and found myself re-emerging into the world at the ripe hour of 7am. This also validates the need for a siesta during the day. There is no way a normal person can do this every weekend without their liver imploding. Yet, here we are.

6. Knowing someone for 5 seconds warrants a 2-cheek kiss.

There are no strangers in Spain. If a friend introduces you to their friend, then we’re automatically all friends by default, and your greeting is a proper cheek rubbing. And in some cases, men will actually give you a moist smooch on each cheek. I’ve never been to first base with so many people within minutes of meeting them. My mom would be so proud.

7. Little Spanish girls don’t wear a bikini top with their 2-piece swimsuits.

You would never see this in America. The first time I saw a little naked girl running around the beach followed by her slightly older sister with just bikini bottoms, I wasn’t sure if I was being pranked or not, because pretty soon they were followed by an army of 9-year olds with no tops on. At that age, I guess they have nothing to hide anyway. Touché, Spain. This however, doesn’t apply to the topless women you’ll see on several scattered beaches.

8. The catcalling is redonkulous.

It doesn’t take much to get catcalled in Spain. You could be toothless, bald, or walk like you’re constipated; they will see a vagina on legs and get excited. If you’re really lucky and a woman of color as well, the men might even ask how much you charge an hour and automatically assume you’re a prostitute, because how else could you afford to live in Spain, right? Ahhh, the stories I’ll get to tell my future kids.

9. The prevalence of pickpocketing.

If you haven’t had something stolen from your possession or from a friend’s, perhaps you haven’t lived in Spain long enough. I’m dreading the day I pad down my pockets and find something missing. It’s simply the way it is. The bastards are good at what they do and pickpocketers run rampant especially during high tourist season, which in Barcelona, means all year round. Oh joy.

10. The colorful ways they tie their lines of curses together.

I never knew the exquisite beauty of the Spanish language until I heard them string together a line of insults. Not only was I confused, amused, and concerned for the things I thought I understood, but also the way they can take their adjectives and use them as nouns AND verbs, like in one of my favorite insults, “Me cago en tu puta madre” is nothing short of pure talent. And while I can’t bring myself to ever say this, not that the situation has ever presented itself, just know that along with that gem, the word “coño” is also heavily used and doesn’t carry nearly as much weight as it does in America. The first time I heard a parent of my teammate yell “vamos coños!” from the stands of our basketball game, I thought he was mad at us! When my teammate laughed through tears trying to explain that it can be used in a positive way, it was that moment in time where I knew I was living in a whole different world.

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