American in Barcelona: Cultural Adjustments and Observations

2 minutes

Getting over the jet lag from the change in time zones would be the least of my challenges as I adjusted to what would be my new home for the next several weeks. Some of these cultural adjustments included:

  • Acclimating to when they eat dinner. They normally have dinner around 9:00pm – 9:30pm, which is much later than my typical 7/7:30pm dinner in the States!

  • Although they are fluent in both Spanish and Catalan, my host family as a whole speaks Catalan when at home and at school/work. This would prove challenging for me given that I was trying to learn Spanish.

Ben and his host family
Ben and his host family
Photo courtesy of Ben

  • I found my host family to be very loving and wholesome, especially with each other. Almost every night we have dinner together as an entire family, which is a very pleasant and refreshing change. Each meal is often filled with much conversation and laughter. In my personal experience in America, this was not very typical for the entire family to have dinner together, particularly on weeknights. Not sure if this is specific to my host family or to the culture in Catalonia as a whole.

  • A bit to my dismay, siestas (afternoon breaks to nap) are not an actual thing here in Barcelona and in the surrounding towns. On a weekend this may be typical, but not at all something practiced during the weekdays.

  • Many people often speak very loudly with a lot of gestures. I found this to be true among social gatherings and among the children I teach English to at the local language academy.

Final Thoughts on Week One

Much of the building anxiety and insecurity before first arriving in Spain quickly dissipated once I finally arrived. In fact, my host family, my job at the local language academy, and the overall experience of living in a new culture pleasantly surpassed all my initial expectations. In only my first week, I knew this would be an experience of a lifetime that I would never regret, despite undertaking such a drastic change and risk at this point in my life.

Cronut—one of the many baked goods I've come across in my Barcelona journeys. Photo courtesy of Ben

Benjamin Benjamin

Benjamin participated in InterExchange's School Teaching Assistant Spain program.

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