Culture Shocks in Madrid

Last Saturday I arrived in Madrid, Spain for my spring semester and so far it has been incredible. I speak spanish 24/7, my host mom is kind, and I have already made some good friends at school. Before I came, I knew I would experience a type of “culture shock” with customs that are very different from mine in the US. Although Spain is an amazing place, there have been some strange things I’ve had to adjust to for these past few weeks.

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Dinner with my house mom, Helena, at 9 p.m.

The first and most important one is definitely meal times. In Spain, they rarely eat breakfast and if they do it’s a small coffee and maybe an apple if they’re feeling luxurious. My biggest meal of the day has always been breakfast, so this was extremely strange to me when I first arrived. Even though they do not eat breakfast, their next meal (lunch) isn’t until 2 p.m, with dinner following around 9 p.m. The first couple days I was STARVING because these meal times are so strange to me! If you are planning to study abroad, definitely bring or buy snacks because you’ll never know when you will eat again.

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Bodybell, a popular drug store, closes from 3-5 p.m. everyday

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A clothing store closed for the “siesta time”

Not only are the meal times weird but the store hours are also strange. On the weekends everything is dead until around 12 p.m. People stay out and wake up late; nothing is ever early. I made the mistake of going to a store at 3 p.m. once to find it closed for “siesta time.”
What? Unless it’s a big department store or a pharmacy, everything closes from 2-5 so people can have their siestas and then they open up again for a few more hours.

The second strange culture shock has been the time change. I don’t mean jetlag, but I am talking about the way they write their time. Everything is in military time, so you have to subtract 12. For example, if it’s 5 p.m., they write it as “17:00.”

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9 a 24h means they are open from 9 a.m. to 12 a.m., not open 24 hours.

This wasn’t a huge difficulty for me but I feel stupid sometimes having to constantly subtract 12 because I forget that “21:00” is actually 9 p.m.

Besides time differences, of course everyone will have strange experiences with the food when going abroad. I knew they wouldn’t have typical american food, but I thought they would have similar things.

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One of the many types of cocoa butter in Madrid

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Me eating my favorite peanut butter that I bought in Taste of America

Peanut butter is nowhere to be found here. They have a boatload of nutella and cocoa butter but nothing even close to peanut butter. I ate peanut butter everyday back home so I was so sad when I couldn’t find it until I found this amazing store called “Taste of America.”  They have all different kinds of PB and even american cereals and snacks, so definitely check it out if you ever find yourself in Madrid and missing your comfort foods.

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Making sure to use my gloves while picking fresh fruit!

A great thing about Spain is they do have super fresh produce. Everywhere I go there are little fruit and vegetable markets aside from the grocery stores. However, you need to be careful about what you pick up! I went in a fruit market and used my hands to pick up an apple (which we do all the time in the USA) but that is considered very unsanitary. You MUST use gloves when touching any fruit or vegetable and, believe me, you don’t want to be yelled at in Spanish for being “unsanitary.”

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Finding out what Kebabs are all about

Last but not least, I want y’all to know “Kebabs” are not chicken skewers here. There are stores everywhere that have “Kebab” written across the front but don’t get confused because it is actually a type of sautéed chicken slapped in a panini sandwich. They’re quite delicious, but it’s pretty hilarious I always thought “Kebabs” meant little chickens on a stick.

So far, so good in Madrid and I will keep you updated with more coming soon!

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Enjoying a glass of wine in a popular spot, Sol.

Gracie D. is the Spring 2017 MOJO Blogger in Madrid, Spain. She is currently a Junior studying Integrated Marketing Communications at University of Mississippi.

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