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Spanish-ish

by Meghan Ford
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As the two month mark of having been in Granada comes up, I’ve begun to reflect on my time here and how much I have learned about the culture, the people, and myself. As I’ve thought all of this over, I made a mental list of Spanish habits that I’ve picked up.

Jay Walking

Before I came to Granada, I knew things would be different than at home but I never realized how much the little aspects of my day to day life would alter. Something I never could have guessed I would have to adjust to is crossing the street. For the first two weeks I was in Granada, I could not figure out how to cross the street without almost getting hit by a car. The simplest solution of course would have been to simply wait for the crosswalk light to change but I figured I would join the Spaniards in their jay-walking habit. The thing is, it’s not a habit: it’s a science. When you’re at a crosswalk that does have a walk sign, you can cross as soon as no cars are coming, but when you’re at a crosswalk without a walk sign, there’s a pattern to be followed. A car will go, then people, then another car, then people, but if you start crossing the street when a car is coming at you full speed, it will stop. Pedestrians here have the right of way, especially on smaller streets and as long as it took me to get used to this, I’ve gotten so Spanish in this way I almost got hit by a car in France last weekend when it came at me full speed while I crossed the street because I assumed it would stop.

Pastries/Gelato

The number of pastry and gelato shops in Granada is heavenly and it didn’t take much convincing for me to join in on the pastry/gelato after work/school routine

Sitting in the Front Seat of the Taxi

My roommate told me the first day we got here that in Spain, you sit in the front seat of the taxi, even if there isn’t more than one person in the taxi. In the States, although sometimes people sit in the front due to lack of space, I had never done it when I was alone in the car before I came here. The first few times I took a taxi here, I was with friends so sitting up front didn’t seem that strange but now I’ve found that sitting up front, even while alone, doesn’t bother me.

“Vale”

Perhaps the most famous word in Spain (at least among those of us studying abroad) is ‘vale’ which means ‘okay.’ The Spanish say it all the time, at the end of a question in clarification, to say yes, to express agreement and understanding. My professors probably say the word over 200 times in our two hour classes so picking up this Spanish custom happened quickly.

Siesta

Spain is also quite famous for siesta, a middle of the day meal and nap where all of the stores close. In Granada, siesta normally lasts from 2:30 to 5:30, with some stores closing later, reopening earlier or not closing at all. At first, siesta was really hard for me to get used to. It meant adjusting my eating routine from breakfast at around 8am, lunch at 12pm and dinner at 5pm to having breakfast at 8am, lunch at 2pm and dinner around 8:30 or 9pm. I was starving during the day and would just give in and eat at the times my body was used to. But since classes run later into the afternoon and my volunteering ends some days at 2:30, as I settled into my Spanish life, I found myself not only readjusting my eating schedule but also wanting to come home and siesta. The Spanish take a break in the middle of the day so their nights are longer and when I wasn’t doing that, I couldn’t stay up so late. Now I love coming home during the middle of the day and relaxing for a while.

Arriving to Class Late

The stereotype that the Spanish are always late is true. My professors never start class at their officially scheduled time, instead walking into the classroom at least five minutes late, sometimes ten. When classes started in October, I would always be there five minutes early, as I am in the States, but as I’ve gotten more used to life here, this Spanish habit has become my own.

The one very Spanish habit I can’t seem to pick up is walking slowly. No matter how hard I try to stroll the way the Spanish do, I still feel like I’m running compared to them. But thankfully, I’ve got one more month here to work on this one!

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