Cultural shocks in Spain

Solo dos capitales de provincia no tienen calle en Madrid, ¿cuáles son?

As a non-EU student, getting my student visa is my priority for my entry into Spain. Before coming to Madrid, I had heard about food in Spain. Almost everyone talks about it. There is discussion of which granja has the best jamón, the talk of the iconic dish of potatoes and eggs, and the best tortilla in Casa Dani. Once I got here, I learned that Spanish food is mainly what you’d call Mediterranean food.

My student journey in Madrid has been great. I met people from all different places and learned a lot. I really enjoyed spending my time in Parque del Retiro after I got familiar with my surroundings. You get a relaxed vibe for such an open area and the weather helps facilitate the view. Interestingly, I found going there is a good way where you can practice your Spanish and the Spaniards practice English. 

During my time in Spain, I have noticed certain differences between the US and Spain (Madrid in particular). Here are the 5 cultural aspects that have been quite different to me, either at home or in the university environment: 

  1. Mealtime: The mealtimes in Spain are very late as compared to the United States. I would say breakfast is the only time that is the same. The lunch time is much later than in the US. People usually eat between 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm. Dinner is late as well, between 9:30 pm to 10:00 pm. 
  2. Shops close on Sunday: On a Sunday, many stores are closed, and people usually stay home with their families. 
  3. No gratuity: In Spain, tipping is completely optional. Whereas it is required in the US. I do see my host mom leave some change to give tips when we go out for a meal as a kind gesture. But most of the time, it is not mandatory. 
  4. More relaxed: In Spain, I do not feel a sense of urgency to leave the restaurant after finishing the meal. People in Spain enjoy their time and sit if they want. The waiter will not bring the check until you ask for it.
  5. Being late: Punctuality is essential in the US. Whenever it is a meeting or a dinner date, it is always better to show up earlier than the actual time. However, Spain does not abide by this. It is normal to be late a couple of minutes or appear on time.


Clara Chen

Marketing and Communications Intern