Having lived in Spain before, in a completely different region, I have been finding lots of regional differences that one is bound to experience. Call it culture shock or moments of transition, these are from my POV and in no particular order of the thoughts I’ve had since I moved to Santiago.
1. No piropos/catcalls- Sevilla, hell even NC, is home to lots of guys who catcall women in public. It’s uncomfortable and not welcome at all. I ignore it usually. Sometimes, ok really this one time in Sevilla, I actually didn’t mind it and just did one of those random girl giggles. I felt good and I felt confident and I didn’t feel threatened or scared. But most of the time, when I have to walk alone and I see guys ahead of me, I try to walk as fast as possible and look like I mean business so no one can approach me. I felt this way once or twice in Santiago but I have not experience any sort of unwelcome and inconvenient behavior of that sort.
2. Buena gente/good folk – I have to say, Santiago is a friendly and welcoming city. Everyone I have met so far is incredibly helpful and very kind. When I was in Sevilla, there definitely seemed an air of “better than”/arrogance. I think, then, the city does a good job of reflecting the culture that is portrayed internationally. I was also a college student so maybe my experiences are naturally different because I’m in Santiago as a young professional. Most of my contact has been with people older than me. I definitely feel safe and welcome here. It’s got good people and great hospitality.
3. Fumar/Andar- everyone in Spain smokes. Ok that’s an exaggeration but it might as well be true because the amount of the population that smoke cigarettes is enough to have enough second hand smoke that everyone has maybe 2 cigs a day. Yet, given Santiago’s ridiculous terrain of inclines and hills and Spanish culture of walking everywhere, I don’t understand how the people can walk and smoke and not collapse. How on earth are these people able to smoke as they walk up inclines when I’m panting despite having done 30 mins of cardio and 30 mins of strength training in a day? Maybe their lungs have mutated to allow them to process oxygen and other important elements to facilitate their walking.
4. GímParque/Gymparks- there are lots of parks in Santiago. These parks tend to have gym equipment. What a brilliant idea. Except it rains a lot so maybe they just rust away…I hope not.
5. Washer/dryer- I wash my clothes in a machine, pretty standard. But, I hang my clothes on a rack and let them dry out in the open air. This is sort of what we did when I was in Kenya/India- except the clothes were also washed by hand. I like this idea. I think I’m going to stick with it when I get back to the States.
6. U.S.A./America – “Where are you from?” That is an awful question. It tends to get complicated in my case. I have no simple answer because I identify with different “froms”. However, I clarify with the U.S. When you mention America, Spaniards think/picture ALL of America ( Canada, USA, Central and South America).
7. Mornings- I’m a morning person (duh). The sun doesn’t rise here till about 8:30 am and that makes it difficult to keep awake. But businesses are still open and people are in transit and the city is awake. It’s a weird feeling because it feels like 6 pm and you’re walking back from work.