Cultural Differences and Identity by Sarah Holcomb

Since being in Spain, I have noticed parts of my identity and culture that have been brought to light here. My age affects my communication in Spain differently than it does in the United States. In America, it is assumed that being 21 is one of the most exciting and busiest times of your life. However, there is no significance in being 21 in Spain. For the most part, everything is legal here at 18. People do not ask what my future plans are here in Spain when that is usually a conversation starter in America. Careers and education are not definite parts of someone’s identity in Spain which seems unreal to me because it is such a big part of my life right now. My host mother was talking to me about how the life of a college student is fun and how I have it easy. I do somewhat agree with this because I am truly having the time of my life. However, this does not mean that I do not have a lot to deal with at the same time. Priorities differ from culture to culture and I believe that this is a prime example.

 Relaxation and happiness are very important when it comes to everyday life here in Spain. Relationships with family and friends are valued and put on a pedestal.  For example, when we eat a meal at home, we wait for everyone to be together at the table so that we can all talk about our day and plans for the future. I had a conversation with my host mother about this where she told me that she has sat with her family for almost every meal at home since she was young. She emphasized how important it was to her to be assured that family time at least once a day. I know that many people still do this in the United States, but time is one of the top priorities, so everyone tends to eat on their own time. In America, there seems to be no quality time or relaxation because we are on the go all of the time. We prioritize deadlines and the need to be places rather than living in the moment. Between school, work, and extracurricular activities it can sometimes feel like we barely have enough time to breathe. Whereas here in Spain, if you go to a bar or a restaurant, people are encouraged to stay as long as they want. Spain has a polychronic time culture which means they prefer to do many things simultaneously by their order of preference and without planning. America is a monochronic time culture where we concentrate on one thing at a time with an agenda and timelines. We value punctuality and can be easily annoyed when someone shows up late for something. Americans only multitask when they feel that there is no time to get anything else done.

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