Newsletter 2001

Spain and Latin America: Students Compare and Contrast
A Latina in Spain: What's New?
I really didn't know what to expect when I arrived in Spain, other than that I heard that the Spaniards take their time with everything and do things at their own pace, so I needed to be patient. All I hoped was that my cultural background would help me in the adjustment process and that I would find similarities between the Puerto Rican culture and the Spanish culture. Within the first couple of days of my arrival, there were small incidents of culture shock such as taking short showers to conserve water, shutting off the light when leaving a room to conserve electricity and layering up clothing instead of turning on the heat. They do this because the cost of light, electricity and heat is very expensive. For Americans, it's difficult to do this because they are so accustomed to leaving the light in a room if no one is there and taking hour-long showers. For me this is not a culture shock because I was raised to do the same. My cultural background could not have prepared me to do this, but it was my parents who did. Since they grew up with the basic necessities and no luxuries, they taught me to conserve light and water because it was so expensive. However my culture did prepare me for a few things. For instance, Americans have trouble getting used to Spanish food because it's based on olive oil and garlic. I love both because we use these ingredients to cook Puerto Rican food. Also, since I always listen to Latin music back in the States, hearing it here makes me feel at home.

Nevertheless, there have been incidents of culture shock for which neither my upbringing nor my culture could have prepared me. For example, when people walk down the streets they worry about personal space issues: they don't move to the right to let others pass, they just bump into you! It doesn't cross their mind to step to the side. There have been other incidents that annoy me at first, but I have to accept because it's the Spanish culture, not Puerto Rican or American.

Flordelisa Perez '02