Vincent: “You know what the funniest thing about Europe is?”
Vincent: “It’s the little differences. I mean they got the same shit over there that they got here, but it’s, it’s just there it’s a little different.”
After spending the last several months in Spain, and having finally re-watched Pulp Fiction for the first time in several years, I can finally fully appreciate Vincent’s speech. He is correct when he says that the funniest thing about Europe is the little differences. He goes on to describe several examples that are indeed true. In Spain they do drench their French fries in mayonnaise and they do serve beer in McDonalds, though I admit I was slightly disappointed to learn that a quarter pounder with cheese is simply directly translated to a cuarto de libra con queso (I mean, they do use the metric system here).
But there are many other things that are just somewhat different from American culture that I thought would be interesting to note. First of all, lunch and dinner are switched. Back home we tend to quickly rush through a small lunch, which is usually a sandwich and perhaps another snack, while dinner is a large meal. In Spain, instead of eating their lunch at their desks at work, the people tend to go home to prepare a large meal. Their dinner often consists only of some bread and ham or eggs, and in my house it is always casually eaten in front of the TV. Second, following the lunch is the famous siesta. Most people who have never been to Spain have still heard of (and are probably jealous of) this cultural norm. What people might not be aware of is its effect on business hours and city life. Essentially, much of the city will shut down in the middle of the day, and as an American it was initially hard for me to understand that heading out after lunch is nearly impossible when stores close between the hours of 2:00-5:00 pm. The effects of the siesta are definitely more profound in smaller towns than in Spain’s biggest cities. Madrid tends to stay open though the day, but little Pamplona and Lugo became ghost towns half the time. Lastly, in honor of today’s “huelga” (strike), there are certainly some major differences between the university life in Spain and the US. Most Spanish college students attend public universities, often in their hometowns. Where in the United States, colleges work to forge a sense of community, and have campuses that function as model towns, the Spain system could not be more different. Students generally live at home, or in apartment in the city, and commute to school for classes. School pride is virtually non-existent in comparison to the rah-rah culture of American universities. The average annual cost of college in Spain is only about 1000 Euros, so at first it was hard to understand what exactly the strike was for. According to one of my professors, they are striking because they want some changes that actually mirror the US university system, while according to my host parents, they believe the admission process should be less stringent (which is ironic because the protesters have already been accepted). Though I never wanted to be a scab, Holy Cross has insisted that we attend our Spanish course this afternoon. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought it could have been educational to engage in all moments of Spanish culture.