Barcelona is the first European city I have visited so you can imagine what my first encounters and experiences were like if you are also interning or studying abroad for the first time. From work to commuting to food, every single aspect was different from the States, where I come from. Of course, I had learned about the differences in Spanish cultural orientations prior to coming here and even from all my friends who have been in Europe in general. But, I realized “cultural shock” is of something real. Maybe “shock” is an extreme term; I prefer “eye-opening.” I wouldn’t say I was shocked at living the reality of cultural variances, but more so it unveiled my eyes to the world. As I start my last week of internship here in Barcelona, I started recounting my initial reactions to the differences between home and here.
One of the first things I noticed was the environment, not only in the work setting but everywhere: on the streets, metro, restaurants. America is all about finishing first, rushing everything so that you can go home early. Work is strictly work; metro is strictly for commute; restaurants are strictly for eating.
Whereas in Barcelona, and Spain in general, the environment is more laid-back and graceful. Employees have fluid work hours and love to spend time with others while working. They also have a long lunch hour to catch-up on small talk. In metro stations, you have groups of people chatting and laughing, street performers singing and playing music. When you eat at a restaurant, you’re at least expected to stay for an hour or two. You eat while conversing with your friends and just enjoy the setting. The awesome thing is that you rarely tip, usually a few cents to complete a euro!
The “drinking and partying” aspect is a lot different as well. In America, you set out at 9 pm, party, and come back home 2 or 3 am. Not here in Barcelona. You set out to bars and clubs at midnight or 1:00 am, then literally spend the whole night partying with your friends. You’ll eventually make your way back home at 5 or 6 am and knock out until the afternoon of the next day. If you plan on going out one night, expect to spend the whole next day recovering.
Taking this abroad opportunity has been incredible in every way possible. Immersing yourself in a foreign culture for a few months, living and working amongst native people really opens your eye to the world. Everyone I met, everywhere I went will have a lasting effect. Barcelona has given me amazing memories to share back home.