Some Differences Between Spain and the US: Part I

Communication/Media

In Spain:

  • Facebook is used more often to communicate with friends
  • This is probably due to the fact that unlimited texts plans are not common
  • People use many more !!!! and ??? when texting or writing on Facebook walls
  • Cell phone companies do not give upgrades every two years or with the signing of a new contact. Buying a new phone is a big deal
  • I usually get news headlines through Facebook’s news feed and my friend’s statuses. Such things as, finding out if the Chargers won, what celebrity has died recently, what the weather is like, etc.
  • News about celebrities is much less prevalent. I usually have no idea what is happening, unlike the US where I am inundated with information
  • The best time to talk to people at home is later in the evening, which can lead to very late nights
  • There are many locutorios where you can use the Internet, or make cheap international phone calls
  • Magazines are bought from newsstands, which are green and very easy to find
  • Movies, unless they are a blockbuster like Harry Potter, come out a few months later
  • There are many more films from other European countries
  • Films can be VOS (original language) or dubbed in Spanish
  • English books are not easily available and they are very expensive. They are bought from England (priced in the pound) then transferred to Europe and priced in the Euro, which increases the price. Then the Euro must be converted into dollars and the price is increased again. A Kindle comes in handy!
  • In order to exchange money through banks, checks are not written. You give the person your complete bank account number and the money is taken out or transferred in
  • It is necessary to carry change, as the 1 and 2 Euro coins are used often

Look for future editions on grocery shopping, my apartment, training and more.

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A Mystery Solved

I was driving to practice a few weeks ago and heard this song. I found it intriguing, as the girl kept repeating, spoken-word style, ‘What the Fuck.’ Curiously, it was uncensored, which maybe isn’t that unusual outside of the US. My interest was piqued when she started talking about being in Spain and partying, etc. This girl was explaining part of my life here! I didn’t think to Shazam it (and likely my phone was in the trunk anyway). All I could remember is that she said, ‘what the fuck,’ and talked about Spain. So I tried to find it on google. But of all the lines of a song to remember when you don’t know it’s title, I think ‘What the Fuck’ might only be behind ‘I Love You’ as the worst lyric of all time.

I don’t know how I finally accomplished it. (Well, I do. A youtube search of “what the fuck,” Spain, song, party). Still, not an easy mystery to solve.

Check out why this song caught my attention:

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Another Taste of Spanish Culture

The common perception of European music by Americans is that it is some sort of bad techno/house music. However, a lot of the songs are American imports, though not often the heavy-duty rap. The rest are from England or a variety of other European countries (i.e. David Guetta from France). In fact, I actually quite enjoy the “Euro” music when I am over here. It is danceable, but doesn’t feel like it requires full-on dirty hip-hop dancing. The same songs are repeated here ad nauseum, just as in the United States, yet somehow it takes songs even longer here to be pulled from the rotation. For example: The Black Eyed Peas’ I’ve Gotta a Feeling still draws cheers whenever it comes on in a club. (Why? I don’t know). The radio station in Barcelona dedicated to this music is RadioFlaixbac (pronounced Radio Flash Back). Among the people I know, this is the most popular radio station. You can check the top 30 songs on the website (careful: it’s in Catalan!).

For your listening/viewing pleasure, here are two more recent Euro songs that are popular right now:

Mr. Saxobeat by Alexandra Stan

 

 Hello by Martin Solveig and Dragonette

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Halloween, for the Rest of the World

One of the many Sitges costumes

On Sunday, I travelled by train to Sitges, a small beach town just south of Barcelona. This weekend was Carnaval and for that Sitges is the place to be. The best thing I can liken it to is Halloween in West Hollywood.

Carnaval is a much bigger holiday in Spain than Halloween. Although people know what Halloween is, most people don’t celebrate it. When I went out for Halloween, I’d say only one in ten people were dressed in costume. Carnaval, on the other hand, feels much more like Halloween in elementary school, where everyone is dressed as something, including the adults. It was fun to walk around this weekend, as I saw a great variety of costumes.

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A Sampling of Spanish Culture

Here is an advertisement that I often see when watching TV in Spain. Imagine not knowing ahead of time that this is an IKEA ad. Enjoy.

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And If You Read Italian,

I present to you the Italian version of Il Videogioco. (Special thanks to Andrea for her wonderful editing!)

            Quando la scuola iniziava, tutto è stato normale. Mi sono trasferita in una camera nuova e ho incontrato la mia coinquilina nuova. La mia coinquilina era carina e ci siamo aiutate muovere gli effetti. Ci siamo diventate amiche perché avevamo in comune che non ci sono piaciuti dove vivevamo prima. È stato lontano dal centro e da la università. Tutti degli nostri amici vivevano dall’altra parte. Se non vivessimo insieme, non ci conosceremmo. Siamo state persone differenti. Mi piaciono ascoltando la musica rock e guardando i film. Alla mia compagna piaciono ‘Anime’ e i videogiochi. Studiavo psicologia e lei studiava ingegneria.

            Siamo state insieme durante la prima parte del semestre. È stato più facile stare insieme che stare con altre persone. In settembre, ho trovato un lavoro. Vedevo Bianca di meno perche lavoravo fino alle dieci. Bianca giocava un videogioco chiamato il mondo di Warcraft. Lo giocava costantemente. Ogni volta che venivo alla nostra stanza, lei lo stava giocando. Ho imparato che lei giocava verso un personaggio nel gioco, che era uno gnomo con capelli rosa.

            Al fine di novembre, la mia vita quotidiana cambiava. Rimanevo più a casa perché gli esami arriverebbero fra poco. Mentre studiavo Bianca giocava ancora il gioco. Bianca non ha studiato per niente. Ho notato che Bianca si è dimagrita e i suoi capelli sono sembravano di essere più rosa. Prima, i suoi capelli sono stati biondi. Durante il fine di settimana del semestre, la mia vita è diventato molto strano. Invece di rimanere nella stanza, Bianca è partita di la. Una notte, Bianca si è scomparsa mentre io studiavo. La prima volta che questo è successo, io stavo da un’altra parte della casa. La prossima volta, Bianca si è scomparsa quando stavo nella camera. Ma sapevo che Bianca ritornerebbe perché il gioco è stato ancora acceso.

            La notte prima del ultimo esame, mi sono svegliato per studiare. I capelli di Bianca sono stati più rosa. Ho chiesto se lei aveva colorato i suoi capelli, ma lei non ha risposto. Dopo, mi sono andata a letto. Bianca non ci stava. Il computer era accesso e lo gnomo di Bianca é stato sullo schermo. Ho visto che lo gnomo anche si chiamava Bianca. Non c’é stato segno di Bianca la prossima mattina. Non avevo tempo per pensarci, perché andare al esame. Quando sono ritornata, gli effetti di Bianca non c’erano. Ero triste perché Bianca non ha detto che lei se ne andrebbe.

            Ho detto ai miei amici che ero triste. Comunque, i miei amici non hanno conosciuto Bianca. Loro mi dicevano che non avevo avuto mai una coinquilina. Non capivo come loro non si ricordavano di Bianca, poiché mi ero vissuta con lei per tutto il semestre. Oggi, non ancora so che é successo. Forse Bianca è nel gioco o forse sono matta.

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Man It Was Cold!

            As I was checking my email on my yahoo account on Monday, a news headline popped up, like this one, that said there had been a bombing Moscow’s Domodedevo airport. Of course, all bombings have a chilling effect, but for me this one was more personal. I have been fortunate enough to have never been near a bombing, but this particular one caught my attention as I had flown through Moscow twice last year. What were the chances that I had been there?

        Our second quarterfinal game for the LEN cup was being played in Khanty-Mansiysk. The first round was at home, so for the second game we travelled to the home of our competition: Siberia, Russia. This is crazy enough in itself. How many people go to Siberia willingly? And more importantly, how many Americans go to Siberia? Not only was I getting the chance to travel to a such a foreign and inhospitable place, one that few American ever have the chance to experience, it was going to be in the dead of winter. To play water polo. In a pool.

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Warcraft or Il Videogioco

In the Fall of 2008, I took an Italian class in which I had to write a short story (in Italian) in some sort of surrealist manner. This is the story that I wrote in English before I revised/translated it into Italian.

            The school year started out normal enough. I moved into my dorm room and met my new roommate, who seemed friendly in an average sort of way. You know, not too nice that she seemed fake, but at least willing to start on good terms. We exchanged pleasantries, helped each other unpack our too-much junk for our too-small dorm room, compared DVD choices, admired each other’s posters, and lamented about the fact that we got stuck with the least desirable building. “At least we are closer to the supermarket than all the other people on campus,” she said.

            “Yeah,” I replied, “but that’s only better since we are the farthest away from the dining hall.”

            “Don’t remind me. I’m already sick of that food and we just got back to campus!”

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For Maestro

The problem with having two homes is that you are always leaving something behind. The worst is close to the time of departure, when all that fills your head is what you are losing. Even when you know you are going to a good place and even when you know you are coming back.

San Diego has always been my home and always will be. I don’t think a move to any other place can be called ‘permanent.’ I don’t expect to live any one place in particular for the rest of my life. Because I don’t want things to always be the same. I want to grow and have new experiences. For now there is no one place that will keep its hold on me.

However, I keep my link to San Diego because I have so few constants in my life. But in San Diego I have some semblance of a family and a place I am always welcome and safe. I can go out into the world knowing I have a haven to return to. Its like what your mom is supposed to be when you are a toddler. The house that can store my stuff and my dad will be there and I can always go to water polo because I am always welcome there to be and to play.

There is one link that has been lost however, and that is my link to Maestro. He was a most unusual and extraordinary cat mostly because he didn’t act as a cat would. He wasn’t interested in playing, or in being cuddled, and his favorite place to hang out was right in the thick of things.

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Columbus Day

Columbus Day was celebrated last month in both Spain and the United States, so it seemed like a good time to talk about some of the similarities and differences between these two different cultures that I am currently a part of.

I was surprised that both Spain and the US celebrate the same holiday. This possibility had never occurred to me. Well, of course, holidays like Christmas and Easter are shared across borders as Christianity is found around the world. But how strange it is that two other countries share a national holiday and that it’s even celebrated at the same time!? And what are the odds that I’m a part of both? I’ve gotten used to celebrating country specific holidays, such as Italy’s end of fascism, Spain’s day of the constitution, and the US’s day of independence – holidays that wouldn’t make sense to celebrate in any other country. It wasn’t until I remembered who sent Columbus on his fateful voyage that I connected the dots. It is clear why the US would honor the person who ‘found’ the country, but it never occurred to me that Spain would also honor Columbus. Spain doesn’t even hold any territories in the Americas anymore! Of course, once I thought about it, it is only right that Spain would venerate the person who started the movement that led Spain to have the largest empire at that time.

There are differences between how holidays are celebrated. In Spain, Columbus Day includes events that celebrate the glory of Spain. There is a parade of the army after which the King greets them. From what I have been told by my Catalan roommate, however, is that most people actually dislike this practice. Only the most patriotic citizens are in favor of it. She says that patriotic displays remind most people of the dictatorship of Franco. Since the Catalans were particularly oppressed, they are especially against this patriotism. A second complaint is typical to all citizens everywhere: the parade costs too much money for little return!

In the US, we always observe Columbus Day on a Monday and often now the holiday is not even observed. Instead everyone works as usual. In Spain, Columbus Day is always celebrated on October 12th. Since it falls on a Tuesday this year, Monday is also a de-facto holiday. On Tuesday, almost everything is closed, very similar to Sundays. Monday, because it only links the holiday to the weekend and is not a holiday itself, is not observed in the same manner. Most people don’t have work or school. However, some people work and more stores will be open. The same phenomenon is found when Columbus Day falls on a Thursday; Friday will become a de-facto holiday. Unfortunately, as the holiday falls on a Wednesday next year, the only day off the Spaniards will get is Wednesday.

This is a very different mentality than the US. Since I have been here, we have already celebrated three holidays. The first was La Mercé, which is the major festival of Barcelona. There were so many activities I couldn’t attend them all. There were the procession of the giants (Gigantes), the fire run (Correfoc), the human towers (Castellers), live music, performances, etc. Columbus Day (Hispanidad) was the second holiday, and All Saints Day was the third. To me it seems that the Spanish take any excuse to have a holiday that they can!

Postscript:

A roommate in Barcelona from last May shared this newspaper article with me. Basically, it says that Columbus had stayed in the same apartment as we lived in! I’m sure many people have claimed this, but this story has the added benefit of being written by a historian.

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