Tuesday, February 4, 2014

10 Most Random Differences Between Spain and the US

I haven't done anything super blog worthy, so I thought I would take this opportunity to do a fun post. As most of you know, I've been living in Spain for over a year and a half now and I've been keeping track of the things I consider to be the most "random" differences between the US and Spain. By random I mean, not super obvious differences like our eating habits, sports preferences, manners, etc. No, no... this is the list of things that will just make you go.... "whaaaat?"

1. Graph Paper is the Only Paper: That's right. In notebooks, sheet paper, etc. the only paper available here is GRAPH PAPER! Well, that's an exaggeration. If you go to a specialty paper store, you can find your average college-ruled lined paper. But it's not common and not allowed in schools. I guess Spaniards find graph paper more convenient because you can write either way on the paper, normal or landscape, but I still struggle with the idea that regular-lined paper doesn't seem more logical.

2. Light Switches and Doorbells LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME: Okay, I'm being a little dramatic. They don't always look identical.  However, I can't tell you how many times I've accidentally ding-dong-ditched someone in Spain. The reality of the matter is that in the hallways of the apartment buildings in Spain, there is little-to-no distinction between the doorbells and the light switches.  They're both square, the same size, and usually the same color.  Sometimes the only difference is a little orange light that distinguishes the light switch from the doorbell. I just don't understand why the doorbells can't look a little different. It would save us foreigners a lot of confusion.

3. Crutches: When I first got here, I was super surprised to see my young students on what I consider "Polio Crutches".  You know what I mean right? The crutches that are only elbow-high and have a clamp that goes around your wrist instead of the crutches that with the bar for under the armpit.  Well, our "under-the-armpit" crutches are non-existent in Spain, in all of Europe I believe. This has always stumped me, as I thought those "polio crutches" are only intended for the elderly or people with weak grip by US standards. I still don't know why we favor one model of crutches and Europe the other, but... oh well.

4. Erasers: For some reason, #2 pencils here are rarely sold with erasers on top.  Erasers (or as my students call them, "rubbers") are almost exclusively sold separately. Why? No idea. It sure would save me a lot of trouble as a teacher when my students lose their erasers if it was attached to their pencil.

5. The Date: Many people might already know this, but Spaniards (and other Europeans) use more logic when it comes to writing the date.  They right Day/Month/Year which seems more logical than our sporadic Month/Day/Year.  But then again, Americans use the Imperial System rather than the Metric System so... I don't think we care about logic when it comes to measuring things.

6. Deodorant: Most Americans are only familiar with one type of deodorant, the stick.  You know, the kind that resembles a bar of soap? That kind! Well here in Spain, you will see two types... neither being the stick.  Option one, spray (like from an aerosol can). Option 2, Roll-on (from liquid in a bottle with a rotating ball).  Both kind of weird me out, hence why I stock up on American deodorant before coming to Spain. Finding our type of American deodorant here is difficult, people just don't like it here. It's all perspective I guess!

7.  Periods and Commas:  Periods and commas are flip-flopped here, at least as far as numbers go.  For example, 2,000 is written 2.000 and 1.50 would be written 1,50.  Not much to comment on here, just a random difference!

8.  Smiling: It wasn't until I left the US that I realized that Americans heavily favor teethy smiles.  In Spain, I quickly noticed that not many people show their teeth when they smile.  Most people do the "no teeth smile" or don't really smile at all. They do more of a serious pose.  In the US, I think we would consider this odd and that the person was clearly unhappy in the picture unless it's Senior Pic related. My only theory of this difference is that Americans pour thousands of dollars in to getting perfect teeth whether it's through braces, surgery or whitening; we love to have a perfect smile! So, why not show it off, right? Other than that, I don't understand.  I still favor a teethy smile :D

9. Ice Water: Just, not a thing here. In Spain, if you ask for tap water (and be prepared to get a weird look from you waiter when you do) it will always come without ice and usually at room temperature.  In the US, that would be a sin.  You can request ice in your glass of water, but you'll probably just get a weirder look and/or be refused your request.

10. Birthday celebrations: Kid birthdays are celebrated similarly between the US and Spain.  There's games, cake, food, etc.  However, once someone reaches adulthood things change.  Now, let's review how we celebrate birthdays in the US to make sure we're on the same page.  In adulthood, on your birthday maybe you will be surprised with a cake or some other goodie at work, then you'll be treated by friends or a loved one to dinner and/or drinks right? Well, in Spain it's actually the opposite.  When it's your birthday, you treat everyone else! YOU bring treats into work, YOU buy dinner for everyone and YOU pick up the drink tab. I actually have to say, I'm kind of in favor of this. Although it's nice to be treated like royalty on your birthday, we all have "that friend" that has way higher expectations of birthday celebrations and consequently WE have to pick up the tab! I think if someone wants a nicer and more elaborate birthday, they should have to pay for it.

Anyway, that's my list.  Hope that some of you can relate to it!

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