Initial Observations of Spain

Read some observations from Nikki Matz, who is studying in Madrid, Spain for a semester on the Student Exchange Program. She describes the difference between U.S. and Spain on eye contact, greetings, grocery stores, and more.

I have now been living in Madrid for about 3 weeks, and I have found many differences between this city and any place I have lived in the U.S. One thing that is very interesting is how much people stare in Spain. In the US, if you catch a person staring at you they will quickly look away knowing that they have been caught; however, here people do not look away. In my first few days, I was on edge because of this cultural difference, but I soon realized that it was not something to be scared of.

View from my balcony, Calle Mayor

Another interesting concept that I have discovered is the greeting of 2 kisses. I knew it existed but I wasn’t quite sure how often it was used. I was recently at a Spanish person’s house where there was a large group of Spanish people, and upon introduction, I indeed kissed 15 people’s cheeks. It is difficult to get used to because my natural inclination is to shake hands with someone. There is also additional confusion when I meet other international students from around Europe or South America because they also have different greeting norms. In Chile for example, a greeting of one kiss on the cheek is staple; however, in Italy they also do two kisses, but they begin on the opposite cheek of Spaniards. I am hoping that by the end of the semester I will be able to catch on greet anyone like a pro!

Palacio Real
Sabatini Gardens

My final observations come from the grocery stores or “supermercados”. I live on Calle Mayor, which is right in the center of Madrid. The options for groceries around me are mostly express shops, very tiny grocery stores with the essentials. If I want anything more I have to go to a different neighborhood of Madrid. A very surprising discovery that I made was that Spanish supermarkets do not refrigerate their eggs or their milk. I’m still not quite sure how that works, but it is nice to be able to stock up on those things without worrying about them spoiling.

Palacio de Cristal
Templo de Debod

I look forward to spending more time as a Madrileño and getting the opportunity to practice Spanish daily. Madrid has a lot to offer as well as the rest of Spain, and I can’t wait to explore!