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  • Writer's pictureHelpful Gleanings

Part 3 - Culture & Customs

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

One thing I was able to experience on our survey trip was a small part of the culture. Below, I've listed some things that stood out to me on our two survey trips but also some things I've learned since moving to Spain.



Spain is known for their “siesta”. At 2 P.M., most shops and restaurants close down for siesta. From what we observed, this was the time of the day the locals took their lunch breaks, napped, and socialized.

Parents and grandparents would pick up the kids from school only to return them in a few short hours after siesta had finished. We were told that kids didn’t get out of school until 6 P.M. and that the average work shifts ended around 9 P.M. This made the average dinner time around 10 P.M.!

*UPDATE* After moving to Spain and learning more about day to day life I think it stands to mention that in our month long survey trip we didn't quite grasp, and probably still don't, what the Spanish "siesta" really is. As of right now, the way I understand it is that what we call a "siesta" is really just a lunch break. Most stores close down any where from 1-3 hours to simply take a lunch break, not to nap. Almost everyone I have asked has said that they rarely take a nap. Also, the average dinner time seems to be around 9/9:30. Which may seem a little late but the portions and the food are not as heavy as the typical American dinner.


I grew up in Miami, so I’m used to greeting with a kiss. But usually, it’s just one kiss. In Spain, it's two. Not only is it two but, they start from left to right. Going in on the right for one kiss on the cheek while the person is going left for two kisses gets kinda awkward. There are quite a few things I am having to unlearn and relearn having grown up in a Latin American culture and now living in a Spanish culture. There is quite a difference and I can only imagine how many times I have probably offended someone.

Standards of Living

Throughout our two survey trips I feel as though I was misinformed on the standard of living you have as an American living in Spain. I was told that it was normal to have "bigger" standards as an American and it was acceptable by Spanish standards. Those who informed me of this concept were, of course, American. I would say "accepted"... maybe, maybe not. "Expected" I would say is more accurate. American standards tend to lean towards everything being bigger: a bigger house with more rooms, we value our personal space and that comes out in our homes and lifestyle. I think this can be offensive to any culture not just to Spaniards. Because this is a sticky topic and it gets into too many personal opinions I will just leave it at two things and one will seem obvious:

  1. Pray the Lord directs your steps. He will provide the right place, the right size, and in the right way. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding." Prov. 3:5

  2. "Don't take America with you" Something I heard my pastors say a lot growing up. I'm still trying to find the balance in this. As of right now, my home probably looks very American and, as of this moment, we speak English in the house, our meals are still considered to be very American. But we're trying to live by Spanish standards: eat according to their schedule, live in a home the average Spaniard lives in, live according to their standards of living, not American standards. As I said, it's a difficult balance and I trust the Lord will direct.

Things that seemed different

I tried to note some of the things that I thought would take some getting used to.

Dryers are perfectly accessible but most people hang their laundry to dry. This means, in the winter time it might take a day or two for your laundry to dry. So, if you want to wear something particular on the weekend, make sure its washed by Wednesday.

They also have a washer/dryer combo machine.

Also, the washer can have many different locations. It may be located in the bathroom, kitchen, and even on the patio. Sometimes there’s a laundry room.

Milk and eggs are generally refrigerated. I know you can't tell from the picture above but the eggs and milk aren't refrigerated. I hear this is common for Europe. Refrigerated or not, I can honestly say the milk and butter are so much richer than in the States. The milk tastes like sweet heavy whipping cream. It is amazing!

Not all places have a/c or elevators. These are things that may not be a necessity but when you’re on the 10th floor and there’s no elevator or the windows to your apartment face another building standing 3 feet away and its 90+ degrees outside, they certainly will become considerations.

No backyards. Of course, this is common for major cities but I thought I would add it in here because it was different for me. Most people go to the local park for a taste of the outdoors. Plus, it’s a pedestrian-friendly area so you get plenty of time in the sun. I did notice they have balconies and rooftop terraces. This is just something to consider if you're going to a city.

The Metric system. This one can probably count for any missionary. I don’t know why Americans had to do it differently but there it is. Get used to converting and thinking differently.

Anywhere you go there will be differences and things to get used to. Even just moving from Ohio to Alabama there will be "cultural differences". Some places will be more drastic and harder to adjust to. If the cultural differences are enough to notice, I would definitely recommend writing them down. If you bare them in mind while on deputation, it will be one less thing to surprise you once you move to your prospective field.



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