The following commentary is pieced together from a summary and notes taken during a Q&A session with a Spanish expat living in the US as a university language professor.
The last class was a good opportunity to ask questions about life in Spain and the transition to American life. This winter I may be flying back to Uruguay for who knows how long. I was there for two months this past summer living in the same place that I would be going back to. I was very curious about her experience in transitioning to life in a different culture. I happen to agree with her on the bread issue (she complained that bread here doesn’t deserve the name). It is far better in Uruguay and we had a baker deliver it each morning.
I found it interesting that the majority of questions concerned her view of the U.S. rather than of Spain itself. I think it is always interesting to get an outside view of one’s own culture. It was still surprising how few questions were asked about Spain. This Q&A was taking place in a Culture of Spain class.
I liked how she made the distinction between different and slower when discussing the pace of life. Just because another culture is more relaxed doesn’t mean they don’t get things done. Americans usually rush around too much and eating is too important of an activity to rush through, but I am just as guilty of eating and walking as any American. Some things just make sense, like siestas. Eating the large meal of the day at lunch makes sense as that is when you need more energy for the rest of the day. After a big meal napping or relaxing is what your body demands. I write this, as I am about to grab cold chicken wings and seafood salad from the fridge and eat a small lunch while working. She also mentioned that siesta makes the day more manageable and productive by splitting it in two. This makes a lot of sense because after just a few hours of continuous work productivity levels tend to decline as you lose focus.
Food is one of my many passions. I love trying local food and customs. I drink Yerba Mate almost daily now and really enjoy what I know is a local favorite that many outsiders can’t stand. She talked about bringing loads of Cola Cau back from Spain every visit. What exactly are the laws on bringing goods home to the US from abroad? I know all produce is off limits, but what about processed goods?
I respect and share her view on bull fighting. I do think it is cruel and I am not sure that I would ever want to see it in the ring, but I would never impose that viewpoint on others. It is a cultural tradition and identity. An example here in the U.S. would be NASCAR racing. I think it is rather stupid to burn thousands of gallons of fuel to drive around in a circle for a few hours, but I have no right to impose that view on others. While this example doesn’t have the obvious victim like bull fighting, it can’t be good for the environment and it certainly extends our dependency on foreign oil.