The “Difference List”

High School Summer Programs and Gap Year Study Abroad in Salamanca, Spain - Cathedral of Salamanca

The Cathedral of Salamanca from the Las Dueas Convent

When you travel to a different country, it doesn’t take long to start noticing some cultural differences. It’s not that what you’re experiencing or seeing is wrong, it’s just noticeably different from what you’re used to. When I studied in Salamanca, Spain, I noticed a lot of things that I found to be a little off. The “besos,” for example, are a perfect case in point: not many times in the US will you be greeted by your friends with a kiss on each cheek.

As I began noticing differences like this, I did something I suggest that everyone do. I kept a list of all the foreign customs and norms that I found odd, strange or just plain DIFFERENT! I kept my list stored in my phone, but if you plan to keep a journal, that would also be a perfect place to stash your list. Not only is it fun to have while you’re abroad, but it’s also a great thing to look back on later and have a good laugh.

I’m sure anyone who is studying or has studied abroad in Spain will find this list funny. Hopefully they’ll have some “OH, YEAH!” moments like I did.

So, without further ado, my “USA v. Espana List:”

1. Cars: People don’t bump music in their car.
2. Outlets: Enough said.
3. Besos: everyone greets me with kisses!
4. Meal times: Spanish people eat pretty late, and that includes ALL meals (even dinner!).
5. Stores: You are expected to say hello and goodbye every time you enter or leave.
6. Lights: If you’re staying in a hotel, you have to have your key card in a slot for the lights to work.
7. Tapas: Delicious appetizers that cost less than a euro? Yes please!
8. Siesta: ENTIRE CITIES shut down for a grown-up naptime, every day.
9. Dancing: People rarely touch while dancing, unless it’s a designated partner dance.
10. Check, Please: When it comes to tapas and dinner you get your check and pay for everything AFTER you’re done.  And not being expected to leave a tip is NICE 🙂
11. Fountain Drinks: Don’t exist.
12. Condiments: Salt is not left out on table and you may get a strange look if you ask for it.
13. Water: You have to specify whether you want a bottle or glass of water, or you’re getting charged for a bottle!
14. 1: The number one looks like an American’s J.
15. Home: Your home is the place where your host family gathers.  Hanging out with friends is done outside, at the cafes or in the Plaza Mayor.


What will you find when you go abroad?

This post was written by Lo Martinez, who studied with us in Salamanca, Spain during the spring of 2011.


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