Top 17 differences between Spain and the United States
Aside from the 2pm spanish siestas, this is our current list of 17 differences that we’ve found between Spain and the United States. These are not listed in any specific order of importance. I also found a really interesting article online, it’s a list of 16 things people have found weird about the US, which was really fun to read too.
1. Baby strollers are weird.
For some reason we thought this was worth mentioning in the winter of 2011. We’re going to repost this anyway just because we have the photos. We thought the strollers were weird looking. It is like a sleeping bag for the baby, attached to the stroller.
Now that we’re back in summer of 2014, I actually kind of like the strollers. They don’t look like the ones below. I’m not sure if there are different strollers used for different seasons, or if they’ve changed since then. As soon as we get a photo of these new strollers, I’ll post them here. But they look efficiently smaller than the US ones, less bulky. They take up less space and are high up.
2. Grocery stores.
First, we’ll start with portions. They aren’t U.S. portions. Lunch meat for example is about enough for one or two sandwiches, maybe a week, but not for a month’s worth. The carts are much smaller and the baskets have wheels. You also have to pay for plastic bags (bolsa), they don’t cost much, a few cents or so. I kind of like the idea of that. Even though the price for bags aren’t a lot, we still recommend bringing your foldable, reusable grocery bag. Our bag turns into a backpack when we unroll it out, and carrying a backpack for heavy groceries all the way up to our apartment has been really nice.
When you are buying produce in the Spanish grocery stores, don’t forget to take your fruit or vegetables to the scale and print out the sticker before you take it to the cashier to pay for it. Don’t feel bad if you get confused with how to use the sticker machines when you get to it. We even get asked by Spaniards to help them figure out how to use the machines. We have full instructions on how to use them in article titled, “Where to buy cheap produce.”
Another thing that’s different in Spain than US. Is seeing milk on the shelves instead of in a cooler, same with the eggs. You can buy milk and eggs in coolers too, it’s just different to see them kept on shelves and still be considered safe to ingest.
Also alcohol is cheap. You can buy wine for about 39 cents or so. And big name brands like Jack Daniels that’s usually a fifty dollar bottle in the US, costs 30 euros here. Taking into consideration the exchange rate, it evens out, but still.
3. Meal times are as follows:
Breakfast: 8:30 a.m
Lunch: 2-4 p.m. (eat/sleep)
Snack time: 7 or 8 p.m.
Dinner: 10 or later (one professor said that in the summer, her family doesn’t eat dinner until midnight)
Tapas: 11 p.m.
Club: 1 p.m. or 1:30 p.m., (Kandavia Club at 4 a.m) and end at 5 or 6 a.m
work: 9 a.m
Here is our 2011 schedule:
Breakfast: 8 a.m. (oatmeal, cereal, egg/bread)
Snack: 12 p.m. (nutella, chocobiscuits, or baguette)
Lunch: 3 p.m.
Snack A (optional): 5 p.m.
Snack B: 8 p.m.
Dinner: 10 p.m.
Tapas: 11 p.m.
Club: 12 a.m. til 3 (3 is still late for us– we are adjusting though)
Absorb alcohol meal: 3:30 a.m. usually at Leonardos
Awake for school: 7:30 a.m. (eating at 8)
4. Broken glass
This was so strange to us coming from the U.S.. When we were out dancing and somebody dropped glass, it echoed across the bar and everyone just looked at it, moved over and kept dancing. The waiters didn’t flinch. No workers came to sweep it up. I remember waiting and occasionally glancing around the bar searching for the workers to come and sweep it off the floor. Lawsuits aren’t common practice in Spain (I can only infer from this incident). In another instance, Colegio Delibes took us horseback riding and I noticed that we didn’t have to sign a waiver. My second inference for no worry of lawsuits here, what a nice concept.
5. Coat racks and purses With all of the talk about how to keep from getting mugged while out and about, it was interesting to see the difference in how coats (and even purses) are handled at the Erasmus discotecas. In the U.S. when you are at a club, you stand right next to your piled jackets and don’t let it out of your site. In Salamanca, everyone throws their coats and purses on the floor or over some random rack they find and then moves all over the place.
6. Fur coats
What’s with the older ladies in the fur coats?
All bread is hard. Like a brick. At least from what we’ve found so far. It’s seldom served warm and fresh at restaurants. I still like it though, I love bread. I read an article online about bread being very important to Spaniards. The article provided a link of all the Spanish idioms that contain bread: www.refranerocastellano.com.
2014 update: Recently when we’ve gone to restaurants, the bread hasn’t been too hard. We went to a restaurant called Don Quixote for lunch (they had a Menu del Dia special 8 per person) and they had really soft fresh warm bread. It was really good. And I wasn’t a big fan of Paella last time we were here, the rice kept tasting uncooked but the Paella at this place was absolutely incredible. I just wish it had more portions of fish/meat.
The lights hardly ever seemed to work in the public bathrooms or bathroom stalls. Hopefully your phone has a light so you can see where you deuce. There’s also never any toilet paper, ever. I always buy portable TP to bring with me so that I have it whenever i’m going out. You can buy bulk pocket tissues for really cheap at carrefour, way cheaper than it is to buy in the US. I think I paid 1.15 for a pack of 12 pocket tissues.
I also like how much less water the toilets here have versus the US. Why do American toilets have so much water in them? The toilets in Europe also have the double button flushes, one for pee and one for caca. That’s good they conserve water here since they seem to really like watering their sidewalks.
9. Tax included
Shopping is awesome. The taxes are always included in most all prices listed. When we go out to eat and look for the Menu Del Dia, we know the price is going to be flat. Exactly 10 euros (for example) and since spaniards don’t accept tips, we know what we’re going to walk out with. Included tax, also includes shopping for shoes (for example) so again, you know exactly what your transaction total is going to be. Well, not included having to convert into US dollars.
10. Tips and restaurants
We never got a clear answer whenever we’ve asked for wether tips are necessary or not. We believe it’s optional, and if you do leave a tip, it’s just a euro or so. There’s one place that we went to and Kyle left a 2 euro tip and the guy chased us down to give it back to us. At our favorite tapas place on Van Dyck street, we always left a euro tip. They remembered us because we always came in ordering the same thing, pincho moruno y caña and then a euro tip. We did that for three months. Once we went into the place when they were really slammed and they saw us come in, yelled, “hola, espara.” Before we even placed our order, they brought us our favorite pincho moruno y caña and gave us all these other tapas for free. I guess they really wanted us to branch out and try something different. LOL.
My favorite thing about restaurants here, is not being bombarded every ten minutes by the waiter with some dumb peppy question you’ve answered five times, “yes, everything is okay.” You just have to call the waiter over when you’re done eating so that you can close out your bill.
11. Pizza delivery bikes
Yah pizzas delivered on pizza delivery bikes. Dominos is in Salamanca by the way, so if you happen to love Dominos, you can get it there. Not sure how different it it is, we never ate it. I wonder if they have Dominos sandwiches? That’s about the only thing at Domins that’s any good – and it’s really good.
12. Hot chocolate
Don’t be deceived. Churros con chocolate! Yum! Sounds great right? It’s not hot chocolate. It’s a cup of thick chocolate syrup. Maybe you can order it with milk to lighten it up? I’ll have to try that next time. Or maybe I had bad luck at the places I ordered it? Valor is known to be the best churros con chocolate place in Salamanca. We need to go back and try it there again.
13. Strange ground beef
On one of our first days in Salamanca, we went to the grocery store and bought what we thought was ground beef. We’ll have to post photos next time. We just could never tell when the meat was done cooking, I don’t think we bought ground beef to cook ourselves for the remainder of our time out there. The best way I can describe it is pink, stringy styrofoam. No matter how long we cooked it, it never turned brown. We cooked it for a while too. It didn’t taste bad, the texture was a little bit on the squishy side though. Although we never found out what we ate, it didn’t make us sick.
I do want to say that I think that meat purchase was a freak accident. We’ve bought ground meat since then and haven’t had any weird permanently pink meat.
14. One worker=8 jobs
This always makes us laugh. Spain has an insanely high unemployment rate. When we were there in 2011, it was particularly bad in the region we were in, Castilla León. Even though the economy in this part of the world was the best, the Spanish worker was crazy efficient. For instance, an average-size pub with 20 or so tables would have at most five people working on a busy night; where as the staff would have been doubled for the American equivalent. Those same five guys do every job necessary, there are no designated dishwashers, bartenders, etc. When we told our French friend, Iris about this, laughing. She asked, “Why is it not like this in America? It sounds boring that only one person does only one of the same job.” I’d never thought if it that way. We flew from Valladolid to Belgium towards the end of our trip. A middle-aged man helped check us in, he was balding and wore glasses. He’d checked us in, weighed our bags, did the pat downs at the security checkpoint, and no kidding, scanned our tickets for boarding. When we landed in Charleroi, there he was. We still wonder if he was the pilot of that flight. This doesn’t apply for all businesses in Spain. For a Valentine’s day gift, I wanted to get Louisa a gift card from this one women’s clothing store. I felt awkward enough being the only guy in the store. I asked the three young, female workers at the counter doing paperwork to buy a gift card. I was still no master of the Spanish language, so I must have misunderstood the girl when she told me something on the lines of “It will take 5 minutes because the gift cards are under the counter.” I ended up being there for about 20 minutes. I’m not sure what those girls were doing under that counter.
15. Food tastes and cooking
The food that we loved to cook in Europe seems to taste completely different at home in the US. And we were cooking with the same exact ingredients. In Salamanca, we always cooked this chicken, sausage, onion, garlic, soy sauce and rice When we tried to cook it in the US, it didn’t taste as awesome. Very strange. I think this is normal though, my Nepalese friends said it’s the same for them from when they cook food in Nepal to the US. It’s likely all the crap US puts in their food.
The onions and garlic taste better in Spain, much more flavor.
16. Drying clothes
Seeing clothes on a clothes line to hang out in the sun to dry is not very commonly done in the US.
17. Drink and bars
The drinking age for strong liquor is 18 and 16 for beer and wine. It’s still possible to find people younger than the legal drinking age at bars because they don’t require ID everywhere here like we do for every thing in the US.
Another thing we’ve noticed, which we’re not sure if this is really allowed or if we have naughty Spanish friends… When we go out to the bars and can’t finish our beers, our friends ask for to-go cups and we dump our drinks in them and head to the next bar. If ordering to-go cups isn’t allowed, I’m not sure what else a bartender would think people would use a to-go cup for?