Here are some signs that I’m becoming much more Spanish as my time in this country goes on…
1. I LOVE long, long walks after a meal
In New York, I didn’t really enjoy walking too much. I was in too much of a hurry to get to the next place in my jam-packed schedule and the train was the best and fastest way to do it.
But here in Spain, a daily walk is very much considered a crucial form of exercise. It makes sense given Spain’s infamous “street culture.” I’ve gotten into the lovely habit of taking a walk after a meal, and I now don’t understand why I haven’t been doing this before. After a particularly delicious or heavy meal it helps with digestion and it overall adds to a feeling of satisfaction after a satisfactory meal. If you haven’t done this yet, try it one day.
2. Regular two-hour tea/coffee/dessert dates
One of the things that I most miss is grabbing a cup of tea with my besties C and J back in Brooklyn. I loved tea dates then, but I love them even more now. Here, its normal to be in a cafe for at least two hours. I’m in a cafe at least three times a week. As I write this, I’m sitting in one of my favorite cafes in my beautiful neighborhood. And not a generic cafe, like Starbucks or Connecticut Muffin or Pret. A homey one, with its own character and charm and hand-made desserts. I have to say that I am A OK with a cafe way of life.
3. Let’s go “tomar algo” in the middle of the week!
Going out during the week was hard for me to get used to back home. With a hectic work schedule I was usually busy until late at night and by the time my schedule freed up it was too late to hop on the train to meet anyone anywhere. Happy hour happened once in a blue moon but even then getting up at 6 in the morning didn’t exactly help convince me to go out for a Blue Moon on a Wednesday. But here, it’s completely normal. Just last Wednesday I went to an improv show in a local cafe (gosh the cafes here KICK ASS) and then grabbed a beer after the show, despite the fact that I had had such a long day and had to be up early the next.
4. The 2 o’clock lunch
I tried really hard to get on the Spanish eating schedule last year and it did not pan out at all. This year, however, my schedule is quite different. I often don’t get home until about 2:30, so naturally I’m eating lunch later.
5. Double Kisses, anyone?
Like any New Yorker, I have my personal bubble and my hair stands on end when people encroach on my space, which is an every second occurrence in Spain. However, there is an openness and friendliness to the Spanish culture that I do enjoy. There’s the double kiss that everyone knows about, but also there just seems to be a genuine interest in knowing who you are and what you’re about. I don’t think its as apparent here in the north as it is in the south, but it’s definitely still a custom for people to be incredibly friendly, even if a bit more touchy than what I would deem normal.
I definitely think there are more ways that I’ve become more Spanish as the days go on, but I would have to say the biggest one I’ve learned is to just enjoy the simple moments of life. In a big city with a crazy work schedule, I found it really difficult to slow down and sit still. I was constantly overwhelmed and stressed. And while sometimes (rarely) I find myself missing that, I find that the Spanish way of slowing things down really suits me. I’ve learned how to cherish that craft beer, sit in a cafe and be completely relaxed, thinking of nothing but the delicious dessert I have the fortune of partaking in. In fact, some of the most beautiful days that I remember are the simplest ones…Like the time my friends and I rented bikes in Costa Rica and got caught in the rain, keeping us holed up in a cafe for hours. Or the beautiful and unforgettable day where I took a fascinating dramatized tour of Medina Azahara and then proceeded to have one of the best meals I’ve had in all of my travels. Or even two nights ago at an open mic night where we all came together to support a couple of friends performing.
I’m finding more and more that simple is simply…better.