Spain talks — all the time. Locals love to talk to each other and they will talk to you too, if you know a little Spanish.
When I first stepped off the ship, I was fearless. There are beaches here, blacktop roads and there are even Burger King fast-food restaurants. The architecture is a little different and people speak a different language, but it seemed very similar to the life I’m used to in America.
After spending a few days in Spain, I found that the culture is more different than I thought.
If Americans eat the most, Spaniards must come in at a close second. People don’t just eat breakfast, lunch and dinner here, they eat tapas— in the end, Spaniards might go out to eat five times in one day. Their portion size is not always modest either. I rarely was able to finish a plate of food, which was typically rich in starches like potatoes.
Food is definitely part of a social experience. Waiters typically do not seat you and hardly stop by your table, unless summoned for la cuenta (the bill). When eating, you don’t shovel your food down your throat, you sit, enjoy and talk to your friends for at least an hour or more.
Socializing with friends and family is not just a dining activity, it is done everywhere. When I visited a beach in Cadiz, I did not see one cell phone, but the conversation was endless. People sit in large groups and enjoy each other’s company.
When they get tired from talking so much and doing a little work during the day, it is time for an afternoon siesta (nap). It is usually difficult to find a store that is open in the afternoon, because most people close shops to go home to rest. In the evening, work resumes.
True Spanish culture blossoms at night. After a long dinner around 10:30 p.m., the streets are still crowded with bodies bustling and talking. It’s strange, from an American’s view, to see mothers pushing strollers with babies through narrow streets and bars at midnight. The city appears to come alive when the sun sleeps.
My friends and I went out after dinner one night to discover what this nightlife really has to offer. From 1 to 2 a.m. we found hoards of students walking around Cadiz with grocery bags. When we followed them, and walked up a few stairs, we found a huge balcony packed with bodies and drinks. This is where people gather before the fiestas.
Parties start at 3 a.m. and last until at least 7 a.m. Dancing and drinks in a nightclub is the usual scene.
Around 10 a.m., the city starts to wake up again, but they are not in a rush. Work can wait. Here, they do not live to work, they work so that they can live and continue living, socializing, taking a siesta and enjoying the fiesta.