I’ve been back home in NYC for exactly one week now. I’ve come home to visit my family every summer since I’ve moved to Spain, however, this time…something feels different. Maybe it’s because with each year I’ve spent in Spain, I’ve become more and more Españolizada. Or, maybe it has something to do with the fact that I know I’m not going back. Whatever it is, this country feels weirder…and BIGGER than ever. There’s the good that I’ve missed, the bad that I haven’t missed, and just the downright weird and comical.
Let’s start with the good, shall we?
My jokes are funny again!
Humor just doesn’t always translate well across cultures and languages, and I learned that the hard way in Spain. Here in New York, we’ve got a really sarcastic sense of humor. I can’t even tell you guys how many sad, sad times I tried to tell a sarcastic joke in Spanish and just got a confused, blank look back. You know when you see a bad stand up comedian tell a joke to a room full of people and there’s that awkward moment of dead, painful silence? Cricket, cricket…that’s me. Back in NYC, I’m FUNNY AGAIN! I can express myself with witty English humor, crack fast jokes to the bus driver and make a table full of friends laugh again. Can I get a HELL YEA!
There are constantly new, crazy things to try.
Have you tried the latest ice cream invention “churro stuffed ice cream”? Or how about the restaurant that insists you “dine in the dark” to enhance your taste senses? What about that strange “chai beet latte” the cafe down the street invented? There is a thirst for exploration in the air and creativity in the mind. Don’t get me wrong; one of the things I adore about Spain is the appreciation for tradition and the lifestyle of simplicity. However, it’s so refreshing to be surrounded by all these unique, wacky new ideas and innovative concepts that society thrives on.
Diversity is everywhere, and it’s who we are.
Walking down the streets of New York, there are no two people with the same skin color. You hear at least 3 different languages being spoken at any given moment, yet all call themselves Americans, and New Yorkers at that. On any block, you’re sure to find an Indian, Greek, Italian, Thai, Chinese, Turkish, Jamaican, Dominican, and yes, even Spanish restaurant. On any given day, there are a plethora of obscure cultural celebrations happening; last weekend, I went to the French Bastille Day parade in the Upper East Side, then hopped over to Spanish Harlem for a Colombian appreciation day, packed with grilled meat and salsa dancing in the streets. You’ve got a pocket from every corner of the world, right here in one city.
I can’t afford anything. Like, nothing.
Get a load of this. At the Bastille Day Parade I wanted to buy a loaf of French bread… FIFTEEN FLIPPING DOLLARS?!? Excuse me whattt? Is this loaf made with diamond yeast?? Now that might have been an extreme case, but that’s not too much of an exaggeration from the norm, as you can see in the pic above. It’s the everyday things that really shock you; non-craft, non-hipster basic beer costs $7. House wine at your average restaurant? $9. A cup of coffee? That’ll be $5.50, please. Normal olive oil at the supermarket? $12 buckaroos! If I knew this sooner, I would’ve brought home a separate suitcase from Spain full of groceries. So uhhh hey Mercadona, do you ship to the US???
Nobody wants to say hi to me in my neighborhood.
I went to take my dog out for a walk, excited to be back in my neighborhood! In most neighborhoods of Spain, it’s customary to greet your neighbors as you pass them with a smile and a “hola”. So, naturally, the first neighbor I passed back in my neighborhood, like word vomit, I said “Hello!“. They looked at me like I had nine heads, gave me an awkward half smile, and quickly scurried past me. “Well, that was underwhelming,” I thought. Then, the next person passed. “Hi!” I said. This lady was nicer; she gave me a half-smile, muttered “hello” and avoided my bright, shining eyes full of friendship and happiness. And just like that, I went back into my “avoiding this person’s eye contact when they pass me as if it were the plague” way of life. Well, at least I’ll always have my dog!
You’ve gotta drive everywhere.
One of my favorite aspects of the European lifestyle is that you can walk almost anywhere. Even in small rural towns! Now that I’m back in the USA, I’ve forgotten how dependent we are on cars to do everything. My family lives in a suburb of NYC, where your car might as well be your legs. Gotta go to the supermarket? 10 minute car ride. The bank? 7 minutes. A bar? 15 minutes…and no alcohol for you! The shitt*est part about all of this? My parents sold my car! So basically, I’m on house arrest.
There are 1,475,399,092 options for everything.
In Spain, it was pretty simple; I told them I wanted “beer”, and just like that, they’d bring me whatever fizzy yellow domestic beer was on tap. No questions, no complexity. Now If you’re an indecisive person, the USA is DANGEROUS. I walked into my first bar back in the USA upon my arrival and was given a beer menu with at least 40 beers to choose from. AH! Then, of course, comes coffee. There are at least 30 different ways to have your coffee in any coffee shop; iced, hot, latte, macchiato, almond milk, coconut milk, whole milk, skim milk, vanilla, mocha, hazelnut, oreo…has anyone ever even tried all these options?! How do I know which one’s the best? By the time I try them all, they’ll have a whole new menu anyway! And don’t even get me started on supermarket options…
Technology rules the world.
In my Spanish life, we used cash to pay our friends back, usually hailed down a taxi the old fashioned way, ordered food from a person and never paid with cards. Crazy, right?? Back in NYC…there’s an app for that. All that. Since I’ve returned, I feel like I’ve been transported to some cyber alternative world in 2070. Bars are throwing away cash machines to only accept credit cards, friends pay friends through apps like Venmo, Uber is like your personal driver, and you pre-order your customized bagel on an app so you don’t have to wait in line, pay in person, or even talk to anybody in the store. Why deal with humans when you have a perfectly good robot in your pocket? Kids these days.
AND EVERYTHING IS SO DAMN BIG.
I’ve gotta address the elephant in the room. Pun intended. EVERYTHING IS GIGANTIC. The cars, the houses, the food, the streets, the buildings, the people… Now, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. I knew that. However, it’s still downright disorienting. A “small” house here is the like the size of my entire apartment building in Granada!
And then of course, there’s THIS. How I feel when I walk into a “Spanish” restaurant:
Kath and Dave get it. Trying not to sounds like a “cultural know-it-all-as*hole” can be hard at times.
In conclusion? There are SO MANY things that I am missing about my life in Spain every day, but hey, the reality is that I missed this crazy city I call home and I’ve gotta start adapting back to my former life as an American at some point…until my next adventure in September, that is!
Stay tuned for next week: I’ve got a confession. HINT: My love life 😉
Got any thoughts about these cultural differences between the USA and Spain? Comment below!