I think that the biggest culture shock that I’ve received in Barcelona so far came while I was walking through aisle four of a local grocery store. You see, in college, I’ve grown accustomed to taking an almost daily cereal break between classes. Just because 3:00pm is too late for lunch and too early for dinner doesn’t mean that I won’t go to the dining hall and destress with a bowl of Life cereal while contemplating how important it is that I show up to my next class. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of Life cereal; I feel that Life would be a lot better if it were richer and had a more full flavor, but it’s really started to grow on me. So, recently I started to miss the Life that I had gotten so used to enjoying back home and went to the local super store chain, El Corte Inglés, to try to pick up a box. However, when I arrived, I was profoundly disappointed to discover that they had no Life.
The diversity in the cereal selection in Spain seems lacking at best. Since Spaniards don’t typically eat pancakes or eggs for breakfast, I figured that they would have a larger market for different types of cereal to keep their more limited breakfast options from getting stale, but this was not the case. Most of the cereals available in the grocery store are just minor variations of corn flakes and Rice Krispies. For example, there are standard corn flakes, there are chocolate corn flakes, there are corn flakes with bits of fruit, and there are chocolate corn flakes with bits of fruit. I didn’t see any fun, rainbow dyed cereals, anything cereals containing marshmallows, or anything even remotely resembling a Cheerio.
At first, I was pretty disturbed by the overwhelming homogeny of the colors and shapes of the cereal population in Spain. I found it strange, since the other sections of the grocery store were filled to the brim with amazing selections. As far as I could tell, Spain has astoundingly large assortments of fruit, an incredible bounty of seafood, an uncountable number of wines and cheeses, and every kind of cracker imaginable. The cereal section, however, offered much less variety.
Really, this variety pack only contains two types of corn flakes and two types of puffed chocolate rice.
I got curious and asked a few natives what they thought of the cereal lack of diversity in Spain. Some of them said that they had never really noticed before, since they rarely eat breakfast. Others said that they didn’t see any problems with it. They told me that when paired with a croissant or an English muffin, a Spanish breakfast really comes together to offer a satisfying flavor. While I don’t disagree with this claim, I would personally rather stick with my Life than adjust to this aspect of Spanish culture.
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<p>I am a student at Northwestern University student studying Electrical Engineering, Spanish, and Japanese. This summer, I will be experiencing the great city of Barcelona, Spain and reporting back on all my wonderful findings right here. I hope to inspire a few people to try adventuring out of there comfort zone, too.</p>