Cultural Adjustments

Ella Rivera headshot
Ella Rivera
October 31, 2023

My sole purpose in choosing Spain was to improve my Spanish. During my time here, I've not only made progress with the language but also gained valuable insights about myself. I'm becoming more attuned to the local accent and the pace at which people speak. They tend to shorten their words, dropping S’s or cutting them in half. It's interesting to note that this linguistic trait is also present in Cuban and Puerto Rican dialects, which has been an unexpected advantage for me. It's made me realize just how deeply rooted I am in Caribbean culture. As a Latina in the States, I've often felt that my Spanish carries a tinge of 'Americanness.' I'm fluent in Spanglish and sometimes struggle with how my accent sounds. However, here in Spain, I find myself either strongly identifying or resonating with certain linguistic nuances. My time here has fortified my Hispanic identity and reminded me how I carry my heritage within me and how I am distinct from other Americans. We all have unique backgrounds, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover how closely I align with my Latin roots not only my American side. Engaging with Spaniards is an intriguing experience for me. Many assume I'm Spanish due to my appearance, but when I reveal my American background, they're taken aback. As we converse, they might expect an American accent and are instead met with a Caribbean one. This often leads to compliments about my accent, which boosts my confidence in my speaking abilities. Then, as I share my heritage, the understanding falls into place for them.

Socializing with Spaniards is a whole other challenge. Breaking down the barriers of engagement seems challenging on both sides. Being able to express oneself is key to carrying a conversation that extends beyond small talk which is what can advance a conversation and turn it into friendship. Slowly but surely I intend to do that. The relationships between friends are quite different here. Back home, once you’ve made friends you’d have them at your house and that is where you would do a majority of your hang outs as well as going out and doing things on top of that. But here they hang out on the streets and are out super late instead of going to each other's places to spend time together. Residences and homestays have a lot of rules about this that basically force you to hang out in the street and take part in this cultural element. There are a lot of cute little plazas where you can hang out. But as an American, once it's dark I want to be cozy inside hanging out with friends watching a movie, or doing something relaxing like that. So make friends with your residence people and just watch movies with them in the common living spaces.

Personal space is quite different here as well, they are a very touchy cariñoso culture here, which you will notice once you are out and about. On the street, if you run into someone or vice versa, you don't really apologize because it's just a mindless thing that can happen often. When in line for something, many times people will get very close behind you, and it's not to rush you, it's just because the personal space bubble is so much smaller here. You eventually get used to it, but it's definitely something you become conscious of rather quickly.

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Ella Rivera headshot

Ella Rivera

I love to learn about history and other cultures which is why I chose to study in Europe. Traveling is one of my favorite hobbies.I am an avid coffee drinker my go to drink is a coldbrew lemonade which is a specialty from the coffeeshop I work at.

2023 Fall
Home University:
Penn State University
Global Studies
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