Small Cultural Differences I've Noticed During My First Week in Salamanca

Nicole Stein
January 29, 2022

After a whole year of waiting to go abroad, I am finally here and settled in the beautiful city of Salamanca, Spain! This first week has been full of fun orientation activities, making new friends, diving headfirst into Spanish immersion, exploring a new place, and trying to beat Jet Lag (it’s affected me a lot more than anticipated)! While I was busy getting oriented, I started to take note of really small cultural differences in Salamanca compared to the United States. Some are arbitrary, some are better (in my opinion) and some are worse. Here they are:

The first thing I noticed is that not many Spanish people have blonde hair. More than that, I met a local student who told my friend that she liked her blonde hair, but my friend’s hair is light brown! It turns out, people here would consider her to be blonde, not brunette because her hair is much lighter than most people’s. This is one of the arbitrary cultural differences, unless it’s true that “blondes have more fun,” in which case my new friend Izzy is in for a great semester here in Spain. 

The second cultural difference I picked up on here is that pedestrians do not have the right of way. In my hometown, you could be fined if you do not stop to let someone cross the street. This is one of the cultural differences that I'm not so excited about, but mainly because I am incredibly impatient. Perhaps it will be a good thing and remind me to slow down and enjoy the city. At the end of the day, there’s no rush. 

Thirdly, the universities here do not have mascots. In the United States, mascots are incredibly important and are one of the main tools universities use to demonstrate school spirit. This one is arbitrary, although I don’t understand what they yell out at sports games if not “go bulls.” Furthermore, there are images of frogs all over the city of Salamanca. I asked my professor if that was the university's mascot, and she told me it was actually the mascot of the city! I’ve never heard of a city having a mascot before, so that was super cool to learn, and I’m excited to buy some Salamanca merch with frogs on it. 

The last cultural difference I picked up on this week was that people here park on the sidewalk. In other words, because the streets are so narrow, half of the car is on the sidewalk while the other half is on the street. Due to this, the cars are slanted. As someone who lives incredibly close to New York City, I know this is a total no-no at home, so I was surprised to see it here!

I am sure that as I continue exploring my new home and meeting local Salmantinos, I will pick up on many more small cultural differences that exist between the United States and Salamanca. I am so excited to find out more about Spanish culture and their way of life: so far, I really like it.

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Nicole Stein

<p>Hi! My name is Nicole Stein. I am a Spanish major at Kenyon College from Montclair, New Jersey spending the Spring of 2022 in Salamanca, Spain! My favorite things to do are travel, try new food, swim in small bodies of water, pet baby animals of all kinds, spend time outside hiking, skiing and exploring, and making connections with people from all walks of life.</p>

2022 Spring
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Kenyon College
Montclair, NJ
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