Two different countries collide: United States vs. Spain

¡Hola a tod@s!

¿Que tal?

This post is a little bit different than my normal post. In this post I intend to explain the cultural difference between the United States and Spain. I hope you find the post interesting and informative.

The views expressed in this post are my own and may not accurately represent all situations in Spain. 

  1. Handicap Accessibility
    This topic is interesting and important to me because I live with mild cerebral palsy that affects my mobility.  A great amount of the population in Bilbao and the Basque Country are aging and are confined to wheelchairs or use other mobility aids like canes. The ramps are very steep on stairs and there are more stairs than sidewalk ramps. The sidewalk ramps tend to be of normal grade, similar to the United States, however, the ramps on stairs are extremely steep.
Handicap Ramp
Handicap Ramp

This poses a challenge for those in wheelchairs because many people are in self-propelled wheelchairs (without motors). The grade of the ramps can cause damage to the chair or injury to the operators hands.

2. DAB (Dance Move)

The DAB is a dance move in which the dancer simultaneously drops the head while raising an arm and the elbow in a gesture that has been noted to resemble sneezing.

This is a hand gesture used by students in university

The gesture in called PAR in Spain. The name has no resemblance to the gesture and the word literally means nothing in the Castilian language.

3. Television Commercials (Anuncious)

In the United States for every half hour of programming there are usually two breaks of commercials ranging about five minutes each. Therefore for every hour of programming the number of commercial breaks doubles.


In Spain and specifically in the Basque Country, commercial breaks all depend on the company and the amount of money paid for advertising. A commercial break can last anywhere from 4 to 8 minutes. They have a show guide in the television, however, it practically means nothing because the amount and length of advertisements depend on the amount of money paid.

4. Dogs on a leash?

A law has been established in the Basque Country about requiring dogs to be on leashes for safety of the owner and the general public. Many owners of dogs, however, do not follow this law and it can sometimes cause annoyance. The penalty for not having your dog on a leash is 25 euro. That is if the police actually stop you. This also causes health hazards to pets and the general public. Other pets and humans can be bitten if a dog is off its’ leash.

It is also wise to be cautious  as you walk through the land mind of dog waste in the street. People have there dogs excrete waste in the middle of the street and just leave it.

A sign asking owners to keep dogs on leashes and walking them. Instead dogs walk themselves.
A sign asking owners to keep dogs on leashes and walk them. Instead dogs walk themselves.

Pets are also allowed in most restaurants and bars with their owners.

The only time a dog is on a leash is when the dog is taken on the metro or other forms of public transportation.
5. Access to water

Access to water is not really a thing in Spain. Many Spaniards do not drink large amounts of water. This was a culture shock to me when I arrived to the country. In Spain you walk everywhere, so you would think that many would consume water.  There is “water is beer,” they say. There are no water fountains in schools,  everyone drinks tap water from the bathroom sinks. In addition, most restaurants will make you purchase water and not offer it for free.

6. Refrigeration

In Spain the majority of foods are not refrigerated after cooking them. The ingredients prior to preparing foods are refrigerated. After the food has been cooked and when food is left over it is typically left on the counter at room temperature for a number of days and consumed thereafter.

7. Colloquial Phrases

There area number of colloquial phrases involving food and below are just a few of them I could remember.

It is used when one person waits for a long time. The person arrives at the place very late, but arrives nontheless.

Used to tell a person that they are stupid, hard to understand things.

It is used to say that something is very easy.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and have learned some of the differences of the country. If you have any questions or comments about my posts, leave a comment below. Is there is something your interested in knowing more about…tell me.

Until next time….



Primer blog sobre mi experiencia en España

University of Deusto
University of Deusto

Hello everyone! I had intentions of starting my blog process a few weeks ago. In between school, work, teaching, and other adventures it fell to the way side.

I have been here in the Basque Country for a month. It is crazy how time flies – see that’s why I have forgotten to write about my experience.

I started classes at a premium private university in the Basque Country, University of Deusto, three weeks ago.  The university has two different programs for international students – the  Language and Culture Program, as well as, the Business Spanish and International Relations Program. I am in the Business Spanish program. I am taking a course overload compared to the amount of credit hours taken at my home university. I am taking six classes, worth 20 credits in total. I thought I came to Spain to explore and slow down my life style. I guess not, haha.

I am taking a set of four Spanish language classes, which includes a class on Composition, Conversation, Grammar, and Business in Spain. Additionally, I am taking a class on Spanish Society, Culture and Economics in the Basque Country.  I have an internship here as well with an autonomous government. You may be asking yourself “What the heck is an autonomous government?” The Basque Country is divided into 17 autonomous governments that each have their own laws. I work for 1 of the 17 autonomous governments. It is very similar to a county or city government. As if I wasn’t already busy enough, I tutor two local families’ teenagers in English.

I am still finding the appropriate balance between all my obligations and free time. Check back in with me soon to see how I am progressing.

I thought I could never make an 8AM class until I got to Spain. My friends back home can say that I never got up until 9:30. My typical schedule during the school week, which is Monday-Thursday consists of waking up around 6 in the morning, eating breakfast, and then starting my day all cylinders burning. Usually, every morning I grab a piece of fruit and some yogurt. Running to the metro for my 30 minute commute to school, I finish breakfast. Like I said earlier I am very occupied with my time here. If you add up all the hours of my obligations here, I am “working” 32 hours in four days.

You’re probably like “How do you find time to complete extracurricular activities,” I am glad to say that my weekends are free just like most Spaniards here in Spain. Every weekend I go out with a local family to spectacular sites in Bilbao and get a first hand immersion into the culture. Additionally, I hike twice a month with a campus group (Galdueziñak), literally translated into a group that climbs mountains. My first outing with the group was to a festival on top of Sierra de Sasiburu a windy, wet, green mountain. We didn’t make it to the summit because the conditions were too bad. But, at least I got a photograph.

Sierra de Sasiburu
Sierra de Sasiburu

I feel like my culture shock has taken awhile to overcome. It has been very difficult for me to communicate and adjust to the lifestyle.  I would say the biggest culture shock and biggest source of frustration that I have experienced is struggling to understand and be understood. Having taken Spanish for more years that I can count, I came here expecting that I would be able to easily communicate with people and say what I wanted to say. However, language is so much more complicated here, especially coming from the United States.

Over the past month I have been able to experience Bilbao, surrounding communities, and other countries. For example, I went to Donostia / San Sebastián on a whim for (San Sebastián Day) and that was pretty amazing. I forgot my ear plugs though! Participants take over the streets and drum for 24 hours straight.


Monte Urgull


I was also able to hike to a breathtaking church on Gaztelugatxe. The hike is called San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in the Basque Country. Take yourself back to primary school real quick and say the tongue-twister “San Juan de Gaztelugatxe” three times fast.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Last week I went to the southern part of France with about fifty students in my program. We were greeted with the wonderful weather of rain, hail, and sun. In Europe, especially during winter in France, the weather is often unpredictable.

France Adventures
France Adventures

Until next time ask questions and wait patiently until your favorite redhead can reach a computer.

Thanks for reading