What Has Shocked Me Most About Living in Spain

Sofia Ciprian, CSSH'21

Hi! I'm a third year political science and communications major with a women, gender and sexuality studies minor. My combination of majors/minor calls for a lot of writing, which shows just how much I love it. This semester I am studying in Seville, Spain and hope to fully immerse myself in the culture and share all the stories online here.

To give you the short version: Spain was not at all what I expected, but somehow was even better than anything I could have imagined.


Before leaving for Spain I don’t think I had processed too much about what I imagined life would be like. My thoughts mostly just consisted of complete terror at the thought of being away from all my friends and family for such a long period of time. I figured it would be a pretty easy adjustment since I come from a Latinx background and already spoke Spanish before arriving. For the most part, it was not too hard to adjust to life in Spain, but it definitely shocked me how different the lifestyle is in Sevilla, Spain compared to the East Coast of the United States.


Before arriving to Spain, a few words that came to mind when I imagined life there were “siesta” (which for those who don’t know “siesta” means an afternoon nap), “flamenco” and the Mediterranean climate. I wasn’t sure how relevant all of this would be to real Spanish culture but would soon realize that they were all pretty spot on, at least when it comes to Southern Spain. Spanish lifestyle revolves everything around the weather. In the summer when it is unbearably hot, siestas are a crucial part of the day. This means that at lunch time, everyone comes home to eat together, cool down, then take a nap or relax, and then head back to work. That means that stores also close for an hour or two in the afternoon and absolutely everything, including grocery stores are closed on Sundays. This was something completely foreign to me. On top of that, we eat our meals based on when it is coolest outside. In the summer, we eat dinner at around 10pm because it has cooled down by then and now that the temperature has cooled down, we eat dinner at around 8:30 or 9pm. This was something I was completely unfamiliar with. It made complete sense, it was just something I had not experienced prior and I had to get used to noting how everything revolved around the weather that day. The siesta is a big part of the culture because it plays a part in the laid-back nature most Spaniards have. It has nothing to do with laziness or lack of effort, but instead is a part of the emphasis Spaniards put on spending time with friends and enjoying the day. Life in Spain does not feel like everything is one big rush to check things off your to-do list. People will ask you to go get a drink or tapas in the middle of day, regardless of what you have going on. People walk in so much slower in the streets, as if they are not constantly running late and rushing to get somewhere. That was a huge thing I had to get used to because at home I am always walking with a purpose, trying to get from one place to another in the least amount of time possible. People here really seem to live by the idea of “work hard, play hard” because they all work just as hard as anyone else, but also are not willing to give up their post-work tapas outing or stroll around Alameda because that is an integral part of living in Spain. People here really do enjoy their city as much as possible.


Being fully immersed in this kind of culture and lifestyle really shocked me and threw me for a loop. I’m used to the fast pace and always on the go energy of Boston and that is what I thrived in. So, I was surprised to see that I could also thrive in a city as different as Sevilla. I have learned to embrace the “go with the flow” energy and I don’t think I’ve ever felt less stressed in my life. I still miss the chaotic energy of living in a big city where there is constantly so much going on, but I have come to appreciate the lifestyle in Spain so much during my time here. Not to mention, despite the laid-back nature of Sevilla, there is still always something going on. Maybe it’s not the same kind of stuff as a city like Boston, given that sometimes our nights in Sevilla consist of big religious parades that fill the streets, but still full of activity, nonetheless. Sevilla truly has been the example of a city that perfectly balances calmness, but also community, energy and activity. I don’t think I expected the Sevilla lifestyle to feel this different from what I am used to, but I am even more shocked to see how much I have learned to fit in and embrace this lifestyle.


At the end of the day, I think it really comes down to “don’t knock it ‘til you try it” because I went into this experience having no idea what to expect and then ended up being happily surprised to see that I could fit in so well in a city so different from anything I was used to. That being said, Sevilla is such an amazing place to live this probably is not that much of a surprise to anyone. Regardless of all the changes and differences that shocked me about life in Spain, I am so glad that I have gotten to be a part of this world, even if only for a few months.