Thinking about new lifestyles in Valencia, Spain

During the past month of my stay in Spain I was able to observe many new things that I hadn’t thought about before. There are several interesting particularities about everyday Spanish life that are completely new to me. If I had to focus on the most striking one then it would be surely be on their lifestyle. They have extremely different times for their daily activities, at least compared to other cultures that I know.

I first learnt about this when I read some book guides, before coming to Valencia.

Then, in the first week of September, a few

workshops for exchange students took place. There, we got to know more about the culture, people and language of the city. Thanks to the host person it became clear to us how everyday habits of Spanish people look like. A normal day looks like this: people get up later than me and my new friends from Central and North Europe we would expect, drink their coffee and go to work. Then at about 9.30 to 10 am it is common to grab some snacks or sweets and drink coffee, beer or wine. At 12 o’clock it is time for bocadillo – a special type of a sandwich.  Between 2 pm and 5 pm it is siesta time, when the shops are closed and people go home to eat lunch together with their families. At that time parents take their children home from school for a lunch break. This is a very important element of a day – eating lunch together means much more than just eating. It is a kind of social event where everybody enjoys being with their family and sharing experiences from work and school. Then at about 7 pm it is time to drink horchata – a traditional drink made of tiger nuts – and grab some snacks. Almost every evening people meet with their friends to eat dinner at cafes, bars or cervecerias (pubs). They begin at about 10 to 11 pm and spend the next few hours together. So it is normal here to eat big dishes at about midnight, or even drink coffees that late at night (I saw it!).

This kind of social behaviour is also expressed in nightlife and party style. People usually do not plan or organise in advance where to go out. They meet at one’s home for botellon – just like before the party – at about 11-12 pm, drink together and then decide spontaneously where to go to party. As it is a big city that offers many and varied  parties every day, it is no problem to find a good club. Because of the fact that nobody is in a hurry, clubs fill up only at about 2 to 3 am. Then the party lasts till the early morning hours. There is even a famous saying: “ En España, volver antes de las 3 no es salir. Es ir a cenar” which means: “Coming back home before 3 am in Spain is not even going out, it is going to eat a dinner.”

Students are not affected by this daily routine, since lectures often begin just before midday or even in the afternoon, and last until the evening, which can be also shocking for people from other cultures. For me it was difficult in the first weeks to get used to the Spanish “timetable”. When I wanted to order a menu of the day just short after midday, it turned out that the chef hadn’t prepared it yet, because it was very early for local people. I also got some astonished looks because my eating habits didn’t correspond with the local ones. After some time, however,  I was able to start living according to the new plan of my studies and to adapt my eating times. I have to say that it was a crucial change in my everyday life that I hadn’t thought about before. In both countries where I used to live – Poland and Switzerland – it is rather normal to go early to bed and pay attention to a healthy lifestyle, which I also prefer. I mean that not paying much attention to a sufficient quantity of sleep as well as eating junk food and drinking that much alcohol at local bars shortly before going to sleep are not necessarily indications of a healthy lifestyle.

To conclude- there is no place for stress here. Everything has its own time and has to be enjoyed properly. It results in having a good mood most of the time and not letting small things to distract. It is just a matter of time and goodwill to get used to prevailing habits concerning eating and outgoing.

As stated before I was able to adapt to a new ‘timetable’ after a few weeks. Now I find it even better than my old habits, because I have more time in the morning and can go home during a lunch time. To be honest I think it would be challenging to adapt when my new semester in Bern starts with lectures in the early morning.
I have to say that I really enjoy this different social life here. It became normal to meet others a couple of times a week for a lunch or a flat party, where it was again possible to get to know fellow students- friends of my friends. For me it means a change of a previous attitude toward both outgoing and openness in relations with international peers. I really like that new lifestyle and cannot imagine not to continue hanging out with friends or meeting new interesting people once I have returned to Bern.

Alicja Marszalek

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