What Does Culture Mean? Lessons From Spain

My own culture

This is a very well- accepted phrase, but at times we really forget to pay attention to how much excitement, change and challenges help us grow.  Some days we just live with an accepted monotony of conditioned behaviors and activities that we call a ´normal day´.  But this kind of day-to-day normalcy is not born into us.

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As a traveler I have seen many different kinds of lifestyles that have taught me just how many choices we have in the world.  Living life as a fairly typical American for my first 21 years, I have come to an understanding of American culture (which does exist, believe it or not!)  But living an American lifestyle in China or Spain just wouldn’t be possible without being thoroughly and constantly frustrated.  So we learn to adapt.

We may be resistant at first, but with time and flexibility we learn to try out the mores of a different society ´´for fun´´.    We try local foods, shop for traditional clothes, make friends of different cultures and try activities common to the natives.  As we open our minds, we realize different is not always scary, and we start to crave new experiences.  We may even learn to fully envelop ourselves into another society.

My latest cultural experience was teaching English in Spain.  I had a piso (Spanish for flat) in a small town in Andalucia.  I had a café solo and tostada con aceite (bread with olive oil) for breakfast, ate lunch around 2 or 3 and finished the day with tapas and wine at a local bar.  The siesta didn’t fit my work schedule, but on some weekends would be an added activity. I spoke in my broken Spanish, learned to not expect any stores to be open from 2-6, Saturday afternoons or Sunday, wasn’t  surprised by religious processions, walked very slowly and greeted everyone with a kiss on both cheeks.

And with adaption comes a realization of personal preference that is not always in keeping with the traditions of our home land.  The lifestyle of the new home is not always perfect either.  We become a person free from accepted norms, challenging each culture with questions, and coming up with our own idea of what a ´normal´ day should be like.  We accumulate new experiences in order to compare with what we already know.  This personal growth is central to the process of creating our own culture; one that is unique to our interests, needs and passions.

While in Spain there were parts of my life that were very ´´unSpanish´´.   I didn’t eat dairy, eggs or meat….yes even ham was not a part of my diet.  I spent my weekends traveling with new friends, never ate meals with my family and spoke English with my roommate.  There were parts of the culture I would never be able to fully understand, but I was still able to appreciate it for what it taught me about family, work and life.

So.  What other foods can I try?  What other sport can I try?  What other lifestyle can I learn from?  Each time I try something new I am able to commit further to what I know is my own culture.

Thank you for learning with me,

Amanda Deering

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2018-09-13T22:55:43+00:00

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