Cultural differences ES -NL

Please note that these are just observations, it is not meant in a negative way, only to point out differences.

The university is very different from mine, it confirms the difference in punctuality between the Dutch and Spanish culture . In the beginning I was afraid I would be too late when my class started at 9.00 and I would go enter at 9.05. Now, I take my time, buy some coffee, todo tranquilo, and enter the class around 9.15. However,  I am still early and I just chill and wait. When the class starts, students enter now and then around 9.30. In terms of deadlines the rule is different as well. In some classes you can submit your work later and there will be 10% of your grade deducted every day.

Teachers talk a lot. We have classes of 3 hours and in some cases the teachers talk most of the time. They talk a lot about not that much. A lot of examples. A lot of jokes. No interaction. When no one listens they keep talking. Sometimes a lecture of 3 hours could be done in 30 minutes. We Dutchies are used to having a full speed lecture in 45 minutes, so it took me some time to adjust to it and not get distracted.

I have stayed in Spain many times and what always fascinates me is the cleaning culture. It seems to be very important that the hallway is perfectly clean including the entrance, the glass and the stairs at the outside (the part other people see). Inside the houses there will be cleaned with a broom and a mop, I have never understood how a house will become clean this way and because of my dust allergy I am no too happy with this custom.

Spanish people love their benches. Despite the weather, there are always Spanish people chilling on benches outside everywhere. Especially the elderly love it. It is busy around the benches, sometimes they are full and I see people looking out for other benches. People sit down and do nothing. Nothing. No phone, no music, they just sit down and watch. We can learn from this! What I really enjoy is that people, again despite the weather, start entering the terraces around 11.00 or 12.00 and start drinking beer. Then at 15.00 or 16.00 they order a full 3 course lunch including more drinks. For both the benches and terraces, it does not matter if they are next to an extremely busy and noisy road.

The majority of the doctors do not speak English. I had to visit a doctor because of an eye infection and I decided to go to the doctor at my university. Although my Spanish level is quite high, a medical visit requires a different and specific vocab so it would be just easier in English. Much later I got the papers and I had to go to the pharmacy to pick up the medicine. The lady handed me the 2 types of medicine without any explanation and she replied in Catalan. I had the feeling she did not want to speak in Spanish although she knew I did not speak Catalan (Note this is an assumption). I asked her very politely in Spanish to explain the use of the medicine because I did not understand the paper in Catalan and I was not in my own country and I didn’t know what to do. Then, she changed her attitude and explained me the medicine in Spanish.

The Spanish-Catalan topic is a sensitive one. It seems to be slightly comparable with the Dutch and Frisian language and culture. However, a lot of horrible stuff happened in the past so I am starting to understand it is more than just a pride thing. People want to speak their own language. However, I have also learned that some teachers don’t know Spanish well enough to feel confident enough to do their class in Spanish.

Every female will be greeted with guapa or carino a lot, although this does not mean the person actually seems to think you are good looking or cute. I have seem people being greeted with guapa of which I am quite sure they are not cute. It is still good for your self- esteem though 🙂


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