Being in Barcelona for a month now, I admit to having made just a few minor cultural faux pas; but no, I haven’t embarrassed myself to the point of purchasing a ticket home. This is not my first time in Spain or Barcelona, and being an “interculturalist”, I wasn’t too worried, but regardless, I don’t need to be that “obvious American tourist.”
Generally, I just go with the flow and watch everyone else (thanks, señora, who I stalked in the supermercado last night trying to figure out how to weigh and print the price sticker for my tomatoes!), but some incidents or observations have been significant enough to share with the world.
If you’re going out on a Saturday afternoon, make sure you still look fly.
As Americans often run errands post-gym, I made this grandiose mistake after taking my 1st yoga class (in Spanish!) on a Saturday. In my yoga pants, bright pink shirt, bright green sneakers and headband, I ventured through Plaza Catalunya, down Porta d’Angel (one of the nicer shopping streets here) and through Las Ramblas to La Boqueria for some fresh vegetables. I have never felt so out of place. Everyone else was in fashionable outfits, cute boots, fitted jackets, hair and makeup did. And then me, so typical American. I should have been cast out of the city like a Real Madrid fan.
For reference: Saturday and Sunday afternoons are not a time to do your random errands in workout gear. Bring a change of clothes or fake it in leggings and boots and the yoga top under a regular jacket.
Food shopping, like a boss.
My first experience at the supermercado, the cashier gave me the most judgmental look when I said I needed plastic bags. They actually charge 5 centimos per bag here, so, uh, bring your own, or buy the ecological bags and one of those wheely-baskets (when you get here, you’ll know). Actually, I love this idea! In the US, sometimes there is a discount if you bring your own bag, but incentive to do so by charging? Muy bien, Spain, muy bien. Also be prepared to bag your own food. I’m fine with this except for that horribly awkward pressure felt when someone is in line behind me and the cashier starts rolling their items down the ramp, while I’m desperately scrambling to fit everything in to the two bags I brought and their seven-year old daughter is staring at me.
Here’s hoping for the high score in Grocery-Items-Tetris by the end of March.
Cereal and … what??
As the Token American in the office, I often get seriously teased for coming into work and taking out my yogurt, granola bar and orange, putting them on the table and proceeding to eat breakfast at the office instead of at home. I don’t know what time my coworkers wake up, but I do not have time to casually eat breakfast and get here at 9am. When I asked what my Spanish colleagues eat for breakfast, I learned two new incredible methods that I need to try and potentially spread back home: 1) eating cereal in hot chocolate (heat milk, add chocolate powder, add cereal), and 2) eating cereal in café con leche (to “optimize time and resources, as described by Elena, my Spanish coworker).
I’m happy to be your guinea pig and spread the knowledge, but keep these experiences in mind when you come to Barcelona. Buena suerte!
By Amy Salk, Former Barcelona SAE Staff Member