Culture shock and how to deal with it

What is culture shock?

Travelling is all about new experiences, and discovering the culture of a different country is part of the adventure. However, when you visit a new country it can be difficult to adjust to these cultural differences, whether you´re a few hours from home, or on the other side of the world! Read on to learn about some of the ways you might experience culture shock and how you can overcome it in order to enjoy your stay in Spain!

Food

This is one of the most common forms of culture shock and something that most people experience. Even if you´re keen to try new foods, you will probably miss some things from home and be surprised by what you can´t find in the supermarket. In cities, you will be able to find many ingredients in international food stores, but if you are headed for a more rural location it might be wise to pack anything that you can´t live without in your suitcase.

Spanish food
Language

This might seem obvious, but finding your feet can be challenging if you´re not already proficient in the language when you arrive in a foreign country. Again, in a big city like Madrid you are sure to find someone who speaks your language, but you may still feel isolated for the first few weeks. The only way to really overcome this barrier is to immerse yourself in the language, through classes or language exchanges, but it could be helpful to try and find a network of people who speak your language while you settle in.

Spanish language
Pace of life

This is something which foreigners in Spain tend to struggle with, and it can take a long time to adapt to a new schedule. In Spain, mealtimes tend to be later and longer, which can result in very long days. You may also notice this “no rush” attitude in the relaxed approach to punctuality and the way people take their time in shops and the like. If you come from a fast-paced culture where being on time means arriving early, this can be a difficult adjustment to make. Of course, if you are eating at home, you can choose your mealtimes, but there´s really no way round it if you go to a restaurant, as you are restricted by their hours of service.

Pace of life
Greetings and interactions

The way people greet each other varies greatly between cultures; what is considered normal in one country can be interpreted as an insult in another! In Spain, it is common to greet someone you know with a kiss on each cheek, which might seem very intimate if you are used to a handshake. This is true of interactions in general in Spain – people tend to stand close and it is entirely normal to touch the person you are talking to, on the arm for example. At first this might make you feel uncomfortable, but with time you should get used to this way of communicating.

Greetings in Spanish

Hopefully these tips have given you an idea of the challenges you might face when you arrive in a new country, and how you can deal with them, but the most important thing to remember is that it´s completely normal to feel a little lost at first, this doesn´t mean you won´t soon feel at home!

Top 5: Harry

1. ‘Late Motiv’

What better way to immerse yourself in Spanish culture than going to a late night talk show!? ´Late Motiv´ is one of the most popular shows in Spain, and its host Andreu Buenafuente is now a household name. It´s true, there are quite a few cultural references, and the guests definitely don´t hold back on how fast they talk, but you´ll no doubt have a really fun evening whilst learning a lot about the Spanish sense of humor! To be on the show, all you have to do is apply through the show´s website, and if you´re lucky enough to get tickets, they´re completely free!

¿Qué mejor manera de sumergirse en la cultura española que asistir a un programa de entrevistas? ´Late Motiv´ es una de los programas más populares en España, cuyo presentador Andreu Buenafuente ha llegado a ser un personaje súper conocido. Es verdad que hay bastantes referencias culturales, y los entrevistados suelen hablar a toda velocidad, pero no hay duda de que lo pasarás bien ¡mientras aprendiendo mucho del humor español! Para asistir al programa, solo tienes que solicitar una plaza a través del sitio web del programa, y si consigues obtener entradas, ¡son gratis!

Late Motiv

2. Museo Sorolla

Before coming to Madrid, I didn´t know much about Joaquín Sorolla, nor had I seen many of his paintings, so I was pleasantly surprised when I went to the museum that is dedicated to his artwork (which is held in the beautiful house he used to live in!). Sorolla was largely known as an impressionist painter, and his works, I think, are very appealing and easy on the eye. Tickets are only €3, but if you´re a student, you can get in for free.

Antes de venir a Madrid, no conocía mucho de Joaquín Sorolla, ni tampoco había visto muchas de sus pinturas. Por lo tanto, me puse sorprendido cuando visité por primera vez el museo que le está dedicado (¡que se sitúa en su antigua casa bonita!). Sorolla era conocido principalmente como pintor impresionista, y sus obras, en mi opinión, son muy atrayentes y llamativas. Las entradas cuestan solo 3€, pero si eres estudiante, puedes entrar sin pagar.       

Sorolla Museum

3. La Catedral de Justo Gallego

This is perhaps Madrid´s gem that is still waiting to be discovered! In 1961, a monk named Justo Gallego was expelled from his monastery for contracting tuberculosis. Convinced that he was still called to serve God, he set about constructing his very own cathedral from scratch, without any architectural qualifications. All these years later, Justo hasn´t given up on his mission, and at the age of 95 he continues to get up early each morning to carry on building. The result of his efforts is this enormous edifice that, although looking very much unfinished, still retains an astonishing beauty, made even more impressive by that fact that Justo has done pretty much all of the work himself! To get to the cathedral, you can catch a short bus ride towards Mejorada del Campo, which is on the outskirts of Madrid.

¡A lo mejor esto es la joya de Madrid que queda sin descubrir! En 1961, el monje Justo Gallego fue expulsado de su monasterio por haber caído enfermo. Con la certeza de su vocación de servir a Dios, empañó la construcción desde cero de su propia catedral, sin ningunas calificaciones arquitectónicas. Después de todos estos años, Justo no ha abandonado su objetivo, y con 94 años sigue levantándose temprano cada mañana para continuar a construir. El resultado de sus esfuerzas es este edificio enorme que, aunque parece incompleto, aun retiene una belleza extraordinaria, una hazaña aún más impresionante si tenemos en cuenta que Justo ha hecho la mayoría del trabajo solo. Para llegar a la catedral, puedes coger un autobús de 30 minutos hacia Mejorada del Campo, que está en las afueras de Madrid.

Catedral de Justo Gallego

4. La Caja Mágica

If you´re as a big a tennis fan as I am then there are two events that you definitely can´t miss! The Mutua Madrid Open takes place every year in May, whilst for the foreseeable future the Davis Cup (´the world cup of tennis´) will be played in Madrid every November as well. These two tournaments are highly regarded fixtures on the tennis tour, thus attracting some of the biggest players from all around the world. What´s more, ´madrileños´ really know how to provide a great atmosphere (especially when a Spaniard is playing!) so you´re bound to enjoy yourself no matter what.

Si eres tan apasionado de tenis como yo, ¡hay dos eventos que no puedes perder! El Mutua Madrid Open tiene lugar cada año en mayo, mientras por ahora la Copa Davis (el mundial de tenis) se disputa en Madrid cada noviembre. Estos dos torneos son muy apreciados, así atraen algunos de los mejores jugadores de todo el mundo. Es más, los madrileños saben cómo proporcionar un ambiente electrizante (¡sobre todo cuando juegue un español!), por eso  sin duda lo vas a pasar bien.

Caja Mágica

5. MISKI RESTOBAR

This café/bar is one of my favourite places to chill and/or work in Madrid. They do awesome brunches, great coffee, all the while providing a really cozy setting just to spend a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of the city. What´s better, as it opened only fairly recently, it doesn´t become as crowded as some other, more well-known establishments.

Este café/bar es uno de mis lugares favoritos para descansar y/o trabajar en Madrid. Hacen un ´brunch´ increíble, el café fenomenal, todo el tiempo proporcionando un ambiente acogedor para matar el tiempo lejos del ajetreo de la ciudad. Aún mejor, dada su apertura bastante reciente, no se hace tan concurrido como otros establecimientos más conocidos.

Miski Restobar

Do you know the history behind some of Madrid´s most famous monuments?

Puerta de Alcalá

The Puerta de Alcalá, located in the middle of Plaza de la Independencia, next to the Retiro Park, is one of Madrid´s most iconic landmarks. You´ve surely walked past it before, but do you know how it got there?

The arch, completed in 1778, was commissioned by Carlos III to replace another from the 16th century. You might think that the king would have chosen a Spanish architect to design such an important monument, but the architect, Francesco Sabatini, was actually Italian. 

Although it has similarities with the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, it predates both of them and was in fact the first triumphal arch to be built after the fall of the Roman Empire.

The origin of the arch´s name is simple – it was located on the route to Alcalá de Henares – however not everything about the monument is so easily explained. You might have noticed that the two sides of the arch are decorated differently, but have you ever wondered why? Some people say that Sabatini sent the king several designs, and that he was unable to choose between them. Others claim that the king accidentally approved both of them, and as the architect didn´t dare point out his mistake, he decided to combine the two!

Puerta del Sol

The Puerta del Sol is arguably the most touristic place in Madrid, and even if you aren´t keen on the crowds, it´s almost impossible to visit the city without passing through here at least once!

To understand the origins of this landmark, you have to go all the way back to the 16th century, when difficult conditions caused many people to turn against the monarchy. For this reason, even though Madrid was not the capital of Spain at this time, the city was fortified with a huge wall to protect the royal guard. 

Whereas nowadays Sol is emblematic of the centre of Madrid, it did not even originally form part of the city but was one of the access gates in the city walls.

There are various explanations for the name “Puerta del Sol”; according to some sources, an image of the sun king was painted on the gate, while others attribute the name to the fact that the gate faced East, towards the rising sun.

The plaza as we know it today was originally meant to be a large rectangle, however eventually a semicircular design was decided upon which would preserve the buildings on the straight side, including the Casa de Correos.

Plaza Mayor

The Plaza Mayor is one of the most popular places to visit in Madrid, but there is much more to this destination than meets the eye. Known as Plaza del Arrabal in the 15th century, when it hosted the city´s main market, the square has had various names since 1812 (Plaza de la Constitución, Plaza Real, Plaza de la República), and has only been known as Plaza Mayor since the end of the Civil War.  

The Plaza Mayor has a more dramatic history than you might expect, having survived three big fires. The first, in 1631, engulfed the Casa de la Carnicería, lasting three days, destroying over fifty buildings, and causing three deaths.

In 1672, a lantern caught fire in the portico of the Casa de la Panadería, leaving only the cellar and the ground floor standing. The restoration of the building took sixteen months, and today you can see a plaque in the building which commemorates this event.

The third and most destructive of the fires took place in 1790. It began in the Portal de Paños, and destroyed a third of the square´s perimeter. The fire lasted nine days; as there was not enough water in the surrounding wells, the only way to put it out was to pull down surrounding buildings to block the progress of the flames!

Now you know the secret history of three of Madrid´s most famous monuments, you´ll never look at them in the same way again!

Top 5: Ilaria

Hi, I’m Ilaria and I spent 2 months here in Madrid, doing an internship with Inhispania!

During my stay, I was always thinking about how to enjoy my period here in Madrid, so now I’m going to give you some tips!

1. Flamenco

First of all, I think it could be a great idea to see a Flamenco show.

This dance is a professionalised art-form based on the various folkloric music traditions of southern Spain in the autonomous community of Andalusia. In a wider sense, the term refers to a variety of Spanish musical styles developed as early as the 19th century and now has become popular all over the world.

I saw a Flamenco show in the Cardamomo theatre, it was an amazing experience because dancers are very professional and it seems like the music is coursing through their veins. If I have to be truthful, these shows are a little bit expensive but they are worth the price.

Flamenco show

2. Estadio Santiago Bernabéu

As you may know, Madrid has many football teams, but the most important are Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid.

The Santiago Bernabéu is a football stadium in Madrid, and it has been the home stadium of Real Madrid since its completion in 1947.

The Santiago Bernabéu is one of the world’s most famous football venues and has hosted lots of finals.

So, if you are going to spend a week end here in Madrid, why not watch a Spanish football game?

Of course it’s better to check if the tickets are available in advance, so you don´t get a nasty surprise!

Santiago Bernabeu Stadium

3. Parque del Retiro

Madrid is full of beautiful places, but the one I like most is the Retiro Park. I like going there to relax, read a book or have a picnic. The Retiro Park is a place where you can escape from all the traffic and overcrowded streets, where you can just lay down in the grass and open your mind to imagination.

This park is open every day, from April to September 06.00-00.00 h and from October to March 06.00-22.00 h.

So, if you need a shelter where to chill out, the Retiro Park could be a great place!

Retiro Park

4. La Casa de mi Vecina

If you miss home and need something to cheer you up, I think that “La casa de mi vecina” it’s the perfect place for you! This pastry offers the best home-made cakes in Madrid, and it’s also near the school! What more could you want? J

It is open every day from 10 to 22, and it’s located near the Tribunal metro station.

It’s a tiny place, but offers cupcakes, biscuits, slice of cakes and for the greediest, also a whole cake.

La Casa de mi vecina

5. Hotel Riu

Since June, here in Madrid we have another super hotel with a wide rooftop where to take a beer or cocktail with a friend, it is called the Hotel RIU.

What makes this hotel special is the glass bridge, where it seems to fly.

The position is perfect too, because you can watch the sunset on Gran Vía street.

Before 6 pm you have to pay only 5€ to go up, while if you want to go up later you have to pay 10€, but the good thing is that for both tickets (5 or 10€) you will receive a voucher of 5€ that you can use for a drink on the top.

So, at the end, is not so expensive and the view is literally stunning.

I really recommend this rooftop, because the price for the drinks is worth the view and you can mostly find a table where to enjoy your time!

Hotel Riu

But, if I seriously have to choose the best place here, in Madrid, of course should be this school, because it gave me so much and I will never forget all the people I met!

All the people, who work here, are amaizing!

It was a pleasure meeting them 🙂

Get social in Madrid!

So you have just arrived in Madrid and don´t know anybody…time to get socializing!

Here at Inhispania we organise activities throughout the week with our students, but getting involved in the community is also a great way to not only practice your new Spanish skills, but also to make friends and enjoy your time in a new country. We´ve hunted out some unique ideas from around the city to keep yourself busy outside the classroom…

Intercambios

Spanish language exchange in Madrid.
Madrid Babel´s language exchange at Larios Café (10 minutes’ walk from Inhispania) runs every Wednesday and Sunday from 8pm onwards. Come with the school on every Wednesday to practice your Spanish with people from around the world. Although daunting at first, there are reps to help introduce you, and if you need a bit of Dutch courage, head over to the bar for a sangria and free tapas!

Let´s MeetUp

Best ways to learn Spanish in Madrid.
Stop scrolling through Instagram and put your phone to good use by downloading the free application ´MeetUp´. With hundreds of free group activities and filters to choose the date, area, or interest, this relatively unknown app is a lifesaver. From dance classes to theatre groups, you will never be at a loose end.

Feeling Sporty?

How to be social larning Spanish in Madrid.
Make the most of the weather by hiring a BiciMad bike to ride around El Retiro, found at numerous stations round Madrid. There are often sponsored runs such as El Corro de Mujeres last week. As Madrid will be hosting the Champions League final and the Tennis Madrid Open, there´s no better time to get involved in the sports available.

Volunteer Work

If you´re feeling brave, you could offer services in your native language to be an au-pair for families who want to learn a language. These opportunities can be voluntary or paid, but either way they are fantastic to meet new people. Adverts on the ErasmusMadrid website are two hours a week, so fit perfectly around your lessons.

Hidden Exhibitions

Art exhibitions in Madrid.If you look hard enough, Madrid hosts several free cultural activities, e.g. at Palacio Cibeles, Casa del Libro, Casa Encendida and Fundación Telefónica. From interactive art to specialist talks, there are plenty of opportunities to learn outside the classroom. If you find any news fun activities, let us know so we can spread to word to all our students!