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!

Fun ways to learn Spanish

There are many easy and interactive ways to make language learning a fun process. Below are some different ways to help you learn Spanish without having to sit at a desk!

Study Spanish in Madrid

1. Spotify and Spanish podcasts

Spotify doesn’t just have to be a tool for listening to your favorite music artists. Why not listen to podcasts in Spanish? Put the playlist on whilst you are walking to meet a friend or whilst you are cleaning your room. Repetition is key when learning a language, listening to a podcast everyday will improve your listening skills and expose you to more vocabulary and show you grammar structures being used.

I would personally recommend the Español Automatico podcast on Spotify with Karo Matrinez. Her ethos is to learn a language is full immersion; her podcasts discuss typically Spanish phrases and also discuss tricky grammar concepts like the subjunctive case. She also creates transcripts of the podcasts so students also read what is being said.

2. Quizlet

This website and app is ideal for learning new vocabulary. You can create your own study sets using the vocab your Inhispania teachers give you in class, or you can use sets created by other Spanish students. The app helps you to learn new words using a variety of settings: mini-tests, games or flashcards. You can also use it for phrases that you want to learn, like Spanish idioms and colloquialisms. What´s more is that the app is totally free!

3. Keep a diary

Keeping a diary every day is incredibly useful. Not only do you learn new vocabulary through writing about your daily activities, you can also track your progress. Sometimes it can be frustrating when you feel like you are not making any improving, keeping a diary will remind you that you are getting better- slowly but surely! As time goes by, you will find it easier to describe your day, you will be able write more and will make fewer errors. After a couple of months you will look back at your first diary entry and laugh at the little mistakes you used to make.

4. Intercambios! (Language exchange)

Try and find a Spaniard, or someone who is fluent in Spanish to trade speaking with. Meet up and speak half of your time in Spanish and the other half in your mother tongue. This is mutually beneficial. You can both learn how to speak a new language conversationally and you can make a new friend! It is also a good way to get to know Madrid, a local will know the best places to eat and drink. They can show you what it is really like to be a Madrileño!

At Inhispania, every Wednesday at 8pm one of our weekly activities is to visit an Intercambio at Larios Café. Come along and meet new people and practice your Spanish!

We also have an advertisement board in the school for Intercambios, why not make your own advertisement?

5. Netflix

Netflix, as everyone knows it is one of the most popular ways to relax at home. Why not watch Spanish dramas? There are plenty to choose from my personal favourite is Las Chicas del Cable. Other examples include La Casa de Las Flores and La Casa de Papel (the list goes on and on). Everyone learns differently, I am a visual learner so for me having Spanish subtitles with Spanish audio is the best way for me to learn.

If you are a beginner why not try watching a children’s programme in Spanish?

This way you do not need to put on subtitles in your mother tongue (which normally turns into only reading the words on the screen and not actually hearing what is being said at all).

Or watch a series that you know really well (for me it is Friends), but watch it in Spanish with Spanish subtitles, you will know roughly what is being said because it is a familiar programme to you, only this time you will hear how these things are spoken in Spanish. Game of Thrones (Juego de Tronos) is translated into Spanish, as is Friends. See what other series you can find that have a Spanish equivalent!

How to choose the perfect Spanish language school for you!

Best Spanish school in Madrid

Being a student who studies Spanish, I thought long and hard about selecting the best possible Spanish language school for me. Whilst staying in Spain for 4 months, I wanted to be able to speak at least some basic Spanish. So I began researching online. There were so many schools to choose from, which at first, was slightly overwhelming. Below, I have noted down what factors to consider when choosing your school and then explained how Inhispania ended up being my school of choice.

1.     What do you look for in a school?

Before you start looking for a school, you have to know exactly what you are looking for. There is more to learning a language than simply Spanish lessons, it is also an experience. Make a list and write down what you think is important for a school to have.

For example:

– Are the teachers native speakers?

– Are there extra activities available?

– Are classes available for a variety of levels?

– Are class hours flexible?

– What kind of materials are used in classes?

These may look like very small matters, but could actually be a big help once you start looking. In the end, it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference. At Inhispania, Spanish is taught by Spaniards, and there are classes for all levels. The classes on offer can fit with any work/study schedule and activities are offered every week from Tuesday to Friday. On some Saturdays there are also trips to nearby cities such as Segovia and Toledo.

2.     Location

Location is hugely important; if you are looking outside of the center then easily accessible public transport is essential. For me, somewhere in the heart of Madrid was vital. When you can be a part of the city life and can enjoy its liveliness, the experience you have is all the more immersive and authentic. Whether that means enjoying the “Menu del día” after classes in a local restaurant, grabbing a coffee between lessons or even walking to Sol for some shopping after classes. Inhispania couldn’t be located in a better part of the city.

3.     Reviews

Nowadays, online reviews are a fantastic source of information about places, restaurants, activities and yes, that’s right – Spanish language schools! By reading reviews, you have access to honest opinions written by students (just like you and I).

4.     The student-teacher relationship is KEY!

Learning a language can be frustrating and takes a lot of patience. A teacher who can support students, correct mistakes, answer questions and offer encouragement makes the learning process a lot easier. For me it is very important to establish a good connection with a teacher. Asking questions seems less daunting and making mistakes isn’t as much of an issue. A classroom in which the students and the teacher are enjoying themselves and have a good relationship is a much more effective environment to learn in!

After going on the internet and looking up reviews about Inhispania (as previously suggested), a recurring comment was that the teachers at the school were really friendly and outgoing. After attending classes, I found out for myself that this was indeed true. The teachers were always so helpful and always tried to make you feel at ease. I felt confident and comfortable talking in classes and I was not worried about asking questions if I didn´t understand something nor embarrassed about making mistakes.

5.     Support offered

Does the school cater to your needs? Perhaps this is your first time away from home studying in another country without friends or family; will you get support? Does the school offer accommodation with other students?

Or maybe you are a mature student seeking a totally different cultural experience, what can the school offer you?

Inhispania, for me, lived up to all of my hopes and expectations. I received great exposure to Spanish culture through attending the activities, my confidence in speaking improved thanks to the hard work and dedication of my teacher and the wonderful classroom and learning environment. It was an experience that will stay with me whilst I continue on my journey learning Spanish. I can say with confidence that I will eagerly return to the school in the future!

Learning Spanish: Tips From The Experts

So you want to learn Spanish?

Good work, you´re already:

✓ in Madrid – the home and heart of the Spanish language

✓ studying at the best Spanish language school there is

But what more can you be doing to get the most out of your Spanish? Below, staff at Inhispania give their best tips for language learning in the capital… Continue reading “Learning Spanish: Tips From The Experts”