There are four major differences between living style in Madrid versus the United States, and those styles reflect cultural differences in the entire country of Spain. The differences are workplace culture, food, party culture, and the importance of learning more than one language.
The workplace culture in Spain has a high score in Geert Hofstede’s power distance. This means that there are understood and accepted inequalities among differing cultures. Spain’s society is hierarchical, and people who are living in the country understand and accept their places in society. Inequalities create accepted subordination, and powers are generally centralized. Power distance is much lower in the United States, and although there is inherent inequalities between individuals based on ability and social statuses, Americans do not accept inequality and society aims to treat all people as equal. They are said to be equal in the eyes of the law, but these inequalities continue to exist despite society’s efforts. In workplace culture, this translates to transparency among managers and staff in America as peers, while in Spain, employees expect to be told what to do and do not expect to be fully filled in on the details. Spain is also a collectivist society, which means people collect in groups and take care of each other. In the United States, it is very individualistic, and people are expected to take care of themselves and their family. In the workplace, this means Americans should be self-reliant and self-motivated. In Spain is more team oriented, and teamwork occurs quite naturally among groups (“Geert Hofstede”). The hustle and bustle of a 40-hour workweek in America doesn’t always occur in Spain. They take their siestas for a couple hours in the afternoon, sometimes close early, and take time off. During this time, stores may be closed as opposed to having alternate employees available.
The food culture in Spain is also very different than in the United States, where Americans generally eat three meals a day with a possible snack in the afternoon. In Madrid, one may eat a light breakfast early, a moderate breakfast again in the late morning, a large lunch, a snack in the evening, and then dinner very late at night. Eating schedules are adhered to strictly, and life tends to revolve around food. In Spain, they also tend to eat seasonal food rather than having all food choices available year round. (Alventosa).
There is a party culture in both the United States and Spain, but the United States has an older drinking age, which changes things and adds a social stigma to the activity. In Spain, young people go to clubs, as do adults. In America, child protective services may be called if you brought your baby to a drinking event. In Spain, one may see women drinking while pushing strollers with babies tagging along (Alventosa). The stigma surrounding alcohol is not demonized like it can be in the United States.
Lastly, the importance of learning more than one language is important in Spain. While Americans often learn only one language and expect others to know English, Spaniards may speak two or three different languages and are happy to converse in a language different from their own (Alventosa).
The differences between living in Madrid and living in the United States are vast, but they exist, and one moving to the country will be more successful if they are prepared for these differences in advance. Workplace cultures are very different, and one will do better if they expect their hierarchical position in society. The food and party culture are possible items to look forward to although they are different from the United States. Lastly, the speaking of many languages is a benefit to those moving to Spain, as Spaniards may be able to speak your language while you are learning theirs.
- Alventosa, Chelsea. “7 Surprising Cultural Difference between the U.S. and Spain.” Andalucía Bound, 16 Sept. 2013, https://andaluciabound.com/2013/09/16/7-surprising-differences-us-spain/. Accessed 2 Dec. 2016.
- “Geert Hofstede.” ITIM International, n.d., https://geert-hofstede.com/geert-hofstede.html. Accessed 2 Dec. 2016.