by Sunny Zhang | Emory Salamanca Program, Spring 2015
Originally written on March 1, 2016
Never expect lunch before 2pm or dinner before 9pm
Spaniards have very different meal times than the rest of the world. They usually have breakfast early in the morning. At noon, they take a break from work or study, go to the street, and grab some tapas with friends. Official lunch starts around 3pm, then they have another tapa break around 5 or 6pm, dinner won’t start until 9pm. The best thing about this is that you will never wake up in the middle of the night feeling hungry. Furthermore, tapas are one of the best inventions of Spain! They make life full of joy and happiness!
Stores won’t be open 24/7
Unlike the major cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, traditional Spanish towns enjoy a slow pace of life. Most of the stores open from 9am to 2pm, and then 5pm to 8pm, and close entirely on Sundays. Afternoons are saved for siestas (naps)! Banks and governments are even worse. Every day they close at 2pm and never come back, which does cause problems for students because class usually ends at 2pm as well.
Eating at a restaurant takes way longer than you think
Because of the slow pace of life, eating in Spain is more about lots of talking with friends, relaxation, and wine-sipping, rather than just feeding yourself. When you go to a restaurant, it may take a while for you to get attention from the waiters, decide what you want (because there are so many good options), get your drink, get your dishes, finish your dishes and have your check (yeah, that takes a while too). So maybe go to Burger King when you are really in a hurry (they basically cover the entire continent), but any other time, enjoy your meal. 🙂
Make full use of your European student card
Most of the museums are free for students, and there are a ton of great ones in Spain. Train tickets have student discounts. Bars have special deals. The university has lots of great activities. Local outdoor concerts are amazing. Search for everything that interests you and enjoy the most of it!
Pack light but get a large backpack
Trust me, you will never wear all the stuff you packed, and Spain has amazing clothing stores and shoe stores everywhere in the city. They are fashionable and have a reasonable price! On the other hand, studying abroad in Europe usually means lots of short trips, so a good backpack would be a huge help!