Month: January 2015

5 Mini Cultural Differences

Who doesn’t love cultural differences?! I do! I’ve been living and working in Spain for almost 5 months now; and while there are obviously some huge cultural differences between the states and Madrid, there are also some little differences that I think are pretty funny.

1. They always use gridline notebooks

Notebook

You know those notebooks you only used for AP Calculus, yeah they use those for everything here. Another weird school supply I’ve noticed is that people don’t use mechanical pencils they use the wooden ones, but these pencils don’t have erasers attached to the end.

2. The ground level of a building is 0.

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If you push “1” you will go to the floor we usually refer to as “2.” I feel like their way makes a little more sense, seeing as how the ground floor is the 0 floor, and the first floor is the first floor up. Come on, America.

3. No coffee creamer.  

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Say goodbye to your beloved Sugar Free Hazelnut coffee creamer. Coffee con leche is the only way to dilute your favorite brew here.

4. Wine is cheaper than water.

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If you go to a restaurant, or if you’re at a bar don’t expect to get a free glass of water. Un vaso de agua will usually cost you around 2 euros, whereas a copa de vino will only cost 1.50 euros. No complaints over here.

5. Spanish people eat 5 meals

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Yes, the meals are smaller, but I’m referring to them as meals because, unlike snacking in American, these tiny meals happen around the same time every day.

  • The first meal is breakfast and they usually have a pastry or piece of bread with coffee,
  • The second meal is around 11 where people have another coffee with a small sandwich, a piece of tortilla, or a pastry
  • Around 2:30 they eat lunch which is the biggest meal of the day,
  • The fourth meal is around 5pm and I’ve noticed people eating mainly small sandwiches, salads, fruits, or yogurt
  • The last meal is dinner (a light meal:soup, salad, sandwich, etc) around 9:30-10pm.
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Adventure Time: Lisbon, Portugal

sunnySelfie Lisbon, Portugal: aka the hillier version of Spain. On a whim, Logan and I decided to hit up Spain’s neighbor to the East for our last couple of days of winter break. Logan and I have realized we are actually pretty laid back travelers, so we didn’t go to Portugal with any to-do items. As always, our main objectives were trying the local food and touring the city by foot.

Day 1: DomeChurchX

We were in Portugal for 2 full days, and in that time we saw a lot of the city. With our tourist map in hand, we set off to see some of the mega old buildings that litter the streets of Lisbon. Above is a picture of the Church of Santa Engracia, they were doing construction inside so we weren’t able to go in. Across the street was a super beautiful park, full of wild geese, swans, and ducks.

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Lisbon still uses ancient street cars, so Logan and I used it to see the other side of the city because we didn’t want to walk up and down the city mountains (seriously, walking around Lisbon feels like continuously walking up a giant ass mountain). P.S. the street cars are actually pretty expensive, 1 ride costs 3 euros.

PlazalsX Swater

We ended up walking up and down the hills of Lisbon because we got off our street car too early, and saw the old convent, the Santa Justa Lift (an excellent view of the city), and the main plaza. We eventually made our way to the Rua Augusta Arch which happens to be right by the water. Look! Sand!

Day 2:  SLbalcony monestaryX CourtyardX

We started our second day in Lisbon bright and early! Our first stop was one of the most famous sights in Lisbon: Jeronimos Monastery. The courtyard was BEAUTIFUL, it was definitely worth the 5 euro entrance fee.

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After the courtyard, we walked the short distance to the water. This monument was built to honor and celebrate the achievements of all the Portuguese explorers. How neat is that? Pretty neat.

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Our last tourist stop was the Belem Tower. It originally served as a watchtower in the early 1500s. We decided not to go in it because we were really hungry and wanted food (priorities, am I right?).

FOOOOOOD! foodX

One of my favorite things about traveling is that it gives you an excuse to eat whatever you want (just trying to experience the culture….). Portugal’s food was on point. The typical Portuguese meal consists of meat, rice, and fries with a bottle of wine *yum.* We also tried the typical pastry: Pasteis de Belem (second picture) *also yummy*. Overall, Portuguese food was delicious and inexpensive – my favorite combination.

Another country down, many more to go!

Adventure Time: Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Hello all! Its time for part two of our Christmas break vacation. If you haven’t read it yet, check out Shannon’s post about Cologne, Germany.

Shannon was by far the most excited about the Christmas Markets of Germany, but I was looking forward to going to Amsterdam the most. We didn’t have a ton of specific places to visit for this city, so we spent a lot of our time exploring and wandering the many canals of Amsterdam.

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On our first day our only real priority was seeing the Anne Frank house (this is the canal outside the Frank museum). There is an entire museum now that takes you through Otto’s old warehouse where he ran his business and the secret annex where the Franks spent their time in hiding. I read the diary when I was in middle school, so it was really cool to see the actual diary and to be in the building where Anne wrote it. All of the furniture that used to be there is gone, but you can still see the swinging bookcase that was used to hide the secret entrance and the pictures Anne glued to her wall as decoration. Overall the museum was super interesting and worth every minute we had to wait in line. (P.S. you aren’t allowed to take pics).

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After the Anne Frank house, we walked to a quaint little dutch cafe with a view of one of the many canals for lunch. Luckily EVERYONE in Amsterdam speaks nearly perfect English, so ordering food or asking questions was never a problem. We just walked in to places and ordered in English as if it were the US. When we finished eating, we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the city and wandering into stores and tourist shops.

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During our wanderings, we stumbled across this little stroopwafel shop. Stroopwafels are very thin waffles filled with a caramel sauce. This place was especially delicious because they made the waffles to order right in front of you so they were nice and warm.

 

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Later on in the evening we went out for dinner at a cool little Dutch pub and then checked out one of Amsterdam’s finest museums: the Sex Museum. In reality it was a super cheesy museum that looks like something out of a bad 80’s movie. You could say it wasn’t what we expected. We then ended the evening by walking through the Red Light District. Although it seems like it would be a shady place, the Red Light District is actually full of tourists and feels very mainstream. It’s another place where we weren’t allowed to take pictures, we even saw a lady of the night throw water on a tourist who took her pic.

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Our last half day in the city before our flight was pretty uneventful because it was Christmas Day. Most of the shops and restaurants were closed, so there wasn’t much to do except walk around and see more of the city.

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