When I read that I needed to interview a Spanish native for this week I knew right away whom to ask. Toni Raja is my Professor for both my Case of Catalonia and Mediterranean Culture class. I knew that he would be an interesting person to interview because he is very funny but also has no boundaries. Oftentimes he comes off as offensive or inappropriate. Regardless, he isn’t afraid to speak his mind and I feel like I’ve learned a lot more about Spanish culture because of that. I met with Toni in the little café that is attached to the Autonomous University of Barcelona. One of the things that he is very vocal about in class is the failure of Spanish government. I usually do not enjoy talking about politics, but his comparison of what we think is bad with Trump to the state of Spain was very interesting. The amount of corruption and hostility that occurs on a daily basis here in Spain is something that I would never have known about because it is kept so quiet. In class the other day Toni made a joke about Americans and guns. I asked him to expand on that a bit during our conversation. He said that the stereotype is that all Americans have guns and that is how we “deal with our problems.” That was hard for me to hear because it is such a sad way to see our country.
When it came to other differences between Spain and the States, Toni said that the way we value the elderly is very different. He joked about how the elderly slow down the streets because they are literally everywhere. Spain has a rather high average life expectancy, so the elderly play an important role in everyday life. In Spain, the elderly are highly respected in comparison to the States. The way Toni referred to the way we just throw our elders in nursing homes and act as if they are a burden made me really sad. I know that my family respects and cares for my grandparents a great deal, but unfortunately this is not the case everywhere in the states. Next, Toni actually asked me a question. He asked how I felt about the party culture of Spain. I was honest in saying that it is fun, but can be overwhelming. Toni explained that this part of Catalonian culture specifically is very important, but is increasingly causing problems. Due to Spain’s location, it can act as a bridge between Africa, all of America, and Europe. This has allowed a great deal of drugs to easily be shipped into the country, which is something that is of great concern to Toni. Next we discussed religion in Spain. Toni explained that Spain is predominantly Christian. However, the numbers of people who attend church regularly are dropping, while numbers of people with no religion or alternative religion are growing. I think this is something that American people are experiencing as well. The younger generations are much less religious than the older generations, and there are numbers to prove it. When I asked for a few more general differences between Spain and the States, Toni said that Spaniards tend to be more relaxed. Toni has said a few times in class “a third of your life is spent sleeping, another third working. There’s one third free and you get to choose what you do with it.” They enjoy siesta (a nap during the day), as well as quality time with friends and family. Finally, we discussed materialism. He claims that Spaniards are not nearly as materialistic as Americans. They would rather spend their money on food or cultural activities than things. I personally think this is a great way to live life. To me, experiences will always be better than things. These are just a few of the many things I discussed with Toni. I really enjoyed this experience because I was able to gain a greater appreciation for both Spanish culture and my own host culture. Although we are different in many ways, we both have unique assets. “A first-time consideration of morality across cultures can be unsettling, even shocking (pg 47)” is definitely relevant after this discussion. I was not comfortable asking Toni for a photograph as this is the first time I had a full blown conversation with him alone.
I am not actively involved with are sports teams or intermural sports. My best friend Carly is the captain of our Women’s Basketball Team, but that’s as close as I have gotten. I could have actually played softball at Quinnipiac, but I passed up the opportunity due to my acceptance into the Physician Assistant Program. I don’t have negative feelings towards sports, but I haven’t gotten involved due to the intensity of my program. Now that I see the way Spaniards live, I want to make more time for fun activities. Intramural sports would be a great way to relieve stress while having fun with friends. A picture I chose to describe this experience is one of the Barcelonetta beach. It is where the locals go to relax on a daily basis. I hope to become more relaxed while I’m here and live more like a Spaniard.
Hess, J. Daniel, and J. Daniel Hess. Studying abroad/learning abroad: an abridged edition of The whole world guide to culture learning. Yarmouth, Me., USA: Intercultural Press, 1997. Print.