• Spain's news in English
Six things the USA could learn from Spain
Photo: Patrick McDonald/Flickr

Six things the USA could learn from Spain

The Local · 11 Feb 2016, 10:42

Published: 11 Feb 2016 10:42 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Spain has opened me up to a lot of new experiences. A I began to fit into Spanish culture, I realized that Spain does things a bit differently from the U.S. In fact, there are a lot of things that I feel that the United States could actually learn from Spain and even adopt. That’s right. You’ve cheated me out of good soda for far too long, U.S. (See #4)  

Smaller is better 

Photo: candi/Flickr 

After picking me up from the airport, my dangerous taxi driver sped through the Barcelona streets. As she drove, I couldn’t help but marvel at the tiny streets with lanes the sizes of alleys. Their cabs look kind of weird, I thought as she piled our luggage into the car. Naturally... the cars are small, too.

That’s not the only thing that is smaller in Spain. They don’t give you a meal that can feed three people here either. My delicious Spanish meals came in smaller portions which, although a little unfortunate because I enjoyed the food, was a lot better for my figure.

Clean and reliable metro

Photo: VivirElTren.es/Flickr 

I’d marvel at how clean the subway is in Barcelona. I’d walk down the stairs and never have to hold my nose and brace myself for the stench of pee and garbage like I had sometimes done when I took the metro in D.C. (and always when I visited New York.)

What's  more - the trains came at such regular intervals! The wait time conveniently showed on an LED display. Not to mention, the wait time was accurate. (*cough* D.C.)

I’d have to wait three minutes max in the morning for a train in Barcelona. Compare that to 15 minute waits on D.C. metro mornings and if we’re talking late nights, you might as well go and plop down on a bench because you were looking at at least a 30 minute wait.

However, it did take away a bit of fun because I couldn’t laugh at grown people running to catch a train.

Greeting with a kiss 

Photo: Olivia Mathieson

I was a bit taken aback when the father of my Spanish host family greeted me with a kiss on each cheek. It was my first Spanish greeting. They really do that here? I thought.

I don’t know what I thought the Spaniards did. I knew countries outside of the U.S. didn’t all do the American hug or the formal and impersonal firm handshake, but I was still somewhat shocked.

I remembered how when my cousins and I would play make believe years ago, we’d become movie stars with towels on our heads for hair and pencils for cigars. We’d kiss the "fans" on each cheek and say, "Hello, darling." Cheek kisses were something only the social elite did.

But this was their "hug." It was personal and warm like the kiss you give after you tuck your child into bed. I admit I didn’t like the intimacy of it so I only fake-kissed each cheek.

Real soda 

Photo: Audrey/Flickr 

This was one of my most beloved things about Spain. It wasn’t the tortilla, bread, sangria, or paella I longed for when I landed back in the U.S. It was the soda.

Now, I’m not even a soda person. I might indulge in soda a few times a month. But the soda, man. My friend warned me before I left because he’d studied abroad in Spain before, but I couldn’t quite fathom its deliciousness.

The orange soda tastes like freshly-squeezed oranges in each sip! It made me wonder what fake stuff they were putting in our soda back in the U.S. I was quite mad to have missed out on real soda for so long.

My friend and I cried as we shared one last bottle in the airport before our plane back home boarded. We had to savour it one. last. time.

Green everything

Photo: Richie Diesterheft/Flickr 

"What are these huge bins I see on every block?" I asked my tour guide as she showed us around the city of Barcelona. There were these big, colour-coded recycling bins on every other street.

Spain is big on recycling. A lot of us try, but most Americans don’t really care about being green or environmentally friendly. In Spain, non-recyclers are in the minority. The government readily facilitates it with all of those bins on the curbs. It’d be hard not to recycle.

The European Union in general makes a greater effort to recycle and has a goal to recycle 50 percent of its waste by 2020.

Do better, U.S.A.

Appreciation for music and movies from other cultures 

Photo: Joe Diaz/Flickr

"Most of us watch American movies because they’re the best," the father of my host family said (in Spanish of course.) I agree, because I’m American. It made me think about how well American movies do internationally. Movies must be Spanish dubbed or have subtitles, I thought.

But I still don’t understand why American music is so popular.

Story continues below…

One afternoon I came home early to the mother of my host family playing some American song on her laptop as she cooked lunch at two in the afternoon. She saw the confusion on my face. "I like the melodies," she said (again, in Spanish.)

Whenever they’d play the radio in the house, all I’d hear was American music. Go to the pizza place down the street and they’re playing American and British music videos. The clubs played nothing but American songs. I finally got tired and told my host family that I didn’t come all the way from America to Spain to hear American music. Where is the Spanish music?

They eventually sent me to a concert to see a Spanish band so I was happy. 

My short time in Spain prompted me to wonder why a lot of this stuff wasn’t happening in the U.S.A. I guess that’s why I’m going back to Spain soon.


Layla A. Reaves is a freelance writer and editor whose current goal is to fill up the pages in her passport and become fluent in Spanish and Mandarin along the way. You can check out her personal blog here

This post originally appeared on Las Morenas de España, an online community that is redefining the black experience in Spain. The brand seeks to provide information, inspiration and encouragement for people of colour living here or interested in moving to the country. 

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.es)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Spain worries about tourism future
Photo: Josep Lago / AFP file picture

After basking in its best tourist summer season in 15 years, Spain now sees dark clouds on the horizon as popular destinations reach saturation point and holidaymakers are more thrifty, industry experts say.

Spain’s Socialists lift veto on conservatives
The Socialists have decided to lift their veto on the minority conservative government or not. Photo: Gerard Julien/ AFP

Spain's embattled Socialists on Sunday voted to lift a long-standing veto that has prevented the conservatives from forming a minority government, in what should finally end a ten-month political impasse.

Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spain's parliament approves deficit reduction measures
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Spanish lawmakers approved on Thursday measures to reduce the public deficit and keep it under the target agreed with the European Union.

'Cubism and War' show opens at Barcelona Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace. Photo: MP

Barcelona's Picasso Museum unveiled an exhibition on "Cubism and War" on Thursday depicting how one of the most influential artistic styles of the 20th century survived the First World War.

Why this bionic limb pioneer doesn't believe in disability
Hugh Herr has been award Spain's top science prize. Photo: FPA

The Local speaks to Hugh Herr on winning Spain's top science prize and how being an amputee doesn't make him disabled.

Dine in the buff at Spain's first nudist restaurant
A buffet of organic food will be served on "human tables". Photo: Innato / Facebook

Spain's first naked dining experience is to arrive on the island of Tenerife following the success of a similar venture in London.

Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Photo: AFP

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday cancelled a bullfighting ban in Catalonia in what is likely to exacerbate tensions between Madrid and the separatist region, and between animal activists and fans of the tradition.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
jobs available