First week in Sevilla: The good, the bad and the oranges

After being confined to a bus with un-filtered human gases for over two hours, the immediate scent of citrus was a gracious gift to my nostrils as we staggered off the bus. I’m not exaggerating when I say orange trees are everywhere here. They line the streets so tightly that their leaves and branches create a shaded path down the sidewalks.

The proximity of the trees and the shade they produce is actually very purposeful. Sevilla has a combination of a continental and Mediterranean climate. Meaning the summers here can easily get to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, yet winters are fairly mild.

Being from Arizona originally, I can attest that at those temperatures you either just don’t go outside, or you find any and all shade you can while cursing yourself for living in Satan’s butthole. Thankfully I wont be here for those kind of temperatures. There’s a reason I don’t live in Arizona anymore…

I want to clarify that I had been in Spain for about a week prior to arriving in Sevilla as I mentioned in my previous post What I packed for Sevilla. In high school I had visited the northern provinces in Spain as well, so I knew what to expect as a international traveler and Spanish visitor. Nevertheless, I had never been to southern Spain. Just as in the southern United States, there are cultural differences between the north, east and west.

Fashion

The Sevillan’s are known to themselves and Spaniards alike as being pijo (posh). This basically means the people here always seem to be put together, looking highly attractive and making me constantly question my fashion abilities.

In addition, EVERYBODY struts a pair of clunky platform shoes whether they’re sneakers, sandals, booties, combat boots etc. Name a style, Spain probably has its platform equivalent.

For all of you athliesure loving Americans out there, I’m about to burst your yoga bubble. Nobody goes out in their lululemon yoga pants, sweatshirt and Birkenstock’s’. It’s just not a thing here, they like to leave athletic wear in the gym.

Now don’t think I’m against leggings and Birks. I live for that shit and they will probably be one of the first things I put on once I’m back in the states. However, even I could point out the other American on the metro based solely on the fact that she was the ONLY one wearing Birkenstock’s. Just a tip if you don’t want to immediately scream tourist.

Black. People like to wear black with color here and there. Yet, just like you can’t group the entire U.S. into the athliesure category the same goes for Spain. While black is the majority of the clothing I see here in Sevilla there are definitely people who are covered in color and it changes region to region.

Food/Meals

Lunch at a restaurant called Mateo’s right across from the Cathedral in Sevilla. A salad with oranges, cod and a dill dressing with some vinaigrette. Sangria is the drink

Getting used to the meal times here was, and is still to be honest, the hardest thing for me to get used to. Besides maybe New York City, their lunch and dinner times differ greatly to the states. Breakfast is pretty similar in that its whenever you wake up, but lunch isn’t tell 2:00-2:30 pm. Some tapas restaurants won’t even open up for the day until then.

Now, Spain has this beautiful thing called a siesta from about 2:00-4:00 pm where shops close and the streets get quiet for lunch. During these two hours people are allowed to go home, make/eat lunch with their families or friends, take a nap and then head back off to work. A NAP!

I will come home from class around 3:00 pm sometimes and my entire home-stay family will be asleep on the couch, snoring away. Including Kira the french bulldog, but she prefers my bed instead of the couch.

The food here is relatively simple yet delicious. They don’t use a lot of spices in their dishes and tend to let the food do the talking by bringing out their natural flavors. Spicy food is almost non-existent which hurts me a bit since I love a good tongue tingle.

With such a heavy presence of olive groves in the south, olive oil is a big ingredient in much of Spain’s cooking from sauces, dressings to just as a pan coating.

Jamón ibérica is another food that you’ll see on every street, characterized by hanging cured pork legs in the shop windows. It’s a type of cured ham that shares it’s appearance with prosciutto and is found in bocadillos, tapas and most meals. My host mom uses some form of ham almost every meal…a little turkey didn’t hurt anyone.

When going out to restaurants for a meal, splitting a check isn’t really a thing and some places won’t even do it. Spaniards each chip in cash to the group and then use that money to pay for the check. If they have extra they may go get more tapas afterward. The number of people in a group differs as well. In the U.S going out with six or seven people is quite normal. Here most restaurants are too small to have seating for such a big group. So four people is the biggest you typically see.

Personal Space

In Spain people tend to be more touchy and physical than in the states but that doesn’t usually indicate anything sexual. It’s quite normal among Spaniards. To greet someone you kiss from cheek to cheek, shaking hands is not a thing. I almost ended up kissing my host-mom’s sister because I went to greet here but a basket of oranges started falling off the counter so I went to catch them and moved my face in the process… there was no touching of lips!

People will also tend to stand closer to you when speaking or simply waiting to cross a street. I was always found myself gripping my purse a little tighter when that happened the first week, which isn’t bad to do, but I learned that’s just how it is.

University/Class

No one wears sweats or comfy clothes to class since it is seen as disrespectful to the professor unlike in the states. Also eating in class is strictly forbidden and enforced. Once again it’s a respect thing towards the professor showing you are focused on the material being presented. Drinks like water and coffee are allowed so it hasn’t been too hard to get rid of having a snack in class.

Most Spaniards don’t live on campus but instead commute from home. This is due to the fact that most students don’t travel far for a University and often attend ones closer to home. People also tend to live with their parents much longer than in the states. My host-brother is 28 and still lives in the apartment.

The Gym

Americans are gym rats compared to Spaniards. With how much walking people do here, they aren’t in the gym as much. I do miss the gyms back home though. No one seems to want to put the weight plates back from the benches and racks, which makes me think someone is using them.

Everything is unbelievably disorganized. There will be one 10kg barbell next to one 20kg barbell and its pair will be on the opposite end. Is it really so hard to just put it back where you got it. Same goes for weight plates. On one notch there will be a 15kg, 10kg and 2.5kg. I know you know that doesn’t go there you asshole.

There are no sanitation sprays so I have to bring a mandatory towel to lay over the benches. It’s just a nuisance and another thing I have to lug around on the metro. Not to mention the machines and equipment are almost all broken in some way or on their last leg.

Conclusion

There are things I expected to be different and things that surprised me as well. With that first week over I can confidently say that I am getting used to my schedule and the way things flow here. My metro journeys have become effortless and I’m becoming quite the public transportation gal. I know where the shopping streets are as well as good tapas bars and clubs around the city. I look forward to what the rest of the semester has in store!

Go visit my last post What I packed for Sevilla for some packing tips and keep a look out for my post about my most recent visit to London, England!

Caitlin Clement

I am a current undergraduate student studying journalism and Spanish. When I was a little girl, some of my best memories came from helping my family in the kitchen. I loved trying new foods and dabbling with different cooking techniques; baking becoming a favorite. I eventually combined this love of food with travel after going on my first international trip in high school. There was no turning back after that: I was hooked. Food, for me, was a representation of different cultures. A plate of food in Spain is different to that of England. It lets you look into the typography, the traditions, and the community of the place you're visiting. This blog is my attempt at following the trail of bread crumbs life leaves out for us. Not being afraid to take the bate even if it’s out of my comfort zone and maybe inspire a few of you to do the same.

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