There’s no such thing as a perfect country. And even though Spain has incredible food, beaches, nightlife and culture, it also has corruption, a crisis, low wages and more. However, there are some things that my country should learn from my adopted country (and vice-versa!) that if combined, would make the end result pretty close to a perfect place. Since I’ve already complained about the things I wish Spain had, back when I was a newbie expat, I’ll leave that out and stick to just the things I wish the U.S.A. would learn from Spain:
Saying “hello” when entering a shop. Here in Spain, when you enter a shop, you’re expected to greet the shopkeeper and/or assistants. Back home, that expectation isn’t there and usually the employee’s will be
smothering greeting you first asking you if you need any help (no).
The drawn-out goodbyes. When you go to social gathering in Spain, you’re expected to personally greet and say goodbye to each and every person there; regardless of your relationship with them. Obviously this has its limits, and isn’t meant for your late-night trips to the discoteca. Think dinner with extended family, get-togethers with groups of friends, small, intimate parties, etc. I used to HATE doing this, 1) Because I’m from the land of hugs and handshakes and giving los dos besos to someone I just met used to be weird. 2) I used to get nervous that’d I’d confuse which side of a person’s face to kiss first (left, then right) and accidentally plant one on their lips!
The art of the café con leche. America, please take note. A Seattleite like myself denouncing Starbuck’s may be a bit of a sacrilege, but it’s really not that amazing. A good café con leche will trump your Grande Americano non-fat 1 pump caramel sh*t any day.
Breakfast breaks. Lots of companies allow employees a 10-15 minute breakfast break each morning at around 11 o’clock to perk up over aforementioned café con leche or gobble down a slice or tortilla or two. It’s just enough to tide you over until the big meal of the day and it makes the day go by more quickly.
Abundant vacation days. Last year, CNN polled countries on their vacation days, and Spain topped the list with 30 days (France, Denmark Brazil and Germany also enjoy 30 days.) Back home, we’re lucky if we get 2 weeks.
The fervent love of fútbol. Ok, so we Americans have the love of the ‘other’ football going for us, but it would be nice if the emerging MLS was a bit more exciting than what it currently is. We’ll see how the state of soccer is in a few years, I have high hopes that it will continue growing each year!
A less individualistic society. I love the drive that many of my fellow country-men have, but the States can feel like a lonely place sometimes because we are all so damn independent. This means more focus on ourselves, and less of an importance placed on family and community–whereas in Spain, it’s the complete opposite. You’ll see families out in the bars with kids in tow, grandmas and grandpas sitting out on the ubiquitous benches chatting, and groups of friends (who’ve been in the same group of friends since childhood) meeting over cañas at what seems like all times of the day–and night.
Local businesses are abundant. Even though the crisis is hitting small businesses hard, it’s nice to see that so many of them still exist and haven’t disappeared due to big business. I love being able to go to the local carnicería, panadería, pescadería and frutería to do my shopping and support local business.
Tapas/Pintxos Culture. In my perfect world, the tapas/pintxos culture would exist everywhere. Here, home entertaining isn’t nearly as common as it is in the States, so the local bars function, in a way, as a living room of sorts. I love going out with friends to grab small bites and sample glasses of wine. I think it’s the heart of Spanish culture, something that from north to south to east to west is basically the same experience–finding something all of the country has in common can be difficult!
What do you think your country could learn from Spain?