Hello everybody! Welcome back to my blog. The purpose of this blog is to help people find their way to a healthier lifestyle. I mostly talk about exercise and its science, which is my area of expertise, but I also talk about nutrition, sleeping habits and many other subjects related to wellbeing and healthy lifestyle.
Today I’m feeling a little homesick, and I am going to share some of the differences between the Spanish and Australian lifestyles. I am telling you what follows from my own personal experience, and in a humorous tone, so don’t take it personally!
Perhaps one of the biggest differences between Australia and Spain is the night life. In Australia, parties start at 6 in the afternoon (or earlier). You have some drinks maybe at someone’s house or maybe at the bar, and then you dance in the club or disco for a while. Most likely you’ll be in bed at 12pm tops.
In Spain, at 6 pm you are still having a “siesta” to be on fire for the night. You normally meet up at 9-10 pm to have dinner and some drinks. If you’re lucky to have a friend with a free house, it’ll happen at theirs, otherwise you’ll have to figure out a place. It’s definitely a young person problem. This is how the “botellón” was born. When you grow older and your friends start getting apartments, you don’t need to worry about it anymore, but while you don’t have this freedom, you’ll have to risk a fine at some park. At about 2 am, you head to the disco and dance and probably keep drinking (in this way, Spanish and Australian have heaps in common) until 6 am, when you go home? Nah, let’s get some breakfast (probably churros if it’s New Year’s Eve).
Which one is better? Personally, I prefer to be in bed at 12 pm and have a little bit of a normal day the day after, but it’s true that the most epic things happen after 2 am (and the ones some people most regret).
But Spanish night life is not just going crazy at a random party. In Australia, once you finish your work journey, you go home, grab some dinner and watch the telly. You don’t think of going out after a hard day’s work. Maybe you go to the gym, but nothing that would break your routine. In Spain, life starts when one finishes work. Not only do we go to the gym and do other routinely things, but we also meet up with friends for dinner (because in Spain, restaurants close waaaay later than they do in Australia). I will always remember how I used to get invited to dinner and beers at 10pm after closing the store in Spain, while in Australia at 10 pm the streets are dead.
Which one do I prefer? Well, both. I like the idea of going back home to my husband, having some dinner and unwinding my mind in my PJ’s, but I do miss that after work social activity every now and again.
In line with the previous point, socialising in Spain and in Australia is very different. In Spain, you see your friends on an almost daily basis. In Australia you’re lucky if you can catch up with someone every month. It’s probably due to an idea of individualisation (which I discuss in the last point).
In Spain, we do things with other people. Sometimes they look funny at you if you’re doing certain things by yourself, such us going shopping or having a coffee. It’s the culture of sharing time. If you have time for a coffee, you should share it with someone else. In Australia, it’s quite normal to grab some breakfast by yourself at the cafe before going to work. In Spain you don’t do that unless you’re meeting up with someone. I have never EVER gone to a restaurant or cafe by myself in Spain, whereas I’ve done it a thousand times in Australia. In Australia, I’ve seen people going to the cinema by themselves. In Spain, you go to the cinema with your date, friends or family, but you never think of going by yourself, they’d look at you like ‘aw, poor thing, she’s lonely’.
Although I love sharing time with my beloveds, I prefer the freedom I feel in Australia. Many times I’ve felt like having a coffee and listen to a podcast, and I don’t feel observed. It feels great indeed.
One thing that I’ve observed in Australia is the use of the phone in social situations. It’s really very rare to see someone scrolling through their phones in Spain when they’re with someone else. Perhaps we quickly reply to an important text, but just if we are in a group, so the other person doesn’t feel left out. Some other times my friends and I use our phones to show something or look up some information, but that’s it. In Australia, however, every time I go to a food court I see lots of people having lunch with other people and scrolling down on Facebook or Instagram. Personally, I think this is a lack of respect for the people you’re with. As a strong defender of mindfulness, you’ll never see me using my phone in a social context unless it’s really important or I want to show something!
- Eating habits
Okay, let’s be honest, there is no better food in the world than Spanish food (completely unbiased opinion). We can’t deny that Spain is famous for its gastronomy. In my first post about Spain and Australian lifestyles I talk more deeply about this, check it out if you missed it!
Although it’s been changing in the past years, the influence of take aways in Spain is not as big as it is in Australia. In fact, I can count with one hand the times I’ve ordered food online in Spain, whereas since I moved to Australia, I have ordered online on a monthly (and sometimes weekly) basis. Australia has a lot of different cuisines from many countries, which makes it a very diverse country. But let’s be honest, not everybody can master every single cuisine! That is one of the benefits to being able to order such a variety of food online.
In Spain our dishes are passed from generation to generation, our parents teach us how to cook, they were told by their parents, and so on. Our pantries are rich and there’s always something available so you don’t need to order online. This is probably because of the memory of the Civil War (1936-1939). People starved during and after the conflict, and our grandparents learnt that they needed to be supplied, transferring this habit to their children. It’s amazing how this might influence some people’s mindset.
We do eat out from time to time, but just for special occasions or to celebrate something. On a daily basis, we cook our food, and we cook extra so we can have leftovers another day.
Which one is the best? I personally think that cooking your own food is healthier than ordering online or going out, and when you do go out to celebrate a birthday, a promotion, a reencounter, it’s a bit more special.
- Familiar relationships
Mums and dads love their children the same way everywhere in the world, but the relationships are a little bit different. Let me give you an example. My husband, born and raised in Australia, always says ‘Thank you’ to his mum for everything she does for him, which is great, it’s what it’s meant to be like. If I say thank you to my mum or dad for cooking, doing the laundry or inviting for dinner she would say something like ‘Are you silly? Why do you thank me!’. I don’t think I have ever said thank you to my parents or siblings for passing me the water at the table. As long as we don’t step over the line, it’s fine to lift your voice a little bit, be more direct in our speaking and even call your brother or sister “dickhead” with no hard feelings. They know we’re joking. My husband used to think that I was too loud at the table, until he shared the table with my siblings.
By the way, Spanish families are huge, and we have good relationship with pretty much almost all of them.
The way we communicate with our close family and friends is indeed very different. It’s not ideal if I am very honest, and I will take my polite speaking skills to my country because it shows more respect and a better communication, but it feels a bit more natural in Spain.
This was probably the most shocking difference for me. Spanish people are more direct than Australians. I learnt the hard way that if you want to say something to a fellow workmate in Australia, you have to be very cautious. In Spain, to go from A to B, you draw a straight line, but here you need to stop in C first, check that everything is good and then in a very dissimulated way, you get to B. I didn’t make many friends at the beginning because of this. Spanish style, straight to B, but my coworkers didn’t like it. I was fine with that though, especially when, after a while, some of them realised that they could trust me because of my honesty.
At this point, I would like to speak up for my Spanish brothers and sisters living away from home. I have realised since day 1 that Spain is one of the nations that works the hardest. Spanish have a bit of a lazy reputation, with all the siestas and parties, but the truth is, we work really hard. Maybe this is because in Spain we’ve taught since school that we should get a job and stick to it for a long time. When I told my parents that I was leaving retail to work in the fitness industry they were like “oh, are you sure? But you’ve been there for 6 years!”. It’s very difficult to find another job in Spain, and we need to show our worthiness to keep our job. When we move to another country, we bring that energy and demand with us, and sometimes we crash into a brick wall. In Australia, if you lose your job, most likely you’ll find another one. You don’t feel like you’re going to starve or you’re not going to be able to pay your bills, somehow you find your way.
Which one is better? Well, it feels safer in Australia, but I can tell companies value the hard-work and drive that I have, and I have it thanks to my beloved country.
The truth is, work schedules in Spain and Australia are not so different. Office hours are from 8 or 9 in the morning until 5-6 in the afternoon. It’s very similar to the office hours in Australia. Perhaps hospitality and retail are a bit different. In Spain everything remains open until later (shops, restaurants, bars) but some businesses in Australia are starting to open until late. Although you’ll never see a shopping centre such us Westfield closing before 9 or 10 pm in Spain!
- Myth #1: siesta
Spanish are worldwide famous for inventing the siesta. We have always been pictured having 2 hour naps. A famous Spanish comedian says that in Spain, when we wake up from our siesta we don’t look at the clock, we look at the calendar. Jokes aside, this siesta phenomena is not quite true. Despite what’s been said, our siestas reduced to a Sunday or a day off, more than a routine (we wish!). As I said before, the schedules for work in Spain are very similar to Australia. This leaves very little time for workers to have a siesta. In fact, as we have a more active social life and some businesses close later, we have even less time than Australians. Truly, I didn’t use to have naps back in Spain, and in Australia every two days I see the opportunity of having a 20-30′ nap (which is, by the way, very healthy).
Luckily for some Spanish, the tradition of siesta might be flourishing again in some cities. In Madrid from 2017, there are “Siesta Cafes” for those who want to have a rest in their lunch breaks.
As well as other parts of Spain, in Ador (Valencia) businesses close from 2 to 5 pm and the noise on the streets must be kept to a minimum, as it’s stated in the local laws, so people can have a nap.
- Community vs individualism
Another of the big changes I have suffered since I moved to Australia is shifting from having a community thinking to having a more individualistic thinking. This is great for self-growth, development, seeking your dreams. It’s not rare to see an Australian having a gap year and travelling the world, talking to their parents once a week or so. In Spain we have more attachment to our communities (family, friends, job, clubs). We are blamed if we think out the group, or if we do something selfish like I did when I decided to move to Australia.
On the other hand, this sense of community makes you feel safer. If you run out of money, you have firm support from your family and close friends. If you have a bad day, your community is there to cheer you up and make you feel better. This has a high impact in one’s mental health. In Spain in 2020, 3% of men and 7% of women suffered from depression. According to the latest update of The Australian Bureau of Statistics, 13% of Australians have depression.
Depression might be caused by a number of factors. The interpersonal factors (abuse, conflict, death or loss, major personal events such us divorce) are the leading factor. A strong community might be the answer to some of this interpersonal factors.
That’s it for today! I really hope that you enjoy getting to know some of the differences between Australia and Spain lifestyles. Of course some of the opinions are biased, and I wanted this post to have a humorous touch, so please don’t feel offended! If you like what I do and you want to support this project, follow me on Instagram and Facebook, like the post and comment! Thank you!